Category Archives: Updates

Waymo has applied for the DMV’s Driverless Autonomous Vehicle Tester Program for Sunnyvale

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Waymo has applied or the DMV’s Driverless Autonomous Vehicle Tester Program in Sunnyvale, Palo Alto, Mountain View, Los Altos and Los Altos Hills. While Sunnyvale is named in the application, this does not mean that driverless cars will arrive in Sunnyvale immediately. If the DMV approves the application, Waymo will start by doing 3D roadway mapping via manually driving vehicles and conducting appropriate testing with a test driver on board before conducting driverless testing in Sunnyvale.

As next steps, City staff will begin actively working with Waymo on the program specifics and a schedule for a community engagement event, where Sunnyvale can learn about Waymo, the test program, see the cars in-person, and get their questions answered.

Waymo is the self-driving unit of Google parent company Alphabet.

No-driver testing of autonomous cars became legal on April 2.


Women of Persistence

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On March 27, I awarded Rosemary Baez the League of California Women’s Caucus Woman of Persistence award. When she started the Young Engineers Program in 2007, this program aims at introducing first generation Latino youth to careers in engineering. When this program first started, it had less than 5% girl participation. Today, it is just shy of reaching the 50% mark of girls participating.

She employed creative means to overcome cultural barriers and gender stereotypes to achieve equity in this program in 10 short years.

These accolades are timely because the Third Street Community Center is celebrating 20 years of existence in an event at the Tech Museum of Innovation on April 7th. As the person who launch, Third Street’s technology programs, I’m especially proud of the agency’s and Rosemary’s work in the area of providing STEM education opportunities for underserved children in San Jose.

Rosemary Baez joined the Third Street Community Center in June of 2006 as the Executive Director. She has over 19 years of experience in the nonprofit sector including 14 years at the executive level. Her experience includes serving as the Assistant Director for a $2.4 nonprofit agency that served families in crisis. She has experience spearheading collaborative efforts to better serve communities of color and high risk communities. She also has extensive experience working with multicultural communities in Santa Clara County.

At Third Street, Rosemary spearheaded efforts to remodel and upgrade the children’s classrooms, transforming them to inspiring learning environments. Recently, she brought together the business partners and people needed to renovate the entire office area creating a more open and welcoming environment for employees and guests.

In addition to her role as Executive Director, Rosemary has served her community in other ways. Past service includes: Commissioner and past chair, Social Services Advisory Commission; Leadership Team, Early Childhood Feeding Practices Collaborative; and Advisory Board Member, CSU Community-Based Research Conference, to name a few. Currently, she is a member of the St. James Park Advisory Committee (City of San Jose) charged with providing vision and direction for the renovation and future of St. James Park in downtown San Jose.

In her spare time, she works with two rescue organizations to save kittens & cats, she enjoys traveling, good coffee, and she likes to take quick getaways to local vineyards in California to do some wine tasting. Rosemary is the mom of a very defiant Chihuahua mix named Vlad.

Shared equity for home buyers in Sunnyvale

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Happy 70th Birthday, India

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Today, I would like to pause to congratulate India for reaching the milestone of 70 years since achieving independence and becoming the largest democracy in the world.  For the past two years, I’ve joined my neighbors to celebrate Indian Independence Day by celebrating songs and flags from both the United States and from India.

In spite of all the turmoil in our country, we need to hold dear the freedoms we exercise in our democracies – the freedom of assembly, the freedom of speech, freedom of worship. Let us never forget that the responsibility and rights of living in a democracy challenge us to work hard for the greatest freedoms for all –  freedom from want and freedom from fear.

Indian Independence Day 2017 in Ponderosa Park

Hurry and apply – Emerge California is seeking well-qualified women

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In 2016, I took the Emerge California training for women who want to run for office. I found the program profoundly helpful and am committed to expanding the wonderful things  that can happen when women support each other. It was great to stretch my wings and consider new possibilities.

Emerge 2016 opportunity for exploration

Emerge 2016 Grad Nancy Smith is exploring new levels of policy and government as a program member

My journey from awkward, very solitary teenager to becoming an elected official in Silicon Valley has been a long one requiring lots of help from friends. I grew up on a farm in the Midwest as the only child of a widower. Cancer took my mother when I was very young. Only my father and I lived in our farm house, and he worked the night shift in a manufacturing job. I knew going into my race last year that I had to work hard to come across as confident and decisive enough to win.

The content of the training was enormously helpful – everything from fundraising, structuring a campaign team, setting up field operations and defining and protecting your image as a candidate. I soaked it all in. I worked hard, putting in dozens of hours honing my message. Throughout the training, I felt acceptance and concern from the other class members. I commend Kimberly Ellis with building an organization of integrity, and compassion.

As great as the Emerge California training itself is, the network of supportive connections I’ve made is outstanding. During the CADEM 2016 weekend, I got a harassing phone call from a woman political leader in my community. Emerge sisters from 2006, 2008, and 2012 took me out for dinner and talked me through the dismay I felt at being threatened. Making time for this program has been an investment that continues to provide benefits over and over. It feels to me like we California Democratic women have reached a point where there is a network of powerful women who can help each other.

The beauty of the Emerge program is that the skills and knowledge and connections help get more women in positions of power, a mission I wholeheartedly support. I’m a proud supporter of Emerge California.

Just last week, I heard a compassionate Emerge alumna state that we need similar support for male candidates as well. For now, Emerge California is seeking women who are ready to step up as public servants.

If you are thinking about stepping out of your comfort zone to consider running for public office, check out the application form here.  The deadline is September 1st and you’ll need to leave time to get at least two references.

Information about the proposed utility rate increase

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Many people have expressed concerns about the increase in utility rates and have asked questions ranging from what gives the City the authority to set and collect fees for handling water, wastewater, solid waste and recycling to asking how each council member will vote.

In this post, I attempt to set forth the roles of the City Council, the City staff, and the property owners or utility account holders impacted by the utility rate increase proposal and to answer several questions and concerns I’ve heard.

The utility rates support both ongoing operations as well as infrastructure renovation.

New digester at Sunnyvale's Wastewater treatment plant

New digester at Sunnyvale’s Wastewater treatment plant

Wastewater rates support replacements of pipes, pump stations, and the Water Pollution Control Plant renovation.  Water rates support water distribution renovations to water tanks, pipes, pumps, valves and more. Solid waste rates support the collection, recycling and disposal of solid waste generated within the City of Sunnyvale, including the new FoodCycle program.


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Challenge your confirmation bias – affordable housing and current status of El Camino

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Low-income housing projects are not like they used to be. The mean streets of Sunnyvale are not mean at all. Hardly any Council members are unsympathetic to the plight of people being displaced by regional economic conditions and the application of City policy.

From the dais and reading accounts of community meetings, it has come to my attention that many people make assumptions about affordable housing. I can only assume that ideas about such projects come from gritty detective shows where cops wander around grimy halls of urban tenements. Views about affordable housing have changed quite a bit since those kinds of exclusionary housing projects were built in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s.

If all you know about low-income housing is what you have seen in movies, I will speculate that you may have some confirmation bias. To challenge yourself and expand your point of view, there are two events in particular I want to let you know about.

Friday, May 12th marks the beginning of Affordable Housing Week 2017 and there’s no time like now to educate yourself.

Silicon Valley Leadership Group Affordable Housing Tour

I’m very pleased about and proud of some of the great housing projects for low and very low income people. Back in the day, I used to organized affordable housing bus tours in Dallas, so when I say I’m proud of what we do here in Silicon Valley, I am comparing it to Dallas in the late 1980s.

These days, low-income housing facilities are like nothing you have seen in movies. I encourage anyone reading this who has not seen what true low-income housing looks like these days to sign up for the 2017 Silicon Valley Leadership Affordable Housing Tour.

Hurry and sign up now because you have fewer than 36 hours to get a seat on the SVGL bus.

El Camino Real Walking Tours

Some of our Sunnyvale neighbors have a vision of what El Camino Real could become. They are so  enthusiastic about the possibilities for our cities that they are offering to lead walking tours of several potential mixed-use notes along El Camino Real in Sunnyvale. They can help you identify your confirmation biases about what mixed-use might look like. (And, who knows? – you can probably return the favor.

  • Eastern Node At Wolfe and El Camino, May 13th. Tour Leader Mike Serrone,
  • Community Center Node on Remington Drive, May 23 and 27. Tour Leaders Karen Schlesser and Jason Uhlenkhott, sign-up at
  • Downtown Node at Mathilda Avenue, May 17. Tour Leader Sue Serrone at
  • Western Node at Bernardo Ave, May 13 and 15. Tour Leader James Tule
    El Camino Real at dawn in Sunnyvale

    El Camino Real at dawn in Sunnyvale

    ya at

Sign up here for one of four tours of potential future mixed-use nodes along El Camino Real in Sunnyvale. The impetus behind their offer is that the City of Sunnyvale will be updating our El Camino Plan. Visit the City website at for more information.

I walk along El Camino almost every day at sunrise when my hip isn’t broken. I’m glad people are wanting to envision a transformed street.

The power of weak social ties – let’s push for Caltrain

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It’s great news that Congressional leaders support our Caltrain electrification project! They included it in their recent budget proposal! Our area still needs Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao to sign off. Now is the time to activate the powerful potential energy of your strong and weak interpersonal ties. If you know people who live in any of the following Congressional Districts, please reach out to them to reach out to their members of Congress.

  • Redding (Congressional District 1)
  • Roseville (Congressional District 4)
  • Victorville (Congressional District 8)
  • Modesto (Congressional District 10)
  • Hanford, Bakersfield (Congressional District 21)
  • Visalia (Congressional District 22)
  • Bakersfield (Congressional District 23)
  • Santa Clarita (Congressional District 25)
  • Brae (Congressional District 39)
  • Corona (Congressional District 42)
  • Irvine (Congressional District 45)
  • Huntington Beach (Congressional District 48)
  • Encinitas (Congressional District 49)
  • El Cajon (Congressional District 50)

We want to convince them how important Caltrain electrification is to our region. You and your friends and acquaintances can help us all out. #Caltrain #SouthBay

On the mend

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You’ve not seen me in public very much since April 4th, The reason is that I fell and broke my hip that day while touring a local business facility on behalf of the City of Sunnyvale,  The fine folks at El Camino Hospital surgically repaired my hip and I’m expected to make a full recovery — given time.

Rather than be released to a skilled nursing facility, my doctor released me to our home since we already had equipment and caretakers suitable for persons with injured hip. My father and I have since been convalescing together. While it’s been great to spend time with him, I miss my active life.

This Tuesday, April  25th, marked what I hope is the halfway point in a 6-week convalescence. I’m expecting to start attending public meetings again in person on behalf of the City after May 9th. My recovery is progressing well enough that next week, I will start to attend some City meetings by phone.

I’d like to thank the members of the community who have expressed concern and support for me and my family while I’m on the mend. I’ve tried to make good use of the time by reading books and documents that will strengthen my skills and build my knowledge as a council member.

Also, I’d like to apologize if you’ve tried to contact me and not gotten a timely or adequate response and to ask for your forbearance as I try to catch up and pick up the threads of my life again. I have a deep new respect for older adults who fall and break their hips.  It’s life-altering — at least for a while — and takes determination to bounce back.

Forget selfish personal interests: California’s first woman mayor

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Edwina Cochrane

Edwina Cochrane Benner, first woman mayor of Sunnyvale

The 1920s saw the beginnings of Sunnyvale’s growth. The people of Sunnyvale wanted modern conveniences like paved roads, a municipal water and sewer system and even an especially controversial item, a civic center. In 1925, the voters of Sunnyvale approved an $86,000 bond for the new center (pictured below). The residents staged a recall campaign for four members of the council who went so far as to set out on a plan to pave the town’s sidewalks.

One of the driving forces driving growth and development in Sunnyvale was the indomitable Edwina Cochrane Benner. Edwina Cochrane was born on a vineyard near Butcher’s Corner at Wolfe and El Camino in 1885. Several years later, her family moved to a house on Charles Street.

In 1909, she married a local businessman, Carson Benner, and together they set up a home in the 300 block of South Frances Street. Once it was clear children of their own would not be in their lives, Edwina ran for and won a seat as a Sunnyvale Town Trustee in 1920. Four years later, Edwina Benner was selected mayor of Sunnyvale. Throughout her long career on the City Council, she kept her day job at the Libby Cannery and served in many volunteer leadership roles.

“The greatest honor I’ve ever been given was naming of a school after me.”
— Edwina Benner

Getting back to the sidewalk debacle, Mrs. Benner shrugged off the recall challenge in 1929 and went on to serve 28 consecutive years on the City Council. She served again as mayor from 1938 to 1940. Finally, in 1948, the voters installed a new council with a new form of city government as a charter city. Mrs. Benner had had a fabulous run as a powerhouse city leader.

Sunnyvale's first Civic Center

Sunnyvale’s first Civic Center

Still wanting to serve the public, continued her volunteer efforts as long as she possibly could. Mrs. Benner served as the Commissioner of Public Works and Property and as Commissioner for Finance and Revenue.

Carson Benner, Edwina’s husband, was one of the charter members of the Sunnyvale Volunteer Fire Department. He continued for many years to work as a barber in a shop on Murphy Street.

There must be more interest, more enthusiasm, more team work, or this election for a city hall will be lost. Get together! Organize! … The future of Sunnyvale is at stake.
– Civic Center bond promotional ad

Civic center promotional ad

Promotional ad for Sunnyvale’s first civic center

Sunnyvale can claim that Mrs. Benner has the honor of being the first woman ever elected mayor of a town in California. Technically, the town of Sawtelle, elected a woman named Mrs. Ellen French Aldrich as mayor in 1916, but was quickly absorbed into Los Angeles in 1922. That leaves Sunnyvale the first [remaining] town in California to have elected a woman mayor!

In 1954, when the Sunnyvale School District dedicated a school to her honor. Edwina was quoted as saying “The greatest honor I’ve ever been given was naming of a school after me.”

Even though both the school and the City’s first civic center were later torn down to make room for more modern buildings, Edwina Benner’s memory will live on in the new Edwina Benner Plaza, a transit-friendly affordable housing development on Sunnyvale’s north side.

I would like to thank the wonderful people at the Sunnyvale Heritage Museum for helping me find information about all 14 of my predecessors on City Council. In upcoming Women’s History Months, I hope to post more about the women leaders who have shaped our community.  (If you haven’t renewed your membership lately, why don’t you?)