Butcher’s Corner annexation study session Sept 10th at 5:45PM in Council Chambers


Courtesy Steve Sarette

Butcher’s Corner is a roughly 5 acre property tucked away at the corner of El Camino Real, Wolfe, and Fremont in Sunnyvale that is currently a working orchard. This property has been sold to a developer who has publicly stated his plans to build an extremely large, high density development. However, that particular corner is already crowded with traffic, local schools are already jammed to the rafters, and traffic patterns in the immediate area do not appear to support the announced plans (195 residential units, 45,000 square feet of commercial space). 

Please attend:

  1. The joint study session Sept 10th at 5:45PM in Council Chambers – Planning Commission and City Council
  2. October 8th. Public hearing to annex Butcher’s Corner. Hopefully immediately prior to this there will be a hearing to change Butcher’s corner zoning. City Council meetings begin at 7 pm.

IF YOU CARE, please plan on being at the study session in September, and the annexation discussion in October. The more community involvement, the better our concerns will be heard and addressed. Once City Council agenda(s) are published confirming relevant dates, I will send out email reminders to any lists or individuals who might care.

Bodies at these meetings matter. Also, personal, direct, POLITE emails and phone calls to City Councilmembers really matter.

PLEASE DO route this email to anyone who you think might be interested in this topic. In particular, if you have contact with PTA, Site Councils, or any groups of people in the immediate school districts (but Cupertino Union schools in particular), please bring this up as a topic of conversation. The more advertisement, the better.

For those of you interested in more background information:

Butcher’s Corner is a roughly 5 acre property tucked away at the corner of El Camino Real, Wolfe, and Fremont that is currently a working orchard. The area immediately around it comprises of 1- and 2-story commercial buildings on the El Camino side, with more of the same plus 2-story condominiums on the Fremont side. Surrounding streets are extremely busy with traffic. It’s possible that you’ve driven or even walked by this property 1,000 times and never realized what was there.

The main issue is that the land has been sold to a developer who has publicly stated his plans to build an extremely large, high density development. However, that particular corner is already crowded with traffic, local schools are already jammed to the rafters, and traffic patterns in the immediate area do not appear to support the announced plans (195 residential units, 45,000 square feet of commercial space).

In the meeting last night, I learned the following:

– Butcher’s Corner is currently county property. Therefore, it is county sheriffs and/or county fire which are nominally supposed to respond to any emergency situations that might occur there. Given that this property is buried in the middle of Sunnyvale, this is not a situation anyone seems eager to continue.

– Butcher’s Corner was zoned by the city for high density in the late 90’s or possibly early 2000’s. However, as long as the property remains in the county, the city’s zoning regulations do not directly apply. There is some (perhaps wishful) thinking that if the property remains in the county, then the county will only allow modifications to the existing current single family dwelling. However, I believe the more likely end-result would be that the county allows the property to be developed according to city zoning regulations. The only difference is that we would be arguing with county commissioners instead of city councilmembers about the property’s future. It is also my understanding that if the property is not annexed, then any future property taxes received from the Butcher’s Corner development would go to the county instead of the city. (Meaning, we get all the headaches, and they get all the money.) For these reasons I believe annexation is the right course of action. The being said, there were a few people last night who disagreed with this opinion. Certainly if you have a different point of view, you should stand up and be heard.

– If the city annexes this land before early January, certain annexation fees will be waved by the county. How much money is involved was not discussed, but it did seem to add an element of urgency to the matter.

– There is a very large, very old oak tree on the property that people are anxious to preserve. City Council seemed to believe that city ordinances related to trees should be sufficient to protect it, but there was some cynicism expressed last night on that account.

– City Council is willing to entertain the idea of down-zoning the property so that the Butcher’s Corner development is in line with the immediate area. The study session in September is intended to explore this option. However, zoning is an incredibly complex topic that is unlikely to be fully explored in a single hour-long conversation. In addition, there is a plan for El Camino Real that overlays zoning regulations along that corridor. So in theory (or so I understand), the city could down-zone the property, but still end up with a high-density development there due to the El Camino Real Precise Plan.

– It is probably better if the property is zoned correctly AND THEN annexed, but I did not sense strong support for that idea on City Council last night. My concern is that if we annex before down-zoning, then the developer can rush to begin his project before the city has a chance to rezone the property. If nothing else, it seems useful to push for a time-limited building moratorium on that property so as to give the city a chance to fully explore this issue.

– Regardless of whether it is the city or the county that controls this property’s development, some kind of an Environmental Impact Report will be required. EIRs are where things like traffic impact are considered. However, this seems like thin protection considering that an EIR was performed for the Linked-In property development near Mathilda & Maude, and the city still allowed it despite the already horrible traffic in that area of the city.

I am sending out this email because I want to encourage a very strong turn-out by local area residents for any future city meetings regarding Butcher’s Corner. Anyone who travels the Wolfe or El Camino Real corridors should care. Anyone with students in Stocklmeir, Cupertino Middle, or any other Cupertino Union schools in that corner of the district should also care. Other school districts in the immediate area may also be affected, and so parents in the area should pay attention.

The city has in recent years shown a strong preference for very large high density developments which frequently exceed the city’s own General Plan. The city also, apparently, has a poor working relationship with the Cupertino Union school district. The upshot is that without strong community involvement, Butcher’s Corner could turn into a real disaster.

I don’t believe there’s any way that Butcher’s Corner will not be developed to some degree or another. In fact, I argue that the developer should be allowed to realize some kind of a return on his investment. But there’s smart development, and then there’s development that will only make us all miserable. Clearly we should all be arguing for the former.

Currently, residents near the Linked-In development are not happy, nor is anyone who has to commute in and around that area due to extraordinarily bad traffic. Unless residents and commuters near El Camino & Wolfe want to experience the same level of “joy” as that experienced by the Linked-In neighbors, I strongly recommend wide-spread involvement in this.

Remember this: Silence equals consent.

Thank you for your attention.

– Steve Sarette
Sunnyvale City Resident & Homeowner
SunnyArts neighborhood

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One response to “Butcher’s Corner annexation study session Sept 10th at 5:45PM in Council Chambers

  1. Thank you for your comprehensive report on Butchers Corner, Steve. I agree with your suggestion of a time -limited bldg. moratorium on this property. Sunnyvale needs to address traffic, schools and infrastructure needs. I asked one of the pro growth council members where all of the children who move into the downtown apt’s will live and he said that they will most likely be rented by adults without children. What kind of answer is this? Ellis Elementary is already reached the threshold, having grown from 500 to 860 students. The exception to the rule is always made for the developers. The Valley of Heart’s Delight is turning into the Valley of Developer’s Dreams. I am hoping our election process will turn things around to stop the rampant growth and bring back a sense of civic mindedness.

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