Sunnyvale’s Corn Palace rests on a former cornfield with a produce stand and farming structures still on display. The site, which is to the west of Lawrence Expressway and bounded by Lily, Toyon and Dahlia Avenues, represents the City’s last expanse of vacant land as well as one of the last remaining family-owned farms. The local icon will soon be remembered only in pictures as a project to construct 58 single family homes on the 8.8-acre site was approved by the Sunnyvale Planning Commission on March 11.
Developer Trumark Homes has plans to remove the existing structures and construct 12 homes along Toyon Avenue and 46 along a private street that will loop through the new development. Plans show two-story homes with an average of 3,300 square feet on an average lot size of 3,816 square feet. In addition to many landscaped areas, a major benefit of the project is a 2-acre publicly accessible park next to the houses that will be developed and maintained by the City. During the deliberations considerable focus was paid to concerns that the homes were too large for lot sizes.
“We’ve worked extremely hard back and forth with staff to bring you this distinctive, high quality home style viewed from the outside, but we also have to keep our eye on how these changes affect what’s happening on the inside of the home,” said Garrett Hinds, Director of Architecture, Trumark Homes. “How the home lives on the inside is equally important — probably the most important thing to the future homebuyer.”
Much detail was paid to the architectural quality, with the style aimed to capture the site’s agrarian history and the houses reminiscent of orchard homes. Hinds described the feel as an “Eclectic, non-tract-like neighborhood.” The design of the living spaces are adaptable to modern families many of whom require flexibility to allow for multi-generational living. According to Hinds, the project is set to meet the highest of California’s green building standards.
While many members of the public that spoke at the March Planning Commission meeting were supportive of the project, others asked why the project didn’t offer a greater quantity of smaller homes, especially given that the project is located in close proximity to public transit.
“I think we should maximize what we get out of this piece of land,” said Commissioner Carol Weiss. “To me that means more homes, smaller homes, fewer deviations — smaller homes that the average person would be able to afford even if it’s a starter home for a young family. It gives them a chance.”
The commissioners approved the project with modifications to the plans. The houses’ rear setbacks will be increased to an average of 15 feet, which will reduce the average square footage of the homes. The sound wall will match the look and height of the sound wall along Lawrence Expressway directly across from the project, with a minimum of eight feet in height, and the houses along the perimeter of the park must be oriented so that their front entrances face the park to ensure a sense of safety at the park.
Although the project is approved, revisions need to be made to the plans to reflect the modifications and then be presented to the Planning Commission. No date has been set for the follow-up hearing. An official timeline for construction hasn’t yet been established.
The project’s Environmental Impact Report concluded that the loss of farming structures including the Corn Palace produce stand was an impact associated with the project that could not be mitigated.