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Tuesday, June 5, 2018

50 Story Office Building in Santa Clara, CA (?!)

Summary:  A redevelopment of almost 50 acres in Santa Clara at the corner of Tasman Way and Great America Parkway is proposed.  Multiple tall buildings including at least one 50 story office building (estimate 650-700 feet tall) and at least one 35-story residential apartment building are "envisioned".  Space for up to 17,000 workers along with 6,000 residential units, 600,000 sq. ft. retail space, 400,000 SF hotel space.

Link to this post:

This is what a 50-story office building looks like:
CitiCorps Building, Queens Borough, NYC
More on above building here:

A 35 story apartment building in Houston (click image to enlarge):
35 story Apt. Building, Houston TX
2 BR Apts $3,834 to $5,098
Area in Santa Clara for Proposed Development:
Yellow Boxed Area Below (click image to enlarge)

From invitation received:

"Community Meeting
When: Saturday, June 9, 10am - 12pm

"How to Help
Attend this CSV-led community meeting to share your vision for what this site and greater-neighborhood could become.

If you looked at the invitation (no longer up) you find the following phrase: "Office buildings may reach 50 stories, and residential up to 35 stories"See following "screen grab" (click to enlarge)

The tallest building in San Jose is 22 floors.  C.f.,,_California

Area To Be Developed
3005 Democracy Way, Santa Clara, CA

"Kylli intends to retain the plans for the 3.06 million square feet of offices, but now wants to add 3,500 residential units and an unspecified amount of retail space to the property, according to the proposal" with more details on project here

The above estimate of 3M SF office space and 3,500 residential units has been increased to 3.5M SF office space and 6,000 residential units (see below).

A video of the Santa Clara June 2, 2018 "State of the City" meeting has a resident asking about this development at approx. 42:30 on the video.  The resident notes the original proposal from the developer was for 60 stories and seems to have been scaled down to 40 stories.  He expresses concern for traffic and schools.  The answer from Mayor Lisa Gilmor continues to 46:30 and mentions schools with very limited space for play.  The video is here:

10.5M Sq. Ft. of Floor Space
3.5M Office Space, 6M Residential space, 1M Retail and Hotel
From Developer's presentation to Santa Clara City Council 
Santa Clara City documents (very favorable to plan amendment):

Staff slide presentation:
Text: ,

The above documents do not specifically mention the height of the proposed buildings.


The Apple "spaceship" headquarters is 2.8M sq. ft and was intended originally to hold 13,000 office workers.  Generally one estimates around 200 sq. ft. to 250 sq. ft. per office worker, so 3.5M sq. ft = 14,400 to 17,500 workers (average 16,000).  Nothing indicates how the additional workers (16,000 workers - 6,000 residents = 10,000 commuters minimum) will be getting to the proposed office building.  Presumably they will be added to existing transportation systems.

The 6,000 housing units in 6,000,000 sq. ft. works out to 1,000 sq. ft. per apt. or condo.  That is a 2 or 3 bedroom apt.  If each bedroom has one person, that is 12,000 to 18,000 (average 15,000) residents.  If everyone who lived there was a worker (no children or seniors) who also worked there, everyone could walk to work.  Except of course there will be children, retirees, etc.

Further, census data indicates only about 10% to 15% of residents of a city in Silicon Valley work in the city they live in.  For example, in Cupertino only 9% of those who live there work in Cupertino.  Cf., .

Similar ratios are seen in Sunnyvale, Mountain View and Palo Alto:
Mtn Vu:

There is the additional issue of employment multipliers.  If 15,000 new residents move in, they will require teachers for their kids, mechanics for their cars, doctors and nurses, firemen, police, plumbers, waiters, etc., etc.  This has been studied and found to be about 4 additional jobs for every primary worker.  MIT's Sloan Review summarizes it here:  This means the 15,000 new residents will generate an additional 60,000 jobs for a total of 75,000 workers.  For every worker there is at least one non-worker (child, senior, etc.) so we are looking at a total of 150,000 new residents somewhere within commute distance.

FAA Regulations on Height:
There was some thought that the FAA would limit building heights in the development but apparently not.  A member of the public noted that FAA regulations limit the height of buildings within certain distances of an airplane runway:

"This plan puts it right in SJC 12R approach / 30L takeoff zones where heights above 200ft are obstructions.  Federal Aviation Regulations, FAR 77.23(a)(2), Obstruction Standards, Criteria:"

"An object would be an obstruction to air navigation if the object has a height greater than 200 feet above ground at the site, or above the established airport elevation, which ever is higher
(a) within 3 nautical miles of the established reference point of an airport with its longest runway more than 3,200 feet in actual length and
(b) that height increases in proportion of 100 feet for each additional nautical miles from the airport reference point up to a maximum of a 500 feet"

However, upon further investigation the same individual found that:
"The FAA allows obstructions to be built but they must be lighted for aircraft warning. Another part of the regulation defines an approach surface that the FAA does not want intruded on. I worked this out and it looks like a 600 ft building at that location would not intrude."

As the following picture shows,. the proposed site is 3 miles to San Jose's Mineta Airport's runways.  (Click image to enlarge).
Three miles from proposed site to runways

Flooding Due to Sea Level Rise 
The area is projected by scientists to be abandoned between 2045 and 2100 due to frequent inundation (flooding) caused by sea level rise which in turn is caused by global warming.  See map below:
A possible 3 ft rise by 2050 and a 6 ft. rise by 2070 is projected by a State of California commissioned scientific study.  This is if the Antarctic Ice Sheets start melting, which they appear to be doing.  The US Govt. NOAA "Sea Level Rise Viewer" projects this would look like the following maps below:

2050 Sea Level Rise = 3 Feet
light blue areas are completely flooded at high tide.  Green areas only partly flooded.

2070 Sea Level Rise = 6 Feet
Produced by California Ocean Protection Council and the California Natural Resources Agency, in collaboration with the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research, the California Energy Commission, and the California Ocean Science Trust

More on this here:
and here:

More about Catalyze here:

Text of email from "Catalyze" follows:
--------------------------------  included text begins ----------------- 
Alert Summary
Catalyze SV (CSV) is facilitating our first visioning workshop, focusing on a general plan amendment at 3005 Democracy Way - with 10.5 million-square-feet of mixed use proposed on a 49 acre site. Located along light rail, near Great American Parkway at Tasman, the Kylli project could also include 8 acres of ground-level open space (additional public spaces above ground level) and multiple tall buildings, some as high as 50 stories.
Who is overseeing the project?
No proposal yet submitted to City of Santa Clara Planning.
The project contact is:
Catalyze SV contact for meeting: 

The mostly vacant 49 acre site’s current entitlement allows for 3 million square feet of office. The proposed feasibility study underway looks at a site use of: 3.5 million square feet of office, 6 million square feet of residential (6,000 units), 600,000 square feet of retail/community amenities, 400,000 square feet of hotel, [ emphasis added, MG] 8 acres of ground-level green space/open space, and an additional 12 acres of green space/open space above ground-level. Office buildings may reach 50 stories, and residential up to 35 stories.

This project is in its early stages, still undergoing programming with only preliminary massing and schematic square footages. The developer, Kylli, has expressed interest in conducting a robust outreach effort for their precedent-setting proposal and Kylli has been receptive to CSV efforts to conduct our own independent outreach regarding this project. 

The project received unanimous approval to begin the General Plan Amendment process to allow for changing the use from all commercial to other uses. We expect the General Plan Amendment to be heard later this year. After that, the project will go through the standard application and entitlement process. [emphasis added, mg]

...[deleted inconsequentials]

Yours in community,

Catalyze SV Board

---------------------  end included text from Catalyze -----------------

Friday, June 1, 2018

Commute Distance in US Metro Areas

In the San Francisco Bay area, when the subject turns to traffic, you always hear someone say "I know someone who commutes from Livermore!"

(Link to this post:

This is part one of a series on commuting.  This part focuses on commute distances.  Part two looks at commute times.  Link to that post is:

Livermore is at the end of the earth so if anyone at all is commuting from Livermore it means there is a "crisis" of some sort and we should all start panicking and seek immediate action, now, NowNOW!  

Truly urgent! and immediate! action must be taken - most likely involving big construction companies and large campaign contributions.

Where the heck is Livermore?
Google maps to the rescue!
"Livermore" is in the upper left.
I was looking into the reasons why San Francisco has such extreme commutes when I found, to my surprise, that it (mostly) doesn't (maybe a little, but not really huge).  I guess I fell for that "..from Livermore!" urgency like many others.  I expected to find that other metro areas have far fewer people making long commutes and found instead that other areas are (literally) 'all over the map'.

I looked at the commutes for the 20 largest metro areas and 6 others that are growing really fast.  The data set includes 44 million workers.  Including non-workers (kids, seniors, etc.) this is over 100 million residents.  I always included the main centers of employment and I only looked at how many commuted in, regardless of where they lived.

Commute Distance Categories Average
How far people commute to work

The four categories that the US Census bureau uses to report commute distances are less than 10 miles, "< 10 Miles", between 10 and 25 miles, "10 - 25 Miles", between 25 and 50 miles, "25 - 50 Miles", and more than 50 miles, "> 50".

The averages for the 26 US metro areas are shown below: (click graph to enlarge)
Almost 50% of workers commute less than 10 miles.
Another 31% commute between 10 and 25 miles,
10% commute between 25 to 50 miles,
10% commute more than 50 miles.
I used the US Census visualization tool "OnTheMap" to show the distribution of commute distances and locations.  One of the reports it generates shows the numbers and percentages of workers in each category as seen in the right half of the sample output (for Contra Costa County, CA) below:

More on how to use the tool here:

Below is the summary graph for 21 of those metro areas.  They are sorted by what percentage in each metro area fall into "commute less than 10 miles" ("< 10").  I have highlighted San Francisco, Los Angeles, and the entire 9-county SF Bay Area (including San Francisco) with arrows and special 'bars' so you can see to what extent they differ from other metro areas and from the 26 city averages.  What is clear is that they aren't much different from the others. (click on graph to enlarge)

21 Metro Areas
Percentage of Each Metro Area by Commute Distance

One big surprise.  Notice where LA (pink bar) is in the four categories.  The city most famous for bad traffic seems to be about as close to average as one could reasonably expect.

"Hey, LA Dudes!!
We're Like, Totally Average!"

(NOTE:  This refers to distance traveledCongestion is a separate issue to be covered elsewhere)

The second surprise was that I could see no numerical pattern at all.  I expected to see some correlation with population.  We saw in an earlier post that as the SF Bay Metro area grew it's commute boundaries expanded.  We saw a significant increase in long commutes over time as population increased.  That exploration is here:  The graph for that is reproduced below:

Given this data I supposed that there would be a correlation between metro area population and commute times.  If so, it doesn't show in this data.  I calculated statistical "correlation coefficients" for population vs. each of the four commute categories.  No coefficient was greater than 0.29 and two were essentially zero.  Any correlation below 0.6 is too low to be meaningful.

In other words, each metro area's four commute-distance categories are not related to population but to local factors of culture, geography, and economics.

The third surprise was that in many aspects Los Angeles' commute patterns are "better" than those of San Francisco and the 9-county SF Bay Area.  In fact, Los Angeles' commute patterns are remarkable for being unremarkable.  The following graph show how those areas stack up in terms of commute distances.

SF Bay Area's Commutes Worse Than LA's
SF Bay Area has more super-commuters than LA

What you see in the above graph is that in the two less desirable categories, those commuting more than 25 miles and more than 50 miles, the SF Bay Area is worse (has more super-commuters) than the 26 metro area average.  In the more desirable categories of less than 25 miles and less than 10 miles, the SF Bay area is worse (fewer commuters) than Los Angeles.

We can see this by looking at total Vehicle Miles Traveled per person below (click chart to enlarge):

We see above that the (one-way) average commute in LA of 18.3 miles is only slightly more than the average 17.9 miles of the 26 Metro areas.  That 0.4 miles isn't much (only 2.2%).  More interesting is the difference between the 20.3 miles average commute in the SF Bay Area and the 18.3 miles in LA.  That is an 11% difference - not huge but worth looking at.

LA and the SF Bay Area (image below) are equal in VMT for the three shorter commutes, "< 10", "10 - 25", and "25 - 50".  Where they differ, and what makes LA 'better' than the SF Bay Area, is the "> 50" mile commutes - the "super commuters".  (click image to enlarge)
More VMT due to Purple bar "greater than 50 mile" commutes.
Super-commuters are more common in the SF Bay Area.
Looking at the aerial views of the two cities, we can see why a geographer said "God meant San Francisco to be expensive".  First, Los Angeles, with a 50-mile radius circle (click image to enlarge):

Los Angeles with a 50 mile radius circle
The 50-mile circle encompasses a lot of land, a fair bit of water, and quite a few mountains.  The mountains are protected from development in many cases and serve as a barrier to commuting, though there are roads through those lands.  The key point to recall is that there are substantial amounts of flat, easily-built-on land near employment centers.

Now the SF Bay Area:
San Francisco with a 50 mile radius circle
The difference is obvious.  A LOT more ocean than LA, that big bay in the middle, and many more (mostly protected) mountains than in LA - and those mountains are closer to employment centers.  Within that circle, there is some flat, easily-built-on land in San Jose and just over the East Bay hills around Pleasanton.  The big flat lands to the east are mostly outside the 50 mile circle.  Competition for land close to employment centers is more intense because there is less land to compete for.  This drives up the price of land and the housing built on it.

In short, less buildable land within 50 miles of employment centers = more super-commuters in the SF Bay area than in LA.  As the earlier bar graph with those 21 cities showed, there are other metro areas with even more super-commuters - San Antonio, San Diego, Austin, Riverside County, and Houston.  Still, the SF Bay Area is above average - mainly due to geography.

Summary:  So now you know.  The next time you hear "...commutes from Livermore!"

the proper response is a shrug and maybe a casual reply indicating your worldly sophistication such as...
"That's life in the big city, kiddo!" (shrug)