By Khalida Sarwari
The Brass Rail’s best days may be behind it. The infamous Sunnyvale strip club could be coming down to make way for a residential development after the city’s planning commission gave the developer the green light this week.
SummerHill Homes plans to build 18 three-story townhouses at 160 Persian Drive, which would require razing three buildings on the 1.2-acre site including the Brass Rail, an exotic dancing establishment that isn’t exactly revered by everyone in the neighborhood. One of the other buildings is empty and another is a restaurant.
The parcel is alongside Highway 237 just east of Mathilda Avenue.
The Planning Commission’s 5-2 vote on March 12 followed a lively debate about whether the Brass Rail should be derailed. Planning officer Andrew Miner, who recommended approval of the townhouse project, told commissioners the Brass Rail opened before the city prohibited adult entertainment establishments from operating within 1,000 feet of residential neighborhoods.
“This is a unique property,” Miner said. “You don’t often see an adult entertainment directly across the street from single-family residential. The reason why we’re OK with allowing the residential project is really to take care of the conflict in land use that you find there.”
But Commissioner Daniel Howard expressed skepticism about rezoning the site from commercial to residential on a whim.
“To me, it feels like there’s a bit of a shakedown going on,” Howard said. “It’s like, hey, you want to get rid of the Brass Rail — well, let’s do the most market profitable development that we can do, otherwise you’re going to be stuck with this neighborhood nuisance. I don’t think that’s how we should be running things in Sunnyvale.”
Howard and Commissioner David Simons cast the dissenting votes. Commissioner John Howe also appeared to be on the fence, but after hearing the testimonies of a number of residents from neighboring Fulton Avenue, he leaned toward the project.
Keith Mitchell, a 28-year Fulton Avenue resident, spoke in support of the townhouse development.
“The area is what I would call a blighted area,” Mitchell said. “… For whatever reason—it’s just been not updated, not kept up, and my heart goes out to the commercial people who have tried to make a go of it. It’s just, there’s just not much traffic there. Maybe some other business can make a go of it, but I think this is a really good choice, a welcome choice. We need more localized housing in this area; it’s in demand.”
Fellow longtime Fulton Avenue resident Pamela Putman said she too was happy about the prospect of replacing the Brass Rail with housing.
“I have to say that, after living on Fulton Avenue for 30 years, I’m really happy to see the Brass Rail go,” she said. “We had a series of neighborhood meetings a few years ago and every meeting, people did nothing but complain about the Brass Rail.”
Even a Brass Rail employee appeared supportive of the plan. Jasmine Kerrdeavila, who told the commission she’s been working there for three years, said she wanted the best outcome for residents as well as the business owners.
“I would like to apologize for any riffraff that has been happening in the neighborhood near the residential area,” she said. “If there’s going to be any establishment built there, I would love it to benefit the residents and benefit them in the most positive way and effective way.”
Some speakers said they’d rather see other uses at the site, such as a local market, coffee shop or park. A few advocated for improving sidewalks or addressing safety and traffic concerns.