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Oracle Plans Two New Buildings on Agnews Campus, But Keep Historical Character

Oracle is planning to fully build-out its Northside Santa Clara campus, where it will consolidate operations and create a testing facility for its top-of-the-line network servers, the company told the City Council at a July 15 study session.

The company presented a conceptual plan for adding two new buildings – 120,000 square feet of new office space and 25,000 square feet of lab and server space – and 2,862 new parking spaces. This will increase the square footage of the campus to 1,075,421 – about 2.5 percent – Santa Clara Planning Director Kevin Riley told the Council. The buildings were approved in Sun’s original 1997 plan. Oracle acquired Sun in 2010.

This expansion will bring 500 additional employees to Santa Clara, create 300 construction jobs and increase the property’s valuation by about $35 million. Oracle plans to start construction in February 2015 and have the new buildings in operation by April 2016.

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The new buildings will be very similar to those already on the campus, project architect Russ Nichols of R&W Architecture told the Council. Oracle intends to match the architectural elements as well as repurposing materials from the original buildings. In fact, the new buildings will make more use of the historic brick than the 1997 buildings. The additions will retain the campus setback from the street and preserve the tree canopy.

Oracle will continue to honor the city’s historical easement and public access to the Clock Tower building, Agnews Auditorium and open space on Lafayette Street, Oracle VP Real Estate and Facilities Mike Bangs assured the Council.

The Council had no questions about the design, but several about whether or not the intention of original commitment to public access made in 1997 had been kept – specifically with regard to the Agnews Auditorium. Oracle recently completed a significant restoration project on the historic buildings.

“The restoration that was done to the auditorium was absolutely spectacular,” said Mayor Jamie Matthews. “The downside is that it’s now so expensive nobody can use it.”

“Before we go forward with more buildings I want to hear more about honoring the intent of the original commitment,” said Council Member Teresa O’Neill.

“A lot of people were not happy about the removal of so many buildings that were historic; so the way this project was sold to this community was that they would have fairly good access to that auditorium for community events. And I can remember in the first few years going to a number of events, but I haven’t heard of anything there for many years.

“The community is clamoring for more places for community events,” she continued. “I want to hear what Oracle is going to do about making sure they fulfill their original commitment to the city before we go ahead and make any further commitments to Oracle.”

“We’ve made some changes to the easement,” said Bangs. “We have had events out there – Silicon Valley Power, the Chamber of Commerce. We’re not opposed community groups out there. We welcome them, [but] in the context of allowing Oracle to do its business, [and] as long as we can work within the confines of the agreement.”

“Was there any negotiation about the rate?” asked O’Neill.

“My recollection it was done with staff,” replied Bangs.

“The intention was to have that as an historic easement in perpetuity, so the public could have access to the historic core,” said Council Member Patricia Mahan, who was on the Council when the development was approved. “There was also the agreement that the auditorium could have some public access for use. Perhaps we can review that as part of this process and see how we can reactivate what used to happen on that campus.”

By consensus, the Council referred the question to staff, “to see how we can reaffirm the original intent.”

Santa Clara’s 2010 General Plan gives a single sentence to the Agnews historical easement: “The Agnews Historic Park, on Sun Microsystems/Oracle’s Santa Clara campus, provides a peaceful open space that also houses four historic buildings, preserved through a historic easement.” It’s important to note that what the city has is an easement on what was Sun’s, and now Oracle’s, property – the city doesn’t own it.

To see the presentation, visit santaclaraca.gov/index.aspx?page=1504, select the July 15 Council Meeting and click on Study Session/Closed Sessions.

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