Does Silicon Valley need a new city?
Silicon Valley is not so unlike Fairfax and Montgomery Counties: a mostly very wealthy area, many jobs in addition to housing, and suburban sprawl as the main building form. But around Washington DC, both counties have in recent years (more recently in Fairfax's case) been pushing denser, somewhat walkable, often transit-oriented development, including "town center" style developments in Rockville and Reston.
In Silicon Valley, however, there's very little of that. Mainly, I think, this is because the land is just about all developed; the boom in the '80s and '90s generated apartment complex almost everywhere, and geography constrains the developable area. San Jose, which is much bigger and newer, is building some.
But your typical software engineer or Web startup founder doesn't live in San Jose. Yet many of them would like to live in a walkable place. So many do, in fact, that Google has engineers move to New York just to be in a real city. There's San Francisco, which is pretty good. But San Francisco is really far to commute to Mountain View, even if your company provides shuttles, which most don't. There's downtown Palo Alto, which is walkable, but not very big; downtown Mountain View is even smaller.
Is there unsatisfied demand for a "city" here? Maybe the supposed future Google mixed-use campus, if well-designed (which it looks like it isn't so far)? What would you design?
This came from a discussion I had with an entrepreneur who lamented the lack of a real city nearby. In China (and the Middle East), they're building brand-new ones. If suddenly there were a large tract of land in Silicon Valley that needed redeveloping, what would you put there?
How about a dense grid of streets, with some taller apartment buildings on the ends of the blocks and townhouses in the middle. I'd put pods of market-rate parking, and ample Zipcars, in strategic underground spots. It should have regular shuttles (open to the public) to downtown San Francisco, the airports, and Palo Alto and Stanford. If it were located on Caltrain, that could fill some of the need and better utilize the existing transit network.
While we're thinking about something new in a technological place, how about a network of underground tubes that could deliver goods to each home (so that people can walk to buy groceries or furniture but not have to cart everything home) and take away trash? How about a Web-based system for residents to coordinate rides to work or entertainment destinations (with Zipcars available for those who need to go somewhere nobody else is).
What else? For those of you who know the area, should it have an urban section? Naturally, the bigger the urban area is, the greater the network effects of having enough residents to sustain retail and transit. But the bigger it is, the harder it would be to build. And if we could entertain our pie-in-the-sky ideas for just redesigning, say, Sunnyvale, what could it look like?
- Latest Metro map drafts add Anacostia parks and other tweaks
- Bikeshare is a gateway to private biking, not competition
- Short-term Washingtonians deserve a voice, too
- DC Council makes major policy changes overnight
- Judge denies injunction against closing schools
- Public land deals have both benefits and pitfalls
- Parklets give every block a little park