Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Other City Halls

PermaLink to here:

A Variety of City Halls - Classic and Modern

Following my discussion of Sunnyvale's design for a new Civic Center here:
and here:

I thought it might be nice to look at what other cities have done.

First Sunnyvale's old city hall, which was torn down when the Sunnyvale Town Center Mall was put up.

In that same traditional look Calabasas, CA  (population 24,000) built a new city hall and library complex.  Here are some photos.

Interior of Library

City web site is: http://www.cityofcalabasas.com/

Laguna Niguel is in a similar vein:

Los Altos' city hall has a traditional European look:

For those preferring modern, Frank Lloyd Wright's Marin County Civic Center is hard to beat:

Austin TX city hall is modern but completely different:

And one list of top ten nice US city halls (modern and traditional) here:

Including Philadelphia:

and Dallas:

The End

Monday, November 6, 2017

Sunnyvale Civic Center Plans - Traffic - 3

PermaLink to this posting: http://meetingthetwain.blogspot.com/2017/11/sunnyvale-civic-center-plans-traffic-3.html

More detail on traffic - following up post 2 which is here:



1.  The increased traffic activity generated by the new Civic Center will overload the intersection of Mary and Olive with nearly 4 minute wait times in the morning and nearly 7 minute wait times in the evening rush hours, regardless of whether Olive is closed or not.  The proposed solution there is to make it exit from Olive onto Mary right turn only during rush hours.  That's a lot of u-turns by people who would otherwise have turned left.  It leaves open the question of how, or if, people would be able to enter Olive from Mary by turning left during busy traffic.

2.  If Olive Ave. is closed, as in Option 2, it would appear that it will be very difficult to exit from the new Civic Center.  Like "Hotel California" you can check in but you can't check out.  This is because the proposed exits along All America Way and the driveways of the proposed parking structure do not allow for left turns, again resulting in a lot of extra driving to get to a place where a u-turn can be made.


Please come to the City Council Meeting on Tuesday Nov. 7th at 7 PM 456 W. Olive Ave., Sunnyvale, CA and share your thoughts about how to proceed.  If you cannot come, please email the city council at:

This entire design process will take at least a year so don't think that just because you couldn't make the meeting it is too late to give your opinion.


A preliminary traffic analysis is available as attachment 4 at the city web site https://sunnyvaleca.legistar.com/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=3202454&GUID=7597B6BF-FF80-419D-97E9-400156509C7A

This document, submitted by Mr. Ben Huie, of Kimley-Horn, shows (page 21) that as a result of the extra activity from the "Modernized" Civic Center - regardless of whether Olive Ave. is closed - we get:
  1. traffic at the intersection of Olive and Mary will have peak waiting times of 230 seconds (3 minutes, 50 seconds) in the morning.  This is 24 seconds longer than without the project but includes expected private construction not yet completed,
  2. traffic at the intersection of Olive and Mary will have peak waiting times of 389 seconds (6 minutes, 39 seconds) in the evening.  This is 1 minute & 55 seconds longer than without the project but includes expected construction from other private construction not yet completed,
A proposed solution is to prohibit left turns from Olive onto Mary and prohibit crossing Mary from Olive during rush hours - see map below (click on map to enlarge):
Impact of traffic added by Civic Center Project

An excerpt from the report (pg 27):

     "For Option #1, the key difference is that Olive Avenue would remain unchanged from the existing conditions. This is beneficial to the site access and circulation because it allows for vehicles to enter and exit the project site from the signalized intersection of W Olive Avenue/Mathilda Avenue."

Next picture illustrates the issue.  The red arrows show that coming off of Olive you can cross Mathilda (there is a stop light there) to go North or go South and have enough distance to get into the left lane to turn East onto El Camino.  From All America Way you can turn right only (blue arrow) because there is a raised median blocking crossing Mathilda. There is not enough distance to cross 3 lanes to get into the left-turn lane to turn East onto El Camino or make a u-turn at the light.  (Click on picture to enlarge)

Further down on page 27: 
    "For Option #2, the major difference is the removal of Olive Avenue between Pastoria Avenue and Charles Street. This change from the existing conditions has made it difficult for vehicles exiting the project site to go northbound on Mathilda Avenue and eastbound on El Camino Real in the PM peak hour. Since the proposed layout for Option #2 restricts access to the intersection of W Olive Avenue/Mathilda Avenue, vehicles have to exit at mid-block driveways and make U-turns to get to their final destinations."

So if you come out of All America Way because Olive Ave. is no longer available, you will not be able to get into the left turn lane because of traffic during busy periods.  You will need to make a U-Turn to go North on Mathilda or East on El Camino.  But where?  You will have to cross El Camino and make a U-Turn near the Tennis Courts.  (Maybe stop off at "Trader Joe's" while you're at it.)  The picture below shows the issue:

This will necessitate using driveways to exit the Civic Center.  These have problems too.  From the traffic document:

     "Vehicles cannot exit the mid-block driveway on El Camino Real (near the southwest parking garage) and go eastbound on El Camino Real or to Mathilda Avenue. In addition to the long queues, the high speeds and high volumes make it difficult for vehicles to find an acceptable gap to cross three lanes to enter into the left turn lane."


     "The driveway on Pastoria Avenue between the Library and the southwest parking garage is offset from the intersection of Pastoria Avenue/W Olive Avenue. This may result in sight distance issues for  the driveway."

These issues are illustrated in the next picture for the corner of Option 2 drawings.  The red circle shows where there would be visual issues because of the offset of the driveway from Olive.  The red X shows the U-Turn you can't make because there is not enough distance during normal traffic hours to get into the left turn lane:

Again, like the problem with exiting the Civic Center from All America Way, it will be difficult to cross three lanes during normal busy traffic to get into the left turn lane to make a U-Turn.  You will need to go all the way up El Camino to the Toyota dealer where there is a cut in the median or turn right onto Pastoria and make a U-Turn on Pastoria.  On El Camino you will likely have to wait a while for oncoming traffic to clear since there is no light there.  With some drivers exiting the parking garage onto Pastoria, and others trying to make a u-turn there, that intersection will be a real mess.


It appears that closing Olive Ave. causes a lot of traffic problems with no clear solution that doesn't cause as many problems as it solves.  If option 2 (curved buildings) is preferred, there are various things that can be done to keep Olive Ave. open.  The proposed new library could be "fatter" and shorter so it will fit in the space between Olive and the existing library.  Or, the DPS building could be done first and then the library could be moved to the other side of Olive Ave. where the parking structure is currently proposed as in the diagram below:

Retaining Olive Ave. in Modified Option 2


Please come to the City Council Meeting on Tuesday Nov. 7th at 7 PM 456 W. Olive Ave., Sunnyvale, CA and share your thoughts about how to proceed.  If you cannot come, please email the city council at:

This entire design process will take at least a year so don't think that just because you couldn't make the meeting it is too late to give your opinion.

Michael Goldman
Sunnyvale City Council, Seat 7

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Sunnyvale City Council Agenda for 11/7/2017

Perma Link: http://meetingthetwain.blogspot.com/2017/11/sunnyvale-city-council-agenda-for.html

In the interests of an informed public, this is to note that the Sunnyvale City Council meets at 7 PM on Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017 at City Hall, 456 W. Olive Ave., Sunnyvale, CA 94086.  The Agenda for the meeting is available at:


There are 3 items.  Item 1 is the consent calendar which is a lot of items none of which staff thinks are controversial so they are only discussed if someone from the public or a council member wishes to select an item.

Item 2 is what plan for the "Civic Center Modernization" will be prepared for an environmental impact report (EIR).  This is expected to generate some comment.  There is a blog post on item 2 here:


with some discussion on NextDoor here:


Item 3 is a charter amendment.

Here is a photo excerpt of items 2 and 3 (click on image to enlarge):

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Sunnyvale Civic Center Plans - 2

Perma-Link to here:

This is a continuation of "Civic Center Plans - 1" here:

see also (about traffic problems):


Meeting of City Council on Tuesday Nov. 7th at 7 PM at City Council Chambers, 456 W. Olive Ave. Sunnyvale, CA.  The first item on the agenda is to decide which of the following two designs to pursue for the new Civic Center Plans.  The council may choose to modify either of the designs.  Phase 1 is for a new City Hall.  Phase 2 is for a new library and Dept. of Public Safety building.  The official City of Sunnyvale web site on the Civic Center remodeling project is here:

The public is encouraged to share their thoughts.  If you cannot come, please email the city council at:

This entire design process will take at least a year so don't think that just because you couldn't make the meeting it is too late to give your opinion.

You can say anything you like.  Most people touch on the following when I talk with them:

1. Prefer Option 1 (rectangular buildings) or Option 2 (curved buildings)
2. Keep Olive Ave. or don't keep Olive Ave.
3. Current designs for exterior vs. alternative
4. Scrap the whole thing and just add-on to existing buildings
5. How to pay for this?
6. We need a playground near the library
7.  Reverse the phases so Library and New DPS building get built in phase 1 and city hall gets built in phase 2.
or  (whatever you want to say...)

The two options from the architects currently being considered are (click on photo to enlarge)

Option 1 (Rectangular Buildings):

Completed Civic Center
Blue Lines on Top are Solar Panels
Phase 1 - City Hall and Add-on to Public Safety

(Click to enlarge)

View from Mathilda

View from Center Plaza

Option 2 (Curved Buildings):

Olive Ave. Removed

Olive Ave. Removed

View from Mathilda

Proposed Library 

In both options,  the new library is intended to have 118,000 sq. ft. compared to the current library's 65,000 sq. ft.  The new Lakewood Branch Library will have 20,000 sq. ft. giving a total of  85,000 sq. ft. for Sunnyvale before a new library is built and 138,000 sq. ft. if the proposed new library is built.

Do we need a new library?  For comparison, Santa Clara's main library is 85,000 sq. ft. and Cupertino's (only) library is 54,000 sq. ft.

Cupertino's 54,000 sq. ft. Library

Cupertino Library Court Yard

Cupertino Library Children's Area and Aquarium

A 118,000 sq. ft. library would be the 9th biggest library in California between Kern County Library in Bakersfield and Huntington Beach library.  Sunnyvale is the 37th largest city in California.    C.f., http://cspgs.blogspot.com/2015/09/biggest-10-public-libraries-in.html

Here's a library that is 118,000 sq. ft. in St. Cloud, MN
More photos here: http://www.gltarchitects.com/Portfolio/Government-Public/St-Cloud-Public-Library.aspx
More on size here: http://cspgs.blogspot.com/2015/09/say-how-big-is-that-library.html

Most cities the size of Sunnyvale (or a little larger) have a large-ish main library and have lots of local neighborhood libraries people can walk to.  Examples of similar-sized cities and their library system are here:  http://cspgs.blogspot.com/2015/10/ca-cities-like-sunnyvale-their-libraries.html

And in terms of libraries, size is not everything.  Access is more important.  In Fresno (pop. 520,000), two small (22,000 sq. ft. & 10,000 sq.ft.) libraries each have greater circulation than the main library (82,700 sf).  More at: http://cspgs.blogspot.com/2015/10/david-and-goliath-libraries.html
Fresno's branch library of 22,000 sq. ft. with double(!) the circulation of their 82,000 sq. ft. main branch

Olive Ave

In Option 2 (curved buildings), Olive Ave. is closed because city staff decided not to temporarily close or move the existing library while the new library is being built.  This left insufficient room to place the new library without covering Olive Ave.  If Olive Ave. is considered by the public as important to retain then one alternative is to build a cantilevered portion over a Olive Ave. like this university building below.
Milstein Building, Ithaca NY

Or, City Council could decide that it is important to preserve Olive Ave. and therefore other arrangements for the existing library can be made while a new one is built.  They might move to a temporary space or, simply close off part of the existing library which would be demolished while most of the existing library stays open.

Option 2 with Olive Still Open

Another issue that arises frequently in discussions of Option 2 (curved buildings) is the placement of the parking structure in the lower corner, remote from the City Hall and Public Safety Building.  Many feel it should be more centrally located.  One possibility is that the Public Safety Building could be built first and then the new library.  That would free up the current DPS building site in the corner and also allow for preserving Olive Ave. (if that is desired).  Then the library is given greater visibility from El Camino.  The parking structure could be built more centrally.  In that case, Option 2 might look like the following:

Olive Ave. NOT removed
Parking is moved to a more central location
New library is closer to El Camino

Current Architects:

The architectural design team is "Smith Group JJR".  They did a highly respected, very "green" city hall building for Chandler, AZ, (suburb of Phoenix) that was chosen by the American Institute of Architects as one of the top ten 'green' buildings of the year: http://www.aiatopten.org/node/93

Photos from that site (click to enlarge):
Chandler, AZ City Hall

Financing for Phase 1 (City Hall and Add-on to Public Safety)

Phase 1 for either option includes only the City Hall and an addition to the Dept. of Public Safety (DPS) building.

To pay for phase 1 only, the City of Sunnyvale will sell a number of properties they intend to declare "surplus".  Also, since some of the new Civic Center will be park land, park dedication fees will be used for part of it.  Funding from these sources may not be adequate for all aspects of phase 1.  Phase 1 for option 1 (rectangular) looks like this:

Phase 1 - New City Hall and DPS add-on
Annex and Sunnyvale Office Center are removed - dashed white line outlines.
Blue lines on buildings indicate solar panels

Phase 1 (City Hall and Add-on to Public Safety) for option 2 (curved) looks like this:
Olive is Closed
Phase 1 - New City Hall and DPS add-on
Sunnyvale Office Center and Annex are removed as indicated by the the white dashed lines around them
Blue lines on buildings indicate solar panels

Financing for Phase 2 (New Library and Public Safety)

Drawings of the final phase (Phase 2) are shown at the top.  After phase 1 (City Hall and DPS add-on) is complete, the next big question is how to pay for phase 2 (new library and DPS building).  This would likely cost about the same as phase 1.  There will be no more surplus properties to sell.  The current thinking by city staff is to put a bond proposal up that will raise taxes to pay for a new library and new Dept. of Public Safety (DPS) building.  It will require a 67% yes vote to pass.

The previous bond measure for only a new library received 59% instead of the required 67% and failed.  That resulted in the proposal to lease for 99 years about 60% of the current Civic Center in exchange for a new library as seen below from the city staff proposal.  Purple area on El Camino and light blue area on Pastoria on top of picture:

This proposal was later dropped due to public resistance, though no law or ruling exists to prevent it from being brought up again.

To determine if there was support for a bond measure to pay for the new library and Public Safety building, last year a poll of residents was done by a professional polling company.  They found insufficient support for a bond measure to fund those buildings.  As a result, the decision was made to sell surplus properties and use park dedication fees from new construction to fund phase 1 (new city hall and DPS add-on),   It is hard to see why public opinion would change with respect to a bond measure.  The question remains how to pay for phase 2 (new library and new DPS).  The fear of a long term lease of part of the Civic Center to pay for phase 2 also remains.

What the Chandler govt. did to finance their new City Hall (mentioned earlier) was save up money during the boom years and then when the boom ended and contractors were desperately looking for work, they used the money they had saved to pay for the new city hall at bargain basement prices.  So it can be done! (Even by governments!  Who knew?)

Chandler, AZ City Hall

The head of finance for the City of Sunnyvale said in an open meeting a few weeks ago that due to CalPERS (Public Employee Retirement System) increasing employer (such as cities) costs there will likely be a need to put a tax increase on the ballot in November 2018.  This may pass but asking for a tax increase to pay for public employee retirement costs may make it harder to get a tax increase to pay for a bond for the new library and DPS building, especially since the add-on to the DPS building in Phase 1 removes the urgency of a new DPS building.

Alternative - Add-Ons

In 2003, another architectural group came up with several layouts.  The one with the least changes adds on to all three existing buildings.  This would have resulted in an addition to the existing library resulting in a 100,000 sq. ft. library vs. the existing 65,000 sq. ft. library and a 4-story addition to City Hall.  For comparison, the Santa Clara main library is 85,000 sq. ft. and the Cupertino library is 50,000 sq. ft.  See below:

I have listened to many people about the proposed Phase 1 (City Hall) and Phase 2 (library and DPS) and one question that comes up is what if there is not funding for phase 2?  In that case, phase 1 is going to look a bit strange - a big modern "iconic" City Hall sitting among several unassuming modest brick buildings.  "Modernity vs. Charm" was how one critic put it.

What Will Not Be Decided (But You Can Say Anyway)

Option 1 (rectangular buildings) is some wood and a lot of glass.  Option 2 (curved buildings) has an exterior of white stone to suggest a capitol building like the one in Sacramento.  Not everyone is in favor of that.   The City Council is interested in your opinions on that as well, though the exterior aspects will be decided later.  Many I talk to prefer (without any prompting from me) the wood and recycled copper look of the Packard Foundation building in Los Altos. It is the largest NetZero energy building in the world - https://www.packard.org/about-the-foundation/our-green-headquarters/.  The wood exterior could be on either Option 1 (rectangular) or Option 2 (curved).  See below (click on any photo to enlarge):

Like the Chandler, AZ City Hall that our current architects designed, the Packard Foundation building was honored as one of the top ten green buildings of the year.  More pictures and discussion on the "green" aspects of the Packard Foundation Building may be found on the American Institute of Architects web site here:  http://www.aiatopten.org/node/403


Please come to the City Council Meeting on Tuesday Nov. 7th at 7 PM 456 W. Olive Ave., Sunnyvale, CA and share your thoughts about how to proceed.  If you cannot come, please email the city council at:

This entire design process will take at least a year so don't think that just because you couldn't make the meeting it is too late to give your opinion.

Michael Goldman
Sunnyvale City Council, Seat 7