Strongest Town 2022, Round 1: Durango, CO vs. Santa Clara, CA


Entry submitted by: Dan Ondrasek, Rod Dunham, Mary Grizzle, Donna West, Frank Lemmon, Carter Fulhorst, Skip Pearson.

What is your favorite thing about your town?

With a 150-year history, Santa Clara is one of the oldest towns in the San Francisco Bay Area. Santa Clara Downtown lost a lot of its identity in demolition that was part of an urban renewal project 50 years ago.

What is the biggest challenge your town faces, and what are you doing to address it?

Santa Clara faces a planning challenge because of the many one-time project developers in town who are not focused on the needs of everyday people living here. Such developers only seem to want quick profits from housing. We are part of the 4,000-strong citizen group Reclaiming Our Downtown Santa Clara, which has for five years worked to educate and advocate for reclaiming our identity lost to extreme growth patterns. In partnership with the city, we located funding to finish a precise plan with a community task force to write form-based code and look at ways to remove the mistakes made by the city and developers in the past 50 years. We’d like to return to our original street grid created 150 years ago.

We are uncovering the lost history and pictures of our town of Santa Clara, from back when it had only 120 residents. There have been six failed attempts to do this before us, and it is up to the citizens now. We received an American Planning Association award for our grassroots efforts in 2021. We received acknowledgement from our California Assembly member, Alex Lee, for using our Facebook group during the 2020 pandemic to support and connect small mom-and-pop businesses and frontline workers in our community.

What transportation options exist in your town for people of varying ages, abilities, and means? How easy is it to live in your town without regular access to a car? What transportation investments has your town recently made or is it in the process of making?

The Santa Clara Downtown grid is a short walk from the Santa Clara Downtown Train Station and the airport is in easy reach. But we have zero transportation options for residents in our town to connect to either. One of our visions is to work with the city to create options. Complimentary shuttles in Downtown Mountain View and Palo Alto are two best practices we are studying locally. Residents on Benton Street, one of the oldest streets in town, have few community options for transportation, though it’s only four miles away from our Downtown. Those trips currently have to be made by car.  

Tell us about your community’s local economy. Who are the key players, big and small, and how do they help your town to be financially strong and resilient? What local businesses are you most proud of?

There are a few family-owned restaurants such as Mio Vicino and Bloom Eatery which are proudly staying open. From a 2020 city data fact check, we have 8,400 total city businesses. Virtual remote business is a global awareness now, with lessons the pandemic taught us. Key investments in Santa Clara are technology corporations who do not often integrate with small micro mom and pop businesses. The NFL is not adding value to small businesses. Corporate developers are the other part of the equation who do not give back to the citizens.

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