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Sunday, March 26, 2017

L.U.T.E. - Sunnyvale 3/26/2017

The Sunnyvale "Land Use and Transportation Element" (LUTE) is part of Sunnyvale's required General Plan.  It has generated some controversy.  Of possible interest are the large projected jobs and population increases.

Planning commission considers LUTE Monday 3/27/2017.  City Council takes it up in a few weeks, on Tuesday, 4/11/2017.  Both start at 7 PM at 456 W. Olive Ave., Sunnyvale.


Issues are  the expected housing unit increase (15,100 = 40,000 more residents = about 20,000 more workers?) and the jobs increase (42,000).  Does it open the city up to law suits from neighboring communities because it seems to envision far more jobs than housing?  The impact of the projected increase in commuters into Sunnyvale is substantial.  The major routes seem heavily used already .  Several organizations at the state and local level have expressed concern over the same job-housing balance.


The LUTE is found at:

Page 6:
"The LUTE land use plan represents a jobs/housing ratio of 1.73. This is a slight increase over the jobs/housing of 1.44 calculated for 2014, the beginning of the LUTE planning period."

It might seem to some like a large increase.  The change will result in many more jobs ("42,410 new jobs") than workers in Sunnyvale.  The number of new housing units is 15,100.  The planning dept. of Sunnyvale uses 2.6 new residents for each housing unit which implies 39,260 additional residents - adults and children.  If we postulate 1.5 workers for each new housing unit this will mean an additional 22,000 additional workers. Even if every new resident works in Sunnyvale, about 20,000 more will have to commute in to Sunnyvale, over and above the current numbers to fill the projected jobs. The commutes on Highways 101 and 237 are already terrible.  This will not make them better.

As of 2014, census data showed we had 18,000 more jobs than workers (84,000 jobs, 66,000 employed residents).  C.f., (about middle of blog post).

Adding in the additional 20,000 workers and 42,000 jobs the LUTE envisions will mean that there will be 40,000 more jobs than workers in Sunnyvale if all goes as projected by 2035.

Of concern is that ABAG or its successor agency, may insist that housing be built to accommodate all the new workers.  The amount of building required to house the additional workers will be huge - an additional 15,000 new housing units (at least) over and above the 15,100 already projected meaning an additional 40,000 new residents over the LUTE's projected total of 175,000 bringing Sunnyvale's population from its current 140,000 (given in the LUTE) to 220,000 - an increase of 57%.  The effect on the schools will be "interesting".  

If Sunnyvale doesn't build enough housing to accommodate all the new jobs, San Jose may sue us as they did Santa Clara.  C.f., 


Santa Clara later reciprocated:

The San Jose Mercury-News weighed in that some regional planning is necessary to resolve these disputes:
The legal point of contention was the FEIR - Final Environmental Impact Report - which is required under the CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act).  The FEIR is found at

The issue was raised by CalTrans which recommended a ratio of 1.44 as seen below:

The response from the Sunnyvale City staff to this concern is that Jobs/Housing Ratio is a socio-economic concern and is not required to be considered under CEQA (CA Environmental Quality Act).  From the FEIR "Jobs/housing ratios are a socioeconomic issue, which do not require analysis in the Draft EIR, but are a planning consideration." This seems odd to me since this same issue was at the center of the legal actions between San Jose and Santa Clara mentioned above.

The relevant section on the official California State web site is here:
Search for "15131" which is the relevant legal code.  You eventually (third instance of "15131") find the following:

"The interpretation provided in Section 15131 starts with the analysis as used in the Friends of Mammoth decision, (1972) 8 Cal. 3d 247. The analysis begins with the question of whether the governmental action involved will culminate in a physical change. There must be a physical change resulting from the project directly or indirectly before CEQA will apply. Direct physical changes are easy to identify. Indirect examples could include the increased traffic, fuel consumption, and air pollution as the potential results of a bus system fare increase in Shaw v. Golden Gate Bridge etc. District, (1976) 60 Cal. App. 3d 699."  (Emphasis and highlighting added).

The Sierra Club also weighed in on the Jobs/Housing ratio (page 68 FEIR) and affordability as seen below.  Note the underlined "The current ratio...of 1.44 is close to ideal... the future ratio of 1.73 is out of balance...and should not be entertained.... the proposed jobs/housing ratio would further worsen the affordable housing scenario." (click on image to enlarge)
They don't go into details, but presumably, the idea is that increasing the density of office buildings and residential units makes the land more valuable thereby raising rents.  I covered this idea in another blog post here:

The letter further notes the increase in traffic "will increase the traffic considerably":

How is the additional commuting expected to be handled?  Increased bus ridership is hoped for.  Isn't this counter to current trends.  Cf., "Staggering Decrease in VTA Ridership" here:

The city and state hope to increase bike use.  Bike use in Sunnyvale for commuting is just over 1.1% and has never in the past 37 years exceeded 2.2%.  Portland, OR does best at 6% to 8% of commutes by bike but that is the city proper.  The Portland metro area is at 2.2% which is the best in the US.  For the US as a whole it is 0.6%.  I covered some numbers on bike commuting using census data here:

No conclusions at this point, just questions.