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August 16, 2016 — Special Municipal

City of SunnyvaleCandidate for City Council, Seat 4

Photo of John Cordes

John Cordes

environmental advocate, engineering manager, community leader
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My Top 3 Priorities

  • Improve quality of life by reducing traffic congestion by providing alternatives include more shuttles, more bicycle and walking alternatives,
  • Create a more just Sunnyvale by protecting existing affordable housing via rent stabilization, ending homelessness, and enabling lower income neighbor to continue to live here.
  • Encourage Sunnyvale to be a leader in sustainability by capture and storing more rain water, greener building standards and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.



Profession:environmental advocate, engineering manager, community leader
commissioner, Sunnyvale Bicycle Pedistrian Advisory Commission — Appointed position (2014–current)
Vice Chair, Sunnyvale Bicycle Pedistrian Advisory Commission — Appointed position (2015–2016)
Chapter Director - Loma Prieta, Sierra Club (2013–2015)
Chair, Sunnyvale Neighbors of LaLinda including Arbor (SNAIL) Neighborhood Association — Elected position (2013–2015)
Process Development Business Process Manager, Global Foundries (2011–2012)
Vice Chair, Sunnyvale Neighbors of LaLinda including Arbor (SNAIL) Neighborhood Association — Elected position (2012–2012)
Product Development Business Process Manager, National Semiconductor (1996–2008)
Various Engineering roles; process eng, product eng, product eng manager, National Semiconductor (1981–1996)


Santa Clara University Master's, Engineering Management (1989)
University of Illinois, Champaign Urbana Bachelor's, Chemical Engineering (1981)
United States Coast Guard Academy 3 1/2 undergradute studies,, Chemistry Major, Coast Guard Officer training (1980)

Who supports this candidate?

Organizations (3)

  • Silicon Valley Asian Pacific American Democratic Club
  • Santa Clara County League of Conservation Voters
  • Sunnyvale Democratic Club

Elected Officials (8)

  • Jack Walker, Former Sunnyvale Mayor
  • Teresa O'Neill Santa Clara Vice Mayor
  • Dominic Caserta, Santa Clara Councilmember
  • Paul Fong, former California Assembly member
  • Peter Dreikmeier, Former Palo Alto Mayor
  • Marc Berman, Palo Alto City Council member
  • San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo
  • Milpitas Mayor Jose Esteves

Individuals (8)

  • Kyle Welch, Sunnyvale Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Commissioner
  • Dave Jones, Sunnyvale Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Commissioner
  • Angela Rausch, Sunnyvale Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Commissioner
  • Jim Quaderer, Former SNAIL chair
  • Phyllis Freeman, Former SNAIL treasurer
  • Carolyn Bircher, Ortega Park Resident
  • Victoria Armigo, Ponderosa Park Resident
  • Linda Sell, Serra Park Resident

Questions & Answers

Questions from League of Women Voters of Cupertino/Sunnyvale (3)

What three issues are of greatest current importance for Sunnyvale, and what should be done to address those issues?
Answer from John Cordes:


Sunnyvale’s most important community issues in the next 3-4 years are to make Sunnyvale a more enjoyable place for residents to live and business to function by reducing traffic, becoming more environmentally sustainable, and addressing the homelessness and affordable housing crisis.

1. Making Sunnyvale a more enjoyable place for residents to live and businesses to function by reducing traffic. Traffic congestion is the #1 concern reported by residents in a recent poll. Businesses are expressing concerns about being able to meet their workforce needs because of poor housing affordability and availability and traffic deterring potential employees and current employees. There won’t be one silver bullet for reducing traffic. It will take many years and many incremental changes. The benefits will be an improved business environment and improved quality of life for everyone. I support increasing the office development fees. This will slow growth while at the same time generate more city funds to support transportation intiatives like free shuttle buses and increase incentives and loans to developers of affordable housing. 

2. Making Sunnyvale more sustainable.

Transportation is the #1 source of Green House Gases (GHGs) in Sunnyvale. By taking actions to reduce traffic and vehicle miles traveled, Sunnyvale will become more sustainable and a better place to live and work. Providing more renewable electricity to businesses and residents via the Silicon Valley Clean Energy Authority and accelerating the California’s 2030 net zero energy policy for new commercial building are other actions that will reduce GHG’s and make Sunnyvale more sustainable.

Sunnyvale needs to make changes to reduce its reliance on imported water to meet its needs. Typically Sunnyvale imports 100% of its water from either the Santa Clara Valley Water District (a combination of water imported from the Delta and local reservoirs) , and the San Francisco PUC (Hetch Hetchy) It needs to produce more and find more uses for recycle  water. 

Sunnyvale need to pursue changes to direct more storm water runoff into recharging the local aquifers. 

3. Addressing homelessness and the affordable housing crisis.

Sunnyvale and most cities on the peninsula are becoming too expensive for many of the people who work here or nearby to live in Sunnyvale or nearby. Adding denser housing and funding more affordable housing will help to make it possible for more of the people who work in Sunnyvale to live here or nearby. Inclusionary housing policies are best to create diverse and well integrated communities. Sunnyvale needs to be part of the solution by planning for and approving more dense housing near transit and developing more transit services to enable more residents to choose alternative ways to travel. 

Sunnyvale needs to more to protect its current residents from rapid rent increases which are forcing many families and individuals into dire straits. Sunnyvale does not have any rent stablization policies for either apartments or mobile home parks. I support development of rent stabilization policies for both of these communities to help there residents be able to remain in Sunnyvale. 

What personal experience and skills would contribute most to making you an effective council member?
Answer from John Cordes:

I have a lot of training and experiences which have helped prepare me to be a effective Sunnyvale City Council member. I have been involved in Sunnyvale with many organizations and efforts.

  • Sunnyvale Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory commissioner since 2014.
  • 2015 graduate of Leadership Sunnyvale
  • 2013-15 chair of SNAIL neighborhood Association
  • 2015-16 Member of the “Energize Sunnyvale” team working on the Georgetown University $5M energy challenge
  • Member and Leader of “Sunnyvale Cool”, an Sunnyvale based environmental advocacy group since 2011.
  • I have been and I am a very active in many of the community benefits provided by my church. I run the Family Giving Tree (FGT) Holiday gift program and the FGT Back-to-School Backpack drive annually for the last 3- 5 years. I participate in Service Sundays events helping disadvantaged neighbors, making dinners for the San Jose Family Shelter, assisting with the Faith-in-Action Mens Rotating Shelter at our church for 4-6 weeks annually. I have served meals at the North County winter shelter.

Applicable Business Skills

    • I was a business process manager for over 10 years with National
      Semiconductor and Global Foundries. In this role, I learned and executed many management and engineering policy and procedures and continuos improvement programs. This will be very helpful in understanding and deciding on policy issues before the council.

Other meaningful training and skills

    • I have been trained in Precision Questioning. This is an important skill for surfacing and researching concerns and potential pitfalls during decision making. 
    • Two years (2014-15) as chapter director for the Loma Prieta chapter of the Sierra Club. In my roles 
    • Here is my linked-in profile for more details about my business qualification and hundreds of endorsements of my professional skills. 


  • MS in Engineering Management from Santa Clara University
  • BS in Chemical Engineering from University of lllinois
  • 3 1/2 years at the United States Coast Guard Academy
How much money do you expect to spend on the 8/16/2016 Special Election, and how will you assure voters that campaign contributions will not influenceyour positions or decisions while serving as a council member?
Answer from John Cordes:

I have spent about $6,000 in the Special election as of Aug 14th.  The only donations I have accepted have been from friends, family, Sunnyvale residents and environmental organizations.

To demonstrate my independence, I am refusing to take contributions from office building developers.  

Political Beliefs

Position Papers

What are your plans for controlling growth in Sunnyvale?

My plans for controlling growth are to increase development impact fees, change zoning and land use plans and require intermediate development caps. Sunnyvale needs better development policies and goals to meet the needs of its residents in the 21st century.
Q: What are your plans for controlling growth in Sunnyvale?


My plans for controlling growth are to increase development impact fees, change zoning and land use plans and require intermediate development caps. Sunnyvale needs better development policies and goals to meet the needs of its residents in the 21st century.   Increase Development Impact Fees Development fees are not meant to be a general revenue source like sales tax or property tax. Sunnyvale can't use development fees for pension or purposes. They are collected and supposed to be spent based on the types of impact they cause.New development causes more traffic so the city charges a traffic impact fee. New residents need more open space so developers either need to donate land or pay 'parks-in-lieu' fees. The important question is "How high should those fees be?". Given the increased congestion almost each new development causes, it is clear the current fees are not enough to allow Sunnyvale to mitigate the impact. I will champion Sunnyvale increasing the impact fees as a key way to better mitigate the impacts of growth while also discouraging it. The Nexus study Sunnyvale recently conducted shows the fees the city is currently charging do not cover the cost of the impacts.   Control growth through land-use, zoning and development agreements. Sunnyvale also controls growth via our land use plans, zoning, and development agreements. We need Sunnyvale to develop differently going forward. The old model of housing in one area and jobs in another is no longer the best choice in the 21st century. We need much more integrated land use going forward with apartments and/or condo or offices above ground floor retail in our transit corridors like El Camino Real. We need more mixed use housing near transit. We need more housing instead of more office space in Sunnyvale to reduce the jobs/housing imbalance. For example, after reviewing the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for Peery Park, I spoke in favor of rezoning much of Peery Park ( the area west of Mathilda and East of 85, North of Caltrain and South of US101) to mixed use residential instead of keeping it mostly industrial.The DEIR projected that if Peery Park were allowed to be redeveloped as proposed, the total # of vehicle miles traveled (VMT) by all the new employees there would double along with all the related increases in traffic, air pollution, and stress. Part of solving our traffic problem is adding more housing instead of more office space in Sunnyvale so more people who work in or near Sunnyvale can have shorter commutes. This is particularly important in areas close to the Sunnyvale and Lawrence Cal-Train stations. I think there are areas in Peery Park where a planned community, with schools, parks and local retail would be a much better use of land instead of more office towers. If elected, I would vote to start over with a new vision for Peery Park. Sunnyvale hopefully will continue to evolve its development requirements to require more open space with public access around new developments. The East Sunnyvale Sense of Place project will have 1 mile bicycle and pedestrian trail around it which is open to everyone.We need to work with developers to insure these type of community benefits are included in large projects.I support higher open space requirements in future developments.   Intermediate Development Caps Another way to control growth is with development caps or limits in land use plans. Development caps are based on the environmental impact reports used and approved as part of changing zoning. For example, the Moffet Park Specific Plan has a development cap of 24M sq ft. It was expected that it would take about 20 years for developers to add 24M sq ft of office in Moffet Park when it was approved. Instead, developers added about 24M sq ft office space in about 8 years.Approving all this new office space in such a short time did not give Sunnyvale time to see how it would impact resident's quality of life. If the Moffet Park Specific plan had intermediate development caps, like only allowing 12M sq ft in the first 10 years and the next 12M sq ft in years 11-20, it would have worked out much better for Sunnyvale residents because it would have allowed the city time to adapt and mitigate the impacts.If elected, I would push for requiring intermediate development caps in new plans. Sunnyvale did include them in the Lawrence Station Area Plan. 


How should Sunnyvale help residents affected by rapidly increasing rents?


Classes of Sunnyvale residents are exposed to the risk of rapidly increasing rent. Sunnyvale needs to protect these vunerable parts of our community. 

There are two groups of residents in Sunnyvale who are being subjected to the threat or actuality of rapidly rising rents, Apartment tenants and mobile home park residents. Sunnyvale does not currently have any rent stablization or rent control policies to protect either of these groups.

Sunnyvale should leverage the efforts underway in neighboring cities like Mountain View and San Mateo to develop policies to protect these vunerable residents. City policies state that we want a diverse community. If we continue to allow most of our lower and middle income residents to be forced from the city we  are tearing our communities apart. It is an injustice to force many valuable and long term members of our community to move far away to find affordable housing. 

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