Tag Archives: Sunnyvale

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, mikeserrone@comcast.net
  • Community Center Node on Remington Drive, May 23 and 27. Tour Leaders Karen Schlesser and Jason Uhlenkhott, sign-up at SouthBayYimby@gmail.com
  • Downtown Node at Mathilda Avenue, May 17. Tour Leader Sue Serrone at sueserrone@comcast.net
  • 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 jtuleya@yahoo.com

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 PlanElCaminoReal.inSunnyvale.com 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.

On the mend

Published / by NancySmith / Leave a Comment

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 / 2 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?)