News

Council to developer: Scale back San Antonio project

Merlone Geier proposal would have been city's tallest building

In a study session Tuesday, City Council members rejected a new redevelopment proposal for San Antonio shopping center, telling the developer to come back with a project that fits the city's standards for density and height.

At the corner of California Street and San Antonio Road developer Merlone Geier proposes a 150-room hotel, 300,000 square feet of retail, and space for 3,000 employees in three office buildings, one of which would be the tallest in the city at 160 feet and 11 stories.

The project could mean $2.6 million a year in hotel, property and sales tax revenue for the city, Merlone Geier's Mike Grehl told the City Council Tuesday.

"Our city is not for sale," said council member Jac Siegel, who said he was shocked by the project's density and scale. "You can't have somebody come in and say, 'We'll give you this much revenue; let us do what we want.'"

Council member Ronit Bryant said heights of six- to eight-stories were supported by the city's draft general plan guidelines for the site, and "suddenly we have 11. That makes no sense."

City planners said the proposal was "significantly above" the density called for in the draft precise plan for the shopping center, and would therefore require a "significant public benefit" to meet city guidelines.

"We're talking about multi-millions if you are going to provide public benefit," said council member Laura Macias. "None of that type of public benefit has been proposed here."

The developer has said that the hotel is a public benefit and that the size of the office building was necessary to pay for the cost of developing the full-service hotel, something the city has long sought and once considered subsidizing with $30 million at a different site in North Bayshore.

A pedestrian tunnel under California Street was suggested as a potential public benefit, while council member Margaret Abe-Koga suggested the developer contribute to a new community center at Rengstorff Park.

"I understand the demand for a hotel because you could rent a yurt in Mountain View today to Google," said Doug Delong of advocates for affordable housing. "I don't think there's enough public benefit lipstick that can be put on this pig to make it salable. The hotel is jammed into this corner and the land-use mix is wrong. This is the first proposal I can recall in front of the city I would describe as obscene."

City Council members said they had received a letter from Merlone Geier assuring officials that the firm was following the law after several business and property owners accused the developer of using a cyclone fence to force them to sell their land. The fence, now removed after city officials said it was was erected without a permit, blocked access to a parking lot at Ross and BevMo. One neighbor said it was proof that Merlone Geier would be a bad neighbor.

"If we're building a neighborhood in the area, then going by the legal requirements is not good enough," Bryant said. The project's plans also wall off the small businesses at the corner, including Milk Pail market, which has relied on a shared parking agreement with Ross to meet city requirements. "If those properties were willingly accepted into the project and made a part of it, I would look at that very favorably."

Merlone Geier's architect and landscape designer presented detailed images not released to the public, enthusiastically pitching an interior urban environment that would be created in the courtyards and promenades between the buildings. But several residents criticized the project for facing inward too much and leaving nothing but parking garages and trees facing San Antonio Road and California Street. Council members noted that Santana Row in San Jose is similarly designed and was often cited as an example of what residents wanted for the site.

"I'm not a planner, I'm not an architect, I have no idea what this should look like," said council member Tom Means, questioning all the criticism from the public. "Look at who is putting something on the table, who is taking some risk."

Council members declined a request from zoning administrator Peter Gilli to take a vote on whether the general mix of uses in the project was acceptable. Means said he was concerned the council was being too vague and would slowly kill the project.

"I do think having a mix like this is appropriate," said Mayor Mike Kasperzak. "Castro is an intimate street; San Antonio Road is not an intimate street. People like Santana Row because it is inwardly focused. It does look pretty blockish on the outside. Inside it feels good. We have the same problems here."

Kasperzak agreed that the buildings were too big.

"It's clearly too big for the community," he said. "I think that's what is really important."

The council had also rejected Merlone Geier's first phase of the redevelopment at one point. The Safeway, five-story apartment buildings, and dozens of retail spaces are now under construction at El Camino Real and San Antonio Road.

"I think the developer is probably over there in shock again, sorry guys," Kasperzak said.

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by B Minkin
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jun 14, 2012 at 12:56 pm

The developer spent a little time on a risky idea — hoping not to get caught — but it did succeed.

A sensible decision from the city council.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Liz
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 14, 2012 at 2:22 pm

Thank goodness!!! Let's hope they hold their ground.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by rem
a resident of another community
on Jun 14, 2012 at 2:52 pm

rem is a registered user.

HOT DOG, a City Council that has the back bone to say no - no - no !!!

Geier, Please go elsewhere.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by castromom
a resident of Castro City
on Jun 14, 2012 at 3:05 pm

Way to go, City Council!!=) Thank you for standing up to this obscene plan. Yes, this area needed to be rebuilt, but what was being proposed for this community, I don't think so!! Thank you for keeping on top of this!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Carl
a resident of The Crossings
on Jun 14, 2012 at 3:14 pm


"Margaret Abe-Koga suggested the developer contribute to a new community center at Rengstorff Park."

That's the kind of dealing I can't stand. Drop a concrete mountain in our neighborhood and the quid pro quo is that another neighborhood gets a community center. How about instead we drop this thing next to Abe Koga's house or in Cuseta Park?

Inks is the only council member who appears ready to stand up to this nonsense.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Whisman Station
on Jun 14, 2012 at 3:15 pm

I warned people about giving the keys to the city to a developer.

I'm glad SOMEBODY listened.

Some people remembered how long it took to get Dog City occupied.

MV doesn't need Dog City II.

A better place for a hotel would be to build it on Moffett Blvd. and Hwy 101 or near Google HQs.



 +   Like this comment
Posted by Maya
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 14, 2012 at 3:16 pm

Thank you councilors for protecting our community from an overzealous developer.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Ann Schneider
a resident of The Crossings
on Jun 14, 2012 at 3:20 pm

Castro is intimate because the city has spent a fortune making it so, including the million dollar(s) cost overruns on City Hall and the performing arts center. That should not be a reason to turn California into a cold expressway a la Stevens Creek & Winchester. Mr. Kasperzak, many of us live just a few blocks from San Antonio shopping center and we don't want to live like that, as if we were living in a huge shopping mall. The street facade should be stepped and attractive, not just designed for the people living in the new buildings.

Voice - you need to add a new, well really old neighborhood "California/Ortega or California/Rengstorff" at any rate your neighborhood choices don't include many of us who live within a block of all this development. We are a combination of several townhome and condo developments, single family homes, old and new apartments, single story, multistory and the tallest building in Mtn. View. We are not The Crossings and we are not Castro City.

Again, the City loves to stick density down on our end of Mtn. View without ever giving a darn about those of us who live there and drive these streets to get home and walk these streets to enjoy OUR NEIGHBORHOOD.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Konrad M. Sosnow
a resident of another community
on Jun 14, 2012 at 3:25 pm

Many of us have been beating the drum for sensible planning for years. We have fought the developer first mantra. It looks like our message finally has been heard. Let's keep on beating that drum because we know the developers will continue to propose whatever maximizes their profits. After all, the developers don't have to live here, we do!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Observer
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 14, 2012 at 3:38 pm

I'll say it again, readers. Let's not be naive.

They'll ask for 12 stories knowing full well they'll be denied, then they'll get the 7-8 stories they actually wanted and the citizens of Mountain View will be left with the feeling that their was a reasonable compromise and that the City Council did something other than roll over to developers. This has been an inside job from the start.

And I agree with Ms. Schneider above. That end of town is obviously viewed by Mr. Kasperzak as a revenue stream and not a neighborhood. Well it is a neighborhood and has all the makings to become an "intimate" one to compete with Castro Street (maybe that's what they are afraid of). But not with Merlone Geier running the show or with the current set of Council members, Inks excluded.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Litsa
a resident of Martens-Carmelita
on Jun 14, 2012 at 3:43 pm

San Antonio road traffic is bad enough now. Wait til this monstrosity is complete. You'll see a parking lot out there.

I'm glad some of the city council members haave finally come to their senses. Hopefully this isn't some PR stunt.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Ned
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 14, 2012 at 3:45 pm

Can some one tell me why the idea of a hotel and office tower (imposing on local neighborhoods) wouldn't have worked better next to the existing office tower on the retail friendly El Camino side of the lot? This seems backward. Safeway should be where the office is planned and vice versa.

This whole project is nothing but a boondoggle.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Rodger
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jun 14, 2012 at 4:10 pm

We need to run Merlone Geier out of town and it that is not possible don't change the exist city guidelines in any way.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Jun 14, 2012 at 4:28 pm

Since the early 80's there has been talk of hotel at the following places, North Bayshore, Old Mill, El Camino at 85 and Downtown. Old Mill was a early verison of Santana Row, which at one time was a really big place to visit. Hotels in like to be around businesses othet then just office parks out in the middle of nowhere. The Charleston and Costco Centers would have made more sense for hotel and office plex or even by Moffett and 101. You also have to remember the owners have purchased these properties and found uses that best suited them. If some purchases a property for said amount, that person will not leave a single floor building.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sabrina
a resident of The Crossings
on Jun 14, 2012 at 5:15 pm

"They'll ask for 12 stories knowing full well they'll be denied, then they'll get the 7-8 stories they actually wanted and the citizens of Mountain View will be left with the feeling that their was a reasonable compromise and that the City Council did something other than roll over to developers. This has been an inside job from the start."

I totally agree with Observer on this one. This is all a performance to make us believe that we live in a democracy. People, please help us stand up for the community. Judging by our history, I really don't think we can count on the city council to do this for us.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Nancy Morimoto
a resident of The Crossings
on Jun 14, 2012 at 5:53 pm

The goal of the General Plan is to make the whole greater San Antonio area a walkable, bikeable village. The new proposal needs to be evaluated on how well it achieves this goal. The words we want to be able to describe the proposal will be "permeable, convenient to the neighborhood, attractive, human scaled". I really don't want to see any more "tweeks" but a whole new concept brought before the council.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Otto Maddox
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jun 14, 2012 at 6:44 pm

The Old Mill was nothing like Santana Row. Not even close. The Old Mill was just a retail mall with a very limited number of offices in the back.

Santana Row has retail, commerical, apartments, condos, and a hotel.

I actually liked the Old Mill. I was sad to see it's demise.

I really don't understand what the issue is with building in this area. It is already solidly commercial.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jeff
a resident of The Crossings
on Jun 14, 2012 at 6:45 pm

Good point Nancy. As it looks now, the project looks like an impenetrable concrete bunker complex. And I'm guessing it won't be open to pedestrian traffic to cruise through. Like a luxury hotel is going to want me cruising through their property in my flip flops.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Anon
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Jun 14, 2012 at 8:21 pm

Is this the same developer who put up that chain fence next to Milk Pail and some other local businesses and cut off access to their customers? Well folks, it looks like we got mixed up with some shady, back-stabbing, double-dealing, snake oil selling, con artists!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by A different prospective
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 15, 2012 at 11:00 am

Everything in this city is getting expensive each year. The public service bargaining groups are in negotiations as we speak and from what I understand both police and fire department are looking at cost of living raises in the next couple of years (something they have gone without for the last 4 years). The city needs revenue! If the revenue isn't generated through new and enovative business it will be generated through tax's and fees which we all pay! The council have been very creative in keeping the budget reasonable but as the cost of doing business in the city go up so should revenues. Several years ago the "communities" were successful in blocking Home Depot from the east side of town in a commercial zoned area. A cost of 5 million annually in revenue tax's! We have the worlds most successful and profitable company in MV. This city is growing and we all should embrace it or become Los Altos where the majority of the cities revenues come on the backs of the residents. If we are going to compete with cities like Palo Alto and Santa Clara we need to be open to new ideas and development. I'm not advocating giving the keys to the city away to these profit motivated developers, but we should be considering new business and revenue especially in areas that are zoned for these type of innovated projects.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Nancy Morimoto
a resident of The Crossings
on Jun 15, 2012 at 3:04 pm

I'm all for lots of revenue for the city, but if the design isn't right, it will decline and then it will just be a larger scale "dilapidated center". Who will want to stay in a hotel with Safeway carts discarded where the walkway meets California Street? I don't know if Merlone Geier is up to this challenge, but what I'd like to see is a re-created downtown (like Disney does with Epcot Center or Main Street, USA) with tons of retail, with offices and apartments above, and lots of restaurants with sidewalk seating. Parking garages can have retail wrapped around it, like the Walgreens (I think thats it) with the parking near Castro and California.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by h. brunner
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jun 16, 2012 at 4:35 am

"our city is not for sale"...that's a good one...kudos to the members of the council that said "no"...to that developer. What about all the other inappropriate actiivities and installations of residential projects that did get through or didn't even require council approval. It won't be long before mountain view is comprised of apartments, condos, townhouses and the like..and don't forget the exponential increased water demand...the drought created by greed...


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Jun 16, 2012 at 8:27 am

Mtn. View has grown so much since 1960, we added jobs and helped create a whole new industry. RStuck in a 1960 car centered retail center, look around malls in places are dying either by internet or by big box stores. What would you think if Home Depot opened next door to Barron Park, or another large food warehouse next to Milk Pail.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Nancy Morimoto
a resident of The Crossings
on Jun 16, 2012 at 10:51 am

We need a community visioning process, so the city, current businesses and residents can arrive at a common perspective of what the San Antonio area should be like. Then we can work with developers to make OUR vision happen. The general plan is a good start, but we need many more specifics. Let's have a "big conversation" now rather than fight each development on a case by case basis just to get some benefits and mitigate the negatives each time. I'm exhausted just thinking about needing to do that.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Matt Raschke
a resident of The Crossings
on Jun 16, 2012 at 1:40 pm

The Gatekeeper Development Proposal process for the draft General Plan has been a real eye opener. The proposals made using this process have really shown how dangerous a poorly written General Plan can be exploited by big developers. Prometheus is proposing to cram 300+ apartments on the current Safeway site across from this hotel/office proposal. Both proposals are intended to be in line with the new General Plan. Wow!

If these proposals are the result of the new General Plan, I think we need to slow down the final adoption and do some careful revisions. Alternately, a halt to further development approvals should be considered until new Precise Plans can be drafted for these areas. Piecemeal revisions for proposals like this one will result in a hodgepodge disjointed mix that is no better than the way it was with the old Sears and Rite-Aid. I agree with Nancy. We can do much better.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by OMV Resident
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 18, 2012 at 2:54 pm

Re: Nancy's comment above: "...what I'd like to see is a re-created downtown (like Disney does with Epcot Center or Main Street, USA) with tons of retail, with offices and apartments above, and lots of restaurants with sidewalk seating. Parking garages can have retail wrapped around it..."

Between the current Merlone Geier project that's under construction now and the Phase 2 proposal, pretty much all of the points above are covered. This entire side of the Center WILL have tons of retail, offices above retail on one side and apartments of retail in the middle, and plenty of restaurants with sidewalk seating. The only parking garages are in Phase 2, and they are partially wrapped by retail (facing the Hetch Hetchy area). So the main thing we need to meet this vision is to make sure the rest of the parking garages are wrapped with retail or made more friendly to walk by.

I don't understand you would say we would need a whole community visioning process when we're getting pretty much everything you're looking for in the Center. If it's mainly the height you're concerned about, that's fine, but just say so... and realize that if you take away too much height, you also take away a lot of the customers (workers or hotel visitors) who will keep those sidewalk cafes and retail in business.


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Email:


Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields

Standardized Test Prep: When to Start and Whom to Hire?
By John Raftrey and Lori McCormick | 2 comments | 1,604 views

Finger Food and a Blood Lite?
By Laura Stec | 0 comments | 1,209 views

Giants Win! Couples Can, Too
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 706 views