A majority of the City Council on Tuesday gave life to an idea that's been a long time coming in Mountain View -- an adequate teen center -- by saying the city-purchased Rock Church building is the spot for it.
The council gave its opinion during a study session on a 30-year plan for Rengstorff Park. The Rock Church is just across Escuela Avenue from the park, and the city purchased it for $3.5 million in June 2009. It is expected to become vacant in June.
"As for the Rock Church, I think it's time for a teen center, the kids have really gotten short shrift here," said Councilwoman Laura Macias. "I think it's really time for teens to have a space of their own."
Margaret Abe-Koga and Mike Kasperzak clearly supported the idea as well. Tom Means and Ronit Bryant also indicated their support, but said that the Rock Church would also have to allow for some daytime use by seniors.
The council's statements encouraged a group of at St. Athanasius church members that has been advocating for a good teen center in Mountain View for six years.
"I thought they took a significant move," said Phillip Cosby after the meeting. "I look forward to seeing it unfold."
Cosby had told the council that the ongoing responsibility for advocating for a teen center was on them, as the older teens who had lead the campaign before had moved on.
The only significant obstacle now to operating a teen center out of the church may be the costs of staffing it, which was not discussed at the meeting.
The city's position on the teen center was uncertain for much of the meeting as a city-hired consultant discussed four possible plans for Rengstorff Park and the Rock Church. Only one involved a teen center at Rock Church.
Other plans involved using the Rock Church for senior center activities and put the teen center in a wing of a new community center at Rengstorff Park. That could save on long-term operation costs through certain efficiencies, such as combined community center and teen center staff. But that is an expensive, unfunded project, and council member Tom Means and others want to see Rock Church used in the interim.
"A teen center is going to have to be a multi-use thing," Means said. "I would support some senior classes there, but I'm a little hesitant to say, 'Let's expand the senior center.'"
Similarly, Bryant said "I don't think in Mountain View we can do single use of facilities anymore."
The current teen center is in a converted house on Escuela Avenue that stands in the shadow of the city's popular new Senior Center nextdoor. "The House," as it is called, can serve up to 40 middle schoolers at a time and has recently seen major improvements. But the hope is that a new teen center at Rock Church could create an even more attractive space, bringing in high school-aged teens as well.
Only council member John Inks and Jac Siegel indicated that they might oppose use of the Rock Church as a permanent teen center. The current teen center is "significantly underutilized," Inks said. "What a future teen center is going to serve needs to be thought out very well."
"If there's loud music, there's an issue," Siegel said, echoing concerns about noise from one neighbor at the meeting. He added that having a temporary teen center at the Rock Church "might be great."
Council member Margaret Abe-Koga said she hoped that the council wasn't making "the assumption that teen centers mean loud music and churches don't. I live across the street from a church that has loud music at eleven o'clock at night sometimes."
Abe-Koga suggested that the council tour Silicon Valley DeBug in San Jose to gather ideas for activities inside a new teen center. While the non-profit doesn't present itself purely as a teen center, she said that its yoga classes, silk screening facilities, music studio and counseling rooms were examples of things that would draw in local youth. The Mountain View Police Activity League's boxing program could also be moved there, she said.
"There's plenty of classes and events that could happen there without loud music," Bryant said.