The City Council is leaning towards closing a Central Expressway on-ramp at the end of Stierlin Road to create a public promenade and the start of a "cycle track" between downtown and Google headquarters
Council members stated their positions on the topic last week in a study session on an apartment project that will be built over the southern end of Stierlin Road, on Moffett Boulevard. Prometheus Real Estate Group proposes 190 apartments for 100 Moffett Blvd., replacing the County Social Services building and auto shops on the end of Stierlin. Four stories will rise above an underground garage along Moffett and Central, sloping down to two stories along neighboring residences.
"That decision will be a tough one. Good luck, let your conscience be your guide," said Prometheus vice president Jon Moss of the option to close the on-ramp. He added, "If we were laying out streets today, we'd be hard pressed to believe council would want cut-through traffic through a residential neighborhood" and put an entrance to Central only 50 to 60 feet away from another entrance at Moffett.
On the council the opponents of closing the on-ramp were John McAlister and Mayor John Inks. McAlister told neighbors of the site: "You are going to have more traffic in your neighborhood" without the on-ramp because cars at the new complex would have to go through the neighborhood.
The rest of the council was either strongly supportive, open to it or leaning towards the idea of closing off the on-ramp to make the area more bike- and pedestrian-friendly, a top council goal this year.
"This connection right here is really going to be the primary bike-pedestrian connection from the (downtown) transit center to the heart of North Bayshore," said bike advocate Jarrett Mullen, who supported the promenade option. "That's a 10-minute bike ride. Any kind of unnecessary detours you make for bikes eats into the competitiveness for bikes."
He added that the site is "a good location for this density. It's 200 feet from Caltrain, VTA and shuttles. I don't think there's a more transit-rich area in the city."
With or with out the on-ramp, the site could be the start of a bi-directional "cycle track" up the length of Stierlin Road to Shoreline Boulevard where it could run to North Bayshore, Shoreline Park and Google headquarters. According to a city staff report, it would be the width of the Stevens Creek Trail -- 14 feet -- with "physical barriers" separating it from walking paths and vehicle traffic. It could remain with the road, but the cycle track would have to be combined with the walking paths, like the Stevens Creek Trail.
How to fit the cycle track along the rest of Stierlin and Shoreline has yet to be studied.
Neighbors who spoke at the meeting were split over whether to close the on-ramp.
Central Avenue resident Vince Gomez said he welcomed the closure of the on-ramp to keep cars from cutting past his home from Moffett Boulevard to get the on-ramp at Stierlin and avoid the rush hour traffic backup at Central Expressway on Moffett.
"It becomes almost a freeway in front of my driveway," Gomez said, adding that he supported the option to "close it and stop the freeway coming down Central" Avenue.
Neighbor David Zuckerman disagreed. He said one reason he moved to the neighborhood was "my easy access to Central Expressway." He said that without the on-ramp, "you are proposing putting hundreds of vehicles in our non-arterial streets" with the new project, because residents leaving the new project would have nowhere to drive but through the neighborhood.
Neighbors are also concerned about adding to the traffic that backs up at Moffett at Central during rush hour when train crossing arms are often down.
"This is a tough one," said council member Jac Siegel. "In general, for the neighborhood I think it is better to close the amp, although I'm not sure," he said, adding that he wished he had more information.
Council members didn't support increasing the number of apartments by 10 percent beyond general plan limits in exchange for "significant" community benefits, a move allowed by the new 2030 general plan. Moss had offered a set of community benefits he valued at $1.9 million in exchange for the higher density, including a $250,000 gateway "Mountain View" arch sign for nearby downtown, $325,000 worth of sidewalk along Central Expressway from Moffett Boulevard to Granada Avenue, a $65,000 VTA bike-sharing station. He also offered $500,000 in park improvements if the project's park fees were used to build a park nearby, possibly on the site of the Community Services Agency building next door. CSA could move if a larger building is found because the non-profit is looking to expand, Moss said.
"I don't see the public benefit to justify going larger," McAlister said, though he expressed interest in the gateway sign that could go above Castro Street near the train tracks.
"We just finished the general plan," explained council member Jac Siegel after the meeting. "For them to come in immediately and ask for higher (density), we just didn't want it, we just said no."