Thursday, July 8, 2010

Bucks and Silicon Archipelago in the Mercury News

CGF's direct and indirect connections to the high tech/silicon economy are in full display in recent editions of the Mercury News.

CGF Board President, Margaret MacNiven, got front page, above-the-fold treatment over her Buck's restaurant in Woodside:
Call it the Buck's Silicon Valley Barometer: The economy may be wobbly and the mood of the country anxious, but the Woodside cafe is humming again with deal-making breakfasts.

"There is more activity on the venture capital front. There is renewed enthusiasm," said Jamis MacNiven, who co-owns the restaurant with his wife, Margaret. "A year ago, it was about as bleak as it has ever been. People were talking about the drop in home values and joblessness as opposed to deal flows. Now the topic is back on business."

Meanwhile, the Mercury News just published our Op-Ed on the "Silicon Archipelago" as a new model to replace Silicon Valley sprawl in describing future economic growth for San Jose southwards:
Goodbye, Silicon Valley.  Hello, Silicon Archipelago.
 The low-density, land-wasting sprawl of Silicon Valley's past does not have to continue through the South Bay.  A better model can be an archipelago, a chain of urban islands emerging from an ocean of green space, all interrelated but separated.  This Silicon Archipelago model has a realistic chance of describing the future geography of our region as our high-tech economy extends southward. 
 The Silicon Archipelago will be an island chain of vibrant, prosperous, and high-tech cities growing upward and not outward, while ringed by “seas” of working farmlands, natural open space areas, and wildlife.  This future combines the best of environmental protection and technological development from San Jose, south to Morgan Hill and to Gilroy, and even to Hollister and beyond, without destroying the farmlands in between and wildlife nearby. 
 Just a few years ago, the idea of a Silicon Archipelago south of San Jose instead of endless sprawl would seem only a treehugger’s fantasy.  Times change, however, and the sprawling developments on the outskirts of San Jose have been stopped in their tracks. 
Debacles like the proposed Almaden Valley Sports Complex and the Coyote Valley Specific Plan are two examples of defeated threats. The Coyote Valley Research Park approved in 2000 wheezes onward in paper form only, with its permits nearly expired.  And two years ago, San Jose's City Council put South Almaden Valley and Mid-Coyote Valley off limits in the upcoming General Plan. 
 Then on April 20th of this year, the City Council took a little-noticed but potentially dramatic move toward a Silicon Archipelago.  For the first time in 35 years, the Council hinted that greenfield areas, the farmlands of North Coyote Valley and the ranchlands of east Evergreen, may not be as appropriate for new development as are the many other parts of the city that desperately need redevelopment.
 After a suggestion by Committee for Green Foothills (my employer), the Council directed the General Plan revision process to consider the idea of "backloading" development in the greenfields of North Coyote and east Evergreen.  If enacted, this backloading would mean that only after redevelopment goals had been reached elsewhere (such as downtown) would the city consider proposals to siphon off development to the outskirts.  While an advisory Task Force rejected the backloading idea in a close vote, both that concept and the Silicon Archipelago model can still be used by the City Council to determine our future. 
 The wrong way forward into the future is to double the length of Silicon Valley sprawl from its current San Francisco-to-San Jose length, and extend it all the way through Gilroy.  This threat, while real, can be replaced by an alternative vision where San Jose is both the capital of Silicon Valley and the launchpoint of the Silicon Archipelago. 
 San Jose and cities to its south need not follow the philosophy of cancer, expanding ever outwards.  San Jose can instead be a model of an environmental, high-tech city that grows greener and richer within geographic limits.  This city with leopard sharks swimming in the Bay inside the northern city limits, tule elk grazing on the hills within its southern limits, and steelhead trout navigating the river that runs through it, is a city that can marry technology and nature. 
With these initial steps already taken, we're seeing the Silicon Archipelago at its birth.

Please click on the links above to read the complete versions in the Mercury News.

We've been talking about the Silicon Archipelago for years now and are very happy to see the concept get more prominence.  The next step is follow-through to make it happen.

-Brian Schmidt

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