It’s not an exaggeration to say that much that has materialized in Santa Clara since 1970 is there because of farsighted planning on the part of legendary figures in city governance. Former mayor Larry Fargher was one of those legendary leaders.
Fargher died at his home on June 14 at the age of 89.
A native of Montana, Fargher earned a B.S. in Engineering from the University of Nebraska at Omaha and came to Santa Clara with his wife Camille after leaving the Air Force in 1959. He subsequently earned an MBA from Santa Clara University and worked for UTC and Westinghouse before starting his real estate business.
Fargher first got into politics by getting his neighbors involved in developing a neighborhood park and subsequently becoming the chair of the neighborhood improvement association. He became well-known to the Santa Clara City Council and when a council member resigned Fargher got the appointment. He served on the Council from 1962 through 1971, and as mayor from 1964-65.
During his years on the Council, he cast decisive votes on ending Santa Clara’s disastrous urban program that demolished downtown before it could further destroy the Old Quad and locating the International Swim Center at Central Park instead of Wilson High School.
But Fargher’s most consequential vote was his first. That was a tie-breaking vote approving the land use plan that zoned the Northside for clean industry and entertainment that brought both Intel and Great America to the Northside. Until recent years, that business-to-business sales tax was Santa Clara’s single largest single revenue source.
Fargher never forgot how the personal connects with the historical, and liked to tell this story about a former tenant.
“I had renters in a house I owned in Agnews — John and Judy McAfee. John developed his anti-virus software right there in that house,” he told The Weekly in 2006 interview. “That kind of thing wouldn’t have been happening in Santa Clara north if we hadn’t developed the area the way we did.”
When Sun built its new campus at Agnew, Fargher remembered founder Scott McNealy noting that the computing giant got its start in Santa Clara.
“A lot of guys like that started in Santa Clara,” he told The Weekly in 2006. “We got known as a good place for a startup. We made it easy and our taxes were better — we were cutting our taxes in those days, even before Proposition 13.”
After leaving the Council, Fargher continued to serve the community on the Santa Clara Citizens Advisory Committee, the Intercity Council, Economic Opportunity Commission, and a Santa Clara Charter Review Committee. In 1966, he received HUD’s Urban Development Intergovernmental Award.
He was also indefatigable in fundraising for local nonprofits and served in leadership for many including Santa Clara County Heart Association, El Camino Little League, County Freedom from Hunger Committee, and the Governor’s Committee on Hiring the Handicapped. After losing his wife Camille to Alzheimer’s, Fargher’s energetic fundraising over 15 years netted over $250,000 for research for Alzheimer’s Association.
Fargher was an active member of Santa Clara Rotary, the Knights of Columbus and St. Lawrence the Martyr church and a founding member of the Mission City Community Fund. He taught real estate courses at West Valley and Mission Colleges, served as a Ronald Reagan delegate at the 1980 Republican Convention and ran for the California State Legislature. In 2009, he received the Mission City Community Fund’s Austin Warburton Award for community service.
Larry is survived by sons Leighton Fargher, Lauson Fargher and Lindel Fargher, and daughter Laure Vierra; 10 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.
Visitation will be 6 p.m. Monday, June 27 and Rosary at 7 p.m. at Saint Lawrence the Martyr Catholic Church, 1971 St. Lawrence Dr., Santa Clara. A funeral mass will be held on Tuesday, June 28 at 10 a.m. at Mission Santa Clara on the Santa Clara University campus, with burial immediately following at Gate of Heaven Catholic Cemetery in Los Altos.
Santa Clara’s flags will fly at half-staff on June 28 in honor of Fargher.