Must Be Present to Win – A Bike Advocate Success in Sunnyvale

Originally published by Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition, republished with permission from author Tim Oey.

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Taking a measure along Caribbean Drive.

In September 2017, Sunnyvale bicyclists almost lost a significant connection between the Borregas Avenue bike route and the Bay Trail. Luckily a few key people were at a public meeting and eventually convinced Sunnyvale staff that a safe route in both directions was critical for bicyclists of all abilities.

Here is the story of how this evolved and some pitfalls along the way.

Sunnyvale’s Water Pollution Control Plant has been running for 60 years and is in the process of a much-needed rebuild so it can continue to serve an expanding population and generate cleaner recycled water to keep the San Francisco Bay healthy. As part of this rebuild, Sunnyvale needed to close Carl Road to allow the Water treatment plant to expand. This would sever the current Borregas to Bay Trail connection as well as close Bay Trail public access parking along Carl Road. The plan was to create new a new route for bicycles and pedestrians to go from Borregas to the Bay Trail as well as a new parking area for cars. Borregas, with its two bike/ped bridges over 101 and 237, is the northern end of Sunnyvale’s premier north-south bicycle route.

The Sunnyvale Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Commission and its support staff were not informed of this pending major bicycle and pedestrian change, nor were Bay Trail staff. I was invited by Larry Klein, one of Sunnyvale’s council members, to a public outreach meeting to review the final design of what was called the “Caribbean Drive Parking and Trail Access Enhancements Project.” I almost did not attend because it seemed it should be a slam dunk to maintain or even improve this great bicycle and pedestrian connection to the Bay Trail.

Alas, the devil is often in the details.

While local city staff are getting better at handling bicycle and pedestrian issues, they still have a strong bias favoring motor vehicles that lines up with our strong car culture. Call it car privilege.

So the redesign they came up with provided excellent motor vehicle parking as well as reasonable pedestrian facilities but would have required bicyclists to dismount and walk their bikes along a pedestrian sidewalk in the southbound direction for several years until a new bike/ped crossing of Caribbean was built sometime in the future. Even then, bicyclists would be routed on a bike lane along the busy and high-speed Caribbean Drive instead of the much slower Borregas Ave & Carl Drive.

Google-Borregas-Aerial-Map

In this Google Map aerial view, the purple line is Carl Road, which will be closed; the green line is the new bike access trail along a water canal; the yellow line is the sidewalk along Caribbean, and the red line is the future at-grade bike/ped crossing of Caribbean.

During the presentation, Sunnyvale staff were quite insistent that there was no space for a multi-use path instead of a sidewalk on the north side of Caribbean and that the plans were too far along to change. When pressed, they came up with alternative detours for bicycles to go through the Yahoo campus or through a little-known back access way behind and through the Sunnyvale SMART station.

Later, I and others visited the site in person to discover that there were about 26 clear feet between Caribbean and the fenced-in landfill that provided plenty of space for a two-way multi-use trail instead of a pedestrian sidewalk. Also, the detours through Yahoo and the SMART station had navigational challenges and some safety issues in addition to being longer and out of the way — sometimes adding a couple of extra miles to what should have been a short connection.

Thanks to a flurry of dialog from some council members, myself, and many other advocates including Bay Trail staff and former council members, Sunnyvale staff did finally come up with a proposal that included a multi-use trail on the north side of Caribbean to provide safe and easy access between Borregas and the Bay Trail for bicyclists of all ages and abilities. This was confirmed in an email communication from Sunnyvale staff in late October.

In the end, we should now get a connection between Borregas and the Bay Trail that is an enhancement over the current Bay Trail connection, but it was touch-and-go for about a month. If not for the quick and concerted effort, we could have been stuck with degraded bicycle access.

Some key takeaways from this experience:

1) Never assume. It is incredible how many ways things can go wrong.

2) Must be present to win. We need bicyclists at as many public meetings as possible to make sure we catch design issues before they are set in stone (literally). It is often surprising how many developments can have a significant impact on bicyclists and pedestrians.

3) Our network is our strength. Only by leveraging our network did we have enough influence to change plans in the very late stages of this project. Also by having a big network, we can cover more territory and meetings. We need a network of alert advocates to ensure we eventually get a vast network of beautiful routes throughout Silicon Valley. Being a member of the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition is HUGE! Please encourage your friends to join us!

Thanks!


Tim Oey is currently the president of the Friends of Stevens Creek Trail, vice chair of the Sunnyvale Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Commission, life member of both the Adventure Cycling Association and League of American Bicyclists, and an SVBC member since 1989.

Sunnyvale Public Safety Accepting Toy Donations until December 15

Via Twitter:

All Sunnyvale Fire Stations are accepting toy donations, until 12/15, for low-income Sunnyvale kids.

Station Addresses:

171 N Mathilda Ave
795 E Arques Ave
910 Ticonderoga Dr
996 S Wolfe Rd
1210 Bordeaux Dr
1282 Lawrence Station Rd

Survey on Accessory Dwelling Units

Sunnyvale is reviewing regulations for Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), also known as “granny flats” or “in-law” units. An ADU is a small dwelling located on the same property as a single-family home, which includes its own kitchen/bathroom. It can be a part of the main home or a separate structure.

Sunnyvale’s current code places the following limits on ADUs:

  • Minimum lot size 8,500 square feet
  • Maximum unit size 700 square feet
  • 1 bedroom maximum
  • 20-year deed restriction requiring owner occupancy

This study will consider possible changes to allow more ADUs to be built, and to what standards. The concern is to allow residents to expand the housing supply while avoiding negative impacts to quality of life.

The State of California has declared that ADUs are consistent with single-family home zoning and density standards and considers ADUs to be a viable option to create more affordable housing in existing neighborhoods. ADU standards were recently liberalized state-wide. This study will also serve to reconcile Sunnyvale’s regulations with the new state standards.

Background on ADUs in Sunnyvale:

Residents are invited to share their perspective on ADU regulations at http://sunnyvale.peakdemocracy.com/portals/209/Issue_5092

New regulations will be reviewed by the Housing and Human Services Commission in July, the Planning Commission in September, and City Council likely in October.

Sunnyvale Community Award Nominations due June 16

[Via Alisha Rodrigues, Community Services Coordinator for the City of Sunnyvale]

Each year, the City of Sunnyvale presents Community Awards to recognize and honor the outstanding contributions of Sunnyvale community members. These awards are conferred at the annual State of the City, scheduled for July 29, 2017. Award categories include:

  • Distinguished Resident of the Year
  • High School Senior of the Year
  • Businessperson of the Year
  • Outstanding Contribution to the Arts
  • Educator of the Year
  • Outstanding Environmental Achievement
  • Community Volunteer of the Year

Please help us acknowledge individuals, groups or businesses that stand out in the Sunnyvale community by submitting a nomination(s).

Nominations are due by Friday, June 16, 2017, by 5 p.m. Information about each award criteria and nomination requirements can be found on the Community Awards Nomination Form.  All nominations will be reviewed by a committee and award decisions will be shared with all nominators by the end of June.

A list of past award recipients is posted on the city’s web site.

Apply to Serve on a Board or Commission: Applications due April 21

Would you like to have a greater understanding of and a voice in the management of your city? Consider service on one of our Boards and Commissions. These bodies serve some administrative functions and also advise the City Council on legislative matters.

Recruitment is underway for the following upcoming board and commission openings:

Applications are due Friday, April 21. Candidates are tentatively scheduled to be interviewed by the City Council May 16 and 17. Further information and applications are available at the city’s Board and Commissions web page.

Sunnyvale City Council to consider General Plan revision: more jobs, more transit, less housing

On April 11, City Council is expected to review a revised draft of the Land Use and Transportation Element (LUTE) which is a chapter of the city’s General Plan. The objective is to move Sunnyvale towards being a “Complete Community” that is less dependent on automobiles. Major strategies include:

Village Centers: modify existing shopping districts to include housing. This will increase the housing supply at village centers and expand commercial opportunities for businesses there. Village center will be located near transit lines, improving the odds that residents can commute without driving.

Jobs/Housing Balance: Sunnyvale will add proportionately more jobs than housing. Under present conditions, Sunnyvale has 1.44 jobs per housing unit. By 2035, Sunnyvale will have 1.73 jobs per housing unit. This will make jobs more plentiful, and make it more difficult for residents to secure housing within Sunnyvale.

Multimodal Transit System: city policies will emphasize complete streets, carpooling, mass transit and bicycle infrastructure. As we approach and exceed Sunnyvale’s capacity to transport residents via private automobiles, residents will need better access to more efficient transportation.

LUTE-2035

Development will focus on transit corridors and village centers. Proportionately more jobs will be added. Most existing residential neighborhoods will remain low density.

What do you think? Let City Council know!

Contact City Council to share your thoughts on the LUTE.

City Council is expected to review the changes next Tuesday, April 11, at 7 pm in the City Council Chambers, 456 W. Olive Ave. Members of the public are welcome to speak at the meeting for up to three minutes each.

UPDATE: the City Council agenda for April 11 has been published. Council will review the Land Use and Transportation Element as agenda item #4.

Help VTA Improve Tasman Drive

VTA is undertaking a “Complete Streets” survey to determine what improvements can be made to Tasman Drive to make it safer and easier to use for pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit riders. VTA has a nice website for this project, where you can click on spots on the map, make suggestions, and review and comment on other suggestions made by the public.

Tasman Map Blue3

Tasman Drive from Sunnyvale to Milpitas

Per VTA:

Gathering public input is critical to the success of all the planning efforts VTA undertakes. We want to hear from you. How do you use the corridor and what improvements would you like to see?
Tell us how we can improve this area in our online survey, or attend an upcoming public outreach events:

  • Tuesday, April 11, 2017 at 6pm
    Riverwood Community Room
    2150 Tasman Dr
    Santa Clara, CA 95054
  • Wednesday, April 12, 2017 at 6pm
    Lakewood Park
    834 Lakechime Dr
    Sunnyvale, CA 94089
  • Thursday, April 13, 2017 at 6pm
    Centria Community Room
    1101 S Main St
    Milpitas, CA 95035

RSVP:  View the meetings as Facebook events: Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, and Milpitas/San Jose.