The Silicon Valley cities of Mountain View and Sunnyvale are alike in many ways. But their downtowns offer a study in contrasts because of land use decisions made 30 years ago.

Like many suburbs in the 1970s, Sunnyvale approved and subsidized development of a mall as a way of “saving” downtown. It didn’t work out that way in the in the long-run, as the mall itself blocked downtown progress.

While Sunnyvale was building a mall, though, neighboring Mountain View was laying the groundwork for what is now a thriving suburban downtown. Was it all foresight and good land use planning by Mountain View city leaders, or was there some luck involved?

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