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City Manager’s Update - April 30, 2010


Posted by the Office of the City Manager

Sunnyvale City Manager Gary Luebbers presents a report to City Councilmembers every other week outlining the City’s progress, department by department. Gary’s CityLine blog will post this same information to members of our community. Join us every other Friday at CityLine.inSunnnyvale.com to learn more about the City.

COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT

Sierra Proto Express

Sierra Proto Express, located at 1108 W. Evelyn Avenue, is expanding to meet current and future demands for their innovative and quick turnaround capability of high-end circuit board production. A building permit was issued for installation of an additional hazardous waste treatment system and storage bunker. The review for this project was completed over the counter at the One-Stop Permit Center.

Bon Chon Chicken

A building permit was issued for a new restaurant, Bon Chon Chicken, to locate at 572 E. El Camino Real. The review included a new commercial kitchen and seating area, and was completed over the counter at the One-Stop Permit Center.

LensVector

LensVector has developed optical technology that can replace the larger mechanical systems of a camera to allow miniature cameras (such as in cell phones or computers) to possess features, like auto-focus and video focus. They are currently located in Mountain View and have leased a building at 677 Palomar Ave. to set up their production facilities. They voiced an interest in relocating additional operations to Sunnyvale in the near future and were very pleased with all the City’s help in getting their plan review done over the counter in a timely matter.

Demolition of Town & Country Buildings

Demolition work at the Town & Country site started last week. Building 700 (near the Plaza) was demolished last week and building 100 (along Washington) is scheduled to be removed by end of this week. Currently, the preparation work for removal of building 100 along Washington Avenue is near completion.

Below Market Rate Housing Requirements Upheld in Court

The Office of the City Attorney successfully defended the City against a lawsuit regarding the application of the City’s Below Market Rate Housing requirements to the Trinity Park housing development. CDD staff will consult with OCA next week regarding resuming work on the proposed amendments to the BMR ordinance, which include a postponed Non-Routine to clarify certain provisions of the ordinance as well as more substantive amendments to consider additional developer options as discussed during adoption of the Housing Element last year.

BMR Activities

New Home Sales: Seven home buyers from the BMR waiting list have signed contracts to buy newly-built BMR units in time to meet the April 30 deadline to qualify for the federal homebuyer tax credit. Staff is working with all parties to ensure they close escrow by June 30 as required to receive the credit.

*Corn Palace*

In September 2009, I advised the City Council that the western half of the “Corn Palace” property was on the market and shared the Fact Sheet that the Planning Division created to assist potential developers. Toll Brothers is now in contract with the owners of this 10-acre property. Toll Brothers held a community meeting last Wednesday evening (April 21) to get general feedback from the neighborhood before they submit applications for subdivision and development. Approximately 80 community members attended the meeting (Councilmember Whittum was present as well as the project planner, Steve Lynch). Concerns were expressed regarding traffic, noise, and contamination associated with the historical agricultural use, but overall staff found the attendees did not have significant concerns with potential development of the site for single-family homes. After the outreach meeting, however, staff is aware that residents have raised questions about use of the site for a public park.

General Plan Consolidation Advisory Committee Update

On April 22, the General Plan Consolidation Advisory Committee held their third meeting. To date, the committee has determined a draft framework for Sunnyvale’s General Plan based on the Vision Element. However, there are lingering concerns about the ramifications of moving goals and policies out of the General Plan and into the Council Policies. The Committee is taking more time to work through these concerns and review the proposed structure. Meanwhile, the Staff Technical Committee for the General Plan Consolidation project is reviewing the current goals and policies to determine if they are at the appropriate level. The Staff Technical Committee is also looking for goals and policies that duplicate each other. Staff is currently revising the proposed timeline for this project in order to incorporate additional Advisory Committee meetings and a public outreach in the summer.

Onizuka AFS/BRAC Office of Economic Adjustment Grant

On April 20, staff submitted an amendment application to the Office of Economic Adjustment requesting that the Economic Development Conveyance Grant’s end date of March 31, 2010, be extended to December 31, 2010. The amendment also seeks a supplemental award of $58,573 in federal funds to complete the financial and market study of the auto mall (Phase 1), and, if directed by the LRA, to prepare an operations/business plan in support of an economic development conveyance of the property to the City (Phase 2).

COMMUNITY SERVICES

Picnic Season Kicks Off in High Gear!

Despite the many reasons to visit a park – to skateboard, play tennis, swim or walk the dog, picnicking continues to be a family favorite.

The Recreation Division facilitates approximately 1,600 reservations among the City’s 48 reservable picnic areas each year, and not surprising, the prime season is May through September. Sunnyvale Park picnic areas can accommodate groups ranging in size from 20 to 325 attendees and with ‘staycations’ on the rise, the Recreation Division anticipates serving approximately 80,000 individuals with picnic sites this summer for events such as family celebrations, reunions, graduations, and corporate events. Picnic reservations alone will generate close to $146,600 in revenue to the General Fund this summer, and an additional $12,500 is added in jump house permits.

Update on Columbia Neighborhood Center Expansion Project

Good news! After waiting more than 200 days, the Sunnyvale School District, the lead on the Columbia Neighborhood Center (CNC) Expansion Project, finally received approval from the State of California to move forward. The school district can now open the project for bidding by a general contractor in the next few weeks and prepare to begin the construction phrase. The interim housing plans were already approved by the State nearly three weeks ago and CNC staff and partners should be on track to move to interim housing (portables) in late June 2010 when the construction phase begins. The construction phase is planned to take 13 months.

EMPLOYMENT DEVELOPMENT

NOVA Volunteer Resource Fair

On April 19, NOVA hosted a Volunteer Resource Fair at the Sunnyvale Public Library and it was a huge success. This was an opportunity for NOVA job seekers to gain access to the nonprofit and public sectors in order to learn more about these sectors, to enhance their portfolio/resume and/or to participate in meaningful work while they are job hunting. This fair would also benefit organizations in the community that are seeking qualified volunteers. More than 200 job seekers attended the fair, along with 20 exhibitors that offered diverse volunteer opportunities in health care, community services, environmental services, science and engineering, education and city government, from short-term, one-day projects to long-term commitments; the City of Sunnyvale was one of the exhibitors. From the feedback that was received from exhibitors, they were thrilled with the number and quality of prospective volunteers they met at the fair; job seekers mentioned it was “exactly what they were looking for.” NOVA would like to thank the Library staff for their assistance and wonderful hospitality — they couldn’t have asked for a better venue to hold the fair — and to other City staff for showcasing the many volunteer opportunities that are available through the City.

State Employment Figures Released for March

The State released its employment figures for March and the news still isn’t good! The State unemployment rate increased to 12.6 percent, up from 12.5 percent the previous month, the highest on record. Santa Clara County’s jobless rate increased to 12 percent, up from 11.8 percent in February. The Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) that includes NOVA reported a 12.3 percent unemployment rate in March, up from 12.1 percent the previous month. Sunnyvale’s unemployment rate is significantly below the State, County and MSA at 10.4 percent for March. Jobs continue to be added very slowly and, now with more people out looking for work, a perfect storm of sorts has been created. Silicon Valley is showing some hopeful signs and added 2,800 jobs in March, with six major industries adding jobs that included manufacturing, transportation and utilities, professional and business services, leisure and hospitality, retail, and government.

Interesting Economic Trends Chart

Below is a link that provides a very interesting map of jobs lost (and gained), produced by TIP Strategies, Inc. If you click on the arrow, you can see, in a very visual way, how the job gains and losses have changed over the past several years, in different parts of the country. If you move your cursor over the circles, you can also view the actual data for each community.

http://tipstrategies.com/archive/geography-of-jobs/#map-highlights

FINANCE

You Can Run but You Can’t Hide

The City continues to seek reimbursement from individuals who damage City property. Incidents primarily are vehicle collision related and many involve damage to traffic signals or street lights. Treasury staff has recovered more than $151,000 in compensation for damage to City-owned property from insurance carriers and/or the responsible party so far this fiscal year. This represents a 29 percent increase over the previous fiscal year. A thank you goes to Public Works and Risk Management for their assistance in recovering costs relating to damage to City property.

Proposed Water, Sewer and Solid Waste Rates

Residents and businesses are being notified by mail of the public hearing scheduled for Tuesday, June 15, 2010, regarding proposed rate increases on water, sewer and solid waste charges. As required by California Proposition 218, the notice is mailed to all rate payers 45 days prior to the hearing.

The rates which will be recommended to Council reflect an increase of approximately 7.5 percent for water services, 7.5 percent for garbage services and 4.5 percent for sewer services. Increases in utility rates are driven primarily by the increase in the cost of purchasing water from the City’s wholesale suppliers, needed water and sewer infrastructure improvements, and increases in costs for providing solid waste collection and disposal. Additionally, the price differences between water tiers have been adjusted to encourage water conservation.

Sunnyvale Rates “AAA” from Moody’s

The Director of Finance has been notified that Moody’s Investors Service has reviewed the City’s underlying credit rating and has raised us from “AA1″ to “AAA.” Since Standard & Poor’s increased our issuer credit rating to “AAA” last year, this means that both major national credit rating agencies recognize Sunnyvale as being of the highest credit quality.

HUMAN RESOURCES

National Health Care Reform

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was recently signed into law marking a sweeping overhaul of the U.S. health care system. Staff has fielded several inquires regarding the impact of the law on the City’s medical plans.

While most of the law is phased in over several years, some of the measures in the law go into effect this year. These include, but are not limited to, immediate access to insurance for uninsured individuals with a pre-existing condition, eliminating lifetime benefit limitations, and access to health care for dependents up to age 26.

The City currently contracts with CalPERS for health care coverage and we are currently awaiting information from CalPERS which will analyze the law and inform the City of specific impacts. One impact, the extension of coverage to dependents up to 26, will result in some, yet to be determined added cost, to the City’s medical program expenses.

Staff will provide more specific information as it becomes available from CalPERS.

INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY

New Password Implementation

What do the following words have in common?

1. password

6. monkey

2. 123456

7. myspace1

3. Qwerty

8. password1

4. abc123

9. secret

5. letmein

10. (your first name)

These are the top ten most commonly used passwords. Unfortunately, hackers know this and this is where they usually start when trying to hack into a system.

It seems we constantly hear or read about a computer hacking incident that results in identity theft or, even worse, a company’s customer records published on the Internet or sold to crime syndicates. Despite these news items appearing on an almost daily basis, most of us think this type of incident “could never happen to me.” The harsh reality is that this can happen to anyone, at anytime.

To prevent such an incident for the City, on April 26 ITD implemented tighter and enforceable password policies. These changes are a giant leap towards preventing hackers from accessing our network.

In addition to increased security, the new password policies keep the City in compliance with the Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standard requirements. As a company that processes, stores or transmits credit card information, the City is required to maintain a secure environment and these password policies support ITD’s efforts to do so.

ITD Factoids

Between April 11 and April 24, ITD closed 176 service requests. They received 213 requests for service over the same period.

For the same two-week period, the City received 3,914,476 e-mails, an increase of 30.5 percent over the previous two week period. Approximately only one percent of these e-mails (47,322, 1.2 percent) were allowed to be delivered to the recipient. The remaining 98.8 percent were rejected as spam, containing a virus or otherwise quarantined.

LIBRARY

Behind the Scenes Tours of the New Automated System

In celebration of National Library Week, eight tours of the Library’s New Automated Materials Handling System (AMH), complete with a behind-the-scenes demonstration of the 21-bin sorting system, were held during the week of April 12. Many families with children were excited to see the books slip off the conveyor belt into appropriate bins to speed up the check-in and shelving process. Since the preregistered tours filled up quickly, more tours will be offered in coming weeks.

Rotary Club Awards Grant for After-school Homework Center

The Sunnyvale Rotary Club has awarded a $1,200 grant to the Library to fund a new after-school homework center, beginning in fall of 2010.

Library Reaches out to Bilingual Communities

Sponsored by a grant from the American Library Association (ALA) for Dia de Los Ninos, Olga Loya, an engaging Spanish/English storyteller, told tales involving a wide variety of stories and rhymes to a multi-ethnic audience on April 18. Through the grant, each child who attended the program was able to choose one of three bilingual picture books to keep.

OFFICE OF THE CITY MANAGER

Prescription Discount Cards Available

The City, in collaboration with the National League of Cities, is now offering a free prescription discount card for residents. The card, which may be used by anyone without prior registration, is designed to provide assistance to under- and uninsured residents buying prescription medicines. This is not insurance, but it will provide, on average, about a 20 percent discount off the regular retail price of prescription medicines.

Cards are available in English and Spanish from counter displays set up at City Hall, the Library, Columbia Neighborhood Center, the Community Center and the Senior Center. Cards may also be downloaded directly by visiting PrescriptionCard.inSunnyvale.com, and will be distributed at Sunnyvale’s Health and Safety Fair on May 22.

The card is honored by nine out of 10 pharmacies nationwide. One card covers an entire family, and there is no limit to the number of times it may be used.

Records Management

At the beginning of April, staff kicked off the implementation of the Council-approved Records Retention and Destruction Schedule and Records Destruction Protocol with training workshops and a “Records Destruction Day” last Friday, April 23. Staff is in the process of reviewing the contents of approximately 8,000 boxes of records located at Iron Mountain offsite storage, and analyzing the records against the Records Retention and Destruction Schedule. Finance is in the process of finalizing a contract with a new offsite storage vendor in the next two weeks. These efforts will significantly reduce the costs of offsite records storage and are improving the efficiency of the City’s records management process.

New HVAC Installation and “Rebate” from PG&E

The Public Safety Building is currently undergoing a comprehensive retrofit of HVAC equipment and controls. The project includes new pumps, chiller, boiler, air handling units and distribution equipment, and a new energy management system. Prior to construction, during the design phase of the project, Facilities staff applied for rebate incentives from PG&E, based on projected energy savings from the project. PG&E conducted a pre-installation inspection in July 2009 and estimated the rebate at $22,000. City staff recently received notice that our application has been approved for incentives that may run as high as $38,000. The check will be issued after PG&E conducts a post-installation verification review, currently expected in late summer 2010.

Sunnyvale Community Award Nominations – Deadline is Friday, May 7

It is not too late to nominate a Sunnyvale community member for an annual Community Award, to be presented at the Mayor’s State of the City celebration on Sunday, July 4, at Washington Park. This year’s awards include:

  • Distinguished Resident of the Year
  • Outstanding High School Senior of the Year
  • Outstanding Community Volunteer of the Year
  • Outstanding Businessperson of the Year
  • Outstanding Educator of the Year
  • Outstanding Environmental Achievement
  • Outstanding Contribution to the Arts

Complete details and downloadable nomination forms are available at: Awards.inSunnyvale.com.

According to the Silicon Valley Association of Realtors, Many Sunnyvale Homes Are Still in Hot Demand

Economic Development was invited to attend the monthly Silicon Valley Association of Realtors’ April meeting. The association members wanted to know what was happening with the downtown as well as any retailers that will be coming to Sunnyvale so that they can use this information in their marketing materials. They were pleased that Sprouts will be opening in early June and that Panera, PinkBerry, Pizza My Heart, Rubios and the new Safeway will also open later this year. Several of the agents mentioned that many homes in Sunnyvale are still selling for above asking price and that the residential market is trending upward.

PUBLIC SAFETY

Explosive Device Found at School

On April 26 at 3:10 p.m., Public Safety personnel responded to Braly Elementary School on report of a suspicious package in front of the school. When officers arrived, they found a cylinder-shaped object with a fuse protruding from the end. Although class had already been dismissed for the day, the remaining teachers and administrators were evacuated as a precaution while the package was investigated further. The Santa Clara County Bomb Squad was called to the scene to assist with the investigation. After they photographed and x-rayed the package, they determined the best way to deal with the device was to detonate it. A hole was dug in the field to the south of the school and Public Works personnel brought out sand bags to form a bunker around the detonation spot. Once the device was placed in the hole by the bomb squad’s robot, it was detonated. From the evidence collected after detonation, the bomb squad classified the homemade device as an explosive and compared it to a “Super Thunder Cracker.” There were no injuries to citizens or Public Safety personnel and the investigation into the origin of the device is ongoing.

Sunnyvale SWAT Team Negotiations Result in Peaceful Surrender

During the early evening hours of April 14, Officers discovered a subject in the parking lot of Motel 6, 775 N. Mathilda, who was wanted on two felony warrants. The suspect was described in the warrants as “armed and dangerous.” The suspect fled into a room on the third floor and barricaded himself inside. He said he had a knife to the throat of a female hostage in the room with him. The responding officers quickly surrounded the motel and evacuated the surrounding rooms. During this time, the suspect breached a wall into the next room by kicking through the sheetrock.

Due to the fact this was now a barricade situation with a hostage, the suspect was trying extraordinary means to escape, special tools, tactics and trained negotiators appeared to be needed – the SWAT Team along with the Crisis Negotiations Team was called.

The Swat Team arrived and assisted the negotiators with making contact with the suspect. Together, the tactical SWAT officers and the hostage negotiators were able to calm the suspect and, after a few tense hours, the suspect surrendered peacefully.

Robin Way Residents Sing the Praises of DPS

On March 19, Sunnyvale DPS personnel fought a two-alarm fire on Robin Way. As a result of their efforts, DPS received letters of appreciation from the homeowner and neighbors in the area. Below is an excerpt from one of the letters:

“If not for the effort of your firefighters, [our house] would have burned to the ground and suffered a total loss. Furthermore, if not for the fire suppression efforts our house would have become involved. One more very important item was our dog Bell. When we arrived home and witnessed the scene the first words from my wife’s mouth were ‘Bell is in the house!’ We approached the Incident Commander and explained our situation. Less than a minute later out came a firefighter carrying our dog. I only wished I had the foresight to have taken a photograph! At the end of the day it is all about Community and what a wonderful Community we have. Thank you for saving our home and thank you for saving our dog.

Outreach and Education Meeting: NEAT Area Multi-Family Housing Residents

On Wednesday, April 14, NEAT hosted a neighborhood outreach meeting at Ruby’s Taqueria, 821 Borregas Avenue. The outreach meeting focused on the primarily Spanish-speaking residents of the 416 multi-family housing units along Ahwanee Avenue in the current NEAT program area. The turnout was excellent – 71 residents attended!

Attendance at previous outreach meetings has been lower than expected. In an effort to improve attendance, NEAT partnered with the owners of two local businesses, Ruby’s Taqueria and Guadalajara Market, to provide food and sodas. Flyers were mailed to each apartment unit, posted in the common areas of each apartment building, made available in each property manager’s office, and were displayed at Ruby’s Taqueria and Guadalajara Market.

Bilingual City staff members were in attendance to meet and greet the residents and to document areas of concern in the neighborhood, as well as to educate the residents on a variety of programs available to assist them. The residents were also provided with contact information, in Spanish, for various City services such as Public Safety, Public Works, Community Development, Community Services, etc. NEAT information was also discussed and provided in Spanish.

The goals of the outreach meeting included introducing City staff and NEAT members, encouraging residents to report problems and suspicious behavior to the City, and also to share current issues with staff. The residents were also notified of the upcoming neighborhood clean-up events taking place in their neighborhood.

The meeting proved successful because the residents were forthcoming, candid, and shared a variety of important neighborhood concerns and issues with City staff. Also, NEAT members informed the residents that they would work diligently to solve these issues. Since the meeting, NEAT has already taken action to resolve many of the issues raised at the meeting.

PUBLIC WORKS

Former Greyhound Station Demolished

On Wednesday April 28, the former Greyhound Bus Station underneath the south side of the Mathilda Overpass was demolished as part of the Downtown Mathilda Bridge Rehabilitation Project.

The bus station at 400 West Evelyn Ave. was constructed in 1965 and opened in 1966 as a public accommodation building. The 1,500 square foot station was occupied by Greyhound until 2004, when it was closed as part of a major restructuring of Greyhound operations which closed 50 percent of their California locations.

Since 2004, the building had been rented by a variety of private tenants, most recently the M Planning Group. Portions of the building were also used as a construction project office for the downtown plaza and multimodal projects.

Once the Mathilda Widening Project is completed, this area will be used to provide additional parking spaces in order to mitigate parking in the Downtown Project Area.

Great American Litter Pick-up Wrap Up

On Saturday April 17, a total of 32 volunteers participated in the Great American Litter Pick-up event. They collected litter from neighborhoods within a one-mile radius around Fair Oaks Park, Lakewood Park, Orchard Gardens Park and the Columbia Neighborhood Center. Approximately 725 pounds of trash and 125 pounds of recyclable cans and bottles were collected by the volunteers during the three hours of the clean-up activity. Staff from the Water Pollution Control Plant and Neighborhood Preservation would like to thank all the participants for volunteering their time to help make some of Sunnyvale’s neighborhoods cleaner places to live and work.

Sunnyvale Recycled Water Distribution Program Honored by NASA Ames

NASA Ames presented awards for superior demonstrations of pro-sustainability projects last Thursday, April 22. One of the three projects recognized was the “Eastside Landscape Irrigation Conversion Project,” involving recycled water from Sunnyvale. The ceremony recognized NASA staff involved, and specific Public Works employees from our water program who were directly involved in hooking them up to recycled water. Attached is a program flyer from the small ceremony. This project began with the City receiving right-of-way from NASA Ames in 1994 for installation of a recycled water main, in exchange for a promise of credit on future recycled water usage. It took until 2008, and this project, before NASA Ames was able to start receiving recycled water.

Staff in Public Works received a very short notice of this ceremony (two days before the event). Water Operations Manager Val Conzet attended on behalf of the City employees being honored.

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