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Thursday, January 12, 2017

Sunnyvale's L.U.T.E.

The LUTE and Cars/Commutes

L.U.T.E. stands for Land Use and Transportation Element.  It is required by state law to be part of the general plan for each city.
A LUTE can be fun!
Sunnyvale's Draft LUTE is found here:

Of special interest on page 6:
"The LUTE land use plan represents a jobs/housing ratio of 1.73. This jobs/housing strategy maintains, or slightly lowers, the current jobs to housing ratio (1.75 in 2010) while continuing to allow for economic growth. The Land Use Diagram and LUTE policies support the development of up to 27,825 new jobs and 16,760 new housing units in Sunnyvale."

Questions:  How do we calculate the number of jobs added?  If by estimating sq. ft. per worker what if cos. lower the sq. ft. per employee?  How is this monitored?

Commuters TO Sunnyvale

An issue with this is that we already have a job surplus of 18,000 (84,000 jobs - 66,000 workers = 18,000 job surplus) and this is just going to add to that.  (See my blog on this issue here: )

These 27,825 new jobs will be a 33% increase in jobs to 112,000.  Assuming the job surplus ratio stays the same we will have 24,000 more jobs than workers.  Not only that, but the number of people who live AND work in Sunnyvale is going down.  It is currently under 8,800 (2014) down from about 9,500 (2002). (cf, blog post referenced above).

If we assume zero growth in Sunnyvale residents working in Sunnyvale (in contrast to the actual decline we observed - so this is the optimistic view), then we will have nearly 28,000 additional commuters into Sunnyvale every morning.  Highway 237 and 101 seem somewhat packed at the moment as does CalTrain so it is hard to see how workers will get in and out of Sunnyvale.  BART is very clear they are going to stop at Santa Clara's CalTrain station (if they get that far).  No appreciable light rail coming into Sunnyvale in the foreseeable future.  How does this work?

Commuters FROM Sunnyvale

In addition to the increased number of commuters, we will have an increased number of residents thanks to the 16,760 new housing units.  At two persons per housing unit, that is about 33,000 people added to the existing population of 150,000 for a total of 183,000 a 30% increase in population.  At 3 persons, it is about 50,000 more residents for a total of 200,000 for a 33% increase.

As shown in my blog post on commuting, we have seen that the additional workers added to Sunnyvale for the last 12 years only add to the number of commuters to other cities so we can assume somewhere around 15,000 to 30,000 more people commuting OUT of Sunnyvale.

Questions:  How do additional commuters (in and out) manage to commute?  Will Mathilda become a double-decker freeway?  Extend Mary Ave. over 280?  Widen 237?
(ref: )

What will be the effect on housing prices and rentals since increased density increases rents and housing costs?  (c.f., )


Lower Speed Limits ------------

Policy 35 on page 29, under the topic of Transportation Networks talks about lowering speed limits.

I gather the goal here is to make Sunnyvale more amenable to biking and walking.  But there are limits to how much people bike and walk of around 3%-6% and 10%-15% respectively.  Ref:

Questions:  What is the desired outcome in terms of %-age of people walking and biking?

Questions:   If we are adding more commuters in and out don't we want to increase the commute throughput?  Which streets are intended to have their speeds reduced?

Parking Fees for Street Parking in Neighborhoods -------------

Policy 31 on page 29
Questions:  What is the desired outcome from this?  Is there an expected reduction in car use?  If so how much.  What other cities our size do this?  If someone has people over for dinner how much do you anticipate they will have to pay to park for 2 hours in front of their house?  If someone's adult kids visit for a week, how much will they have to pay?

Parking Fees for Shopping, Dining Out, Movies, etc. ----------------

Still on page 29:
Questions:  Is there any possibility people will refuse to go to businesses where parking fees are required and instead go to places where there is free parking?  Will this hurt Sunnyvale businesses competing with neighboring communities?  Any measure from other communities of the effectiveness of this in reducing vehicle use?

Making Cars More Costly ------------------------

Still on page 29:

Questions:  What true costs are we talking about?  What does "improve the cost return attributable to driving" mean?  Are we also going to make more visible the "true costs" of public transit as well?  Currently, VTA fare recovery is about 12% so for every $2 bus ride, an additional $14 govt. subsidy is required.


From page 44 of draft LUTE:  "POLICY 62: Encourage the development of housing options with the goal that the majority of housing is owner-occupied."

Question: Does this mean more condos and fewer apartments?

The percent of people commuting by auto has risen to and leveled off at about 85% over the last few decades:

At most 8% bike to work:
Most people actually enjoy commuting and others don't mind it.  In one survey, only about 25% actually disliked commuting.

On average it is about 60% of Americans enjoy commuting.  Even among those who work in big cities, 47% actually enjoy their commute.  Getting them out of their cars will be a challenge.  Is it even realistic to try?  People have been preaching against sin for some time now and yet some people still sin  (or so I'm told).  One school of thought says that any plan requiring a change in human behavior is doomed to failure.  On the off chance they are right, what other avenues should be looked at? (click image to enlarge).