Saturday, October 13, 2012

Housing in Sunnyvale

The city of Sunnyvale complained that 700 housing units per year is too much. Just try to tell that to the many people that are trying to buy houses in the city.

The problem is that Sunnyvale is still trying to solve the problems of last century.

100 years ago, people lived close to where they worked. Factories were loud, polluting buildings that people wanted to get away from.

Thus, the city now has "zoning" to solve the problem. Workplaces are separated in to one zone. Residences in to another.

Except, that is no longer the problem. Workplaces are now sterile with some of the most "green" buildings around. The primary cause of the noise and pollution? The very suburban style that is mandated.

Cars cause much of the noise and pollution. Leaf blowers and lawn mowers contribute to the environmental problem. They are often hired by people to maintain their bit of "suburbia" that they rarely use.

The city does claim that it is "supporting" development by a new "industrial to residential" zoning. However, it also alludes to the problems with providing enough subsidized housing.

The problem is that land is so expensive. By requiring low density housing, the city raises the cost. Requiring subsidies further increases the costs.

Eliminating much of the zoning restrictions would help resolve the problems.
Currently, many single-family homes are being torn down and turned in to larger single family homes (even as household sizes are shrinking.) Instead, these could be allowed to be converted to multi-family housing. Replace one housing unit with four, and you get new, low-cost housing. Alas, the city is obsessed with "big" projects, and often ignores the small work.

There is also the location problem. Southern Sunnyvale has high prices. This is where people want to live. The "industrial to residential" areas are in northern Sunnyvale. There are few amenities there. The location also has heavier industry with its associated issues.

Meanwhile, there is a huge office area north of Highway 237 that has no housing at all. Why not allow some here? This will allow people to walk to the many jobs near there. It is also well-served by transit and would allow contra-flow car commuting.

Alas, the city is still solving the problems of the past. Alas, the city's "bosses" further influence this. Zoning and planning is done by the "current" residents rather than the future residents. People that would like to live in the city have no say in the process. Prop 13 further keeps residents in place. Thus people that moved in to suburban tracts surrounded by orchards want it to stay like it was when they moved in - even though the orchards are long gone. Manhattan was once filled with farmland. When will the South Bay get a clue?