Edwina Benner Plaza addresses the pressing need for affordable housing in Silicon Valley, one of the nation’s most expensive housing markets. The vibrant new multifamily community provides 66 affordable rental homes for low-income families in Sunnyvale.
Bounded by Highway 237, an active Hindu temple, and residential uses, the site plan responds to and respects the existing residential, civic, and commercial context. Located on an underutilized site where one single-story commercial building once stood, the residential building has been oriented to address the proximity of the highway, which runs parallel to Persian Drive.
The massing strategy and program arrangement—placing the homes away from the front of the building—shield the common areas and residential units from noise and pollution. Elements on the site are organized to promote an environment for healthy living, to cultivate a sense of community, and to maximize connection to the landscape.
The entry activates community life by bringing together shared activity rooms, laundry, service programs, and an after-school center around a lively outdoor play space.
The project offers diverse supportive services, including an after- school program, adult education, and mediation support. Homes are available to families earning up to 60% of AMI, including those that are homeless or at risk of homelessness There is onsite case management for 13 units reserved for formerly homeless community members. Additionally, 10 units are reserved for residents who are at risk of homelessness.
An all-electric building, Edwina Benner Plaza is among the first affordable housing projects in the nation to have zero operating emissions: Each residential wing is served by a custom, high-efficiency central heat pump; rooftop photovoltaics cover common loads; and residents all opted into the local all-renewable community utility.
The community is named after the first female mayor in California. Benner was mayor of Sunnyvale from 1924 to 1926 and again from 1937 to 1938.