News

Council rejects grocery store proposals

Hopes for a new downtown grocery store were diminished Tuesday night when the City Council rejected two proposals for building one on a city-owned parking lot on Bryant Street.

Following a recommendation from city staff, the council rejected proposals from two different developers, Legacy Partners and Silverstone Communities. Each had submitted proposals for a "boutique size" grocery store, with housing above, on a 1.45-acre city parking lot along Bryant between Mercy and California streets.

Each proposal contained "unfavorable terms" for the city, which wants to lease the property, said the city's real property manager Dennis Drennan. He blamed the unfavorable terms on a down real estate market. Details of the rejected proposals could not be disclosed, he said.

"If the site were bigger and in a more favorable market it would make for a very interesting mixed-use project," said Dean Martin, development director of Legacy Partners. "I think it would be a win-win for everybody.

"In the state and the country, development is at a standstill. That essentially is why this development is at a standstill. The returns just aren't feasible however it would be financed. The bottom line is it's a very intriguing site for a new development -- it's just not feasible today."

The City Council did not make any comments about the decision, which was approved on the council's consent calendar Tuesday. Previously, the council laid out the city's requirement for development of the site: a 10,000- to 15,000-square-foot "boutique size" grocery store built beneath housing, 10 to 30 percent of which would be sold or rented at below market rate cost. The council also wanted a long-term ground lease with a "reasonable" financial return for the city.

In one of the rejected proposals -- Drennan would not say which -- the developer proposed to buy the property, which did not fit the city's requirements. "The other did not propose to pay any rent for a number of years and rent was not anywhere what we consider market rent or favorable rent," Drennan said.

A new grocery store has long been a wish of downtown residents. In 2005, residents held a candlelight vigil when the city decided to lease a similarly sized space under the Bryant Street parking garage to Longs Drugs instead of Zanotto's, a San Jose-based grocery store which wanted a subsidy to occupy the space.

When asked if there was still interest from grocery stores to occupy such a space downtown, Martin said, "Sure, I think there is a genuine interest, but I think because of the timing everyone is uncertain to commit."

In a letter to the council, downtown resident Julie Lovins expressed concern that the city had not gotten enough input about what the community wanted in a downtown grocery store, and questioned why a larger store couldn't be built on 1.45 acres.

Perhaps alluding to the environmental benefit of having a popular grocery store within walking distance of downtown residents, she wrote, "We cannot afford not to have a reasonably full-service grocery store downtown."

Moving forward with a downtown grocery store may require a serious look at when the "optimum time" might be in light of the real estate market, Drennan said.

"What we're going to do is go back to the council in the next three months of this calendar year for further analysis, further discussion and further direction," he said.

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Promethis on Drugs
a resident of another community
on Jan 13, 2010 at 9:57 pm

paranoid, and irratic views, This city is on something strange.


Lets add more people to saturate the land so it is "vibrant" and eveyone is upset, they we will vote the government out of office. Then we can all take the train to the grocery store and be happy and filled with joy.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Just a though
a resident of Jackson Park
on Jan 14, 2010 at 12:53 am

Toss out the housing above the store and you might succeed...


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Shopper
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jan 14, 2010 at 8:06 am

What the City should do is keep tabs on the markets that are already on Castro Street such as Easy Food and New Castro Market. These are great places to buy something quick besides the CVS. Castro Market has great fruit and meat section but the place is messy, if the City worked with these places to clean up i'm sure it would bring in more consumers instead of ignoring what we already have.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by tbone
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 14, 2010 at 2:31 pm


How much rent is the city collecting on the empty lot now?

What does "unfavorable terms to the city" mean....the "kickbacks" from the developer to the city council were not high enough?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Daniel DeBolt
Mountain View Voice Staff Writer
on Jan 14, 2010 at 3:12 pm

Daniel DeBolt is a registered user.

Tbone, the answer to your question is further down in the story:

"In one of the rejected proposals -- Drennan would not say which -- the developer proposed to buy the property, which did not fit the city's requirements. "The other did not propose to pay any rent for a number of years and rent was not anywhere what we consider market rent or favorable rent," Drennan said."


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Quite clear
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 14, 2010 at 3:21 pm

Tbone,

Your comments above are simple-minded and disingenuous. The article was quite clear on what 'unfavorable terms to the city' meant in the case of both proposals. And it has nothing to do with kickbacks to the council.

Sure, the city is not collecting rent on the empty lot now. But would it be better for the city to take this asset which could in better economic times generate a perpetual cash stream (like the North Bayshore lands do now through leases to Google and other companies) and sell it, at a depressed rate, for a quick buck? Or perhaps it would be better to go with Proposal #2 and tie up the land on a long-term ground lease at rates that reflect the absolute bottom of the real estate cycle? Go with either proposal now, and the likes of you will be criticizing the city in a few years for 'selling out' and not getting a good deal for its land.

As you demonstrate, it's easy to criticize things you know very little about. It's also easy to throw around casual accusations of kickbacks and rigged decisions. I hear it all the time in the Minton's discussion too. But it's really disingenuous and unfair to the city staff and elected officials who are trying to do what's best for the long-term future of our city.



 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jack
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 14, 2010 at 3:30 pm

Well said "Quite Clear"--I could not have said it better myself....


 +   Like this comment
Posted by kanank
a resident of Shoreline West
on Jan 14, 2010 at 3:47 pm

In general,i don't like big businesses and city officials deal making because it is ripe with conflict of interest and kickbacks. Doing what the people really need is least of their concern. When large sums of money is involved, everybody wants to squeeze the last penny from each other at the expense of their citizens. My suggestion would be to have the Farmers' market open 2 or 3 times a week instead of just having it just once during the week-end and let smaller grocery stores open in few places within the downtown. We don't want another Santa cruz like downtown. I stopped all my visits to downtown because it is now occupied by big businesses, too many restaurants,pubs,starbucks..iam completely repulsed and sickened by how Mountain View has turned out in the last 10 years. Thanks to all the city council members and the officials for turning in this city into a crowded garbage dump.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by tbone
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 14, 2010 at 3:50 pm

Daniel DeBolt: please see my first question - "how much rent is the city collecting now?" I think there is something else going on here.

Why not negotiate with the developers and find an equitable solution? If that was tried and failed then I'd think it would have been included in the story. It seems like the City Council just rejected the proposals with a vague and incomplete explanation.

Has a survey been taken to see how many Mt. View residents want a downtown grocery store? I'd like to see those numbers. I'm betting people are highly in favor.

Quite Clear - do you have any experience with land development projects? I'm thinking not based on your naive support of the city council. It is possible that all aspects of the proposals were carefully considered and measured against "possible" future rental income from a "possible" project. But as my mother used to say "a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush".






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Posted by Daniel DeBolt
Mountain View Voice Staff Writer
on Jan 14, 2010 at 4:38 pm

Daniel DeBolt is a registered user.

The city makes no money on the property now because it is used as a free parking lot for the public.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Quite clear
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 14, 2010 at 4:43 pm

@kanank --

"iam completely repulsed and sickened by how Mountain View has turned out in the last 10 years. Thanks to all the city council members and the officials for turning in this city into a crowded garbage dump."

Wow, just wow. Do you and I really live in the same city, and walk in the same downtown? When I stroll Castro Street I see a downtown that has fared remarkably well given the biggest economic downturn in 70 years. I see a bustling farmers market, a beautiful new library, and lots of nice locally owned restaurants and shops. Visit some other nearby cities and you notice the difference -- University Avenue in Palo Alto is full of empty storefronts, and stretches of El Camino in Sunnyvale, Santa Clara, etc are practically a ghost town of abandoned properties, out-of-business car dealerships, etc. I guess you'd prefer Mountain View to look like these places because they are less 'crowded'?

And regarding deal-making between the city and businesses, where do you think Mountain View would be if not for some of the biggest deals of them all -- the ground leases to Google and other tech companies on city-owned land? That relative prosperity you see downtown, the dependable city services, those housing prices that have been pretty resilient -- you could kiss them goodbye.




 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jack
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 14, 2010 at 7:41 pm

Re Quite Clear:

Again, i could not have said it better myself. Some people just like to
take a contrarian view just for attention or to purposely spark a reaction; obviously not based on thoughtful understanding of how the city is run.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by NeHi
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jan 14, 2010 at 8:49 pm

I grew up where we had "neighborhoods"; we could walk easily to where we could get most of what we needed. Commendable it is that we concentrate housing near transportation but it detracts when we must drive for a qt. of milk or a pair of sox.

Or do we strive to be like Palo Alto?; my friends there do their shopping on Mtn. View's California St.

A neighborhood presents the ability to buy most goods locally; can we at least strive for that minimum??


 +   Like this comment
Posted by dfb
a resident of Shoreline West
on Jan 15, 2010 at 10:20 am

Lest anyone forget, a grocery store already operates in downtown. It has a good butcher and seafood counter. I have shopped there on many occasions. If you want it to carry something in particular, ask the the owners to stock it.

The city council is right to hold out for better terms. It should not sell or lease out at unfavorable terms. It is better to use the space as a parking lot for now.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by dfb
a resident of Shoreline West
on Jan 15, 2010 at 10:20 am

And I should note that if a business needs a subsidy, perhaps it has no business being in business. ;-)


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Political Insider
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jan 15, 2010 at 4:19 pm

Comments like Shoppers (see below) appear to have racial undertones. Shopper is correct, we dont have a high scale "clean" store to cater to the expensive elitists who complain about the local ethnic markets (Rose, Castro, and Calderon). Why is it the city's responsibility to make sure the place is neat enough to be as attractive as Whole Foods. Wouldn't the owners want to please its customers?

From Shopper "What the City should do is keep tabs on the markets that are already on Castro Street such as Easy Food and New Castro Market. These are great places to buy something quick besides the CVS. Castro Market has great fruit and meat section but the place is messy, if the City worked with these places to clean up i'm sure it would bring in more consumers instead of ignoring what we already have."


 +   Like this comment
Posted by common sense
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 15, 2010 at 5:40 pm

I bet the developers were asking taxpayers to subsidize their project. Why should we subsidize something that doesn't make economic sense?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Political Insider
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jan 16, 2010 at 6:22 pm

My sources tell me the council is ready to provide millions to a developer to build a boutique hotel convention center at Shoreline. Subsidizing a grocery store may be next on the list.


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