Mixed reaction to proposed Sunnyvale transit village

February 16, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
California's facing a daunting challenge to cut car emissions by 2020. One strategy is to limit driving by creating "transit villages" -- something that's being considered in the South Bay, but it doesn't seem to be a proven solution.

Sunnyvale's Lawrence Caltrain Station could become a commuter Mecca. The city is considering redeveloping the area and creating a transit village right where that station is.

The village would have housing, retail, and of course, transit -- all within a quarter-mile of the station. Wednesday night was the first time the public got to weigh in on the idea.

Senate Bill 375 was the inspiration for Sunnyvale's transit village. The bill requires California's major cities to reduce driving emissions by 7 percent by the year 2020.

The Public Policy Institute of California released its findings Wednesday about whether the state is on track to meet the deadline. The report favors transit villages that are located near businesses.

"From the transit station to your office, people only take transit if they work very close to a transit station at the end of their trip," said Jed Kolko from the PPIC.

A transit village opened near the Pleasant Hill BART Station in May, and retail space -- where the jobs would be -- is nearly empty. Planning for it started before the recession. So now Sunnyvale knows there is a risk.

"Yes, we couldn't predict how deep this recession was going to be, nobody knew how long it was going to be, but we can make some best estimates," said Sunnyvale spokesperson John Pilger.

Those estimates were met with mixed reaction from residents.

"We need to stop changing for the people that pass through Sunnyvale and we need to listen to the people that live in Sunnyvale," said resident Robert Siveezo.

"Looks like they're changing it to get more traffic and more people, it's all good," said resident Steven Resendes.

If approved, Sunnyvale's transit village will open in 2020. However, one more factor to think about is the fact that Caltrain is considering closing the Lawrence station because of budget problems.

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