Big plan in the works for San Antonio shopping center area

A 3-acre central park and a large promenade are among the amenities that belong in a fully redeveloped San Antonio Shopping Center, City Council members said Tuesday.

In a study session which had wide implications for the future of San Antonio Shopping Center and the surrounding area, council members and residents gave input on a new "precise plan" to guide office, housing and retail development while refining policies for the area developed in the city's new 2030 general plan.

Among the plans council supported was a 3-acre "central green" located right in the middle of the shopping center where Trader Joe's and Kohl's stores now stand. Presumably paid for with fees charged to developers, the large new park would meet a green parkway or promenade along the Hetch-Hetchy aqueduct right of way through the shopping center. The promenade is partially being built on the west side of the shopping center in the redevelopment by Merlone Geier.

After a long and complicated discussion, city planner Rebecca Shapiro said council members seemed supportive of a "soft cap" of six stories in building heights for the shopping center, with exceptions for taller buildings "on a case-by-case basis for special projects that provide public benefits." Buildings may be allowed up to three or four stories high near parks and parkways.

Shapiro added that none of the plans are final at this point.

Development in the shopping center would focus on "regional retail" that would be on the ground floors of new buildings, but council members have yet to decide on whether new housing or new offices would occupy the upper floors of new retail spaces.

Several residents spoke in favor of more housing at the shopping center, including an attendee in his 20s who said that building less than eight stories would be a "slap in the face" of young people who need housing. Resident Job Lopez said the city had "moral obligation" to provide affordable housing for its workers, some of whom can no longer afford to commute.

"I just turned 50 and when I look around I am among the youngest in this room, and that concerns me," said resident and bike advocate Janet LaFleur. "I want to make sure we aren't shutting out our young people from having the life we had."

Partly because a lack of housing has driven up housing costs, "I don't think someone 30 years old today has the same opportunities I had. Don't be afraid of the density. If we don't have density we won't have space for young people to live here," she said.

Council member Mike Kasperzak said in exasperation, "We are housing deficient!"

Elaborating after the meeting, he said, "The fact is, the general plan has way more square footage for employees than the general plan makes available for additional housing." The city is planning for more than 25,000 new jobs in the North Bayshore and Whisman areas alone, while zoning for a maximum of less than 7,000 new homes, mostly on the San Antonio and El Camino Real corridor.

Council member Ronit Bryant replied to Kasperzak: "Maybe we need less offices we'll talk about that later," though it wasn't discussed again that night.

Bike route chosen

One of the most significant directions given by the council Tuesday was choosing a path for bicyclists traveling east-west through the shopping center. There were three options: direct bikes lanes around the shopping center on California Street; down a pedestrian promenade along the Hetch-Hetchy or a more direct path to connect bike routes on Latham Street and Fayette Avenue, through the shopping center's parking lots. Council members chose "option B" -- the Hetch-Hetchy aqueduct right of way, which may one day have a trail on it across the entire city, though much if it is now used by parking lots.

Former mayor Matt Pear opposes such a trail on the section of the Hetch-Hetchy that runs along his property leased by Target. He complained Tuesday, "You need to maintain retail for sales tax dollars to maintain public safety for the city. There is no big box retail that can make it on bicycle and pedestrian traffic."

No "road diets"

Council members indicated support for protected bicycle lanes on Showers Drive and California Street Tuesday, but not by removing car traffic lanes, as bike advocates have proposed in order to slow traffic on the four-lane streets, especially on California, where a number of pedestrians have been killed in recent years.

Instead, the city will study the possibility of moving car parking away from the curb to create protected bike lanes in between parked cars and the curb, without losing car lanes.


Posted by bikerchick, a resident of The Crossings
on Feb 8, 2014 at 8:02 am

bikerchick is a registered user.

I'm impressed! This plan shows a great balance of retail, residential and community park spaces. The design of connectivity throughout the area is thoughtful, and a welcome change from the existing hodgepodge of stores and parking lots. I hope we as a community have the fortitude to follow through on it.

Posted by Garrett83, a resident of another community
on Feb 8, 2014 at 8:38 am

Garrett83 is a registered user.

I think public spaces and parks to a out dated crappy center, built for walking and biking a major plus

Posted by SER, a resident of Stierlin Estates
on Feb 8, 2014 at 10:45 am

So all our sales taxes will go to other cities, and how do we pay for all services needed to run Mountain View? Police, fire dept, roads, yes and also parks cost $$$. We all like parks, but the upkeep cost money.
We need those stores to bring in the taxes.

Posted by Garrett83, a resident of another community
on Feb 8, 2014 at 12:19 pm

Garrett83 is a registered user.

The idea is to make SA Center attractive to retailers looking.for update fashionable, not a throwback to bad planning.

Posted by MilkPailFain, a resident of St. Francis Acres
on Feb 8, 2014 at 7:26 pm

No mention of the Milk Pail Market? I'm surprised.

For those who don't know, the Milk Pail market is a grocery store that sells lots of fresh stuff and awesome cheeses, at very reasonable prices. There is nothing else like it in the area. However, they need accomodation by sharing parking etc., so it would be important to see this reflected in the plan. The worry is that the large developers will drive away that store, which many of us really care about. If anybody knows what's going on with the Milk Pail and this plan, please post. Thanks!

Posted by PA Resident, a resident of another community
on Feb 8, 2014 at 8:02 pm

We liked Burger King and Fresh Choice in its heyday.

We are in dire need of replacement eateries in the area.

Posted by Garrett83, a resident of another community
on Feb 9, 2014 at 8:54 am

Garrett83 is a registered user.

Why don't city allow increased density in exchange for percentage of public parking. I understand some would.have to remain in private control. Shared parking, parking for 24 hours, 7 days a week.

Milk Pail Market should treated like important piece of the retail puzzle.

Posted by palo alto resident, a resident of another community
on Feb 9, 2014 at 10:12 am

Just curious what all this means for the current stores that are there such as Kohls, Target, Trader Joes, Walmart and the Milk Pail.

Posted by David, a resident of Monta Loma
on Feb 9, 2014 at 11:27 am

Although I'd love to have better pedestrian and bike access (there's a few dangerous intersections now), I would much prefer to keep Trader Joe's and the Milk Pail over completely reconfiguring the central area. Maybe just local improvements at the dangerous locations?

Posted by Garrett83, a resident of another community
on Feb 9, 2014 at 3:31 pm

Garrett83 is a registered user.

This is just plan, if the ownwer of the land or Trader Joe's, wishes or even desires to build a new buildings. The plan is in place or the idea to proceed. Target has plans to build a new store, Kohl's may want a new building.

Posted by foodfoodnmorefood, a resident of Cuernavaca
on Feb 9, 2014 at 4:23 pm

Hope there are more than just food shops and restaurants in these "big plans". Sears may not have been the prettiest store but it was nice to be able to buy everything from dishwashers to jeans in my hometown.

Posted by foodfoodnmorefood, a resident of Cuernavaca
on Feb 9, 2014 at 4:38 pm

A word on Milk Pail. Love it, save it, keep this local treasure going. Be nice if Dittmers and Milk Pail became neighbors, say in the old safeway location.

Posted by PA Resident, a resident of another community
on Feb 9, 2014 at 7:00 pm

This article was brought to my attention today. It reminded me of the Milk Pail. Web Link Good luck Milk Pail.

Posted by Garrett83, a resident of another community
on Feb 10, 2014 at 8:07 am

Garrett83 is a registered user.

Good article about Edith, why shared or some kind of thought to other property owners.

I heard many stories like Edith. Work around the different property owners, Keep the Milk Pail. Work to make the SA Center vibrant.

Posted by BK, a resident of Monta Loma
on Feb 10, 2014 at 2:25 pm

Yes, Bring back Burger King!!

Posted by Konrad M. Sosnow, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Feb 10, 2014 at 3:04 pm

Council member Ronit Bryant replied to Kasperzak: "Maybe we need less offices.

I agree with Ronit We need a mix of office, residential and retail.
We don't want to turn Mountain View into a dorm for Google employees.

We are land deficient as Mountain View is a small city of 9 square miles available for office,residential, and retail and 3 square miles of North Bay shore, primary for offices.

Posted by DisappointedHousewife, a resident of Rex Manor
on Feb 10, 2014 at 3:07 pm

This plan sounds to me like "Low income people, get out of MntView!" We lost RiteAid and Sears already. Now it's Kohls, Target, Trader Joe's and Milk Pail turn??? I don't need diamonds and fancy restaurants same as exclusive boutiques. Where should I go shopping for my everyday needs? Some where out of my home city.

Posted by Ron, a resident of Waverly Park
on Feb 10, 2014 at 3:31 pm

@DisappointedHousewife: I think you are being a little dramatic. They did not kick out Sears. It went under. Rite Aid is not a big loss either since it was across the street from CVS on one side and right next to Walmart and Target on the other. And while I like Trader Joes, it is not store for the low income. At any rate, looks a heck of a lot better than what was there. Now if they could only bring back the "Menu Tree".

Posted by NeHi, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Feb 10, 2014 at 5:26 pm

Sadly, 'tho I like the ideas of the park, this looks like another effort to get us to shop in Sunnyvale and Cupertino. Rite-Aid has product I can get nowhere else so now it's hit the freeway every couple of weeks instead of walk. At least Trader Joe is nearby them in Cupertino. I liked the local Sears better than the one in Cupertino. Blossom Hardware is the only bright spot left in the neighborhood; hope they survive Barron Park Plumbing.

Posted by Garrett, a resident of another community
on Feb 10, 2014 at 7:59 pm

Rite Aid has been closing stores, Sears is closing stores, JC Penney has closed stores, Woolworth's went out of business

Should we keep rundown shopping center to house a Burger King.

Posted by Martin Omander, a resident of Rex Manor
on Feb 10, 2014 at 9:23 pm

I'm really happy young people spoke up at the meeting. The scarcity or abundance of new housing will affect them, not those who already own homes. We need to push rents down and the best way of doing it is to increase the housing supply. It's basic economics. If the young can't rent, they will either commute to Mountain View from elsewhere or leave entirely. Neither is a good outcome.

Posted by Moffett Resident, a resident of Willowgate
on Feb 11, 2014 at 12:15 am

The kind of apartment housing that is being built in MV will do nothing to bring down rental prices. At Madera, current prices are: 1-BR for $4,500/month ($54,000/year), 2-BR for $8,000/month ($96,000/year). Here's the link: Web Link. Apparently they have been able to rent at these prices.

These developments are intended to harvest tech money, while it's there to be harvested. They are not meant for families, or for long-term residents. We need more ownership housing, not more of these ridiculously overpriced "luxury" apartments.

Posted by A, a resident of The Crossings
on Feb 11, 2014 at 10:18 am

More apartments WILL bring down rental prices. The law of supply and demand is the reason for the crazy rental prices right now. There just aren't any nice new apartments to rent in MV.

When I was looking 5 years ago I couldn't find anything newer with my own washer and dryer so I ended up renting a condo at the Crossing for only $2000. The same place now would rent for $3000. I checked out a lot of apartments from Castro to San Antonio. Most were older with no cived secure parking. Once the stock of new apartments increase,they will compete with each other so rents will naturally decrease.

Also the rent in the older and less desirable apartments will decrease because people like me won't be forced to like in them in order to live near work.

Posted by Garrett, a resident of another community
on Feb 11, 2014 at 2:40 pm

Nice modern apartments will always draw high rents, just think a nice nicely freshly painted place, went over to the new San Antonio Center, asked about all sorts of stuff. No wonder why these places have rented out so quick, gyms, pools, secured parking, close to stores.

Yes the rents will decrease, only time will tell, who would want to pay 3,000 a month for something built in the 50's, no pool, no gym and like the previous post, unsecured parking.

10 years from now this older apartment building might be torn down for something that might be needed, ownership housing. Lets go out and think what kind of housing will blend with older apartments building.

Posted by Carless Californian, a resident of another community
on Feb 12, 2014 at 8:35 am

Replacing single-story retail with multi-story retail & housing is the exact right idea for this shopping center, with it's potential to be a great place to live without a car, given that it is already a transit center. If a store that is displaced has a large enough draw for the community, surely it will try to move into the new ground-floor retail being created.

The pedestrian pathways look, as usual, like they were created by someone who doesn't primarily get around by foot and transit. With the transit center being off on Showers, and transit being the main way that pedestrians who don't live there will get to the center, there should have been a greater emphasis on the walkways from the transit center into the retail heart. Even better would be moving the transit center to a more central location, so that the North-Western edges of the shopping center weren't such a long walk away.

In general, the kind of greenspace in the plan doesn't really do pedestrians or anyone else a lot of good. People can't really enjoy broad strips of landscaping on either side of some big sidewalks. It's eye candy that actually reduces the walkability of the center. Far better would be very minimal walking paths, with just enough space on either side for trees and flowers, and having the buildings right up against, or in some places overhanging the pedestrian walkways. Allowing building footprints to be right up against footpaths makes them more convenient for people on foot, while freeing up square footage in other places to make larger plazas and park areas that can actually be used to have concerts, games, and picnics.

A truly pedestrian-and-transit focused design would do things like ensure that there's a playground near the transit center and ensure that buildings are tightly clustered to reduce time when walking from store to store. Corral parking into structures so that pedestrians don't have to cross large parking lots, and use the extra space for multiple distinct, but pleasant open spaces, each large enough for uses beyond grabbing a smoke or having a snack on break.

I'm not much of a bicyclist, so I will let others speak more to those parts of the design. But it seems like the intent is to align with other biking paths to create a sort of cycling corridor through the center and onto bike corridors on either side. If so, the alignment makes sense, but not the idea of mixing together biking paths, pedestrian paths, and park space. These things all conflict with each other!

Provide a dedicated biking path that is not a main thoroughfare for cars or people on foot, so that bicyclists can quickly move through the center Then provide centralized bike storage. People on bikes coming to shop can park once, become pedestrians while they shop the hopefully tightly clustered stores, or visit the hopefully large and interesting plazas and parks. When they're done, return to the edge of the retail area, pick up the bike, and become cyclists again.

Posted by Garrett, a resident of another community
on Feb 12, 2014 at 10:25 am

@ Carless California.

I agree with your posting. Like the idea of the 3 acre common green, a bigger space would be nicer. Always thought a idea of big green space off Showers Dr surrounded by homes, with space for a small school.

San Antonio Road, large plaza surrounding by stores and offices.

All Parking, loading docks and mechanical underground. Ground level, walk, bike and some lanes for cars. Trees, flower beds, outdoor cafes, design for max sunlight.

But how about the evening time, lighted signs, light hung between buildings, lighted art, bright store fronts, and outdoor movies. It I owned the movie theater that is going in, I would have a free film ever Saturday night in the summer. Kids films mostly, screen backdrop would be the mountains in the distance.

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