High Density Developments in the Bay Area


High density developments are becoming the wave of the future.  Perhaps the most prominent "high density" development in the Bay Area is Santana Row with trendy shops & exclusive restaurants, and contemporary residential lofts tantalizing the progressive bay area resident to be a part of this movement.  

This has become desirable for many bay area residents that want to have entertainment, shopping and a social outlet waiting just outside their front door.  Many downtown businesses sense the high demand of residential-retail zoning, which is alluring many business districts to take advantage of this commercial high density epidemic.

The public concern for high density zoning is that it will bring unmanageable traffic and cars and high taxes and noise to the community.  On the flip side, some residents have voiced excitement and acceptance that it will bring money to the city, restaurants and better quality entertainment.  Moreover, it will lead to higher economic activity and productivity, save tax dollars, and increase property value.  As worrisome or exciting as it may be to the community, there is hardly an area untouched by this new wave of high density development; San Jose, Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, Palo Alto, Campbell, Los Gatos and even Willow Glen are all conforming to this new way of life.

An example of high density development that has majority of public acceptance is Sunnyvale Town Center's new urban development project.  It has been underway for some time but the ultimate outcome will be 991,000 square feet of retail space, 315,000 square feet of office space and 292 ownership housing units.  There will be a 14-screen movie theater and a 200 room hotel located at Murphy and McKinley Avenues.  The 184-acres project encompasses a large block bounded by Mathilda, Washington, Sunnyvale and Iowa Avenues, known as the Town Center Mall.  The shops are planned to start opening in early 2009.  The vision of this new development is for a lively people-friendly place for shopping, working, living and entertainment. 

Sunnyvale residents are actually quite pleased with the new development, as it will bring in revenue for the city, increase visibility to the area, bring in restaurants, and retail and ultimately boost their home values.  Some residents of other neighborhoods are not quite as pleased.

Voices from Willow Glen

I have heard public outcries from the Willow Glen Neighborhood Association (WGNA) when they recently heard the news of the latest high-density development proposal.  The plan is to create a Community Benefit Improvement District (CBID), with "?mixed-used' buildings along Lincoln Avenue with housing above retail; the project is said to attract better businesses on the avenue, and promote affordable housing. 

There has not been a very positive reception to the idea that the "?beloved' Lincoln Avenue will potentially lose the charm and character that it has preserved over the years.  The majority of the public is outraged that big developers will come in and modify the old-fashioned downtown area and bring in retail chains and large department stores and push out the "?mom and pop' businesses, thus destroying the neighborhood.  Another obvious concern of is the excess of cars and traffic that will result.

Lincoln Avenue is the centerpiece for a lot of residents in Willow Glen and to lose the small downtown feel would be tragic for some.  When comparing other high-density developments, the one key element that say Santana Row, Sunnyvale, Campbell and downtown San Jose have is several blocks to develop; Lincoln Avenue is only one long street with single family houses surrounding.  It will be interesting to see what the final outcome will be when business property owners in Willow Glen vote this month for the CBID initiative.

If you have a stance about this new high-density trend in your neighborhood, let your community know how you feel by participating in your local neighborhood association.  Feel empowered to take part in your community and get involved.  High-density building is part of the future; to better embrace this new wave of development, there is a lot of research available online to better educate yourself with this up-and-coming boom.

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