A Community Comes Together in Silicon Valley

At Greenbelt Alliance, we’re dedicated to getting growth right in the Bay Area. That means safeguarding our farms and forests from sprawl development and creating thriving neighborhoods within our cities and towns.

But good growth decisions don’t emerge automatically. It takes people coming together and getting engaged in decisions about how their communities grow. Fortunately, there are inspiring examples of this happening around the Bay Area and Greenbelt Alliance is playing a key role in making it happen.

Take the city of Sunnyvale. Few places around the region are as important for growing smartly.

Sunnyvale has more potential for infill development—development on vacant lots or leftover properties—than nearly any other city—surpassed only by the big three cities of San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose. With two Caltrain stations, light rail, and frequent bus service, it’s a perfect location to create homes and jobs near public transit. And it’s ground zero for the region’s housing affordability crisis, with the average two-bedroom apartment renting for more than $3,000 per month.

Several years ago, we began working with a handful of Sunnyvale residents who were motivated by the severity of the housing crisis, environmental concerns, and an interest in improving the quality of life in their community. Over time, these concerned residents decided to form a local group. They chose the name “Livable Sunnyvale” and dedicated themselves to shaping how their city grows to create a more sustainable and affordable future.

Greenbelt Alliance has been an essential partner along the way. We’ve helped the group inspire fellow residents and recruit new members through educational forums, panel discussions, and social gatherings.

We’re also working with Livable Sunnyvale to help them shape Sunnyvale’s new plan for growth along El Camino Real—one of the city’s main transit corridors—and craft a citywide housing strategy. We’ve led advocacy trainings, helped the group craft detailed policy platforms, and organized residents for key workshops and hearings.

These efforts are bearing fruit. At a recent public workshop on the city’s El Camino Real plan, residents voted to prioritize new homes along the corridor and called for more affordable homes to help those most in need. The Sunnyvale City Council has also shown a growing interest in addressing the balance of new homes and jobs within the city so that tomorrow’s workforce can live close to work, rather than face unbearable commutes to the edges of the region.

We’re excited that Livable Sunnyvale has the potential to dramatically improve the quality of life in this important Bay Area city. And we’re hopeful that it can serve as a model of community engagement to inspire the rest of the Bay Area.

Photo: © Taylor Hangosky

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