Sunnyvale moves Lawrence Station plan forward in a close vote

In a tight 4:3 vote on Tuesday, Sunnyvale City Council moved the Lawrence Station area plan forward.   The plan, as developed by a Citizens’ Advisory Group, calls for a compact, mixed-use development around Sunnyvale’s second Caltrain station at Lawrence Expressway.  The plan includes a flexible mix of housing, retail, commercial, and appropriate industrial throughout the Station Area, improved circulation for all modes of transportation, and open space at five locations.

The most controversial topic was whether the area should be zoned for mixed use, or whether some land would be kept for exclusive commercial and industrial uses.  Councilmember Moylan made a strong argument in favor of transit oriented development, including mixed use which will help reduce demand for driving and help meet climate change mandates.   Councilmember Whittum floated an amendment, which was not accepted, to study the plan without any housing north of the tracks, arguing that people could live in cities farther south where land is cheaper and commute to Sunnyvale.

There was broad support for improving connectivity, bike and pedestrian access in the station area.  Several Council members expressed concern that the Lawrence Station, which currently has  low ridership, was on the chopping block during a Caltrain financial crisis, could be closed.  This blogger, with a Friends of Caltrain affiliation, gave public comment that with its electrification plan expected to be in place by 2019, Caltrain is likely to increase service at smaller stations such as Lawrence – better station access and more compact development near the station would improve the likelihood that service stays and increases.

Over a dozen comments in support of the plan were offered by members of the public, with only one comment in opposition. Several local businesses wanted to make sure that a planned road did not encroach on their property. Letters to Council ran very heavily in support, including strong letters of support from the Sierra Club and the Silicon Valley Leadership Group. Turnout and comments were fostered by an alliance of local environmental groups, who favor transit-oriented development to reduce carbon emissions, pollution and sprawl, and business groups supporting more housing for local workers and transit use to reduce congestion.

The motion carried 4-3, with Griffith, Spitaleri, Moylan, and Martin-Milius voting in support, Meryering, Whittum and Davis opposing.  The approved policy direction will now go back to the Citizens’ Advisory Committee who will help work out the nuts and bolts of the plan.

The next community meeting will be held in the summer, and the first draft of the plan will be reviewed by the CAC this coming fall, and environmental review of the plan would occur in 2014.

If you live or work in or near the Lawrence Station area and would like to be involved in the next steps of the planning process, contact Barbara Fukumoto of Sunnyvale Cool.

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