News

Neighbors unhappy with roof-top patio added to Minton's project

After the City Council approved the project, a roof-top patio was added to the 200 luxury apartments under construction near the downtown train station, and some neighbors aren't happy about that.

After a call went out Sunday on the neighborhood email list to oppose the deck, Robert Cox, vice chair of the Old Mountain View Neighborhood Association, says 109 people have sent emails indicating their opposition. It's being described as a "party floor" on top of a project many already thought was too tall at the former Minton's Lumber site.

"The activity definitely wasn't discussed or approved" by the City Council, said city council member Jac Siegel. "I just think it's wrong, with such a contentious project, for them (the developer) to be so brazen."

Cox's email calls on neighbors to ask Zoning Administrator Peter Gilli to not approve the deck at a meeting Wednesday, April 25, at 4 p.m. But Jon Moss, senior vice president of development for Prometheus Real Estate Group, said the deck has already been approved by city administrators as a way to add open space and recreation amenities to the complex, and it was done after City Council approval.

The deck has already been built because it also doubles as the building's roof, Gilli said. But access to the deck, either by elevator or stairs, has yet to be approved.

"The deck was not in the Council approved plans, nor were the stairway and elevator shaft projections that are currently on the building," Gilli said in an email. "Prometheus raised the deck issue during the building permit review. In hindsight, staff should have required Prometheus to introduce this to the neighborhood as a courtesy."

Explaining why the deck was approved, Gilli wrote "the use of the rooftop as an outdoor open space did not result in any noticeable architectural changes that would otherwise trigger a planning (discretionary) permit. The roof deck was added to the building plans, with staff's knowledge, and approved."

Gilli said his decision Wednesday has to do with adding a stairway to the project. The stairway is less visible than the elevator access to the roof that was in plans approved by the City Council, said Nathan Tuttle, senior development manager for Prometheus. Gilli said those elevator shafts "were not correctly shown on the primary building elevations in the building plans" and a stop work order was placed on them.

Neighbors say the deck would mean late night parties overlooking the neighborhood and noise for neighbors, who are not protected by a city noise ordinance. They also point to the TV, barbecue, speakers and lights on the deck as potentially problematic.

Tuttle said the the patio would close at 10 p.m. every night. The 42-inch television would be mounted a foot from the ground, and the speakers would play ambiance music. "Both have volume limiters built in," Tuttle said. "(It) is not going to allow booming bass off the roof deck."

The lights would be for the barbecue and the path from the stairs, the minimum to comply with the city, and would not light up the whole area brightly, Tuttle said.

Moss and Tuttle say the people living in the complex below the deck are a concern, and existing neighbors of the complex would be much further away, separated from the deck by half the block's width and Villa Street.

"It's a very sensitive management issue for us," Moss said. "We have to manage the roof deck and uses up there so they don't disturb any of our residents."

Adding a design detail to a project after City Council approval is not unusual, but the additions are usually at the request of the City Council and generally have not been large controversial, Siegel said.

OMVNA chair David Lewis said the deck effectively adds a fifth story to the building and its approval after the fact by city staff could set a bad precedent for other developments.

"I attended all of the public meetings and never once heard that plans included a party area on the roof," Lewis wrote in an email to the Voice.

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Steve
a resident of Shoreline West
on Apr 24, 2012 at 2:39 pm

The article states "Jac Siegel, who says the deck was built before getting any approval from city staff."

And then "the deck has already been approved by city administrators as a way to add open space and recreation amenities to the complex after City Council approval, said Jon Moss, senior vice president of development for Prometheus Real Estate Group"

Which one is correct?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Steve
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Apr 24, 2012 at 2:39 pm

"But the deck has already been approved by city administrators..."
Can anyone dispute the fact that Mountain View is really run by city staff bureaucrats instead of our elected city council? When left unsupervised, they promote policies benefitting themselves at the expense of the citizens.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by David
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 24, 2012 at 3:29 pm

City Council again rolls over - either through lack of oversight or through sneaky bureaucracy - for Prometheus profiteering at residents' expense. Bad enough the whole project contravened the city's own prior commitments to "rational planning," bad enough the parking plan is a joke, bad enough there was no green spaces, bad enough the public hearings were staged and orchestrated by Prometheus, bad enough it contravenes the city's own guidelines for residential density, bad enough the plan was originally approved under the idea of affordable housing and then the proportions were dropped, bad enough it's the tallest building for blocks around, bad enough the residents will not contribute to tax rolls while burdening schools and services, ... Now the city uses its own incompetence for not ensuring enough green space in the original plan as an excuse to build what is tantamount to an extra story. Irrational, irresponsible, noisy, messy. The City Council has broken its public trust.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by David
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 24, 2012 at 3:38 pm

Look, everyone loves a party, and we wish all folks to enjoy themselves. But there are plenty of bars and entertainment venues two blocks away in downtown Mountain View.

This is not only a noisy distraction, it is city planners jumping into the pocket of big developers. The city is handing a nice little frill to Prometheus so they can try to fulfill their promise of "luxury" with cramped one-bedroom apartments, built in a formerly quiet residential neighborhood of taxpayers. Go take a look at the construction for yourself and you judge whether these are "luxury" apartments or not.

By the way, when the police are called in the night, at taxpayers' expense, to answer complaints about the noise, there will be no recourse because there is no local noise ordinance in Mountain View.

It will probably get worse before it gets better


 +   Like this comment
Posted by David
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 24, 2012 at 3:40 pm

... unless we act together to hold the City Council accountable at a meeting at 4 pm this Wednesday. Please help us in Old Mountain View retain the character of our neighborhood so they don't try to do it to your neighborhood next.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Robert Cox
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 24, 2012 at 4:03 pm

Mr. Moss's statement is not consistent with what a senior Prometheus representative told neighbor representatives in a phone meeting on Monday, April 16, at 4PM. We were told that the "bright idea" (his words) occurred to Prometheus only after the council approval was granted. He mentioned that Prometheus had acquired a building in southern California which had such a rooftop entertainment area and they thought that adding the area to the Madera project would enhance the property's value.

The suitability of the rooftop entertainment area was also discussed with Zoning Administrator Peter Gilli in a meeting with neighborhood representatives on Monday, March 26, in the City Council Atrium. I am sure that if it had been obvious that council had approved the rooftop recreation area, Mr. Gilli would have pointed that out to us. The rooftop recreation area was also the subject of a letter sent to Mr. Gilli and City Project Planner Mrs. Minicucci on Tuesday, April 17. Again, there was ample opportunity to correct the neighborhood representatives if they were wrong about the council approval.

So much for "who said what". I want the thank the over 100 neighbors who sent us e-mails supporting our position that the original, council approved Prometheus proposal should not be amended to include this outdoor recreation/entertainment area. Please come and support us at the hearing tomorrow. (Plaza Conference Room, 2nd floor, City Hall, 500 Castro Street). Keep the residential area of Old Mountain View the peaceful, serene place that we all love.

-- Robert Cox


 +   Like this comment
Posted by kman
a resident of Monta Loma
on Apr 24, 2012 at 4:20 pm

Forget about the noises from the party that will be going on the balcony, the real noise will be from the trains going by. Wait till we start to hear the complaints from that. The walls will shake and all the little puppies will be barking.

No need for parking there, the residents won't have cars, they will all be train riders or bicyclists.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Marvin
a resident of Shoreline West
on Apr 24, 2012 at 4:22 pm

Well, I'll be adding an outdoor entertainment center to my roof, too - barbeque, big screen TV, speakers, lighting...


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Konrad M. Sosnow
a resident of another community
on Apr 24, 2012 at 5:11 pm

As usual, the city planners jumped into the pocket of big developers. Prometheus said jump and the city planners asked "How high." I understand that they are think of changing the name of Mountain View to Developer-ville.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by we never win
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 24, 2012 at 5:22 pm

how come the neighborhood never seems to win in decisions that pertain to developers


 +   Like this comment
Posted by BD
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Apr 24, 2012 at 5:36 pm

This sounds more like a garden or patio with a TV in it than a noisy party venue! It will be several stories off the ground and therefore farther away and less disruptive than a back fence neighbor would be if they put a TV on their back patio. I understand that the development as a whole is controversial, but I wouldn't mind this if it went up near my house. If anything it might add some greenery to the roof, improving the aesthetics. If management really does close it at 10:00 PM, all the party people will move to Castro street bars at that point anyway.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mr Advice
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 24, 2012 at 6:05 pm

They will have telescopes on the roof to look in your window.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Rodger
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Apr 24, 2012 at 6:09 pm

Jac, Tear Down That Deck!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by really?
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 24, 2012 at 8:50 pm

If you live in a house with a yard and your neighbors have yards, then they can have loud parties right next door - with TVs, radios, lights...
Why all the fuss? At least this will be floors above you. I doubt you will hear a thing.

I know you are upset because the building went up anyway, but lighten up.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by So Wrong
a resident of North Whisman
on Apr 24, 2012 at 9:20 pm

""But the deck has already been approved by city administrators..."

Which City Administrators!?!?!? NAME NAMES!!!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Greg David
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 24, 2012 at 9:29 pm

As you all know, I was never a big fan of this project, but that is because of the PARKING.

Do you really think a roof-top deck, three floors up, that closes at 10PM is really going to be a nuisance? I think not.

If you do succeed in quashing this reasonable addition, it should be interesting what your 400+ new neighbors say about your application to close Houghton St for..... GASP!..... A party............. With ALCOHOL no less.... Attended by multiple city council members.....

Double standard?


Can anyone say NIMBY?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Grumpy
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 24, 2012 at 10:44 pm

These young people and their "parties" make me sick. Why back in my day, Mountain View was a "no fun" community. Let's keep it that way!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Nikonbob
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 24, 2012 at 11:32 pm

To me the real problem with this is that Prometheus feels they can pretty much do as they please, and the city won't push back, unless the people act. The message the city is sending to developers, either intentionally or through ineptitude, is to propose a plan that will get approved, then make whatever changes you feel like after the fact.
Is that what we want in our city?
Adding an extra floor, regardless of its intended use, without approval, is unacceptable. If city staff allowed it, they should explain why and face some form of consequences.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by MV Mama
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 25, 2012 at 12:44 am

Why does the city allow itself to be bullied around by Prometheus? And Google too for that matter. Maybe Mountain View could be renamed Proogle. Googetheus?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Tim
a resident of another community
on Apr 25, 2012 at 8:38 am

Having lived in old mountain view, and now just working in the area, I think the residents should be thankful that this project is being built. This project essentially provides a sound wall for the neighborhood that will reduce train noise that transmits all the way to ECR and beyond. It is also smart high-density development located near mass transit, so as to reduce the need for multiple cars for commute purposes. This is the wave of the future, so get used to it!

I really hate to see all of this bashing of Prometheus, as they are a good company that designs high quality apartment projects throughout the area. The City Council has approval rights over the entire project (density, architecture, etc), but the nuts and bolts of the project are typically handled at the staff level. This rooftop deck will not have an impact on most peoples lives in old mountain view, and is not something that needed to go back to council in my opinion. It adds green space, and is something that is done all over the world to allow residents in small boxes to get out and see some open air. I can imagine the view will be pretty amazing up there!

This whole notion of the City Council being bought and paid for by Prometheus is pretty absurd. Prometheus has jumped through hoops to get this project approved, and they have likely paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in park fees, traffic impact fees, school fees, and every other fee under the sun to get this project built. This is not easy people, and these folks are just trying to make a living just like you.

Prometheus has been an excellent steward of their other properties in the area, and Prometheus does pay a huge property tax bill on an annual basis that is funded by rent payments. As an owner of property, I think they should be treated with the same amount of respect as you would want to be. By going and complaining to City Council about stuff that does not matter, you are asking the City to take a larger role in approvals on all property matters, which is not a good thing for anyone.

Just a question... Has anyone from the OMVNA picked up the phone and called John Moss at Prometheus to discuss this issue, voice their concerns, and work to a solution that could be mutually beneficial? He is a very reasonable guy that takes great pride in his work, and I am sure he will listen to ways to make the design better. Or is everyone just going to run to the City Council and complain??? Prometheus is your neighbor. Treat them as you would any other neighbor!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by David
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 25, 2012 at 9:39 am

Prometheus is not a neighbor. Neither is Wal-Mart or any other large corporation. It's not a person (despite Supreme Court rulings about corporations enjoying individual freedoms and rights). It is a multi-billion dollar construction and development corporation, a landlording company now seeking to maximize its profits even further by trying to sell its own advance advertising of these cramped, high-density apartments as "luxury." Prometheus really wants to be able to advertise a slick symbol of cosmopolitan and sophisticated living: a rooftop deck for partying. In doing so, it is attempting to make up for the shortcomings of cramming so many people into so small a space, again to maximize their profits: as you say, enabling "residents in small boxes to get out and see some open air." Again, Prometheus is not a neighbor, it is a company whose sole purpose is to maximize profits, which is its right.

Again, no objections to parties, even loud parties. The objection is to slick politicking, and apologetics like yours, from out-of-towners, imposing the will of a huge corporation on a local neighborhood. With five more Prometheus projects planned or approved already in Mountain View, we should all be concerned about the precedent it creates and the history of abuse and broken trust Prometheus has already written.

Tim, you used to live in Mountain View but moved out. Do you have any connection as an employee or contractor of Prometheus? That was very sentimental and clever marketing on your part. Or do you just have a soft spot for Prometheus?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Political Insider
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 25, 2012 at 10:52 am

The article states "Jac Siegel, who says the deck was built before getting any approval from city staff."

And then "the deck has already been approved by city administrators as a way to add open space and recreation amenities to the complex after City Council approval, said Jon Moss, senior vice president of development for Prometheus Real Estate Group"

Which one is correct?

Seigel is incorrect. My sources tell me staff and not council was aware of the modification.

Some in the neighborhood are just looking for an excuse to vent on Prometheus because they opposed the project. They are worried about noisy parties but the same could be said about the current noisy parties in the neighborhood. Its a double standard. They want new rules to apply to Prometheus but not themselves.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by David
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 25, 2012 at 12:33 pm

Dear Political Insider and all citizens of Mountain View,

You're probably tired of hearing from me. But comparing a four story-tall building housing hundreds of people now asking to erect a fifth-story party space with loudspeakers and a big screen tv looming over the skyline is not comparable to having an occasional party in our fenced-in backyards here in the 'hood.

We are not creating a double standard nor are we looking for an excuse to vent on Prometheus.

We are trying to keep focus on the facts of *this* situation and it what it implies for life in all of Mountain View if outside developers are not held in check by the City Council. If the City fails us, or serves other interests, citizen action is required.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by OMV Resident
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 25, 2012 at 12:52 pm

I hadn't planned to comment on this, but seeing the complete hyperbole in some of these comments, I have to weigh in.

David makes all kinds of claims about the Minton's development, unrelated to the roof-top patio. "It's the tallest building for blocks around" (ignoring the fact that there are 12-story and 6-story office buildings just 3 blocks away on Castro Street)... "The residents will not contribute to tax rolls" (ignoring the considerable property tax payments the land owner will pay, and which will be passed on to the tenants through their lease rates)... "The plan was originally approved under the idea of affordable housing and then the proportions were dropped" (ignoring the fact that a court decision [Palmer, 2010] occurred during the Minton's development process that completely altered the landscape for affordable housing law).

Besides these exaggerations and mis-statements, David keeps coming back to the refrain that this development is "cramped", the units are "crammed", "boxes" as compared with the idyllic neighborhood of taxpayers nearby.

At least we know where your biases are, David. And thus we can dismiss your ridiculous anti-apartment, anti-density mis-information easily, and focus on the question at hand, which is whether or not to allow a simple roof-top patio. I like the Minton's development and think it will be a great addition to our neighborhood. And I happen to think that this patio is a bad idea, and that the request from Prometheus should be denied, especially if they have circumvented the normal process, as some have suggested.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Steve
a resident of Shoreline West
on Apr 25, 2012 at 1:48 pm

@OMV

A zoning change was required for the complex top be built. The residents and council based their decisions on the proposed apartment complex. The zoning was changed. But what is being built is different than what is was proposed. The old bait-and-switch.

You may have noticed that council has changed their tune regarding rezoning - Classics Communities next door was not even granted the opportunity to discuss rezoning of their property.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jeral
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 25, 2012 at 2:26 pm

I appreciate all the sensible people who see through all the scare tactics. Claims such as "Late night parites", "booming music" and (my favorite) "alcoholic beverages (and potentially other intoxicants)" have all been made to raise the fear factor.

Before moving to Mountain View, I chaired the planning & zoning committee of the North Loop Neighborhood Association in Minneapolis. We encouraged developers to put in extra features like dog runs and roof decks. They improved the property, which attracted better owners and tenants, which made the whole neighborhood better. If there was ever a problem (which was more often the barking dogs than a party on a roof), it was the people who lived in the building who complained, not people blocks away. And in all of those cases, existing building policies were sufficient to keep things under control.

Let's encourage features which make this an awesome place to live.

Jeral Poskey
Palmita Place (a street which didn't exist 20 years ago and probably made the neighbors made back then when it was created, but thankfully progress was allowed)


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Steve
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Apr 25, 2012 at 2:50 pm

The bigger issue is who's really in charge of our city. The hired help has taken over, and is directing policy to their benefit instead of ours.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Political Insider
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 25, 2012 at 4:34 pm

@ DAVID,

TIRED? No, just bored because you're not making much sense. There is no 5th story. A lot of buildings allow you to walk on top. I can walk on my roof, does it make my building 3 stories? I agree with OMV, you dont add much value to the discussion. Staff was aware and agreed to the modification. It did not need council approval.

As to the density change, the units are a lot smaller and overall the project does not take up more space then the max zoned density for 3 -4 bdrm units. This was all covered in the staff report.

Time to move on and greet the new neighbors.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Grossman Woman
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 25, 2012 at 9:18 pm

[Post removed due to disrespectful comment or offensive language]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Otto Maddox
a resident of Monta Loma
on Apr 26, 2012 at 7:18 am

It's humorous to think people are worried about a deck being added to a condo project. Has anyeone ever lived in a condo?

Well I did for a little while. Community areas are rarely used. And any noise generated will get complaints from within the condo complex before any neighbors outside the complex start complaining. This is not a big deal. It's like the neighbors around this development have nothting else to complain about.

The High Speed Trains being proposed will make this "party deck" sound like a trip to the library.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Tim
a resident of another community
on Apr 26, 2012 at 10:55 pm

@David: No connection to Prometheus in any way. I am just knowledgeable about the projects they have completed in the area. I really like going out to dinner at Amici's in Downtown MV (which they built), and I think their 550 Moreland Development in Santa Clara at Rivermark is a pretty good design as well. I think that having developers with an eye for quality and design build a neighborhood project yields much better results compared to a developer that doesn't.

I also think that inviting City Council to be more intrusive in projects is a bad idea. It adds to the cost of projects big and small through increases in staff time to address the council with a 50 page memo that most of them don't even fully read or understand. The density did not change, the setbacks did not change, the architecture did not change. If you have driven by the project, you would realize that a roof deck would have very little impact to most residents in the area. The director of community development (hired with input by city council), who actually has a background in City and Regional Planning likely made the decision that it did not need to go back for review. The City Council hired him for a reason, and he made the right decision.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Political Insider
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 27, 2012 at 10:08 am

@ Tim. Great points. Not sure why Grossman Woman's comments were removed since they supported my arguments about the anti-Prometheus people. After listening to the hearing, which Mr. Gilli correctly decided on the issue at hand, it will be interesting to see if the anti-Prometheus mob can intimidate the council into not supporting smart growth planning.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by W-Park Dude
a resident of Waverly Park
on Apr 29, 2012 at 10:41 am

You NIMBYs act like they'll be holding spring break on the roof. With any luck maybe the neighbors can hear the din of the wet t-shirt contests up there over the roar of the trains.


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