Prompted by the lively real estate market, over the past few years Sunnyvale has been accumulating surplus property, city-owned land that isn’t currently in use. The purpose of these acquisitions is initiating a redevelopment of low-density commercial and residential areas within the city to that of high-density, mixed-use zones.
All of this is being done in the name of the Sunnyvale Downtown Specific Plan, adopted in 2003. One of its key objectives is to create an “enhanced, traditional downtown serving the community with a variety of destinations in a pedestrian-friendly environment”. This includes developing the ‘building blocks’ designated in the Plan as full-service, mixed-use areas.
Sunnyvale owns six parcels on what’s referred to as Block 15 and is bordered by Mathilda, Iowa, and McKinley Avenues and Charles Street. The properties include three, single-family homes on Charles Street as well as a duplex and two vacant lots fronting Mathilda.
Residential owners for four parcels surrounded by these unused lots had hoped to take advantage of Sunnyvale’s plan and sell their homes to Toll Brothers, who has expressed interest in constructing a mixed-use development in that neighborhood.
On November 11th, the Sunnyvale City Council chose not to make this land surplus but did express interest in collecting additional parcels on Block 15 with a view to sell it as a more contiguous piece of property in the future.
It is required by law that surplus land must first be offered to affordable housing agencies and jurisdictional school districts. If public entities decline, the city is then able to request bids from public and private sources. Another requirement from the sale of any surplus property is that profits must be used to attain open space acreage.
City Council made a motion to proceed in closed session negotiations with Toll Brothers, who retains the rights to purchase the property, valued at $3.5 million. With the Downtown Specific Plan still a significant driving force, residential property owners may still have an opportunity to cash in on this opportunity, although the wait looks to be a bit longer than expected.