Vallco – Housing for Apple 2 Employees to Mitigate Traffic

My vision for Vallco is all about solving problems by creating a self-contained community within our community of mixed use containing the following categories of development to meet the needs of this community. The goal is to mitigate traffic as much as possible and build an interdependent infrastructure to support this community.  The following it a breakdown of this vision:

  1. Rental Housing (this is key to mitigating traffic) –
    1. Mix of housing units with convenient access to Apple Campus II,
    2. Senior assisted and unassisted living;
  2. Businesses –
    1. Retail,
    2. Entertainment and sports services,
    3. Restaurants,
    4. Offices;
  3. Youth Center (also available to other housing developments within walking distance) –
    1. School k-6,
    2. High School Science and Technology center,
    3. Library,
    4. Day Care,
    5. Play ground on roof;
  4. Mobility –
    1. Convenient and protected bicycle paths and parking,
    2. SkyTran,
    3. Shuttle service to public transportation, Caltrain, high schools, and other local businesses for Vallco residents,

I base this community upon Smart Growth principles to reduce the use of cars as much as possible or even eliminate the need for them by placing everything conveniently within walking, biking, or shuttle bus distance for residents of Vallco. There is enough potential diversity of land-use to provide for the needs of this community and profitability for the developer.  If done properly overall traffic can be reduced to levels significantly lower than that contributed by Apple Campus II (AC2) alone.  This outline can serve as a springboard for discussions of how to design a Vallo that is also functional and attractive, a starting point for becoming a very low impact asset to the city.

  1. Housing:
    Housing is the key to reducing traffic from AC2 employees that would otherwise commute to work daily from out of town by providing them the option of living within walking distance of work. Studio, Single Bedroom, and Family housing both furnished and unfurnished would be targeted to the needs of Apple employees.  Housing must be a substantial part of Vallco to make this effectively work to mitigate more AP2 car traffic. This could be thousands of housing units to accommodate perhaps 2,000 to 4,000 Apple employees or more to reduce as many as 2,000 to 4,000 cars from driving to AC2.  There would also be Senior housing, perhaps 100-200 units, so that potentially three generations of families can live in the same community within walking distance so grand children can visit grandparents and spend quality time with them daily as extended families.  This will be both healthy for children and comforting to aging seniors and be like putting their young children in day care but with their grandparents.
  2. Businesses:
    Retail, entertainment, fitness center, restaurants, and offices would have a readily available community of Housing occupants as clients in addition to other residents of Cupertino.  I am not talking about a regional maga-mall that would generate a lot more car traffic.  Retail would be intended to serve primarily Vallco as well as Cupertino residents and be targeted to their needs and tastes perhaps around 800,000 sq.ft. or so.  Office would be modest, maybe less than 300,000 sq. ft. used primarily for needed Vallco residential services such as doctors, dentists, lawyers, realtors, tutors, etc.  Both Retail and Offices would be located together.  Structurally both are very similar so one could easily be converted to the other as needed.
  3. Youth Center:
    Family homes with children would be supported by a k-6 elementary school, library, day care center, a high school science and technology center, and parks and play/sports areas on the roof.  Everything would be a short walk from everywhere else for Vallco residents with safety and security.  Children from nearby housing developments can also attend the school and avail themselves of all these services.
  4. Mobility:
    A SkyTran system would lead directly from housing at Vallco to AC2 and other Apple sites and destinations. Exits leading below to convenient locations such as bus stops, bicycle lanes, and walking paths would descend through elevators in the support structures of this bridge.  Commuting options to nearby work and public transportation will be readily available through shuttle buses and protected bicycle lanes. Shuttle buses could be used for high school and DeAnza college students. An agreement could be made with CUSD and FUHSD that a lottery or other system would distribute middle school and high school students throughout the two district with shuttles from Apple or Vallco taking students to their schools. This will avoid overcrowding a single school within a single school zone.
  5. Enhancements:
    Playground appropriate for kids and the school and place solar panels along the trails and elsewhere to add shade and provide electricity to the school to reduce cost.

This could actually reduce traffic from Apple employees, solve overcrowding schools, provide residents and occupants with a vibrant shopping experience with legal, doctors, realtor, and other office services without overwhelming traffic, provide sufficient housing units for the city and all ABAG requirements and ready shoppers and clients for retail and offices, provide amenities for families and children, provide senior housing without impacting traffic or schools and children could live in family housing units, provide hotel lodgings for Apple and other visitors with hotel tax all going to the city, and provide a very profitable and successful investment for Sand Hill, a sustainable win-win proposition for all.

Clarifying Question and Answer

Housing – How to captivate Apple employees to live at Vallco?

Housing Units – The right mix of rental housing units will help target Apple employees. Studios for singles, single bedrooms for couples without children, and multiple bedrooms for families. Provide a range of options within each category from basic no frill to high end full of conveniences, furnished, and luxury for management and productive technical staff. This will also allow employees to be upgraded by Apple as part of their productivity as mentioned above.

Incentives – How can Apple employees be encouraged to occupy housing at Vallco legally without violating the Fair Housing Laws?  Apple could give their employees monthly monetary incentives for walking or biking to work or for living within for example 1 mile from work. Having employees so close to work will have great advantages to Apple with more productive employees. They will be more likely to be at work on time. Employees could wake up later and be more rested and alert not having to waste time fighting daily commute traffic and would be in a better frame of mind. They would be so close that employees could conveniently go to work any time including weekends without having to worry about commuting or weather or food or other inconveniences we take so much for granted. This all adds up to increased productivity which is everything to Apple. Rewards for achievements could be upgrades in living quarters where Apple would pay the difference in rents for example. Stores and restaurants could have special discounts for Apple employees to attract their business. Apple could work out certain deals with various retails to make things cheaper and services such as deliveries directly to employees homes more convenient such as food from nice restaurants.  Of course once the employee leave the employment of Apple all these incentives and conveniences disappear.

Proximity – Apple is the closest company to Vallco. Apple technical staff are well paid and can afford high rents to avoid house of commuting. Some live in San Francisco where rents are higher and commutes long. Traffic will be heavier with Apple, Google, and other high tech companies starting to expand at the same time around the same geographic area. Commute times will be significantly longer than they are now which is already bad. So let us look at the odds. What is stopping Apple employees from living within walking/biking distance of where they work? Sure others people might want to live there but it is so ideal for Apple employees.

Appeal – Placing everything Apple Employees need within a few minutes walk would be ideal for them. Work within walking distance, eating within walking distance, shopping within walking distance, schools, daycare, grandparents (senior housing) all within safe and traffic free walking distance for them and their children. Sure they may do occasional driving but most necessities of life would be a few minutes walk/bike away. Time is precious and having not to get into their cars and fight traffic when going to shop, dine, etc. will reduce not only traffic to Apple but traffic to everywhere else.

Convenience – I’ve described an enclosed bridge and walkway leading to Apple. It would have glass window all the way around like a glass tunnel but with a solid floor. It would be wide enough to accommodate cyclists, pedestrians and have a people mover like in airports leading directly from housing to AC2. It would contain ATMs, vending machines, and other conveniences along the way with access to bicycle trails, sidewalks, transit stops, etc. through elevators in its supporting structure and exits in the ground level walkway.

  1. If the retail and shopping is done right there will be plenty of activities to keep Apple employee engaged all within walking distance as described above. Surveys can be taken of Apple employees to see what amenities they like and then provide those amenities. There would not be enough offices there to draw large companies to occupy, maybe less than 500,000 sq. ft. but enough to draw doctors, dentists, school tutors, lawyers, and other offices that provide services for residents. These office would have captive residents withing walking distance and provide convenient services for Apple employees so they don’t have to drive to these places. Anticipating criticism retail and office would not exclusively target Apple but could cater to the needs of the general public as well. There will be plenty of overlap in interests. What is good for Apple employee can also be good for the general public.
  2. Having a community of Apple employees and friends all living within steps of one another where they can hang out at any time of the day will draw more employees to want to live near each other. What more convenient place than a shopping/dining center right where they live and next to where they work. It would be a magnet to draw them to live there traffic free with just about everything they would want in life, close to a perfect world for them.

Transportation – shuttle buses to Caltrain, BART, transit stops, airports, and other popular destination would make it possible that many Apple employees can save on the cost of owning a car as well as being very convenient. Apple might also make its buses available exclusively for Apple employees for these destinations. So why even own a car. Own a bike instead.

Parking – AC2 employees could park their cars at the Apple campus thus freeing up substantial parking space at Vallco to reduce the overall size and cost of Vallo.  This shortage of parking could act to make housing more attractive to AC2 employee who don’t have to park at Vallco rather than other people since parking will be more of a problem.  Substantial parking fees could be charged by Vallco to limit the amount of parking there.

If one puts on one’s thinking cap I’m sure there are many more great ideas for attracting Apple employees. These are only a few that pop up in my head. But you get the idea. Who better to live in Vallco than AC2 employees. And this will not only reduce traffic here in Cupertino but everywhere else these employees residents would otherwise live. So it would solve a regional problem of traffic. I would not mind there being 2,000-4,000 housing units or more from an objective point of view but I know there would be those simply against more housing simply because they have been conditioned to think that way. We have enough offices from Apple and all the other developments to last 10 years. What there is a shortage of is housing for local employees and what there is too much of is traffic. This solve both problems without adding significant burden to residents and resources and will keep Apple here longer.

How to keep driving by Apple spouses to a minimum?

This is not a perfect solution. It is only a best solution that can have overall better impact than having housing that is not targeted to Apple. Incentive that I mentioned earlier could also be based upon the number of car trips made by residents with at least one Apple employee. That would somewhat address spouses driving to work out of town. Apple and Vallco could reward tenants for fewer car trips. Traffic will have an adverse affect upon Vallco business as well as Apple. There might be ways of tracking when cars leave their assigned parking spaces and points added to, for example, determine parking fees. Cars that stay parked are charged far less for parking than those coming and going for example. A car that doesn’t move during the month might park free. Public parking would be restricted to when stores are open so people cannot park overnight to discourage residents parking in public parking. If there are no parking fees then the monthly rent might be adjusted or credits given to residents for shopping and dining whatever works best.

How does the Retail/Office Combination Work?

Perhaps 1.2 million sq. ft. of combined Retail/Office could be build with 1,000.000 sq. ft. initially designated for Retail and 200,000 sq. ft. designated for Office.  Both Retail and Offices have similar physical requirements so could be easily interchanged from one to the other.  If not enough Retail can be rented the excess could be converted to Office.  If more Retail is needed more Office could be converted to Retail.  This makes for a very flexible arrangement. This would make residents and the Vallco owners profitable.

Why Should there be any Offices at Vallco?

Keeping in mind that traffic should be kept to a minimum some offices can exist and have more overall benefit than drawbacks. It is all about balancing advantages vs. drawbacks. It should be primarily to provide services to residents living in Vallco. Keeping offices relatively small in numbers and square feet such as 100,000-200,000 sq. ft. will minimize the chance of larger companies such as Apple occupying them and significantly increasing car traffic from both employees working at and clients visiting the offices. Offices should be doctors, dentists, tax preparers, tutors, small bank branches, small law firms, etc. that provide needed services for Vallco residents and perhaps other Cupertino residents. This will increase traffic to Vallco from employees but reduce traffic from Vallco residents who would otherwise have to drive elsewhere to obtain such services. So a reasonably modest amount of office can benefit the overall functionality of Vallco without significantly impacting traffic.

The whole point of my plan for Vallco is to provide needed housing and services with the maximum overall benefit to the community and the minimum impact from traffic. A modest amount of offices can serve the community especially within Vallco. Since I am proposing housing that exceeds ABAG requirements the added modest amount of offices will have no impact on future allocations and may offset that contributed by AC2 office space (3.5 M sq.ft.) which will be the largest single contributor to ABAG’s future housing

What is Retail?

Retail are businesses that provide goods and services to the community.  These are typically larger stores and smaller shops.  They may also contain eating places such as restaurants and fast food places such as a food court, entertainment such as a movie theater, bowling alley, skating rink, fitness center, etc.

What kind of Considerations should be given for Retail?

When I consider retail I also consider eating places. Retail, especially restaurants have among the highest car trip rates because customers come and go many times throughout the day and night. The distinction between Retail and Office is that Offices have primarily two peak car trip periods, once in the morning going to work and once in the evening returning home. Retail have far higher car trip rates but is spread out throughout the day. Retail also has seasonal highs around Christmas, Black Friday, etc. Thus car parking and especially traffic are serious consequences of too much Retail. The more retail caters to local residents the lower are traffic impacts. The more Retail caters regional populations the more freeway and local street traffic impacts there will be.

So a large vibrant regional Retail shopping center may look good on paper but the traffic and parking impacts may be a major problem for Everyone and in the end can hurt Retail, Housing and Office there due to severe traffic congestion. So some careful planning must be taken into consideration when designing Retail so that traffic throughout the day and night does not look like Las Vegas if a mega-mall is built and peak traffic is not like HWY 85 during peak traffic hours. Retail should best serve residents living in Vallco with no car trip impact as well as Cupertino residents with moderate car trip impact but to make it a major regional mall like Valley Fair may have severe traffic consequences that will spill over into residential streets and be as bad if not worst than 2M sq.ft. of Office space.

Again my primary concern is traffic impacts of any category or combination of categories of development upon local freeways, off ramps, major thoroughfares, and residential streets that will have major impacts on the quality of life for Cupertino residents.

What is the role of Public Transportation?

I view public transportation as having limited effectiveness for most residents of Cupertino. The problem here is the last mile. VTA is in a very bad location because this region and especially Cupertino was modeled for cars travel and urban sprawl with streets going helter skelter into endless mazes and cul-de-sacs. This makes it impossible for effective public transportation that takes you close to your doorstep. Companies are also not concentrated in one area but scattered throughout the region again making public transit ineffective at bringing residents close to the doorsteps of their destinations. Thus an effective public transportation system is unlikely to significantly reduce car traffic here.

There are some potentials of VTA running along our major street corridors but the problem still remains as to how residents living throughout our city will get to public transportat without driving. This might be useful to residents living along these corridors but again going to destinations near enough to transit stops is problematic.

Residents can consider walking or more likely riding their bikes around town or to transit stops but safe bicycle and pedestrian infrastructures and abundant convenient shortcut routes are not yet available for citizens to feel comfortable using these options. So for the present cars are the most convenient transportation method. But they create traffic and fall victims of traffic congestion. So what are we to do?

What are the differences in impact between Office and Retail?

When doing retail and offices we need to keep an eye on traffic as I stated earlier in this thread. Retail and restaurants for residents of Vallco have no impact upon traffic but when it extends to other residents outside of Vallco and people from out of town it generate plenty of car trips. The primary difference between car trips of offices vs. retail is car trips and thus traffic for offices is all concentrated in the AM going to work and the PM returning home. For retail it is spread out throughout the day. Office car trips have less impact since people are working all day and do not come and go. Retail, especially restaurants, have high hourly turnovers in customers so have far greater car trip impacts for outside Vallco resident customers. That is why having a major regional retail center can have tremendous adverse impacts especially during Christmas shopping where car line up on the freeway and parking become impossible like at Valley Fair. Controlling the traffic is essential in all developments. Too much retail and restaurants can be extremely disruptive with traffic and parking especially when combined with AC2 traffic. It is all about balance and how much we can tolerate the negative impact of traffic disruptions and effective upon shopping and dining. The problem with Sand Hill’s plan is that they want far too much office which will generate high peak traffic at the same time frames as AC2. So car trips must take into account this clustering effect of offices.

How about the impact of so much housing on other Resources such as utilities?

Basic resources such as water, sewage, garbage, electricity, and gas have already been largely taken care of by AC2.  The resources are more of a regional concern than a city concern.  Had these employees not lived here they would likely have lives elsewhere in the Bay Area.  So such things as water shortages which are regional would be no worse if that had lived elsewhere in the region.  They would have impacted the region’s water shortage by the same amount.  AC2 also brought in a large purple pipe for recycled non potable water from Santa Clara under Hwy 280 that Vallco can share to water plants and flush toilets.  If solar panels are installed on the roof that could supplement their electrical power.  There really should not be any problems with impacts on these resources.


About Frank Geefay

Sustainable Bicycle and Smart Growth Advocate
This entry was posted in Growth, Ideas, Smart Growth, Traffic and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Vallco – Housing for Apple 2 Employees to Mitigate Traffic

  1. Pingback: A Community Mall that Reduces Traffic the Larger it Grows | Biking Cupertino

  2. Pingback: Incentivizing Employees to Live Close to Work and Reduce Traffic | Biking Cupertino

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s