A city-run General Plan meeting Tuesday drew some high-profile participants -- including Google, Microsoft and NASA Ames -- with the goal of bringing Silicon Valley ingenuity to the problems facing development of the North Bayshore area over the next 20 years.
The federal and corporate participants are among the powerful forces in the Bayshore area that wish to help plot the future of the office neighborhood north of Highway 101 and east of Stevens Creek. The meeting was held in the Maxwell conference room at Google's Crittenden Lane campus.
City planning director Randy Tsuda kicked things off by explaining that the North Bayshore neighborhood was one of nine areas identified by the city as places where significant change was possible. The city does not intend to revise its General Plan for existing residential neighborhoods.
Tsuda said the city's current General Plan had helped Mountain View become "the capital of Silicon Valley," but that the policies, created in the 1980s, were "getting a little creaky, a little stale. It's getting hard to respond to requests because of those policies," Tsuda said.
Everyone present appeared to agree that the North Bayshore area needed to develop more densely than current General Plan and zoning regulations allow.
"Out here there is no land to build on," said Jay Bechtel, real estate and construction manager for Google. "The only way to go is up."
But how to do it without causing major traffic problems in and out of the North Bayshore area, described by some as an "island" accessible by only two streets, was a top concern.
"How do we increase density in a smart way so it doesn't create more problems?" asked one participant.
The answers included various public transit ideas, such as a Mountain View ferry terminal on the Bay, a light rail extension, new shuttle services and the use of a futuristic personal rapid transit system. But the solution which had widest support was to build housing, retail and other services in the neighborhood so office workers would not have to commute in and out of the area, which is currently dominated by offices. (There is one mobile home park on Space Park Way, which was represented by a handful of residents at the meeting.)
One participant said there should be "another vibrant Castro Street" in North Bayshore. Participants called for mixed-use development, with housing or offices above retail in certain areas. Some were concerned that housing needs could overwhelm a "finite" amount of space for offices.
"The time has come in Mountain View for higher-density to be a reality," said one participant, summarizing the thoughts of many at the meeting. The "low-rise tilt-ups" from the past are no longer economical because of rising land values, the person said.
Highway 101 gridlock was also a concern. One participant, a planner who has worked for NASA Ames, said the highway could add two lanes in each direction and still not provide enough "throughput" for large scale future development in the area.
One participant suggested an array of parking garages just off the freeway where people could park and take transit into the area, but the NASA planner scoffed at the idea, saying it wasn't a solution. "Highway 101 -- that will be your parking lot," he said.
The General Plan meeting was one of a series held in neighborhoods throughout the city. The last remaining meeting is for the "Moffett/Whisman Road Area" on Monday, June 8 at 6:30 p.m. at the German School, 310 Easy St. For more information, visit www.mountainview2030.com.