News

Commission wants to track jobs-housing ratio

Planning commission hears plenty of sad stories as it takes up next housing element

Mountain View's plans to sharply widen the gap between job growth and housing growth, even while in the midst of a housing crisis, has spurred quite a bit of media coverage and public discussion in recent days.

On April 14 an article on TechCrunch.com went viral, linking the jobs-rich and housing-poor growth pattern seen in Mountain View and other Bay Area cities to the gentrification of San Francisco. The lengthy 13,000 word piece is titled "How Burrowing Owls Lead To Vomiting Anarchists (Or SF's Housing Crisis Explained)" referring to how Mountain View City Council members refused to build housing in North Bayshore for Google employees two years ago, citing potential impacts to the rare burrowing owl -- and how a protester drew attention to the situation by vomiting on the windshield of a Google employee shuttle.

Mountain View -- as the article points out while citing the Voice's reporting -- is on track to develop space for more than 42,000 tech jobs in the coming years, and only a few thousand new homes. Writer Kim-Mai Cutler blames a striking lack of housing for Valley employees on the "NIMBY" culture (not in my backyard) among politically powerful homeowner organizations who have blocked housing development in cities such as Mountain View and Palo Alto. She calls on Peninsula homeowners to "stop sitting in the background while the city's workers, the poor, the elderly and its young duke it out in this ugly charade. While there are some tech workers who do strike it rich, most just have salaries and would love to raise families in the Bay Area just as you did when you came here years ago. The Bay Area risks becoming a victim of its own success if it can't make more room (for homes). At this point, blocking individual housing developments to protect your views is tantamount to generational theft."

While the Mountain View City Council is catching flak for its refusal to allow for housing to be built for Google workers, there was an observable shift in the public discussion of the issue at last week's Environmental Planning Commission meeting. The commission voted unanimously to come up with a set of indicators to track the city's housing-jobs imbalance, and to conduct another nexus study in order to raise housing impact fees on commercial and residential development.

Skyrocketing rents

Instead of the usual protests of housing development and its impacts on traffic and parking, at the commission meeting there were many pleas from residents for the city to do something about skyrocketing rents, which affect a majority of the city's residents, as does commuter traffic from exploding job growth. The comments came as commissioners considered a new housing element for the city, a document that serves as a blueprint for meeting the city's housing needs from 2015 to 2022.

Bubb elementary school PTA member Ravit Ortiz detailed the effects on her daughter's first grade class at Bubb.

"There are two families whose children are sleeping on the floor just to be part of our school system, which really just isn't acceptable," Ortiz said. "We are losing two nurses at El Camino hospital (parents of kids at Bubb) who will be leaving because at the end of the school year they will not be able to afford to live here. Our teacher is going to be leaving as well due to the commute and because there is no housing that is available for teachers or police officers or people who give to the community."

"I wish there was more mindfulness" about this issue, Ortiz said. "I really appreciate you guys trying to figure this out because it's a big mess."

Ortiz added, "We just lost our neighbors because their rent went up by $1,000. I don't know how that's legal."

The affects of the housing crisis on the middle class are significant, residents say. Ortiz told the Voice that she and her Google-employed husband were also considering leaving the city because of housing costs. John Scarborough, a 12-year resident, told the commission, "I'm one of the lucky ones who makes a fairly good salary but it's not enough to buy a house here. We need to do something. It's a question of sustainability."

While California homeowners have long had Proposition 13's protections against the rising cost of property taxes, renters have yet to benefit from any policy to stabilize their rents, either state-wide or in Mountain View, where they make up a majority of the population.

"Prop. 13 gave stability to home owners; we need to provide stability to renters," said Edie Keating, reading a list of comments from residents surveyed at a local Unitarian church.

Shifting public sentiment

Commissioner Kathy Trontell noted the shift in the public sentiment compared to the last time the city discussed a new housing element in 2006, when council members cried foul that they were given an F grade for not meeting the city's "Regional Housing Needs Allocation" -- a number set by the Association of Bay Area Governments that must be met in every Peninsula city's housing element. The city was asked -- not required -- to approve zoning to potentially allow the construction of at least 3,423 housing units between 1999 and 2006 -- but only 1,267 homes were permitted.

"There was time not that long ago when folks believed we needed to argue against the ABAG numbers," Trontell said. "There's been such a change that reality has caught up to us."

People aren't complaining this time that "'no one can tell us how densely we can build our community to.' We have a terrible imbalance in our community. ABAG is not the point. It's about what do we do to make it feasible to maintain the diversity and the vitality that we have in our community."

Given the number of new jobs anticipated for the city, ABAG's "regional housing needs allocation" for Mountain View was underwhelming this time around. Mountain View is being asked to allow the construction of 2,926 homes in the next seven years for residents of various income levels, including 819 homes for very low income households, 492 for low income households and 527 for moderate income households.

EPC chair Robert Cox agreed with the sentiment expressed by most at the EPC meeting, saying, "This is the key issue that we have that we're facing here in the city of Mountain View."

"We have a crisis on our hands and we need to move as quickly as we can," said Commissioner Todd Fernandez.

Cox noted day worker center co-founder Job Lopez's remarks that it would be more meaningful if the commission were called the "environmental planning and social justice commission."

"As Mr. Lopez said, social justice is important," Cox said. "Even our biggest employer has said they aren't here to do any evil. So they can be part of the solution, too."

EPC member Lisa Matichak, who is now also running for City Council, raised a common criticism about the city's jobs-housing imbalance that has been raised many times in the past "(It's) a regional issue, it's not a city by city issue. I think it's kind of unrealistic to come up with a goal there."

Resident Aldona Marjorek disagreed, saying "I still don't understand how we can have such an imbalance. I don't think it's fair to the whole Bay Area community."

Subsidized housing

At the EPC meeting, residents called for the city to up its efforts to build subsidized housing for service industry employees. It's said that between two and five such employees are created for every office tech job, depending on which expert you ask.

To that end, residents said they wanted higher housing impact fees charged to apartment developers who are likely making a big profit on rents as high as $8,000 a month for a two-bedroom apartment, as seen at Mountain View's new Madera complex. The city is now asking only 4.6 percent of a proposed apartment project's value go towards such fees to pay for subsidized housing, which is "really behind the times" compared to other cities, said Dona Yobs of the local chapter of the League of Women Voters.

"The only way you make housing affordable to people earning under $50,000 a year is by subsidizing it," said Kevin Zwick, CEO of the Housing Trust Silicon Valley, in an interview with Seth Shostak for the online talk show "Silicon Valley Buzz" on April 2, in which Palo Alto council member Liz Kniss and Mountain View council member John Inks also discussed the housing crisis.

"In the last year, Silicon Valley created about 42,000 new jobs but we only permitted 7,500 housing units for all income levels. And that's been going on for 20 to 30 years and that's what's creating the unaffordability," Zwick said.

Lenny Siegel, the leader of the Campaign for a Balanced Mountain View, was skeptical of the housing element, and not just because it says Mountain View had only 47,800 jobs in 2010. According the Employment Development department and previous reports from city staff, the number is now closer to 68,000, while the city has about 34,000 homes. "You can't solve a problem if your data is way off." he said in an email.

"The programs in the housing element are going to be washed away in a tsunami of new employment unless we do a better job of putting our jobs and housing into balance," Siegel said at the EPC meeting.

While some would like to see the city's 2:1 ratio of jobs to homes come down to a 1:1 ratio, "I'm not that optimistic," Siegel said. " I'd just like to see the city adopt a ratio, say from 2010 or 2011," and make it a goal of not going beyond it.

"Mountain View needs to set a goal to prevent our jobs-housing balance from getting worse, and if we don't, more people will be driven out of town, more (adults) will be living with their parents and more kids will be sleeping on the floor," Siegel said.

Siegel says the city should actually track its ratio of jobs to employed residents, rather than jobs to homes, because many homes could be taken by seniors who don't work. Though that indicator may ignore the fact that many homes are also now filled with multiple employees and even multiple families. City staff said they would propose several "indicators" to help track the problem.

"Things are getting very bad and they are going to get a whole lot worse," Siegel said. "We're going to lose the diversity so many of our residents value."

Comments

Posted by Chris Christie, a resident of Castro City
on Apr 23, 2014 at 11:38 pm

Don't mention RENT CONTROL.


Posted by Chris Christie, a resident of Castro City
on Apr 24, 2014 at 12:05 am

Time for some traffic problems in Mountain View.


Posted by MVResident67, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Apr 24, 2014 at 9:59 am

I would like to know, specifically, the name(s) of the "powerful homeowner organizations" in Mountain View that have ever "blocked" any housing development in the *recent past? (*last 5 years)


...snipped from the above article...


"Mountain View -- as the article points out while citing the Voice's reporting -- is on track to develop space for more than 42,000 tech jobs in the coming years, and only a few thousand new homes. Writer Kim-Mai Cutler blames a striking lack of housing for Valley employees on the "NIMBY" culture (not in my backyard) among politically powerful homeowner organizations who have blocked housing development in cities such as Mountain View and Palo Alto.


Posted by MVResident67, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Apr 24, 2014 at 10:00 am

My above comment should read:


I would like to know, specifically, the name(s) of the "politically powerful homeowner organizations" in Mountain View that have ever "blocked" any housing development in the *recent past? (*last 5 years)


Posted by Konrad M. Sosnow, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Apr 24, 2014 at 2:33 pm

Can you picture Mountain View with 34,000 additional housing units (lower current ratio to 1:1), or 76,000 additional housing units lower ratio to 1:1 with future jobs included?

To do this we would need to cover the city with high-rise, high density apartments and condominiums.


Posted by Too Dense Already, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 24, 2014 at 2:50 pm

Mountain View already has the highest density of any city on the peninsula! Let Palo Alto and Atherton increase their density to half of what Mountain View has and then we can talk about building more homes.


Posted by Konrad M. Sosnow, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Apr 24, 2014 at 2:53 pm

I hear a lot about Affordable Housing but I don't hear many facts.

Affordable Housing is housing deemed affordable to those with a median household income.
Mountain View's median household income in 2011 was $86,460.

Recommended housing expenses are no more than 30% of income.
So, 30% of $86,460 is 25,938, or $2,162 per month.


Question 1: How many additional housing units would have to be built in Mountain View to lower the housing expenses down to $86,460?

Question 2: Where, in Mountain View, would you build these additional units?



Posted by Writingonthewall, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 24, 2014 at 3:37 pm

The city staff and council knew what they were doing when they hired a new city manager from one of the highest density cities in SC county: Campbell.

I'm afraid that our way of life is being thrown under the bus to protect the serenity and exclusivity of cities like los altos, atherton, Menlo, etc... I guess one city has to take the pain--why not mountain view?


Posted by Martin Omander, a resident of Rex Manor
on Apr 24, 2014 at 3:57 pm

Housing density has been increasing here for the last 250 years, due to factors that are beyond the control of any elected official. Many people want fix the density level to what it was in their formative years. Nothing new about that either.

Rather than sticking our heads in the sand and pretending we can stop time, let's face up to the future and plan for smart growth. Walkable neighborhoods, mixed development, more space for bikes, and more public transport would all help. And they would reduce pollution and traffic.


Posted by Nah, a resident of North Whisman
on Apr 24, 2014 at 4:14 pm

" Walkable neighborhoods, mixed development, more space for bikes, and more public transport would all help. And they would reduce pollution and traffic."

This is code for: "Unpleasant, but still barely walkable neighborhoods, mixed development so that residents will live in top if businesses and no longer have peace and quiet, more space for bikes by asking developers to put in bike racks in exchange for building even more dense than was planned for. And they would reduce pollution and traffic by reducing the incentive for people to leave their relatively peaceful sofa and tv"

Watch also for NIMBY which has been used to guilt neighborhoods into allowing the destruction of their city.

At this rate, we should rename Mountain View to MixedUseDevelopment View!!!! (We get to keep the MV!!!)


Posted by Fredrick, a resident of another community
on Apr 24, 2014 at 4:21 pm

I think Sacramento needs to step in and require every city in California to encompass at least 400,000 inhabitants. Not that Mountain View must grow to have that many residents, but it should be absorbed into a larger entity worthy of the name city. Right now, tiny communities can legally call themselves cities, and they come with princess on the pea attitude, only wanting it their way and nothing else. Eliminate Mountain View and ask Sacramento to make it impossible for little communities to be incorporated - and no grandfathering in.


Posted by MVResident67, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Apr 24, 2014 at 5:08 pm

Random news blurb about the Bike Share program:

Web Link


"The Bay Area Metropolitan Transportation Commission approved $8.7 million in funding Wednesday morning to expand the Bay Area Bicycle Share program to the East Bay in 2015 despite delays in existing expansion plans caused by the bankruptcy of a key business."

...snip...

"There are 69 existing bike share stations in San Francisco, San Jose, Mountain View, Palo Alto and Redwood City, with 35 of those in San Francisco. About 90 percent of the regions 171,039 bike share rides have been in San Francisco, according to the MTC.

Existing established systems in New York and Minneapolis have about four rides per bike per day, and San Francisco, with more limited infrastructure so far, has averaged about two bike rides per bike per day, considered a successful pilot launch, according to the MTC.

Other cities, particularly on the Peninsula, have significantly lagged behind, such as Redwood City, which has seen only 0.09 rides per bike per day, the MTC said. The MTC will be conducting a more thorough analysis in those cities, reevaluating the location of the bike sharing stations and conducting outreach campaigns to pick up the pace. "


Posted by MVResident67, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Apr 24, 2014 at 5:16 pm

In reading the Bike Share article I noticed that the $8.7 million dollar expansion is expected to provide 750 additional bikes...so that would be a until cost of $11,600.00 per bike, which is eye popping!


Posted by Geek, a resident of Sylvan Park
on Apr 24, 2014 at 5:30 pm

$8.7mil/32k(households)=$271
Enough to donate 1 bike to each household.


Posted by MVResident67, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Apr 24, 2014 at 5:36 pm

@Geek:

"$8.7mil/32k(households)=$271
Enough to donate 1 bike to each household."

~~~~~~~~~

Shhhhhh....we wouldn't want logic and/or fiscal responsibility interfere with "successful" government program.


Posted by OMV Resident, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 24, 2014 at 6:26 pm

@Geek and MVResident67

"$8.7mil/32k(households)=$271
Enough to donate 1 bike to each household."

~~~~~~~~~

Shhhhhh....we wouldn't want logic and/or fiscal responsibility interfere with "successful" government program."

------------------

Nice try, but next time maybe use some accurate figures.

The $8.7 million cost was for the bike share pilot across the 5 cities - SF, Redwood City, Palo Alto, Mountain View, and San Jose. The combined number of households in those cities, according to 2010 Census figures, is about 764,500. So if you want to use a $ per household metric, that would be $8.7mil/764.5k = $11.38, or enough to donate 1 rather cheap bike light to each household.

My point is not to defend the bike share program - I think it is a stretch to implement it in places like Mountain View - I'd rather see it densely concentrated in SF, San Jose, and Berkeley/Oakland. But I also wrote to point out the loose use of "facts" by our serial posters such as MVResident67, who use these "facts" to reinforce ideological statements about the government, fiscal responsibility, etc.








Posted by MVResident67, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Apr 24, 2014 at 7:17 pm

@OMV,

You might want to try and not conflate what I posted with a quote from another poster that I was quoted in my reply.

I believe my initial post was accurate, and am re-posting below to clear up any confusion you may have...


"In reading the Bike Share article I noticed that the $8.7 million dollar expansion is expected to provide 750 additional bikes...so that would be a until cost of $11,600.00 per bike, which is eye popping!"


Posted by MVResident67, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Apr 24, 2014 at 7:23 pm

Reposted with edits for clarity...


@OMV,

You might want to try and not conflate what I posted with a quote from another poster, which I quoted in my reply.

I believe my initial post was accurate, and am re-posting below to clear up any confusion you may have...


"In reading the Bike Share article I noticed that the $8.7 million dollar expansion is expected to provide 750 additional bikes...so that would be a until cost of $11,600.00 per bike, which is eye popping!"



P.S. My bad for quipping about the lack of fiscal responsibility for a government managed program. Sometimes the truth hurts.


Posted by MVResident67, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Apr 24, 2014 at 7:48 pm

Oh, and...

OMV:

"The $8.7 million cost was for the bike share pilot across the 5 cities - SF, Redwood City, Palo Alto, Mountain View, and San Jose."

~~~~~~~~~~

Comprehension issues, or just blinded by your disdain for anything I post?

You might want to read either the article I linked up thread, or my quote from the article (that is posted in the same comment as the link), both of which clearly state the following...


"The Bay Area Metropolitan Transportation Commission approved $8.7 million in funding Wednesday morning to expand the Bay Area Bicycle Share program to the East Bay in 2015 despite delays in existing expansion plans caused by the bankruptcy of a key business."


Posted by OMV Resident, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 24, 2014 at 9:53 pm

@MVResident67 --

OK, my bad - I skimmed the article and assumed the figures you quoted were for the initial deployment in the 5 cities.

And maybe I rushed to respond... a little annoyed by the fact that you hijacked a message board about MV's jobs-housing balance with a completely unrelated article about bike sharing, quoted one correct fact, and then tacitly supported @Geek's made-up "fact" to support your ideological potshots.


Posted by Robert, a resident of Slater
on Apr 25, 2014 at 12:15 am

Robert is a registered user.

I believe that cities should have the right of self determination. If they want to be a high density community that's their decision and conversely if they choose to retain their low density suburban lifestyle that's fine too, it's their choice. I am reminded of a local cartoon showing a developer's presentation to a city council. Their project was called Silicon Living Units for the Masses; SLUM.
We are blessed with companies who provide lots of jobs. People who work in those companies have a choice, no one is forcing them to work. When the pain involved in working exceeds the rewards, people will leave. If enough people leave, the companies will leave as well. The government doesn't need to fix anything, because nothing is broken. The natural laws of economics will eventually prevail as the have always done.


Posted by Desmond, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 25, 2014 at 1:06 am

Density, when done right, can improve the quality of life for a city. But you have to mix offices and apartments in the core. Building apartments in one place and offices in another just leads to traffic. But build them in the same place, along with transit, shops, restaurants & and entertainment, and the residents of this core won't need to own a car at all.

I recommend Mountain View residents look at Bellevue, Washington for inspiration about how to grow a suburb into a beautiful city with a dense, walkable core.


Posted by Aaron, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 25, 2014 at 2:32 am

OK. I have to join this conversation. Having grown up in Bellevue, WA and watched it turn from apple orchards into what it is today AND having spent the last 15 years in Mountain View, I feel that I have some insight into the Desmond's comment,

"I recommend Mountain View residents look at Bellevue, Washington for inspiration about how to grow a suburb into a beautiful city with a dense, walkable core. "

I love Mountain View and I'm very concerned that the city planners have painted us into a corner where we will be forced to build a large high density infrastructure in place of the beautiful, vibrant, walkable and safe city that we have today.

When I was a kid in Bellevue, it was very easy and enjoyable to walk or ride your bicycle everywhere. Over time, the density increased and there was little regard for bicycling or walking pathways through the growing urban jungle.

Here Web Link is a picture depicting what downtown looks like. Do we really want Mountain View to follow Bellevue's lead and put in 42 story buildings? San Jose doesn't have one that comes close and San Francisco only has a handful that exceed this.

There are some nice areas in Bellevue, but most likely those areas were like that decades ago and have been preserved (at least temporarily).

In Bellevue's case, they had a tremendous pressure from the proximity to Microsoft to build up for them. In fact, the skyline of downtown Bellevue is now painted with the Microsoft logo as they have converted a good chunk to an extended campus! Many workers live in Seattle and commute in to the main Redmond campus(Bellevue is in between the two). I'm sure there are quite a few employees that now live in the built-up Bellevue, but I wonder how happy they are? Seattle is a big, beautiful vibrant city full of arts, parks, weird quirky people, universities, etc.. The newly built-up Bellevue is now mostly full of corporate owned restaurants, mainstream movie theaters and paved over orchards. I'm sure there are lots of people that enjoy that lifestyle, but it came at a cost of destroying a beautiful city. (Interesting to note that Bellevue is french for "beautiful view"--like Mountain View!")

Desmond--The more I write about this, the more grateful that I am that you brought up Bellevue. The parallel is amazingly close. Seattle = San Francisco, Google = Microsoft, Mountain View = Bellevue

The only difference is that Microsoft has had decades to build up there while google is big, but still ramping up. The question is do we want Mountain View to turn into a Bellevue? (Please see the picture I attached to this message.)


Posted by Desmond, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 25, 2014 at 8:27 pm

Aaron - I both lived & worked in downtown Bellevue for 3 years. I'm not going to rebut your statements point-by-point. But your central thesis seems to be that density comes at the cost of walkability. We must have different definitions of walkability, because that doesn't make any sense to me. Are you really suggesting that height-restricted suburbs encourage more trips to be taken by foot instead of in cars?

Take a look at this measurement of walkability in Mountain View: Web Link
(scroll down past the apartments for rent to see how it's calculated)

My primary complaint with Mountain View is the balkanization of different uses of land. The areas closest to downtown are mostly zoned for single family houses. That's wonderful for the lucky few that occupy those houses. But it forces apartments away from transit and the walkable downtown. It should be no surprise that such poorly located density increases traffic, impacting quality of life for the entire city.

And Mountain View builds offices primarily to the North, also away from downtown and transit. So every morning half the city ends up gridlocked on Shoreline. What's done is done, but it's crazy to me that the plan seems to be double down on this ridiculous traffic-intensifying design.

Mountain View should be building offices (and condos/apartments!) on top of transit and as close as politically possible to Castro & San Antonio.

PS: Your picture of Bellevue looks fine, if a little overcropped. Here are some better ones:

[1]: Web Link
[2]: Web Link
[3]: Web Link


Posted by Aaron, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 26, 2014 at 12:41 am

Hey Desmond. Sorry to pick on you… :) but in all the time I've lived in Mountain View, nobody has ever mentioned Bellevue. (Certainly not to hold it up as a shining example of what Mountain View should aspire to.) It really got me to think about the parallels between the two cities and I think you for that.

"But your central thesis seems to be that density comes at the cost of walkability."

I don't mean that universally. I would call Manhattan "walkable", but not necessarily a place I nor many MV residents would care to live. Having lived in Bellevue for a long time and also worked downtown, I can tell you that there are only a handful of blocks that are well connected. (Co-workers and I used to laugh when the sidewalk would just end and leave us in traffic!) The ones closer to the Bellevue Square Mall had a lot of focus by Kemper Freeman (developer and owner of the Mall). As you get closer to I-90, the walk is less pleasant (more accurately, more unpleasant) and in some places not well connected. Regardless, you will note a lack of any greenery, parks or culture. (What is there is in or near "Old Bellevue" and is probably under pressure to vacate!) It really is just a lot of concrete, glass and steel.

"Are you really suggesting that height-restricted suburbs encourage more trips to be taken by foot instead of in cars?"

No, I don't think that cities that restrict the height of their buildings to single digits are necessarily going to either encourage nor discourage more foot trips vs car. If someone *needs* to get from point A to point B, then they will tend to do it using the most efficient means available and there are practical variables that will affect that decision (parking, transit, safety, etc..). On the other hand, if the walk is actually *pleasant*, then they are more likely to leave their homes for a pleasure walk (no particular errand to run). If they have to take an elevator down 20 stories, walk out on a sterile paved walkway and have nothing around them but crass commercialism, I truly believe they will tend to stay inside.

I hear what you are saying: "My primary complaint with Mountain View is the balkanization of different uses of land. The areas closest to downtown are mostly zoned for single family houses. That's wonderful for the lucky few that occupy those houses."
And to summarize the rest of what you wrote, you would like to see an aggressive implementation of "Smart Growth" in downtown Mountain View.

Now, by "lucky few", I assume you mean the "lucky thousands". Web Link shows in 2011 there to be 6,041 Houses and Condos PLUS 3600 Renter-occupied apartments.

Now, I think it would be absolutely wonderful if everyone that wants to live near downtown Mountain View (94041 zipcode) could. (Frankly, I would love to live across the street from an ocean beach!) My concern is that if everyone does that, then it will turn this place into something that I won't want to live in anymore. A true Smart Growther would call that attitude "NIMBY" or "Not in my backyard!" and I guess in this one instance I am! I have a nice walk to downtown through quiet neighborhoods with pretty landscaping into a vibrant urban downtown setting. (I love the "whistlestop" towns here in the Bay Area.) If I wanted to live in a massive paved glass & steel environment, then I would move to downtown SJ, San Francisco or even back to Bellevue.

Regarding the pictures you posted…I also ran into those while trying to find a representative image of downtown Bellevue. The one I chose I felt was the most accurate rendering of downtown Bellevue. Let me explain why I skipped over a couple of the ones you published :

Web Link
This one is actually not so bad, but I felt that it conveyed an experience that most will not have. All of the services in downtown Bellevue are around the high rise buildings. When walking around in downtown, it is pretty reminiscent of walking around the financial district of SF. Pretty dull at best. One might notice the trees around the (gasp) single family houses on the left. Yes, very nice! But there really isn't much use for downtown dweller to go over there, except to escape the pavement, steel and glass.
The larger issue I find with photographs like these is the existence of the large 1-3 story buildings (in this picture, the lower right hand corner). It gives the impression that this town has a variety of densities. Actually, those buildings are scheduled for demolition (if not already demolished) and will be replaced with very tall buildings.

Web Link
This one I ran across and is a misleading image. Look how beautiful bellevue is! The lake, the tress and a bustling urban center! Well, guess what? The only part of Bellevue being shown is the paved glass & steel jungle. "Behind" the urban jungle are a lot of beautiful trees and homes, but most of that is the city of Medina that has chosen to preserve the beauty of their city. The lake in the picture is in no way adjoining Bellevue and beyond that is, of course, Seattle.

This one is my favorite:
Web Link
Set aside any the fact this picture is published on a mortgage broker's website that is trying to sell the area to potential buyers… To get this beautiful view, the camera had to be outside of bellevue some miles in the middle of Lake Washington. At least 1/2 the tree-lined waterfront land is NOT Bellevue, but is Medina. The spit of land on the right looks nice, although it is interesting to note that it was annexed into Bellevue only 20-30 years ago. The steel and glass pictured in the center IS Bellevue. Now, the beautiful background is both interesting and beautiful. Presuming it was not a photoshop job, it is amazing what the right lens and angle can do to perspective. Having grown up within a few miles of downtown Bellevue, I can tell you with absolute certainty that this is not a view you will get in the city. In fact, it is probably only available to people who take their helicopter over lake Washington and use a long lens to make it appear the mountains are very close and being in downtown Bellevue is like being at a ski resort. (trust me—it's not) (Actually, the more I look at this image, the more fake it looks. Will have to run it by my family that is still living there..)

Anyway, Mountain View is in a tough position, or rather, as I believe, it has chosen to place itself there…


Posted by Christopher Chiang, a resident of North Whisman
on Apr 26, 2014 at 11:12 am

Why must our idea of housing be limited to past and existing housing formats?

Preserve what makes MV special by stopping overall growth in the single home areas that's destroying the quiet small town feel of MV, reduce traffic, and increase housing supply in a 21st century ecological way that slows down rising housing costs? Yes, yes, yes.

Aiming for all 3 is no more naive than car companies making more fuel efficient, cheaper, robust vehicles or than smart devices with thinner formats, more processing power, and longer battery life. None of them did so by sticking to existing solutions, they innovated.

Why not a carbon neutral North Bayshore housing community of micro and smaller housing that doesn't build for private car space, but has vast access to the adjacent Bayshore trails, city bike routes to adjacent companies, and expanded public transit, private shuttle, and shared Zipcar style services?

This doesn't have to appeal to everyone, but just enough people to cool down demand and stop growth South of the 101, especially along El Camino that provides those residents with very little options other than to drive and impact already crowded schools.


Posted by concerned citizen, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 26, 2014 at 11:54 pm

On one recent thread here, someone asked how much new office space Merlone Geier is proposing for San Antonio Phase 2. The answer is in this "Draft Environmental Impact Report" : Web Link.

The two favored plan alternatives are described in sections 5.3.2 and 5.3.3:

5.3.2 describes the "Reduced Density (Existing Zoning) Alternative". This would include 392,853 sf of new office space, but no hotel or cinema. This is being pushed as the alternative with less impact (!).

5.3.3 describes the "Reduced Density (Residential Component) Alternative. This would include 196,427 sf of new office space, 17,042 sf of hotel space, and 150,000 sf of residential, plus a cinema.

The EIR presents these as the only alternatives, except for "no project". Obviously, this is nonsense. The whole thing needs to be rethought. Personally, I'd like to see Phase 2 limited to retail and a very moderate amount of housing.


Posted by Konrad M. Sosnow, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Apr 28, 2014 at 2:27 pm

@Christopher Chiang,

Developers are coin driven. They build what sells (is in demand) and opt for the maximum profit - denser / taller/ more expensive (Build more Maderas. Even if City Council O.K'ed development in North Bayshore, I doubt if you could find a developer to build micro and smaller housing that doesn't have private car space.


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