Khanna v. Honda

Certain people in Sunnyvale are always complaining about the big money in politics around here. Well, this should give them something to talk about. Our District 17 House race (between Khanna and Honda) is officially the 3rd most expensive race for Congress in California this year. Looks like so far the two candidates have spent $6.9 million, combined, with lots of money flooding in from outside of our district.

People have been asking me how I’m going to vote in this race. My typical response is, “Eh, two Democrats slugging it out. I really can’t tell the difference.”

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Inclemental Weather Shelter for the Homeless

Last night, in yet another extremely late meeting, the Sunnyvale City Council discussed possible solutions and plans for an emergency cold weather shelter for the homeless. The room was crowded due to a tentative plan to temporarily use the gymnasium at the Sunnyvale Community Center for this purpose. A large number of advocates for the homeless were in attendance, as were a sizable number of people who questioned the wisdom of using the Community Center for homeless inhabitation, no matter how temporary. There was also an undercurrent of questioning why it is Sunnyvale — and not the county — who is on the hook to solve (and fund) this problem.

In the end, City Council voted to not “go it alone” to solve this problem, but instead to “actively assist” the county in seeking both a temporary shelter for this coming winter, as well as a more permanent solution for the years ahead. City Council then struck the Community Center from the list of possible locations for a temporary shelter, and instead proposed a short list of other locations that should be evaluated for this purpose. Most of those locations are in Sunnyvale, but one is in San Jose. CM Hendricks made both motions.

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Building for the Birds

On Tuesday night, Sunnyvale City Council adopted building guidelines which are intended to help reduce the number of birds killed by flying into buildings. General guidelines were adopted for all properties city-wide. More stringent guidelines are in place for buildings within 300 feet of a water source greater than an acre in size, or which are immediately adjacent to open space greater than an acre in size. The guidelines apply both to commercial and residential buildings, and will be applied to new development, redevelopment and remodels.

Note that these are currently simply guidelines. The actual bird-safe features required for any given project will be defined on a case by case basis. The city seems to have given itself leeway in how and when to apply these rules, although I suspect any projects next to open space/water will likely be held fairly strictly to the guidelines. Also, the more glass you have in the project, the more likely you are to encounter these guidelines. For residential properties, I’d expect owners of Eichlers to bump into this more often than owners of ranch style house containing comparatively less amounts of glass.

Mostly the design guidelines are related to the glass used in buildings. Mirrored glass will be prohibited, as will glass skyways, freestanding glass walls, glass at the top of the building, etc. Buildings are also supposed to avoid two glass walls coming together in a corner. Etched, opaque and textured glass is also encouraged.

Attention is also given to landscaping, so as to minimize the reflection of vegetation in the building’s windows. The guidelines recommend avoiding the placement of tall landscaping near glass.

In addition, building lights are to be turned off at night. Motion detectors should be used to turn off lights when no one is present. Automatic blinds should be installed when lights are on at night. Smaller lighting zones and internal task lighting should be used to discourage wide area illumination.

The city will try the guidelines for two years, at which time it will consider elevating the guidelines to an actual building ordinance. However, this is not a hard and fast rule, and the Council expressed a hope that staff would not rush the issue back to Council in two years time if they have not completed a sufficient study of the issue.

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Congressman Waxman is Retiring

He doesn’t represent Sunnyvale, or any district near us. Still, this story caught my eye. Henry Waxman is retiring from Congress after 40 years. The reason is because in the recent redistricting he found himself in a more competitive district. But beyond that, well, here, let the article say it:

Waxman, who is a resident of Maryland, has been forced to repeatedly return to the 33rd District in order to campaign ahead of 2014. He had reportedly shared with a number of insiders over the past year that he didn’t enjoy making the long journey from D.C. to California on a frequent basis, something which hadn’t been necessary in his previous district.

Got that?

He’s retiring because coming back to see the people he represents is too much of a burden.

There’s just so much wrong with that, I don’t even know where to begin.

“House of Representatives,” indeed.

Time to rethink the mall?

The Sunnyvale mall is a perpetual sore spot, both physically in the city as well as in the city’s political dialog. It isn’t a hot button for me because, frankly, I hate malls and so I tend to avoid them like the plague. The universe invented Amazon.com so that guys like me don’t have to go hang out at shopping malls, and thus is there balance in the universe. So if they never finish the mall … no skin off my nose. It isn’t like I’m dying to go shopping in downtown Sunnyvale, or anything like that.

Anyway, I’ve always wondered if yet another shopping mall is the best use of the city’s downtown space. I’ve always assumed that people who shop as, apparently, a form of entertainment will use it, but what I haven’t been able to figure out is if that demographic is large enough to justify the continuing angst, lawsuits, and other bitter unhappiness that is the Sunnyvale mall.

Just to reinforce my doubts, the San Jose Business Journal offered a brief article yesterday in which they predicted that “indoor shopping malls could face extinction within 10 to 15 years.” The reason, of course, is the pressure placed on shopping malls from online retailers. Apparently retailers are waking up to the idea that bricks-and-mortar stores need to be in the “hospitality” business, meaning that they have to offer a shopping experience that is more entertaining than, say, cruising for a new lens on B&H Photo’s site.

I don’t know how someone can make a shopping mall “entertaining,” unless it’s to stick a theme park in the middle of the thing, which is pretty much what they did at Minnesota’s Mall of America. But can I at least hope for lots and lots of comfortable chairs for those few times a year that I get dragged to a mall over my usually loud complaints?

At the moment, the city’s plans for the Sunnyvale mall seem to be limited to “waiting for the judge.” Last I looked we’re down to the very last lawsuit and once that gets settled I assume the mall redevelopment will continue. When that happens, I hope the people who finish the thing will remember that a bricks & mortar shopping experience needs to be “magical” (yes, I laughed when I read that). Otherwise, our bricks & mortar mall could turn into a bricks & mortar boat anchor in a few year’s time.

Frankly, I think they should put the new main library branch down there. At least then I’d have a reason to go to our downtown. That and lots of bars. When it comes to shopping malls, there’d better be either booze or books involved, or I’m going to just want to stay home.

A good beer and a good book. Magical!

Griffith is Mayor, Davis Vice-Mayor

Jim Griffith was elected Mayor in tonight’s city council meeting. Jim Davis was elected Vice Mayor.

Sunnyvale’s Mayor is elected by the City Council. It is a two-year term. Vice Mayor is also elected by Council and is a one year term. For both of these positions, candidates are nominated by members of the council. Once all nominations have been made, a vote is taken on each candidate in nomination order. The first candidate to receive 4 or more votes wins the position.

CM Martin-Milius nominated VM Jim Griffith to the mayorship. CM Whittum then nominated CM Davis.

The vote was taken on VM Griffith first because he was nominated first. CM Davis and CM Meyering abstained. CM Whittum voted no. VM Griffith, CMs Larsson, Hendricks and Martin-Milius voted yes.

For Vice-Mayor, CM Hendricks nominated CM Davis. CM Davis then nominated CM Martin-Milius. CM Martin-Milius declined the nomination. As there were no other nominations, CM Davis was elected Vice-Mayor.

Congratulations to Mayor Griffith and Vice-Mayor Davis on your new positions!

El Camino and Wolfe can’t be improved?

Last night, near the end of an extremely long City Council meeting, the city took a look at its Transportation Impact Fees (TIF), and the projects that will be funded by those fees. I didn’t find this to be a particularly interesting discussion. It really was just some necessary housekeeping that the city is required to do as a part of its TIF program. Under other circumstances, I wouldn’t discuss it here at all.

However, buried in the midst of the RTC for this agenda item (RTC 13-232 for you interested observers out there), was a curious passage that should matter to anyone who lives near, or drives through, the El Camino/Wolfe/Fremont intersection:

The City currently has a deficiency plan in place because traffic volumes at build out conditions show that not all intersections in the regional Congestion Management Plan meet level of service goals. The intersection of Wolfe Road and El Camino Real/Fremont Avenue is projected to fall below regional standards in the future and no feasible mitigation has been identified.

“no feasible mitigation has been identified.”

Huh.

So, basically, it sounds like the city is just throwing up its hands and saying, “Well, whatever, nothing to be done here.”

Instead, they’re improving roads and infrastructure in other parts of the city in the hopes that those improvements will take the load off of El Camino & Wolfe. I suppose there’s a little more to this than ‘hope.’ Presumably there’s an actual chance that the deficiency plan for El Camino & Wolfe can resolve at least some of the congestion there. But my fear is that the deficiency plan has already done as much as it can do for that intersection.

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Six residents and the NRA sue Sunnyvale over Measure C’s magazine ban

The National Rifle Association filed a lawsuit against the City of Sunnyvale today (Fyock v. Sunnyvale), arguing that Measure C’s magazine ban is unconstitutional under the Second Amendment. They filed this lawsuit on behalf of six Sunnyvale city residents who came into possession of their greater than 10 round magazines legally, but who are now prohibited from owning those magazines because of the city ordinance.

This lawsuit was filed in federal court. It seeks an immediate temporary injunction against the magazine ban, and eventually a permanent injunction against the ban. Mayor Spitaleri and Chief Grgurina are named defendants in the case. Both are sued in their official capacity within the city.

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Modifications to the General Plan Amendment initiation process

Tuesday night City Council made some modifications to the initiation process used for General Plan Amendments. I thought what they did were all positive moves. In fact, I think anyone who is concerned about development in Sunnyvale, and the influence (perceived or otherwise) that developers have, will like these changes. In a lot of ways they’re simply good public relations moves, but overall I think these are positives steps that should help the city to be more deliberative where it comes to large building projects.

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