Mister Eclectic (howeird) wrote,
Mister Eclectic

Anecdote a day late

Last night as I was wrapping up my nightly LJ post I stared at the screen as I usually do, knowing there was something I wanted to include but could not remember.

I finally remembered.

I was in Sunnyvale's gorgeous new plaza**, sitting on -- i don't know what to call it - there's a street then a sidewalk then a cement something at a comfortable sitting height - top of a low retaining wall, I guess. To my left is the plaza, in front of me across the street is the old post office, to my right is one of the new office buildings which the city took a dozen years to finish building when boom busted.

Suddenly, people start coming out of the building, from all the exits. I'm people-watching big time - there are about 150 of them passing right in front of me toward the plaza. Oh wait, they are going into the underground parking garage. As the crowd thins, some people in neon orange vests with walkie-talkies take up the rear. I ask one if I am late or early for the party and she tells me it's a building evacuation exercise.

The anecdote part is this: There were people of all ages, slightly more men than women, and every race. Except African. There was not a single person in the group who was darker than an East Indian. The number of African-Americans working in Silicon valley tech is extremely low. This amazes me because there are huge numbers of people of that ethnicity who have military electronics training.

After the all-clear, all the neon vests are on the corner, talking to a man in a wheel chair. I passed them on my way to my car, and the snippet of conversation revealed that he had been left behind. The vests were trying to blame him for not shouting for help (it's their job to check).

Sometime around 2000, Sunnyvale decided to launch a crapper load of urban development projects. The first involved the run down set of buildings housing failing small businesses across the street from the train station. It included a new train station and an underground parking garage which was divided into pay parking under the station, and free parking across the street, connecting the two under the street.

The station was finished quickly, lots of funding from non-city sources were available.

The buildings were razed, and construction on the plaza, a set of luxury apartments and high tech high rise offices started, but ran out of funding with the post 9/11 bust. Partially build frameworks were wallowing in place for years. About three years ago, the offices were finished and late last year the apartments were completed. We are talking a huge project, three blocks deep, four or five blocks wide, depending on how you define a block, Early this year the restaurant spaces on the first floor of the apartments started being occupied, and this month the last one opened, but one also closed.

One more block away from the train station, a garage for Macy's and restaurant row (which also hosts a weekly farmer's market) is still just iron posts, no actual work is being done. The Macy's is probably closing soon, with no replacement in sight.

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