A new owner has other plans for a conveniently located downtown building housing a free health clinic and a county social services agency that serves the poor in North County. Losing the local site could send struggling residents to San Jose to obtain much-needed services.
Fairfield Residential has proposed 128 apartments to replace the building, which is leased by the county and located just a stone's throw from the downtown transit hub. It also contains the popular Mayview Community Health Clinic, which provides free or low-cost primary medical care.
Located at the corner of Moffett Boulevard and Central Expressway, it will temporarily remain the home to Mayview Clinic and a social services office, thanks to a recent 14-month lease extension that begins this month. It is one of two outposts for county social services -- the other is in Gilroy -- where people can obtain food stamps, cash aid and MediCal health benefits.
The bulk of county social services are handled in San Jose on Senter Road, a long way to go for many clients. Many of the people coming in and out of the building on Monday afternoon were on bike or on foot, including resident Lucinda Daniels, who lives near downtown. "We don't have a car, we walked here," she said.
The experience appears similar to the DMV, but worse, Daniels said, adding that she had to provide a long list of documents to social workers to prove her income and what property she owned. Then she had to schedule another visit to come back for an interview.
After having spent the whole morning waiting in line there, a man Daniels was with said, "I can't imagine how bad it would be if it moves to San Jose."
Supervisor Liz Kniss, Mountain View's representative on the Santa Clara County board, said in a statement that she would fight to have the center relocated nearby, but the rest of the board must agree, and times are tight. The county would also have to find another building to lease, and it's hard to imagine another location as conveniently located near a major transit hub.
"I fully support the Social Services Agency having an office in the North County," Kniss said. "When our lease at the current location is up, should the owner not renew, I'll seek relocation nearby."
Shamima Hasam, CEO of the Mayview Clinic, said that even though Mayview has clinics in Palo Alto and Sunnyvale, most of Mayview's clients use the Mountain View office because it is near transit. With two to three doctors on duty, the office sees up to 60 low-income patients per day, providing a range of services, including free mammograms and prenatal care.
"We have to relocate, we cannot just close it," Hasam said of the Mountain View office, which receives a free sublease from the county.
But it is uncertain whether the county will find it affordable to provide the clinic free space at another location.
"With the budget problems the county has we don't know what is going to happen," Hasam said. "It is a really difficult situation for us."
Regardless of when the site must be vacated, the county is planning to soon move some of the social services staff at the Moffett office to Senter Road. Kniss' chief of staff, Pattie DeMellopine, said that clients in Mountain View would not be affected because those employees serve clients who already have benefits and do not have to meet clients face to face.
Plans for "gateway" property
The 1.83-acre site that holds the county building has been eyed by city officials as an important "gateway" to downtown. Some city council members say redevelopment there would improve Moffett's connection to Castro Street.
At a meeting in late June, new owners Fairfield Residential proposed a high-density housing project for the site, with up to four stories of apartments above a two-story parking garage, with one level underground. Fairfield vice president Ed McCoy said Fairfield backed away from building ground floor retail in the project, which council member Margaret Abe-Koga opposed, noting that residents wanted mixed use on Moffett Boulevard in general plan update meetings. Other council members said the project would likely be a huge improvement even without retail.
The density equals 70 units per acre for the housing project on the site, which compares to 60 units per acre approved for the controversial Minton's housing development on Evelyn Avenue. The city's general plan update is studying 60 units per acre on the site, up from the 43 now allowed.
City Attorney Jannie Quinn said the city would be obligated to allow a higher-than-usual density for the project under state laws which allow a "density bonus" if it includes affordable housing as 10 percent of the project, as has been proposed.