A series of neighborhood hearings on the city's General Plan kicked off at Monta Loma Elementary School on Monday.
About 60 residents of the "Monta Loma, Farley and Rock Street" neighborhood assembled in the school's multipurpose room to discuss the city's future. The city is currently updating its General Plan, which aims to translate residents' hopes and aspirations into a set of policies guiding the city's physical development.
Residents broke into small discussion groups as mediators busily wrote down on butcher paper almost any idea mentioned in discussions on various topics, including "transportation," "neighborhoods" and "greenhouse gases." There appeared to be widespread agreement about concepts such as walkability, the need for better public transportation and the "network of villages" concept.
But many said Monta Loma, a neighborhood known for opposing 500 homes at the former Mayfield Mall, didn't need any new housing development.
Chris Beynon of MIG, the firm that is helping the city with the General Plan update, started the workshop with a speech. The General Plan, he said, "needs to reflect where the community wants to go in the future."
Beynon said the meeting was only partly about broad visions for the future. He said he also wanted to know what people thought about specific intersections and project sites. As an example, he showed renderings of what the 7-Eleven property on Old Middlefield Way could look like if developed with a two- or three-story mixed-use retail and office development.
Speaking generally, some residents said they liked the idea of more retail development for Old Middlefield Way, while others said it was important to save space for the auto shops that exist there now.
The city is already considered "jobs rich," and over the next 20 years is expected to have an even higher proportion of jobs: Population is expected to grow by 21 percent, or 1,500 new residents, while jobs are expected to grow by 38 percent, or 19,000 jobs.
"That's an astounding number," Beynon said about the projected job growth. "A lot of communities around the Bay Area would love to have that balance."
But Monta Loma residents talked more about park space than building homes for workers. There was no shortage of unusual ideas for increasing the green space north of El Camino Real, including a proposal to tear up sidewalks and portions of streets in order to create a greenbelt around Monta Loma.
To address the inequity of park space per capita in the northern and southern halves of the city, one group suggested that the city sell a portion of Cuesta Park for housing development and use the revenue to buy park space north of El Camino Real. Another wanted to use the now vacant shopping center at Alvin Street and Old Middlefield Way as a temporary community garden.
Many residents complained that the fields at Monta Loma Elementary School had been taken over by youth sports leagues.
At least one group talked about redeveloping San Antonio Center with "a more cohesive plan" for mixed use: retail and residential development.
In one group, remarks by a young woman about the merits of building upward and building densely were met with concern by an older man.
"You should be sensitive where" you plan that, he said. "You can put all the high density you want along El Camino Real and in North Bayshore."
Some residents expressed concern about putting tall buildings next to single-family homes, and one woman claimed that even the addition of one story to a single story home could make neighboring homes harder to sell.
Plans for a high speed rail line along the Caltrain corridor were discussed by at least two of the groups. One group said Mountain View should have its own high speed rail stop, while a resident in another group said high speed rail should not come through the Peninsula at all.
Following the Monta Loma meeting, a meeting for the "Grant Road/Sylvan Park Area" was held on Wednesday, May 20 at Huff Elementary School. The next meeting is for the "Central Neighborhoods Area" -- focusing on the downtown and surrounding region -- on Wednesday, May 27 at 6:30 p.m. at Edith Landels Elementary, 115 W. Dana St.
After that, there are three more neighborhood meetings scheduled:
Miramonte/Springer Road Area
Monday, June 1, 6:30 p.m.
Bubb Elementary, 525 Hans Ave.
San Antonio/Rengstorff Area
Wednesday, June 3, 6:30 p.m.
Mariano Castro Elementary, 505 Escuela Ave.
Moffett/Whisman Road Area
Monday, June 8, 6:30 p.m.
German School, 310 Easy St.
A meeting for area businesses -- specifically those in the North Bayshore and Whisman areas -- will be held Tuesday, June 2, 9 a.m. at Google, 1300 Crittenden Lane, in the Maxwell Conference Room.
For more information about upcoming General Plan neighborhood meetings, go to www.mountainview2030.com.