There have recently been a number of contentious and heated discussions between Cupertino residents and City Council involving proposed commercial developments in the General Plan Amendment.
The city is concerned that more than 30% of the its sales tax revenues come from a single source, Apple. Apple is doing outstandingly well at present so tax revenues are coming in at a fairly high level. But how long will it continue to maintain this level of economic success? No one really knows so the city wants to plan for such an eventuality. It want to diversify its portfolio of sales tax income base by establishing far more companies in Cupertino to reduce the risk of depending so much from a single company. This involves building large amounts of office space to accommodate a greater diversity of business enterprises. Of course if many of these companies are Apple vendors the risk will still largely exist.
Some citizens are concerned that such an large increase in more than 3,000,000 sq. ft. of concentrated office space will adding tens of thousands of cars to our roads create unimaginable traffic congestion at these locations impacting the quality of life of both citizens and commuters. One such proposed location is next to the Wolf Road exit to HW280. Apple is building a 14,000 employee campus near that exist. And now a Vallco developer is proposing a 2,000,000 sq. ft. development at the same exist that may employ 13,000 employees. This will Add more than 20,000 cars just to that street and exit alone in the next 5 years that will likely spill over into Stevens Creek Blvd. and other nearby streets and expressways.
I believe that both arguments have merit. I also believe that both issues need to be discussed rationally and reasonable solutions and compromises found. Both can have unintended consequences if not properly mitigated. If creating more business and bringing in more employees from out of town creates traffic jams this will be problematic for employers as will as employees and residents. However if business diversity is not implemented then if and when Apple fails to perform well the city may be short of revenues to run effectively.
I feel that there are solutions if we just sit down and think things through. Our city is not the only city facing such dilemmas. At one time Apple agreed to limit parking to 10,500 cars for its 13,000 employees and visitors and agreed to provide alternative transportation to 34% of its employees. But as far as I know these agreements are not binding.
The reasons why many large cities have well developed public transportation systems is because of limited parking spaces, not so much because of traffic congestion or the lack of streets. Perhaps limiting parking could be a way of incentivizing businesses to encourage employees to take alternative transportation. Parking is something that the city has control over. Perhaps the city could limit parking spaces for office developments based upon the ability of streets to handle potential traffic congestion. Then it would be up to developers to mitigate these problems or limit the size of their developments.
In the case of Vallco the city can simply stipulate the number of parking spaces permitted this development based upon road and freeway exit capacity and let the developer determine the square feet of their development accordingly. This would allow developers to build to the maximum size that they can determine for that number of parking spaces allowing the city to diversify their portfolio of tax revenues without creating insurmountable traffic congestion. If they want more office space they must find ways that people can commute to work without needing more car parking. It would also encourage everyone to take more public transportation or use other means of transportation such as bicycles or walking.
The city could hire mobility consultants to advise them on optimizing various elements of mobility throughout our city and spend money from taxes it now gets from Apple and other companies to make improvements to such infrastructures while we still have the income thus investing in the future now. Or we can do as we are and simply wait until there is a crisis and pray for a solution. Why not be more proactive? Uncertainty simply sets us up for failure.
Reference post: A City without a Mission