Sunnyvale, CA

Profiled 5-6-24

Sunnyvale, California, population 153.091 (2022), is located at the southern end of San Francisco Bay immediately northwest of San Jose. In 2023, the city adopted the Moffett Park Specific Plan (MPSP) for a 1,275-acre district that is currently dominated by office and R&D buildings. The plan envisions transforming this monoculture into a comprehensive ecological innovation district with a diverse mix of uses, including residential, that serves as a model of resilience, climate protection, and economic opportunity.  

The MPSP aims to create a resilient, healthy, and biodiverse environment by preserving habitat patches connected by corridors. The plan establishes a 90-acre Biodiversity Hub and Ecological Combining District (ECD) that preserves and enhances existing greenspace, biological resources, and climate resilient features with limited public access for passive recreation as well as environmental protection. Within the ECD, ecological features are preserved by concentrating development in the least sensitive portion of the area and/or allowing development potential to be transferred out of the ECD to receiving sites in other parts of the MPSP planning area. 

Section 4.5 of the MPSP establishes TDR mechanisms to incentivize owners of sending sites to transfer up to the sending site’s base non-residential FAR to receiving sites in order to allow for: 1) sites for schools, open space, and other community facilities; 2) additional residential development; and 3) ecological preservation/restoration of the ECD. In all three scenarios, receiving sites can exceed baseline non-residential FAR and achieve maximum non-residential FAR through transfers approved by the planning director unless a development agreement is involved. 

As shown in the plan’s Table 2, the non-residential baseline FAR and maximum non-residential FAR vary depending on which of ten zoning districts the receiving site is located within. For example, receiving sites zoned MP-AC can go from non-residential base FAR 0.35 to non-residential FAR 0.75 with bonuses gained from on-site features and then achieve non-residential FAR 1.5 by using transferred TDRs. Receiving sites zoned MP-02 can go from non-residential FAR 0.35 to non-residential FAR 1.35 with on-site features and achieve maximum non-residential FAR 2.0 using TDR. Residential floor area is not counted in the FAR calculations and there is no maximum on residential units in any district; however, all buildings must be within form-based standards including height, lot coverage, setback, and open space regulations.    

Sec. 19.29.100(b) of the city’s zoning code basically states that the provisions found in the MPSP control the TDR programs for the MPSP planning area.