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

Published / by NancySmith / Leave a Comment

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

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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

Published / by NancySmith / Leave a Comment

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

Published / by NancySmith / 3 Comments on Forget selfish personal interests: California’s first woman mayor
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?)

No. 15

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I, Nancy Smith, am the 15th woman to serve on Sunnyvale City Council since the City was set up in 1912.

March is Women’s History month, so watch this space for more information about women leaders of Sunnyvale past and present.


We Won!

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The ballots have been counted and, by a margin of almost 2 to 1, the voters of Sunnyvale selected me to serve on the Sunnyvale City Council. I am deeply grateful for everyone who supported our campaign and for those who took actions large and small that contributed to our victory. The campaign was a wonderful opportunity to connect with residents, including friends, acquaintances and people I just recently met.


I have been proud of the values our community holds and look forward to working together to solve our big challenges proactively, problems such as housing affordability, transportation, environmental sustainability and addressing growing income inequality. I am excited to start work on the Council, and ask for your continued support and guidance as we move forward.

Many people have had strong reactions to the outcome of the national election. To bring our communities together, we need to meet together about what opportunities our economy offers and the roadblocks it puts in our way.

I seek community volunteers who are willing to participate in workshops to help people share stories and ideas about how to make Sunnyvale and Silicon Valley an even better place for all. If you are interested in participating in these, please sign up online here.

The City’s swearing-in ceremony for new council members will be January 10th, 2017 and I would be honored if you would join me in the Sunnyvale City Council chambers that evening.

Thank you for your continued support, encouragement and contributions throughout the campaign.  I look forward to working for our community.

– Nancy Smith

My response to increased airplane noise in Sunnyvale

Published / by NancySmith / 2 Comments on My response to increased airplane noise in Sunnyvale

One of the defining characteristics of life in Sunnyvale is that a certain number of airplanes fly overhead — from jets during Fleet Week to cargo planes flying in and out of Moffett Field to the occasional helicopter police patrol. Sunnyvale is now experiencing an increase in air traffic and airplane noise because of new services offered by companies serving the Silicon Valley’s elite and because of automated flight paths developing through use of the FAA’s NextGen performance based navigation systems.

Two aspects of these changes concern me as a representative of the residents of Sunnyvale.

  • The automated systems bringing planes low over Sunnyvale as part of their increasing reliance on NextGen-enabled airports requires Sunnyvale leaders to work with the FAA to ensure no one city bears the brunt of increased automated traffic. Automated systems can be developed in way that doesn’t burden one area more than others.
  • The convenience of elite travelers should not rob area residents of peaceful airspace. The FAA has defined measurement procedures and policies for acceptable noise levels. Sunnyvale leaders need to ensure the FAA does its job to make sure noise from low-flying private jets is kept within limits.

When elected, I would work with my Council colleagues, our elected Congressional representatives, FAA personnel, and airport administrators to ensure the airplane owners and operators mitigate noise and impact.

Top priorities for Sunnyvale

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As part of our outreach, we are communicating priorities for the first 100 days of Nancy’s tenure on Council.img_5263

Define and leverage new ways for residents to interact with Council and staff, towards assuring all voices are heard

Put the city on a path to beat California’s green house gas emissions
goals of 40% by 2030

Integrate quality of life goals for seniors and families in council decisions

Sunnyvale’s path forward

Published / by NancySmith / Leave a Comment
As the campaign enters the final stretch, people have been having house parties and voters are open about items of concern.

At the home of a supporter in the Cherry Chase neighborhood this recently, several women echoed “It’s like we hkickoff-picave two Sunnyvales!”  A man I met in north Sunnyvale expressed dismay about the displacement of low-income workers.

These citiz
en insights reflect what is happening in our local economy as well as broader trends in our nation. Since I’ve been in Sunnyvale, California’s economy has grown from the 8th largest in the world to the 6th largest. Many in the area have done very well, but even more have not.

  • 30% of the region’s population does not make enough money to meet their basic needs (Silicon Valley Index 2015).
  • 59% of the jobs in the area are low or very low income — jobs like transportation and materials handling, food preparation, sales. (The County’s Office of Supportive Housing and the California Economic Development Department)
  • For every 4.5 lower wage jobs, Sunnyvale has only one affordable housing unit.

These conditions concern me and, when elected, I will work diligently to include more Sunnyvale residents in conversations about Council decisions that impact them.

Together, we can work for solutions and a path forward to provide opportunities for all Sunnyvale residents.

Nancy Smith

Dianne McKenna: Nancy brings a wide range of experience

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Quote from Hon. Dianne McKenna, former Sunnyvale mayor and former County Board of Supervisors:

12743748_10207335282132885_1895769860702355555_nNancy works in the private sector, volunteers in the non-profit sector, and serves on committees in the public sector dealing with housing, human services, land use and water. She will bring a wealth of experience to the City Council.

— Dianne McKenna, former Sunnyvale Mayor, former County Board of Supervisors