Interesting Day at the Strategic Planning Workshop

Today was a very interesting day.  All of Council and all of staff (plus some members of the public) spent the day going through Sunnyvale’s issues and challenges, department by department, in a very frank and open way.  This is the second time we’ve done this, and this time was even better than the last time.  There were some very important takeaways that came from this.

  • We have two transit projects that have been languishing in the north – construction of the Mary Overpass and redesign of the Monster Interchange (101/237/Mathilda).  Both of them have been approved for action at some level, but both have been somewhat direction-less.  They’re somewhat related but mostly independent, and we’ve allowed the Monster Interchange to be driven by VTA, which hasn’t chosen to act on it.  The council consensus was that we should aggressively pursue the redesign of the Monster Interchange first, postponing completion of the Mary Overpass EIR until the redesign is done (because it would change the EIR and because the EIR would become stale before funding could be identified), and reactivate the Mary Avenue bicycle realignment project in the meantime.  If the Mary Overpass EIR is going to be put on hold for as much as five years, it doesn’t make sense to delay on finishing the bicycle improvements on Mary.  We didn’t vote to take any action, because this wasn’t a regular agendized meeting, and staff needs to determine costs and a plan of action.  So staff will return to us with proposed funding and a timeline based on our direction.
  • We have to address the Water Pollution Control Plant in some way, and the leading proposals are to refurbish the existing plant in place, to replace the existing technology with the industry standard “sludge pond” technology, or to replace the existing technology with a solution that involves creating new freshwater wetlands.  Consensus was that the “refurbish in place” plan is too expensive, that the “sludge pond” plan may be our best bet, but that the freshwater wetlands approach is potentially far less expensive, much more interesting, and deserves to be studied in greater detail before we decide between the two favored solutions.  So staff will return to us with a schedule and funding request, for council action.
  • Consensus was to aggressively examine the approaches for replacing/expanding our library, hopefully looking at 2013 if another bond measure attempt is warranted.  There is increased interest in an approach that looks to build a new library at the Rec Center on Remington (probably repurposing the existing library as office space).  But all options are on the table, and this won’t be a simple redo of the 2007 attempt.  Emphasis will hopefully be on a plan that includes developing an actual model and operating budget for a new library prior to going to the voters, this time.
  • We will be investigating a radical expansion of our recycled water system, potentially partnering with San Jose and maybe even Palo Alto, expanding the reach of our recycled water system, and creating some really interesting opportunities by effectively creating a county-wide recycled water system.  We’re dead in the middle of all of the county’s systems, and there are some potentially huge wins in water savings and delivery to businesses if we approach this project with ambition.  And based on staff’s presentation, Council voiced a lot of ambition towards this project.  I wouldn’t have expected excitement about recycled water, but of all of the proposals we heard, this was the one that really knocked our socks off (the Monster Interchange was a close second, though).

There were other smaller ideas and proposals that were discussed, of course, and I cannot hope to list them all.  But in the two years I’ve been on Council, I haven’t left a city meeting with as much optimism, civic ambition, and positive energy as I did when I left today’s workshop.

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