Well, it’s been an interesting time, indeed…
You may recall that when we last discussed Onizuka, Council was torn between reusing the land as sports fields or allowing Foothill-DeAnza to use it to establish a satellite campus. Part of the hesitation was that the FHDA proposal was something of an 11th-hour thing, which was interesting because the use is so good for that parcel of land, but which made us nervous because of the lateness of the proposal and other uncertainties. So we voted to pursue both, in part to hedge our bets. This caused the FHDA Board of Trustees to go off and decide whether or not they also wanted this (although our decision was based on the Trustees coming to us). And we sat back and waited to see what happened next.
What happened next was interesting, to say the least. FHDA made it pretty clear that while they liked the Onizuka site, it was their #2 choice behind Cubberley in Palo Alto, in part because they already had facilities there. And we knew that, but we waited to see, anyway. So FHDA aggressively pursued Cubberley, partly so they could get back to us with a decision in a time frame that would suit the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process that we have to follow to reuse Onizuka. And much to the dismay of a number of us, the Palo Alto City Council initially voted to send a letter to FHDA expressing their interest in selling Cubberley – on a 6-3 vote.
But then that vote created a huge backlash for that Council. Residents objected to the sale. Some of the current tenants of Cubberley objected to the possibility that they’d be booted in favor of FHDA. And the Palo Alto School District objected quite loudly, saying they expect to need that land in the future. And when all of that happened, FHDA said that they were interested in the site, but they didn’t want to push their way into a place where they’re not wanted.
So in light of that, the Palo Alto City Council revisited the issue, and they voted unanimously not to pursue a sale to FHDA last night.
This is really good news for Sunnyvale, as it probably puts Onizuka at the top of the Trustees’ list of sites. It’s potentially a great opportunity for us to use that land in a way that the federal government can eagerly get behind, since this is the kind of land use that the BRAC process is supposed to support – potential retraining of workers displaced by the base closure. There are also a lot of potential synergies for having an educational institute like FHDA so close to a high tech campus like Moffett Park – high-tech internships for FHDA students, ongoing career education for high-tech workers in Moffett Park, possibly even some joint-use facilities. And one of the nice aspects of FHDA is that student traffic is not 9-5 commuter traffic – it’s more spread out throughout the day. That’s important for land use in that area.
We’ve still got a long way to go. Sunnyvale has to decide if it wants FHDA at Onizuka, and FHDA’s trustees have to decide if they want to be at Onizuka. And neither is definite. But this was a big hurdle for Sunnyvale, and it’s a really positive step towards a great opportunity.