The city is bordered by the San Francisco Bay and San Jose to the north, Moffett Federal Airfield to the northwest, Mountain View to the west, Los Altos to the southwest, Cupertino to the south, and Santa Clara to the east. It lies along the historic El Camino Real and Highway 101.
As part of the Silicon Valley, Sunnyvale is headquarters to several high-tech companies such as Maxim Integrated Products, Juniper Networks, Palm, Inc., AMD, NetApp, Spansion, Yahoo!, Mirapoint, and Ariba. Sunnyvale is also home to several aerospace/defense companies; Lockheed Martin has a major facility in Sunnyvale, and Honeywell, Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems - Marine Systems (location of the Hendy Iron Works Museum), and Spirent Communications also have offices in Sunnyvale. Sunnyvale is also the home to Onizuka Air Force Station, where its main building locally know as the "The Blue Cube" is its most prominent feature. The base, named for the deceased Space Shuttle Challenger astronaut Ellison Onizuka, is the primary artificial satellite control facility of the United States armed forces.
Sunnyvale is one of the few U.S. cities to have a single unified Department of Public Safety, where all personnel are trained as firefighters, police officers, and EMTs, so they can respond to an emergency in any of the three roles.
Library services for the city are provided by the Sunnyvale Public Library, located at the Sunnyvale Civic Center.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 22.6 square miles (58.6 km²), of which, 21.9 square miles (55.8 km²) of it is land and 0.7 square miles (1.8 km²) of it (3.05%) is water. The elevation is 130 feet above sea level.
On May 4 1998, during an unusually strong thunderstorm, Sunnyvale and its neighbor Los Altos were hit by two freak tornadoes of nearly F2 intensity, causing upwards of $4 million in property damage. No serious injuries were reported. Tornadoes are virtually unheard of in the San Francisco Bay Area, and these were even stranger because they exhibited anticyclonic rotation.
On February 5, 1976, measurable snowfall occurred in Sunnyvale and most of the San Francisco Bay Area.
In 1842, Rancho Pastoria de las Borregas was granted to Estrada and Inez Castro. Portions of the land given in this grant later developed into the cities of Mountain View and Sunnyvale. Two years later, in 1844, another land grant was provided to Lupe Yñigo, one of the few Native Americans to hold land grants. His land grant was first called Rancho Posolmi, named in honor of Posolmi village of the Ohlone that once stood in the area. Rancho Posolmi was later known as Rancho Ynigo.
In 1844, Martin Jr. and Mary Murphy left Missouri and traveled by wagon along the California Trail to successfully cross the Sierra Nevada. In 1850, Martin Murphy Jr. bought a piece of Rancho Pastoria de las Borregas for $12,500. Murphy established a wheat farm and Bay View. Murphy had the first frame house, which was shipped from New England, in Santa Clara County built. When he died in 1884, his land was divided among his heirs.
In 1860, The San Francisco and San Jose Railroad agreed to use Murphy Station and was allowed to lay tracks on Bay View. Lawrence Station was later established on the southern edge of Bay View.
In the 1870s, county property tax laws, imports and soil degradation caused wheat farming to become uneconomical in Santa Clara County. Small fruit orchards replaced the large wheat farms. In 1871, James and Eloise Dawson established the first fruit cannery in Santa Clara County. Fruit agriculture and canning soon became a major industry in the county. The invention of the refrigerated rail car further increased the viability of an economy based upon fruit. The fruit orchards become so prevalent that in 1886, the San Jose Board of Trade called Santa Clara County the "Garden of the World".
In the 1880s, Chinese workers made up 48% of the farm labor in Santa Clara County. This percentage reduced over time after the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed. In the following decade, the 1890s, multitudes of immigrants from Italy, the Azores, Portugal, and Japan arrived to work in the orchards.
In 1897, Walter Everett Crossman bought 200 acres (809,000 m²) and began selling real estate. He advertised the area as Beautiful Murphy. Later, in the 1900s, real estate developer Walter Crossman described it as "the City of Destiny".
Also in 1897, Encina school opened as the first school in Murphy. Previously, children in the town had to travel to Mountain View for school.
In 1901, the residents of Murphy were informed they could not use the names Encinal or Murphy for their post office. They decided to use the name Sunnyvale for the name of their town.
Sunnyvale continued to grow and in 1904, dried fruit production began. In 1906, the Joshua Hendy Iron Works relocated from San Francisco to Sunnyvale after the company's building was destroyed by fire after the 1906 earthquake. The ironworks was the first non-agricultural industry in the town. The Joshua Hendy Iron Works switched from producing mining equipment to other products such as marine steam engines. In this same year, Libby, McNeill & Libby, a Chicago meat-packing company, decided to open its first fruit packing factory in Sunnyvale. Today, a water tower painted to resemble the first Libby's fruit cocktail can label identifies the former site of the factory.
In 1912, the residents of Sunnyvale voted to incorporate, and Sunnyvale finally became an official city.
Fremont High School first opened in 1923. It served as a military base before the school opened and through WWII; planes flying to/from Moffett field, which opened in 1933, commonly stopped here for fuel top-offs. A 1948 yearbook shows a military aircraft parked at one of the buildings as students watch nearby. Fremont High School has old military buildings on its campus including a Quonset hut installed after WWII, now used as a wrestling team facility.
During World War II, the war economy began a change from the fruit industry to the high-tech industry in Santa Clara County. The Joshua Hendy Iron Works built marine steam engines, naval guns and rocket launchers to aid in the war effort. As the defense industry grew, a shortage of workers in the farm industry was created. Immigrants from Mexico came to Sunnyvale to fill this void of workers.
Following the war, the fruit orchards and sweetcorn farms were cleared to build homes, factories and offices. In 1956, the aircraft manufacturer Lockheed moved its headquarters to Sunnyvale. In 1969, AMD was founded and based in Sunnyvale.
The first prototype of Pong, one of the first arcade videogames, was installed in Sunnyvale in September 1972, in a bar named Andy Capps, now Rooster T. Feathers.
By 2003, the few remaining orchards owned by C.J. Olson and the commercial orchards next to Las Palmas Park were demolished and replaced with homes and shops. However, there are still city-owned orchards, such as the Heritage Orchard next to the Sunnyvale Community Center.
In 2003 the enclosed "Sunnyvale Town Center Mall", built in 1979, was slated to be replaced by a mixed-use shopping and residential development (somewhat akin to a smaller-version Santana Row in San Jose); and was expected to extend the success of S. Murphy Avenue and reestablish a "downtown" for Sunnyvale. The proposed "Silicon Valley Wave Mall" project stalled in 2005. In 2007, the City Council approved the transfer of the project and the property to a new developer. Primary demolition has been finished, and the new parking garage west of Macy's is structurally complete and is slated to open in October of 2008. Five-story office towers are underway and tractors are constantly at work on the project. The two anchor stores (Macy's and Target) at either end of the vacant land are still open for business. In addition, there is still the adjacent block-long traditional downtown area on S. Murphy Avenue (between Evelyn and Washington) with popular restaurants and stores. The new project is to be called "The Shops at Downtown Sunnyvale" and is scheduled to open Fall 2009. Advertising of the apartments to be located on upper levels of buildings has begun and planning is underway for further apartments on the site of demolished components of the adjacent "Town and Country Center." To be Dubed "The Terraces"
In September 2008, the Sunnyvale Heritage Park Museum was dedicated and opened to the general public.
There were 52,539 households out of which 27.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 50.0% were married couples living together, 8.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 37.8% were non-families. 27.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 6.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.49 and the average family size was 3.06.
In the city the population was spread out with 20.4% under the age of 18, 7.7% from 18 to 24, 41.3% from 25 to 44, 19.9% from 45 to 64, and 10.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 34 years. For every 100 females there were 105.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 106.5 males.
Under the 2000 Census, the median income for a household in the city was $74,409, and the median income for a family was $81,634, but under the Census Bureau's 2006 estimates, these figures have risen to $79,926 and $98,568, respectively.
Under the 2000 Census, males had a median income of $65,165 versus $43,051 for females. The per capita income for the city was $36,524. About 3.7% of families and 5.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 5.5% of those under age 18 and 5.2% of those age 65 or over.
The City of Sunnyvale maintains a neighborhood association registry.
The southern half of Sunnyvale is predominantly residential, while most of the portion of Sunnyvale north of U.S. Highway 101 is zoned for industrial use.
The far eastern section of El Camino Real in Sunnyvale has a significant concentration of businesses owned by South Indian immigrants.
The area of the city bounded by Fremont Avenue & Cupertino to the South, and Los Altos to the West, is considered to be more desirable to reside as measured by home values.
There are many parks in the Sunnyvale Area. These include Las Palmas Park, Ortega Park, Washington Park near downtown, two public golf courses, and Baylands Park, site of the annual Linux Picnic.
Sunnyvale has wide and well maintained roads. Most large streets, such as El Camino Real, have a large, landscaped center median.
For commercial passenger air travel, Sunnyvale is well served by three nearby international airports. The closest, Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport (SJC) is a 9.5 mile drive from downtown Sunnyvale by car. It is also accessible by Caltrain, VTA light rail and VTA bus (with both the Caltrain and Light Rail stations requiring transfer to a free shuttle bus to get to the airport terminal). The next closest is San Francisco International Airport (SFO), which is 27.7 miles by car. SFO is also transit accessible via Caltrain and Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART). The Metropolitan Oakland International Airport (OAK), which is 37.5 miles by car. Access to Oakland airport by public transit is possible via multiple transfers.
The gang activity is considered far below that of street gangs located in Southern California and is addressed by the city through after-school programs and a "Zero Tolerance" policy for gang-related crimes.