“Perhaps the most distinguishing feature of the American Far West during the twentieth century has been the nature of its population growth.” (p. 1)

By the time of the 1970s census, the West “had become the most highly urbanized of the four American sections, with 83 percent of its population dwelling in urban areas.” (p. 1)

Findlay: The book “argues that the ability of the West to influence the nation grew with its population and its urbanization.” (p. 2)

“By the mid-twentieth century, if not sooner, virgin cities had begun to replace virgin land in the minds of many Westerners as the key image in defining the region.” (p. 2)

The urban landscape “represented the physical manifestations of the ideas and opportunities with the Far West after 1940.” (p. 2)

“By making the metropolis seem more manageable, magic kingdoms upheld the image of virgin cities that attracted and attached so many people to the West.” (p. 5-6)

The study “relies heavily on a micro view of the western city in an attempt to understand how average people created, and were affected by, a mid-twentieth century urban culture. It relies especially on two types of information. First, it seeks to understand how specific controlled environments were planned, built, managed, and used. . . . The second level of micro analysis requires an examination of how inhabitants may have made sense of the cities in their minds.” (p. 8)

“Many Westerners arrived at some sort of understanding of the metropolis only by simplifying it through mental maps, by designing away contradictions in the cultural landscape, and by walling themselves off from the complications of city life. Magic kingdoms attempted to exclude diversity and misery from their idealized settings, substituting in their stead a world indexed to the middle-class standards of an affluent society.” (p. 9)

“To analyze them is to heighten our understanding of the development of mid-twentieth-century American culture, and to increase our appreciation for the role of western cities in that culture.” (p. 10)

The West is defined as a place, process, and state of mind (p. 10).

  • Findlay defines the West to include “the eleven Mountain and Pacific states as defined by the U.S. Bureau of the Census, but not Alaska and Hawaii.” The place is also defined as a place “where the experience of moving to and living in its cities and suburbs contributed significantly to regional identity.” (p. 10)
  • The West is also defined as a place “that its inhabitants thought it was. This place of the mind was defined in large part by the efforts of Westerners to contrast their region to a pervasive but rather ill-defined perception of the East. . . . The West’s reputation for virgin cities depended heavily upon negative images of cities elsewhere.” (p. 10)

Chapter 3

The chapter focuses on the Stanford Industrial Park.

“By 1960 the industrial park had already made a name for itself for its contributions to the rapid growth of American high-technology industry.” (p. 118)

The design of the industrial park merged several midcentury trends:

Industry in the postwar era wanted to locate more of its operations, especially nonmanufacturing activities, in suburban settings, and at the same time hoped to strengthen its ties to research institutions. Meanwhile Stanford, like many other American colleges, set out to capitalize upon new opportunities in science and technology in order to turn itself into a leading research center. The decisions made simultaneously by business and academic leaders produced a controlled western environment that blended elements of both suburb and campus into an unprecedented site for industry. (p. 118)

“The university initially conceived the project for light manufacturing, but by the mid-1950s the district, increasingly called an”industrial park," had become devoted to the research and development activities of science-based industries, as it segregated researchers and administrators from the plants and laborers who manufactured the products." (p. 118)

Origins of the Park

The industrial park “marked a new phase in the layout of landscapes for manufacturing.” Among the earliest planned industrial areas was Trafford Park Estates in Manchester, England, in 1896 when developers converted twelve-hundred acres along a ship channel into a place for heavy industry. Railroad companies in the United States likewise laid out districts in the early twentieth century. (p. 119)

“Increasingly after World War II, however, manufacturers insisted that, instead of being labeled as nuisances in a body, discrete industrial activities should be judged by their specific impact upon a community.” (p. 120)

“Planned industrial districts proliferated on the peripheries of urban areas during the 1950s and 1960s.” (p. 120)

The idea of planned industrial districts became known as “industrial parks” in the 1950s. Land developers adapted the phrase to make projects seem distinguished, focusing on the aesthetics and environs of industrial areas to make them seem more like parks or campuses. In the 1960s, “industrial park” was displaced by “research park.” Research parks not only sought to mimic the suburban feel, but sought to be located near them. Being situated by desirable suburbs meant employees could live in nearby communities. (121)

Stanford Industrial Park opened in 1951 as a general light manufacturing district, but quickly came to focus on high technology and became exclusively focused on research and development. The Park had to adhere to high design standards laid out by Stanford, which sought to ensure the Park would not clash with the community of Palo Alto. (121)

Stanford was a “respected but essentially regional” college by 1945, not poised on the precipice of research and development. Stanford graduates often went east to find jobs. Nor could the endowment after 1945 keep up with the growth of peer institutions in the east. Stanford needed to gain a new edge, and by developing its lands it found the edge it needed. Academic facilities occupied a small fraction of the 8,800 acres owned by Stanford, allowing the university to seek real estate ventures. The land could not be sold, according to the founding charter of the university, but no regulations were placed on how the land was used. Stanford began turning its leases over to real estate instead of farms and ranches, providing the land for shopping centers, medical and professional centers, and residential subdivisions. (122; “respected” quote from Frederick E. Terman, “Stanford, Palo Alto Have Created Community of Technical Scholars,” Stanford Observer (Feb. 1967): D.)

Suburban Campus for Industry

Stanford made public appeals that it was following master planning, but in reality had not long-term plans for development. Projects were considered on their merits rather than on a unified basis, which gave rise to criticism of Stanford after 1960. The plan was not designs by planners and developers, but instead a desire among Stanford administrators to capitalize on government and industrial research. (129)

Stanford limited buildings in the Park to no more than two stories, forbade smokestacks, and prohibited any noise, odor, or emissions that could offend homeowners. Grassy setbacks were also required. (131)

Initial companies to move into the area included Varian Associates. Russell and Sigurd Varian, brothers and graduates of Stanford, founded Varian in 1948 to work on military research and development projects and microwave technology. They had close ties to Stanford through physics professor William G. Hansen. They founded Varian near Stanford in part “to enjoy the benefits of interchange with the various scientific programs in progress at the University” but also to attract prospective employees from Stanford. (136; quote from Lowood, From Steeples of Excellence to Silicon Valley; “History and Introduction,” Varian Associates Magazine, Special 25 Years Commemorative Issue, April 1973, Varian Associates Papers, TBL, 4-5.)

In 1949 Russell Varian approached Alf Brandin about leasing land for “an electronics manufacturing building.” Stanford had yet to develop plans for the land, and two years passed before they agreed to lease ten acres under a ninety-nine year lease. The lease required Varian to pay annual rent, adjusted for inflation. (Later leases would require repayment for the entire lease, and by 1960 the lease had fallen to fifty-one years.) (136)

Hewlett-Packard was also an early customer of the Stanford lands. David Packard and William Hewlett studied with Frederick Terman and remained closely associated with the university (serving on the Board of Trustees, donating funds, contributing to educational and research programs.) Hewlett-Packard finished its headquarters in the Park in 1957, and by 1960 had four modern buildings in the park for its 3,000 employees. (137)

Lockheed Aircraft Corporation also joined the Park early on, shifting its missile division from Los Angeles to Sunnyvale in 1954 to take advantage of nearby Ames Laboratory and Stanford’s electronics program. In 1956 Lockheed established a site in the Park for a research complex, and later built a manufacturing site that became the largest employer in Santa Clara County. (140)

More than electronics and engineering, the Park also became popular for biomedical research. Carl Djerassi, one of the creators of the birth-control pill, moved his company Syntex to the Park in 1959 (he was simultaneously hired to teach in the chemistry department). (140)

The industrial park’s prestig grew quickly, despite starting slowly. By 1955 the park had 7 tenants and leased 53 acres; by 1962 the number of leassees had reached 42, and total leased acres totaled 360, and the number of employees reached 11,000. Stanford had received $18 million in prepaid leases by 1974, generating $1 million annually in invested income. By 1986, the park had 55 companies and 26,000 workers. By then, Stanford was making $4.3 million per year, and $13.5 million in tax revenue and utility payments for Palo Alto. (140)

The Park was initially supported by communities, who enjoyed lower costs of living, attractively landscaped and designed complexes, prestige to the area; as long as the Park did not affect the quality of suburban life, residents were happy. (140-141)

Resistance emerged in 1960, when Stanford announced plans to expand into the foothills, and also faced criticism of increasing traffic. In 1962, nearly 80% of the industrial park’s employees commuted to Palo Alto. The suburban design of the park meant they had less ability to respond to urban pressures, and land-use regulations likely contributed to a reliance on automobiles. (141)

Stanford officials admitted the Park had changed Palo Alto, but often argued these were benefits:

  • Frederick Terman dismissed complains of air and noise pollution and traffic congestion were “really a pretty small price to pay” (141)
  • Robert Augsberger, Stanford’s vice president for business and finance, in 1971 argued it would be “irresponsible” to halt growth.

“By the 1970s, continued expansion in an industrial park that had consumed open space and contributed to ‘traffic nuisance, air and noise pollution, ever-increasing capital improvements costs, and higher housing costs," in the words of local planners, seemed unacceptable. Its neighbors increasingly developed a resolve to control its growth in order to preserve the ’residential character’ of the community.” (141)

“In its quest to become a first-rank research university it had taken actions that made it seem unpredictable and insensitive to Palo Altans’ interests.” (142)

Stanford was central to the reshaping of Santa Clara County, which gave rise to science-based industry in the valley. The valley shifted from agriculture to industry: “The reshaping of the Santa Clara Valley after 1940 entailed a shift from a largely agricultural economy, focused on the processing, market, and population center of San Jose, to a primarily industrial economy revolving around the research and technology center at Stanford.” (143)

“World War II doubled the size of the county’s manufacturing population, but those who planned for the postwar period worried that the economy would revert to farming and canning, with their high seasonal unemployment and limited opportunity for expansion.” (143)

“Silicon Valley firms made their mark by developing and manufacturing products for the Department of Defense and NASA. Responding to such stimuli as the wars in Korea and Indochina and the space race, electronics and ordinance companies came to account for the majority of all industrial employment in Santa Clara County. Between 1952 and 1968 these firms made at least half of their annual sales to the federal government, mostly for its military and space programs; in 1967 as many as three-fifths of all employees in the electronics industry worked on defense-related projects.” (144)

“In 1951 the Western Electronics Manufacturers Association listed 20 members in the area; by 1955 it counted 53. By 1974, before the proliferation of personal computers had heightened national awareness of Silicon Valley, approximately 800 high-technology firms had located there, clustering near Stanford, at the northern end of the valley, in the towns of Sunnyvale, Mountain View, Palo Alto, and Menlo Park, and employing about 150,000 people.” (145)

By the 1980s Silicon Valley was dominated by electronics manufacturing, employing more than 200,000 people and winning $2 billion annually in defense contracts. (146)

Between 1950 and 1980 the population expanded four times, from 290,000 to 1,250,000. (146)

“With a highly skilled, home-owning, white-collar work force that included one-sixth of the people with Ph.D.’s in California (a billboard kept track of this figure), Santa Clara County ranked among the nation’s leading urbanized areas in median household income.” (147)

By the 1960s planners and environmental activists found Palo Alto to be an example of the problems of modern western cities. Reports from California Tomorrow, the Stanford Environmental Law Society, and Ralph Nader’s Study Group on Land Use in California criticized the valley’s growth. Critics pointed land-use patterns, waste, confusion, speculation, and tastelessness of development; Karl Belser called the area “a completely irrelevant urban development.” (148-149)

The criticisms changed politics in the 1970s, as new political leaders began to prefer managed expansion. (150)

The Industrial Park influenced urban design throughout the Peninsula. County planners found in 1967 that thirty-eight industrial parks had been founded between Palo Alto and San Jose, most within two miles of a major highway and contained a diverse list of tenants. Most also had substantial vacancies, and all enforced some sort of regulations on setbacks, landscaping, and aesthetics. (151)

As the County’s population grew, the amenities that had attracted newcomers in the 1950s became threatened by the very growth they encouraged. (155)

The discovery of toxic wastes from what was considered a clean industry dramatized the problems of growth. By 1987 Santa Clara led all counties in Superfund sites. One deposit existed in Stanford Industrial Park. Alarmed, residents of the communities supported new regulations. Palo Alto regulations proved so stringent that one high-tech company decided to move its facility to the less restrictive community of Mountain View. (155)

By 1979 the region was experiencing severe shortages in housing and utility services, so severe that it declared “an emergency moratorium on industrial growth” (quoted in Findlay). High-tech workplaces tended to cluster around Stanford, but homes were located further south in the Valley. Sunnyvale, Palo Alto, Mountain View, and Santa Clara had more industry than housing and netted 84,000 commuters in 1975; San Jose had more housing than industry, and lost around 45,000 commuters per day. San Jose housed almost half the county’s population, but provided less than one-third of the jobs. The tax base was weak, and commuters generated terrible traffic conditions. (156)

Findlay notes that planners seemed oblivious to the growing strain on urban areas in the Valley by the mid-1970s. Planners wanted to attract industry (and revenues), but never thought ahead enough to anticipate housing needs. Towns also had wildly different planning goals: Palo Alto was mostly effective in checking growth, but this pushed growth to other towns that were not so restrictive (just as pollution followed towns that had less regulations?). Growth limitations also drove up land prices, driving commuters away from Palo Alto where they could not afford to live. San Jose could barely raise enough revenue to provide services for the County’s majority population. San Jose’s calls to distribute county revenues from industry were opposed by northern towns. (156)

Companies, ostensibly sensitive to the needs of their employees, relocated facilities closer to suburban areas. Hewlett-Packard, Watkins Johnson, and other land developers carved out fourteen industrial parks in an area once fields and orchards near San Jose to be closer to residences. Light rail plans were also drawn up by the county to help ease traffic issues. (157) Findlay suggests it was “too little, too late.” Companies refused to move away from Stanford, and had little faith in a new transit system in easing congestion given the dependence on automobiles from the commuting population. Housing and rent prices also continued to rise throughout the Peninsula. (157)