Now that Sunnyvale’s city council has approved the annexation of a five-acre former plum orchard from Santa Clara County, the political jockeying to influence the next stage of its development has begun.[contextly_sidebar id=”g8RQRO7DwMDkKz2GVBVUpQlQYTQq2nPf”]Sunnyvale approved the annexation of the Butcher’s Corner parcel on October 13 in a split vote, with two of the city council’s seven members opposing the move. Council members David Whittum and Pat Meyering questioned the timing and motivations behind the annexation of the parcel, located at the corner of E. El Camino Real and S. Wolfe Road, concerned that the city was moving too quickly.
Whittum asked about the impact of annexing the property now would constrain the city form making zoning changes, given rezoning restrictions imposed by the Santa Clara County Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) that prohibit rezoning of annexed county parcels within 2 years of annexation.
The Butcher’s Corner parcel is a designated “island” parcel of unincorporated county land surrounded by the City of Sunnyvale. Santa Clara LAFCO has established a streamlined process for annexation of such islands and had requested Sunnyvale use the process to annex Butcher’s Corner. Whittum was assured by city staff that rezoning should not be impeded due to LAFCO’s willingness to facilitate the incorporation of island parcels into city jurisdictions.
Council member Meyering was more blunt in his opposition to the annexation, saying that the move was being considered, “solely to get the developer out from under the agricultural zoning” currently on the parcel and predicting a “catastrophic” impact on traffic should it be rezoned for high-density development. “This annexation doesn’t make sense,” Meyering said. “It’s against the city residents’ wishes, and it’s against the City’s best interests. It’s something the city ought to not be participating in.”
Butcher’s Corner was purchased by DeAnza Properties in 2013. Preliminary plans are currently underway to develop a mixed-use development on the site. Those plans include 153 residential units at a density of about 30 units per acre, and almost 7,000 square feet of retail/office space. The redevelopment proposal also includes three-story townhouses on the west side of the development, a five-story multifamily residential building—with retail and office on the first floor—along the frontage of El Camino Real, and a seven-story multifamily residential building along Fremont Ave.
The plans have drawn some criticism from neighbors and residents concerned about traffic and school impacts, density and building heights as well as tree removal plans. After the plans were initially unviewed to city officials at a public meeting in late July, Hanson Hom, director of Sunnyvale’s community development department, said any determinations by the City must wait until annexation and an Environment Impact Report (EIR) is completed, likely in March 2016.