Sunday, November 20, 2016

Butcher's Corner - Wolfe & El Camino

Butcher's Corner: An Impossible Intersection or a Park

If developed, the corner at El Camino, Wolfe, and Fremont will become an irredeemably impossible intersection.  Sunnyvale should buy "Butcher's Corner" for a park, in exchange for land of comparable value/size.  Email all city council members at council@sunnyvale.ca.gov

Summary:

(Update 11/27/2016: The Sunnyvale City Council will consider for approval the EIR - Environmental Impact Report - and the plan itself on Dec. 13th in Council Chambers at 456 W. Olive Ave., Sunnyvale, 94086.  Anyone may speak to the council about the EIR and/or Plan (document links at end) for up to 3 minutes per person.  It is standard practice to consider both the EIR and the project unless there is a general plan or specific plan amendment.)

"Butcher's Corner" is about 5 acres of agricultural land at the intersection of El Camino, Wolfe Rd., and Fremont.  It is the second worst traffic intersection in Sunnyvale.  It should be a park with some cut-throughs to ease traffic congestion.  De Anza Properties (owned by Mr. Vidovich) bought it for $14 Million and wants to put up a large development of apartments and townhouses there.  The city has $18 Million in park dedication fees unspent.  Sunnyvale owns several properties of comparable size to Butcher's Corner.  Mr. Vidovich would be able to build more profitably (higher, denser) on these properties than at Butcher's Corner.  If Sunnyvale paid Mr. Vidovich $18M for Butcher's Corner, and granted him exclusive rights to buy comparably sized city owned property, everyone would win.

Mr. Vidovich has a variety of other properties he wishes to develop in Sunnyvale.  These include the shopping plaza at Fremont and Mary, and the plaza at Pastoria and El Camino.  He would gain the good will of Sunnyvale residents and a favorably disposed city council if he would accept purchase of Butcher's Corner by Sunnyvale.

Analysis:

1.  What/Where is Butcher's Corner (click on images to enlarge):


Butcher's Corner outlined in red.  A former plum orchard owned by the Butcher family and sold to De Anza Properties a few years ago.
A closer view (click on image to enlarge):
Another view - El Camino in the upper left, Fremont Ave. in the lower edge

2.  The Current Plan (click on image to enlarge):


Plans for Development of Butcher's Corner at El Camino Blvd., Wolfe Rd, and Fremont Ave, Sunnvyale, CA
The building at the right will be 5 stories.  The large center building will be 7 stories.
From the street view of the corner at Wolfe and El Camino, it looks like this now (click on images to enlarge):
Wolfe and El Camino Now
With a 5-story apt. building on the corner and some townhouses near the back it will look approximately like this after the development.  (From the plan submitted by De Anza Properties - click on images to enlarge).
Wolfe and El Camino After Development
From the Fremont St. side it looks like this now (click on image to enlarge):

Development of a 7-story apt. building substantially changes the neighborhood.  It is hard to underestimate the sheer massive impact of a 7-story building.  The following illustrates what I mean (click on image to enlarge):

Here is an illustration from the plan submitted by De Anza Properties (click on image to enlarge):

For comparison, the "LinkedIn" building on Mathilda near Maude is 6 stories - one story smaller - and is overwhelming in its massiveness compared to the surrounding low level buildings (click on photo to enlarge):



Traffic:


Traffic at butcher's Corner is already very bad.  It can only get worse with this proposed development. Consider evening rush hour and everyone is trying to enter the complex (click on image to enlarge):
The above view shows the flow of traffic trying to enter the proposed complex - say around 5:30 or 6:00 PM.  There is no access planned on the El Camino side of the development.  Traffic from the western end of Fremont will either wait for traffic to clear in the middle of the street, or go on and make a U-Turn at Wolfe and Fremont (big curved yellow arrow).  Wolfe and Fremont is a terrible intersection already - this will make it impassable.  Traffic coming North on Wolfe will have to wait to turn further blocking the intersection.

The above shows the flow of traffic trying to exit the proposed complex - morning rush hour around 7:30 or 8:00 PM.  Most traffic will go east since Wolfe is a major avenue to get to work via either 101 or 280 or El Camino.  There is no way to go East coming out of this complex (which will have well over 250 cars). It will be necessary for cars to make a U-Turn at Kingfisher Way (big yellow arrow).  This will create a third nightmare intersection to add to the two nightmare intersections nearby at Wolfe.  Again, Wolfe and Fremont will become impossible.

There are a number of possible ways to improve traffic flow at this "Monster Intersection" but the planned development will make some of them impossible.  Some cut-throughs in Butcher's Corner could enable traffic to go from El Camino directly to Fremont or Wolfe without having to wait to turn from El Camino on to Wolfe.  Such a solution will never be possible with the project planned.  See below:

3.  City-Owned Properties Intended for Sale:



The city of Sunnyvale owns several properties that it intends to sell.  All three properties offer the advantage of no neighbors to complain about the height of buildings, and these sites are close to work or transportation:
    1) Former Onizuka Air Force Station (two parcels 5.02 acres) $17M valuation,
    2) 1484 Kifer Road (single parcel 4.74 acres) $11M valuation and,
    3) Downtown Charles Street (nine General Fund parcels 1.44 acres) $8M valuation.

The three are worth approximately at the current August 2016 valuation $36M as seen in the excerpt from a city document below (the Civic Center was included when they were considering selling it but have since reconsidered):


The above list of city-owned properties is found on the last page of:
http://sunnyvale.ca.gov/Portals/0/Sunnyvale/OCM/CivicCenter/Report-To-Council-051716.pdf

4.  Park Dedication Fees Available:


Builders of residential buildings are required to give land for parks or money in lieu of land.  The city has $18 Million in unspent funds from these Park Dedication Fees.  The Sunnyvale City Finance dept. sent me a file with the income and expenditures from the park dedication fees since 2010.  The essential points are that $55 Million was taken in from 2010 through mid-2016 and there was $18 Million still unspent by mid-2016.  This is seen below in the spreadsheet (click to enlarge to full size).

The entire spreadsheet is downloadable from Google drive at:
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B9oeES7NQzKHRXdHTDBhM2Jlazg/view?usp=sharing


5.  More sources:


Sunnyvale City's web site for Butcher's Corner is here:
http://sunnyvale.ca.gov/Departments/CommunityDevelopment/CurrentProjectsandStudies/ButchersCorner.aspx . It contains a PDF of the builder's plans titled "Project Plans, Dated July 2016" (click to enlarge):

The Environmental Impact Report (EIR) is at the very bottom of the page:


Other Links:

http://news.theregistrysf.com/annexation-approved-sunnyvale-contemplates-whats-next-for-butchers-corner/

http://www.mercurynews.com/2016/07/28/sunnyvale-plans-for-housing-project-at-butchers-corner-taking-shape/