Thursday, April 10, 2014

Civic Center Acreage to be Developed

By Michael Goldman with Deborah Marks, co-founders of Citizens for Sunnyvale Parks and Green Spaces

Deborah Marks is also leader of Sunnyvale Urban Forests Advocates

Our flyer states that 14 acres are to be given over for commercial and residential development.  Some have asked where we got that number.  Michael was sure it was at the city staff presentation, but it doesn't show up in the minutes.  Some other things that were discussed at the meeting are also not in the minutes, which was not recorded.  So, Michael measured it and it comes to a bit over 14 acres, 14.64 acres.  Here's how he did it - you can do the same and check.

First, we see the current aerial view with the relevant areas marked off and labeled to 2 decimal accuracy.  This is provided by the Sunnyvale City staff on pages 19-21 of their PDF document which was presented as a PowerPoint presentation to the City Council:

Next we see the allotment of property approved by the City Council for study.

To determine how much acreage of the current Civic Center would be lost to development we took a look at a section that was as close to a rectangle as available (immediately below), blew it up, and put it into Microsoft Word.  There we measured it so as to make an estimate of the total amount of land that would be developed.

You can see the measurement below. The area bounded by the white arrows to the left in the aerial photo from the City Staff document shows the 2.03 + 2.65 = 4.68 acres = 203,861 square feet.  The rectangle bounding the area shown in this document is 3.0”x 1.4” = 4.2 sq. inches according to the “Word” formatting tool.  So, 4.68 acres = 4.2 sq. inches or equivalently, 1 sq. inch = 1.11 acres = 48,538 sq. ft.

We then made rectangles surrounding all the other areas that would be developed as you can see below. Adding up all the rectangular areas bounded by the arrows gives 9.86 + 2.97 + 0.64 + 1.17 = 14.64 Acres.  That excludes the state owned building in the right side of the upper blue area marked residential.  It includes the state owned court house of 2.03 acres since that is part of the Civic Center.  One can reasonably expect that if a private developer can obtain it, so can the City of Sunnyvale.

The question was raised how we know it is 14 acres to be developed.  The short answer is because that was what was announced at the City Council meeting in 2012 where this was presented, but since that was not recorded and minutes left out that and several other items of interest, we confirmed it independently ourselves.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Are Green Public Buildings Costly?

By Michael Goldman with Deborah Marks, co-founders of Citizens for Sunnyvale Parks and Green Spaces

Deborah Marks is also leader of Sunnyvale Urban Forests Advocates

With environmental concerns gaining importance, any new municipal buildings should be designed with the intent to be certified as LEED Gold or, if possible, Platinum, the highest Energy efficiency rating available.  A 2003 paper by the US Green Building Council lists the additional cost for building green buildings as follows:
  1. Silver - 0% to 3.5%
  2. Gold - 0.5% to 5.0%
  3. Platinum - 4.5% to 8.5%
See , page 3 & 4.  This document says the cost of obtaining these certifications is going down as designers and builders gain experience.  The cost of the paperwork to get certified is $10K to $60K so most of the incremental cost is in materials and construction.

The American Institute of Architects makes an annual Top Ten list of energy efficient buildings.  Here:  Can these be done cost competitively with traditional construction?  Here are some winners built at a low to moderate cost:

Marin County Day School, completed, 2010 LEED Platinum:  68% new, 32% renovation.  Total size 33,740 sf (23.1K new) at a total cost of $12.5M = $371/sf.  Click on photo to enlarge:

Chandler City Hall, Chandler, AZ - 187K Sq. Ft. Total Project Cost at time of completion (Oct. 2010) = $47M = $251/sf. LEED Gold. The city of Chandler rented facilities for years while it saved up money to fund the new city hall so it did not need to issue any debt (bonds).  Click on the images below to make them bigger.

White Tank Pulic Library and Nature Center (Leed Platinum).  29K sq.ft. total = 25K sf library + 4K sf. nature center.  $8M = $275/sq.ft.

Lake View Public Library (City of Los Angeles) - 2003 - Construction cost = $4.4M for 10,700 sq. ft. = $411/sq. ft.  Adjusting for 3% annual inflation over 11 years gives $411 * (1.03^11 = 1.38) = $569/sf. The photos below show this attractive library.  LEED Platinum. Click on the photos to make them larger.

More info on this building at:

These few examples show that with coordinated pre-planning, beautiful and energy efficient buildings can be built at a low to moderate cost.  There are many more out there listed at sites like:

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Library Costs in California

By Michael Goldman with Deborah Marks, co-founders of Citizens for Sunnyvale Parks and Green Spaces

Deborah Marks is also leader of Sunnyvale Urban Forests Advocates

Los Gatos built a new 30,000 sq. ft. library in 2012 for $12.8M in construction costs or $424/(sq. ft.) (with an LEED Gold rating) which is in line with Belvedere-Tiburon and the CA library 2007 spread sheet data for construction costs in No. California (see below).  It is a lovely building so low construction costs don't mean low quality - see below (click on a picture for an enlarged view):
Los Gatos Library built in 2012 - click on picture to enlarge

Los Gatos Library built in 2012 - click on picture to enlarge

Los Gatos Library built in 2012 - click on picture to enlarge

Los Gatos Library built in 2012 - click on picture to enlarge

Specs here:
Photos, floor plans, and story here:

The State Library Board has a wealth of information on their web site.  Some is on the uses of the State Library Bond fund that was passed in 2000 and implemented in 2005-2007.  The web site is here:

There you can find a link for downloading an XLS spreadsheet that looks like this.
It contains construction cost info for libraries completed in 2005-2007.  The data for California looks like this (click on the image to enlarge it):

All CA Library Construction Costs - 2007  click to enlarge
Extracting only SF Bay Area library construction gives the following (click on the image to enlarge it):

Only SF Bay Area Library Costs - 2007   click to enlarge
For all of CA, the library construction Total Project cost (including Furniture & Equipment, etc.,) was $495/(sq. ft.) with a range from $332/sf (Redding) to $853/sf (Westwood branch in LA).  For only the SF Bay Area, the avg. is $526/sf with a range from $371 (SJ-Berryessa) to $758/sf (San Leandro).  Important to note that "site costs" can really make a huge difference.  Some "site costs" are very high - presumably land had to be bought for those areas.  It is important to note that both averages are well within the range for both all CA and only SFBA.  The average for the SF Bay Area is a mere 6% higher than all of CA which could statistically be attributed to random chance.

The average construction cost for the SF Bay Area in 2005-2007 was $362.  Adjusting for inflation, at 3% per year gives us $362 * 1.03^7 = $445.

The average total project cost (including furniture and equipment, etc.) for the SF Bay Area was $526/(sq. ft.) for 16 libraries including 2 main libraries.  This corresponds to the time of the 2007 Sunnyvale $100M bond proposal that was voted down.  The Sunnyvale library proposal would have worked out to roughly $1,000/sq. ft..  Using a 3% inflation rate for the 7 years since then we multiply by 1.23 getting an inflation-adjusted avg. for total project costs for No. CA of $647/(sq. ft.) including furniture and equipment.  This compares to $1,230/sq. ft. for the Sunnyvale bond proposal - inflation adjusted. Possibly the Sunnyvale bond included more, but I am unable to obtain any detailed breakdown of the original Sunnyvale proposal.

As further support that $647/(sq. ft.) is a reasonable estimate for No. CA we can look at another SF Bay Area library: Belvedere-Tiburon which is both expanding and renovating their library as seen below with costs detailed here:

  click to enlarge

  click to enlarge

Writing in 2013, they estimate square footage costs of $400-$500 for new construction (we previously estimated $450), $150-$200 for the parts undergoing renovation, "soft costs" for environmental impact review, etc. at about 35% of the construction-renovation costs, plus furnishings and equipment (F&E) at about 10% of construction costs.
Crunching the numbers:
($400-$500) construction costs + [($400-$500) * 0.35 = ($140-$175) for "soft costs"] + [($400-$500) * 0.10 = $40-$50) for F&E] = ($580-$725) with a midpoint at $652.50.

This  provides some reassurance that we have a reasonable guideline at $647 total project costs.

In 2003, Monterey Community College built a 67K sq. ft. library for $20M = $300/sq. ft.  Adjusting for 3% annual inflation, that would be $27M or $415/(sq. ft.).  In the same ball park as the others we've looked at.
Monterey CC Library - 2003 - $20M   click to enlarge
On a side note, the 2007 Sunnyvale bond proposal had no documentation showing cost break downs, floor plans, drawings of the proposed library - not really much of anything.  Contrast that with the detailed Belvedere-Tiburon library renovation-expansion costs mentioned above and the proposed plans here:

For the 2007 bond measure statement and vote results, see
"...shall the City of Sunnyvale issue $108 million in general obligation bonds for design and construction of a new, energy efficient, green-designed, environmentally sustainable library to support Sunnyvale's growing community"

Sunnyvale City needs to communicate better to its residents what the residents will get for their tax dollars.

Some asked about the new Santa Clara City library branch.  That building is in a horrible legal mess since they built the new branch with $19M out of $90M in RDA funds they were supposed to turn back to the county, Santa Clara school system, and state.  Essentially stealing about $36M from the schools.  A judge told Santa Clara to allocate the money as they were legally required to do and is stopping the branch from opening. Cities that break one law may be breaking others. Judging by what I read, not a good example to go by.  It is also phenomenally expensive at $19M for 15,000 sq. ft., including supplies or nearly $1300/sf - roughly double the average for the SF Bay Area, which makes it look even more suspect.  C.f., link here:

Monday, February 17, 2014

Joint School-Public Libraries - 2

(see also part 1 at )

Joint School-Public Libraries:

Putting books where they are Used!

Possible Options
• Joint School-City Ownership: librarians coordinating purchases & activities
• City Ownership: schools pay an annual %-age of cost
• School Ownership: City staff

One of the most important uses of libraries is as a place where kids can have a quiet place to study.  This is especially true for lower income kids with families in small apartments.  Doesn't it make sense to put libraries in the neighborhoods where the kids are and need them after school hours and on weekends and vacation periods?  Wouldn't that also be a good thing for adults who may have trouble getting to the downtown library?   Wouldn't that extend the reach of our library to more Sunnyvale residents?

If the city paid half the electric, heating, & Internet bills and half the book purchase bills wouldn't that help the schools as well as the kids and adults? 

Some examples:
Albany Wisconsin Joint School-Public Library 

Kohler, Wisconsin Joint School-Public Library
Florence County Joint School-Public Library - 1

Florence County Joint School-Public Library - 2

Durand Wisconsin Joint School-Public Library

Clear Creek Amana Middle School Joint Library

Cleghorn, Iowa Joint School-Public Library
Silicon Valley is famous for "thinking outside the box".  Let's think not only of central library showpieces but also neighborhood resources.

Other Area's Library Expansion Plans - Part 2

(See also part 1 at )

Many Libraries expand their facilities without seeing a necessity to totally demolish the existing library.  If that had been the proposal for the Sunnyvale 2007 library bond issue, it would undoubtedly have passed.

Here are some more examples of expansions of, and substantial upgrades to, existing libraries:

Before, Proposed, ...
...And After
Middleburg, VA, doubled the size of their small county library with detailed plans before hand so people could see what they woudl be getting.  See below

The Southern Oregon University Library (below) was originally nearly 60K square feet (the size of the Sunnyvale Public Library) and completely renovated and doubled in size to 120K square feet for $23M in 2007.  We give more detail and with many lovely photos of the complete renovation that was done to the building at

And another library expansion.

If there had been diagrams of what the $100M would be purchasing, the 2007 Library Bond issue might have passed.  With no information, it is a wonder anyone voted for it.  That they did shows how much they support libraries and would like an improved library.  Sunnyvale should try again with more information, for an expanded and renovated library.  We would like to support that.

Private Development of Civic Center in Pictures

The drawing Deborah and I saw (in mayor Spitaleri's office last Fall) of the proposed private development of the Civic Center had two or three six-story buildings on El Camino.  What would that look like? Here's the existing street view: (Click on a picture to enlarge and get the full impact).

The new LinkedIn buildings are six stories.  Here they are as they would appear in the Civic Center space on El Camino (click on picture to enlarge):

We have heard various concepts including only four stories.  So imagine the top two stories aren't there.  Six or four - that totally misses the point.

Here is the Civic Center layout in it's current form (click on it to enlarge):

Here is the city staff's proposed concept for the Civic Center from their Power Point slide presentation on July, 2012.  Links at:

Other Areas Library Expansion Plans - Part 1

In 2007 Sunnyvale proposed a Library Bond measure for $100M for the tear down of the existing library and construction of a new library of 100K sq. ft. - a cost of $1,000 per sq. ft..  There was no money set aside over previous years for this proposed expansion.  There were no pictures, architectural drawings, mock-ups, or plans for the proposed library.  

Not every city does it that way.  Here are what some other cities and counties have done: Click on a slide/photo to get a greatly enlarged view.  

The Chapel Hill, NC public library more than doubled in size (27K to 62K sq. ft.) at roughly $500/sq. ft. The plans were laid out - and built as described.  Finished April, 2013. 

A full set here including floor plans of both floors:

Completed view exterior

Completed view interior

For a fantastic interactive panorama view of the Chapel Hill, NC new library, enabling you to walk through it, see here (must see):

Here's another - a small (5,000 sq. ft.) library with a 50% increase to 7,790 sq. ft. at $200/sq. ft., construction started November 2013. C.f.,

In 2007 Sunnyvale residents were voting for a bond measure purely on faith that the proposed library would be what they wanted.  Without any opposition, it received 59% of the vote, failing to garner the California constitution's mandated 2/3 majority for a tax increase. 

The Kent County, Michigan library system created several floor plans and drawings as a natural part of the planning process.  Doing this does not guarantee a successful vote for the expansion, but NOT doing it is a recipe for failure.

The Sunnyvale "Library of the Future" study often referred in support of the 2007 bond measure had no drawings, no floor plans, nothing at all to indicate what the library would look like and what it would include. There has been no plan since then to go to the voters again with a more clearly articulated library and bond plan.  Too bad.  With proper preparation, a well designed building expansion could win.

There are quite a number of libraries which expand and modernize around the country without tearing down what exists.  Here's one county library in Wyoming.  Even though money was set aside over 30 years ago, detailed plans were made public so residents could form an opinion.

Although we can assume everyone involved in the Sunnyvale proposal was honest and sincere, some people are likely to be a bit skeptical without more detail of what was going to be built than was provided (i.e., close to zero).  In trying to get money for a library expansion, (which Deborah and I both support) it is important to convey as much information as necessary to convince people to raise their own taxes.