East Whisman and a portion of Moffett Boulevard may soon be allowed to grow much taller, if directions from the Planning Commission and City Council on Tuesday night become policy.
In a joint meeting held at the Senior Center, the council and commission supported zoning changes that would allow office buildings east of Whisman Road to become more dense, raising the allowed height for buildings to as high as six or seven stories. After a discussion about the effects it would have on the nearby homes, Mayor Ronit Bryant said such a change would come with rules that prevent tall buildings from "overwhelming" the residential neighborhood on the west side of Whisman Road.
"Right across the street are one and two story homes," said Lisa Matichak, planning commissioner and president of the Wagon Wheel Neighborhood Association. "I just can't imagine anyone walking out their door and seeing a seven story building."
A proposal to allow four story mixed-use buildings along Moffett Boulevard between Central Expressway and Middlefield Road was much less controversial. No one opposed it during a brief discussion, although some said the area should be more pedestrian-friendly and better connected to Castro Street and the downtown transit hub.
The group also supported the densest of two proposals for the industrial neighborhood south of Central Expressway sandwiched between Highway 85 and Highway 237. As with North Bayshore and East Whisman, the group supported allowing businesses there to increase floor area ratio to 1.0, which can translate to a building as high as six or seven stories, said planning director Randy Tsuda.
"We are land-constrained; up is the way to go," said council member Mike Kasperzak.
The group voted 10-3 to state a "preference" for park space to eventually replace the Franzia orchard on Whisman Road, followed by public uses, such as city services, or "quasi public" uses, which are private nonprofit uses, such as a church. There was little support for allowing homes on the odd-shaped lot, currently zoned for agriculture, though the owners have expressed a wish for that, said
city planner Martin Alkire.
After having agreed, during meetings over the last two weeks, to significantly increase the allowed densities in five key areas in the city -- including El Camino Real, North Bayshore and San Antonio shopping center -- the group reflected on what it had done.
Matichak and council member Jac Siegel fretted that, even though city planners said their proposals were based on community input, the plans selected did not reflect what residents really wanted.
"I don't think people understood the implications of what they were saying," during General Plan neighborhood hearings, Matichak said.
Siegel said the group may have ignored what residents had said, which he remembered as "I love my neighborhood, please don't destroy it."
"I think we should start over," joked council member Tom Means. "I'm sure a lot of people would like to re-vote on High Speed Rail too."
Means said many of the properties that didn't get developed during the boom years after 2000 would probably never be developed, even after accounting for the increased profit developers might get with higher allowed higher densities.
"Half this stuff is never going to get built," agreed Kasperzak. To illustrate that, commissioner Arnold Soderberg said it would take 11,000 new homes to increase Mountain View's population from 74,000 to 98,000 people by 2030, as projected by consultants under the supported General Plan changes. "It's an unrealistic extreme," Soderberg said.
Over the next year the city and a consultant team will be drawing up a revised General Plan -- a blueprint for future city development.
Tsuda said his department is sensitive to budget constraints and wants to make sure the council approves "the whole package" before expensive environmental studies are conducted.