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A California city of 131,760 (Census 2000) in Silicon Valley, situated between Santa Clara (home of Intel) to the east, Mountain View (home of the burnt-out shell that is Netscape) to the west, Cupertino (home of Apple) to the south, and San Francisco Bay to the north. Like the rest of Silicon Valley, Sunnyvale is home to many high tech companies. Atari was based here in the good old days. Yahoo! relocated from Santa Clara to a glittering new headquarters next to the Bay on land formerly owned by Lockheed. Designed & built before the crash, the building has the look and feel of a white elephant.

Before the Cold War ended, Lockheed employed many thousands of people in a gigantic complex on the north side of town making missiles and satellites for NASA and other more shadowy parts of the US government. Nowadays only a few thousand people still work there, but they easily remain the biggest employers in town, while likely at the same time making some tidy profits selling off pieces of their sprawling campus to other companies, like the aforementioned Yahoo! and Ariba, Juniper Networks, and Network Appliance.

One of Sunnyvale's most locally famous landmarks is the Blue Cube, a large TEMPEST shielded building at Onizuka Air Station, an Air Force base situated next to Lockheed's complex. It was built to house the operations for the now declassified CORONA photo reconnaissance satellite program. Currently the Air Force openly admits that the building holds a control center for the Air Force's satellite network, which presumably still involves spy satellites, though they'll neither confirm nor deny that. Originally named Air Force Satellite Control Facility and then Sunnyvale Air Force Station, Onizuka Air Station was renamed in honor of Challenger astronaut Ellison Onizuka in 1986. Thanks to this facility, had nuclear war broken out between the United States and the Soviet Union Sunnyvale and its environs would have likely been one of the first locations in the country turned into a sheet of radioactive glass.

If it sounds like Sunnyvale was named by a real estate developer, it was. The name was meant to attract people from fog-bound San Francisco back in the early 1900s when the town was incorporated. It really is more sunny than The City and the local microclimate usually adds about 10 degrees to San Francisco's high temperature.

Back in the 1970s Sunnyvale bulldozed most of its downtown area (save for one block) in order to build a pair of shopping malls, one a classic enclosed building, the other a cluster of one story artificially folksy buildings. While the enclosed mall might have been ultra-modern in its day, it is now a poorly aged, weird smelling, mostly empty facility. Except for the Target store, the mall itself is rarely crowded, which is actually a good thing when I have to buy something. Meanwhile the one block of the old downtown is now Sunnyvale's biggest attraction, lined with nice trees and fairly decent non-franchised restaurants, bars, coffeeshops, and a couple of other small businesses. There's even a pawn shop and a Goodwill, businesses not usually associated with the upscale Silicon Valley.

Around about 2001 plans were made to remodel the old mall into something new and exciting, by trying to incorporate the old downtown block into the mall itself. Its absurd new name was Silicon Valley Walk and Village Entertainment. WAVE for short. Blech. Unfortunately, the mall owners ran out of money in the middle of the project, leaving the mall an even more of an empty shell than it was at the beginning of the project. The only improvement was the opening of a Target store where the Montgomery Ward used to be. While the Macy's at the other end of the mall still gets good traffic, the third anchor, J.C. Penney's, is closing. The mall's future remains clouded.

Sunnyvale now has a modest skyline. Just completed at the end of 2002, downtown now sports a trio of semi-high rise office buildings on what used to be a parking lot. A large underground parking structure sits under the buildings. The approximately five story hole in the ground was one of the more impressive sights in town for a time. They are currently sitting mostly empty. A major tenant signed up during the bubble period backed out. Surprise!

Like the rest of Silicon Valley, a rather dull place to live and despite the crash, still horribly overpriced, unless you won the IPO lottery at some point. Even now home sale prices in Sunnyvale continue to average around $500,000 for a modest house in decent shape. You can pick up a fixer-upper for somewhat less. In late 2000, a house near to where I live that was fit only for demolition was sold for $175,000. But while home prices haven't dropped, apartment rents have generally dropped to only slightly ludicrous levels.

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