News

Grant Road project pits MV vs. LA

Council dismisses traffic worries, approves 53 new homes on former farm property

After years of controversy and grief over the loss of the city's beloved pumpkin patch, the City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved 53 new homes on the site of the former Grant Road farm. It would have been a relatively calm vote, too, if not for a last-minute blitz from Los Altos over perceived traffic impacts.

Residents and officials from the neighboring city, including city manager Douglas Schmitz and Los Altos City Council member David Casas, stood before the Mountain View council to decry a design they said would result in traffic problems for Los Altos on Covington Road.

Specifically, they disliked a proposed four-way intersection which would move Levin Avenue south to connect it with Covington Road across Grant Road, a street layout originally planned in 1984.

"The intersection takes Mountain View's growth and throws it directly onto Los Altos," said Los Altos resident John Bear. "There is a point when the proverbial straw breaks the camel's back. I would recommend Mountain View be a good neighbor to Los Altos and be a part of the solution not part of the problem."

Casas, the Los Altos council member, appeared to think the proposed design was flawed and would require "traffic calming" on Covington. Even so, he acknowledged, "Realigning Levin is a rational thing from a design standpoint." He went on to admit that the Los Altos neighbors closest to the intersection did not oppose it, but those near Miramonte Avenue did.

Mountain View's traffic engineers estimate that the 53 new homes will generate an average of 530 new car trips a day, or 10 per household. Only about 222 of those trips would go down Covington, the city estimates.

"Even if it's double that, is it really going to make a difference?" asked council member Jac Siegel "It's going to help Grant Road -- we have a traffic problem there we are trying to solve. A lot of Los Altos people are driving down Grant Road."

Covington Road resident Paul Marco said he was one of the Los Altos residents "implored" to attend the meeting. He said traffic was already bad, and expressed concern about the kids walking or biking to Blach Middle School on Covington. He added that he was not aware of Los Altos taking any action to slow traffic on the street.

An elderly Los Altos resident said he had a hard time backing out of his home on Covington, and a hard time turning onto Grant Road. He said a traffic increase would make it even harder.

Los Altos speakers also said the Mountain View traffic study was flawed. But the City Council and several Mountain View neighbors of the site dismissed the complaints.

"I didn't hear one cogent argument on what was flawed," said council member Tom Means.

A handful of Mountain View neighbors actually urged the council to approve the project.

"Two hundred trips a day -- I don't think it will make any significant impact whatsoever," said Tom Holmes, a Preston Drive resident. "This is kind of a no-brainer decision for you guys. Let's move on."

The owners of the Grant Road farm property, Betty Moore and Pauline King, said they were pleased with the project's design. In the past they had been criticized for not working with a local group that wanted to preserve a portion of the 15 acres as a heritage farm.

"Connecting Levin with Covington, it creates a much safer way for neighbors to exit onto Grant Road," Moore said. She added that the "orchard planting" along Grant Road "will be a beautiful entry" into the new neighborhood.

"I admit to being one of those crazy people that wanted the heritage farm," said council member Laura Macias. "What a beautiful project. Integration with an older neighborhood -- you don't see that very often."

SummerHill Homes also will widen Grant Road to two northbound lanes in front of the project to help alleviate the significant congestion on Grant Road during rush hour. Council member Mike Kasperzak asked Casas what Los Altos was doing to alleviate significant traffic congestion on its two-lane portions of Grant Road out to Foothill Expressway.

"We are primarily concerned with bike pedestrian safety, not throughput," Casas replied. "Throughput is not something we look at as very attractive."

Los Altos has also asked Mountain View to close off Preston Drive at Grant Road, which Mountain View city staffers oppose.

"Traffic is an issue all over," Macias said. "It is an inevitability in terms of growth. At this point if we started limiting throughput nobody's getting anywhere."

Means said he couldn't think of any reason why Mountain View residents would drive down Covington. "If people want to go to a theater, they go to Mountain View," he said. The same went for going to a golf course or a restaurant, he said. "I was trying to think of why people would go down Covington when there would be a lot of better options down Grant Road."

As to the project itself, a mix of one- and two-story homes in six different floor plans that are estimated to sell for $1.8 million each, Siegel summarized the council's opinion by calling them "a real wonderful addition to our city." Council member Means and several others said they would be interested in buying one.

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by USA
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 1, 2009 at 2:07 pm

USA is a registered user.

1) "Council member Means and several others said they would be interested in buying one" - Isn't this a conflict of interest?

2) "to sell for $1.8 million each" -- How much are we paying the council members?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Daniel DeBolt
Mountain View Voice Staff Writer
on Jul 1, 2009 at 2:17 pm

Daniel DeBolt is a registered user.

The last sentence didn't come across right. Means was half joking and I think he said he wouldn't be able to afford it anyway.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by dcree
a resident of Shoreline West
on Jul 1, 2009 at 2:27 pm

"Means said he couldn't think of any reason why Mountain View residents would drive down Covington"

How about to get over to Miramonte, where there is a Long's, Safeway, and Starbucks, post office...........

I don't have a strong opinion either way, since it does not directly effect me, but I think our council members are a bit full of themselves if they think no one will be heading down Covington.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Waverly Park
on Jul 1, 2009 at 3:04 pm

"How about to get over to Miramonte, where there is a Long's, Safeway, and Starbucks, post office..........."

I shop at that shopping center, and live off Levin. It's actually much less efficient to take Covington than to take Grant to Cuesta to Miramonte, because of the 4-way stop at Covington and Miramonte. This 4-way stop will probably continue to act as a deterrent to the "new" Grant drivers as well. Plus, anyone who has gone that way when Blach is letting out will avoid that route like the plague after the first time, as it is very difficult to turn at that 4-way stop intersection with all the kids walking and biking home. I use Covington to head over to Rancho Shopping Center and 280 northbound.

Anyone who wants to take Covington to Miramonte or Springer can do it now, and does--it's not something new that will happen when the new development goes in. Yes, there will be more traffic on Grant, and some of those people will want to go to Rancho Shopping Center and 280 North, but I can't think of any other destinations down that way to draw hundreds more people every day. Most people will take Grant.

The cities could solve both problems by moving the traffic light from Covington to Levin. Then the Covington folks can have the fun of a left turn on Grant at rush hour with no light that the Waverly Park people have had for years.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Cathy
a resident of Waverly Park
on Jul 1, 2009 at 3:15 pm

The rerouting of Levin to connect with Covington is sensible, because it will prevent some bottlenecks in that area. Any time you prevent a bottleneck, you're helping everyone. Currently, turning right, let alone left off Levin onto Grant can be very difficult at times.

I live in the Waverly Park area, and I do use Covington a lot to get to Miramonte. I wish there were a way to decrease traffic everywhere, but in the meantime we just have to make traffic as efficient as possible. Let's try to walk and bike more as well.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jul 1, 2009 at 5:04 pm

"We are primarily concerned with bike pedestrian safety, not throughput," Casas replied.

This is exactly the type of focus I think too many developments lack; focusing on throughput doesn't create great communities, ped/bike friendliness does.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Ned
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 1, 2009 at 5:21 pm

After years of controversy and grief over the loss of "the city's beloved pumpkin patch"

This way never the city's property to begin with. But the city sure did act like it was.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Pedestrian Saftety, really?
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jul 1, 2009 at 6:07 pm

"We are primarily concerned with bike pedestrian safety, not throughput," Casas replied.

Probably why there is no sidewalk on the Los Altos side of these roads :)


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Robin Iwai
a resident of Martens-Carmelita
on Jul 1, 2009 at 6:15 pm

"I admit to being one of those crazy people that wanted the heritage farm," said council member Laura Macias....

Laura, I know you meant this half jokingly, as a figure of speech, just like Tom Means supposedly joked about buying one of the new houses, but please, feel free to describe yourself as "crazy" but not to the rest of us who support farmland preservation.

I dunno, it's kind of like saying "I'm one of those crazy people who believes we can (stop AIDS, fight poverty, find a cure for cancer, etc)

People who believe in hope for a better tomorrow are not necessarily crazy.


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Posted by attendee at meeting
a resident of Waverly Park
on Jul 1, 2009 at 7:11 pm

It was my impression that in making his comment about no destinations in Los Altos, Means had tongue firmly in cheek. However he was right. BTW, I always take covington because there's so little traffic on it (albeit not during the school rush). It's a calm relaxing drive in the evening compared to Grant. Los Altos should be proud that their streets are so drivable.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Hans
a resident of Waverly Park
on Jul 1, 2009 at 7:17 pm

I am amazed by some Los Altos residents, and the Los Altos City Council, who have been so generous with their advice about what Mtn. View should do with private property within the city of Mtn. View, but have not been forthcoming in offering any financial support in purchasing the property for their alternative 'community farm' proposal.

And while Los Altos residents freely use Grant Road to venture north through Mtn. View to El Camino Real, some challenge the right of others in using Los Altos streets.

And I recall it was the mayor of Los Altos and his family who have gratuitously used Mtn. View park facilities, then filed a claim against the city of Mtn. View based on their use of Cuesta Park.

All of that aside, as a good neighbor, Los Altos should support the realignment of Levin and Covington with Grant Road to create a safer intersection for everyone.


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Posted by Waverly-waver
a resident of Waverly Park
on Jul 1, 2009 at 7:22 pm

From the farm neighborhood, Covington is not a direct access to any major commute route. You can't get to 85, 101 or 280 from it. I only use Covington to get to Andronicos on Foothill. But if Los Altos does not want me to shop in their city, then I will gladly shop elsewhere. They should just put up a giant wall around their precious city.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sue
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jul 2, 2009 at 8:34 am

"And I recall it was the mayor of Los Altos and his family who have gratuitously used Mtn. View park facilities, then filed a claim against the city of Mtn. View based on their use of Cuesta Park."

What was the nature of the claim against the City of Mtn. View by the Mayor of Los Altos?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Smart Growther
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 2, 2009 at 9:24 am

Former MV Mayor (now LA council) called for MV to not do the alignment. He conveniently left out the fact that he was on council when the 1984 resolution was approved. I rarely use Covington because of the 4 way stop at Miramonte. It is a mess but it is mostly caused by LA residents. Councilmember Means was right. The LA residents didnt like the traffic study so they claimed it was wrong without providing ant specifics. Their staff, elected official, and residents embarrassed themselves by making emotional rather the reasoned arguments.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Shutit
a resident of another community
on Jul 2, 2009 at 2:32 pm

Hey Los Altos, Mountain View has lots of input for all your city's plans.
Feel free to tell them to "Stuff it", just as Mountain View will freely tell you to do the same.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Laura Macias
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jul 2, 2009 at 3:13 pm

Robin, I appreciate the hard work that you and so many others did to try to preserve the farmland. I wish that the result had been otherwise. I guess I meant crazy in a good way because many good ideas are seen as that, until they becomes innovative, executable ideas. Someday, we can have a farm in MV, I hope.

Regarding "minimizing Los Altos throughput", I don't think Mountain Viewers should have to apologize for using Covington Road.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Commuter
a resident of Waverly Park
on Jul 4, 2009 at 2:13 pm

"Throughput" means solving chronic traffic jams, like the ones on Grant Road every workday. Mr. Cacas must not need to drive much. Bikes are cool, solving traffic problems are not. May he have the same political success as Gray Davis who vowed to not add a single lane of freeway during his tenure.


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