Group to seek referendum on San Antonio project

Campaign for a Balanced Mountain View would collect signatures for vote on Merlone Geier redevelopment

Community organizers are seeking to stop Merlone Geier's redevelopment of San Antonio Shopping Center this summer.

The Campaign for a Balanced Mountain View has taken issue with developer Merlone Geier's proposal to build large office buildings without adding any housing in its second phase of the major redevelopment of the shopping center. The group has also taken issue with the developer's treatment of the Milk Pail Market, which may be forced out without an agreement with Merlone Geier for parking for the store.

The group unanimously voted Monday evening to collect at least 3,240 signatures from registered Mountain View voters in July to put the project up for a city-wide vote -- if the City Council approves the project before summer break. Voters would be asked to simply reject the project as it has been proposed, potentially putting the project in the hands of a newly elected City Council next year.

"We don't really want to do a referendum in July, but we will if we have to," said campaign founder Lenny Siegel, a Mountain View resident since the 1970s and director of the Center for Public Environmental Oversight.

To members of the group, the major planning issue of the day is a growing imbalance of housing in the face of skyrocketing job growth and office development, which has driven up rents and worsened commuter traffic. The campaign's membership includes everyone from younger residents facing the possibility of being pushed out by high rents to longtime residents like Betsy Collard, a resident of Mountain View for 45 years and former board member of the old Mountain View School District.

"I see so many people who grew up in Mountain View who have lived here all their lives being forced out because of the rising rent," Collard said. "We may not be able to do as much as we'd like about that, but we certainly don't need to make the problem worse by building more office space before we build housing."

After founding the group earlier this year, Siegel had been pushing for housing in North Bayshore, but "people at the meeting were pretty excited about this, I was surprised," Siegel said of the new focus on the San Antonio center. "This has not been on my personal radar screen."

Members of the group say they would like to see homes built instead of the pair of six-story office buildings totaling 397,000 square feet that Merlone Geier has proposed. Merlone Geier's proposed offices would make room for 2,000 to 4,000 jobs when calculated at 100 to 200 square feet per employee. Siegel added that many people are upset that Merlone Geier appears to be pushing out the Milk Pail Market, which owns its building but doesn't own the required amount of parking to go with it.

But simply replacing the offices with homes won't be enough to please the group, which is insisting that the city follow a "precise plan" being drafted for the San Antonio Area. It is intended to be a larger plan that addresses various community needs in and around the large shopping center. It is scheduled to be complete near the end of the year.

"A lot of people want to see a lot of housing built there and for whatever is developed there to be more oriented to Caltrain," Siegel said. "But one of the key issues here is the fact there's no precise plan. Where would kids go to school? Because there's no school in that part of town. That's an issue that should be addressed in the precise plan. Mountain View has this bad habit of telling developers, 'Oh yeah, go ahead, we'll start discussing what kind of brick you are going to use,' before they've dealt with the major planning issues."

"The city appears to be rushing through final approval despite many unanswered questions on parking, circulation, transit access, and design, including shared parking for the Milk Pail Market," Siegel wrote in a letter to the City Council. "We urge you to put off consideration of this proposal until the Precise Plan is completed, and to include in Precise Plan discussions consideration of an alternative that provides a significant number of new housing units, including a substantial fraction of below-market homes, as part of a transit-oriented development."

Member Lucas Ramirez said the group may still do a referendum on the city's North Bayshore precise plan as well, but "we focused on (Merlone Geier's project) because that is likely to be approved by the council before the summer recess, and we would need to act quickly."

The North Bayshore precise plan may allow office growth for as many as 20,000 new jobs for Google and LinkedIn, among others, with no new housing in that area. That was despite a North Bayshore housing proposal supported by Google that was rejected by the City Council in 2012.

All told, the city is facing up to 6.4 million square feet of office growth in the near future, estimated as enough space for over 36,000 jobs. The city's zoning allows for an estimated 7,000 new homes by 2030, according the city's general plan adopted in 2012.

For more information on the effort, visit


Posted by Sylvie, a resident of Blossom Valley
on May 20, 2014 at 2:15 pm

Where do I sign? :)
I like the idea that we can wrest control of this ridiculous project away from the developers and the inept City Council. Thanks for getting this started!

Posted by Craig, a resident of Rengstorff Park
on May 20, 2014 at 2:16 pm

Where do I sign the petition?

Posted by Taking it back, a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 20, 2014 at 2:23 pm

Furiously clicking my ball pint pen. Where is that petition???

Posted by eggzie, a resident of another community
on May 20, 2014 at 2:29 pm

Where do I sign up and how do I get one to pass around my condo complex?

Posted by sick of it, a resident of Waverly Park
on May 20, 2014 at 2:32 pm

Where do I sign?! Is there a link in this article?

Yes I could not agree more. What the he?? is happening to Mountain View? Take away the views, add big buildings, add traffic, make the cost of housing affordable only for the very wealthy, and replace our neighborhood stores with businesses that cater to the wealthy instead of to the broader population?

They've taken out businesses that I used to patronize and replaced them with businesses that I will never patronize! Rite Aid, the sporting goods store, the shoe store, Sears, I used to shop at all those. Now there's a pricey restaurant, a mattress store, and a place that sells $10 hamburgers? There's nothing for me in the new San Antonio. There are already 3 other Safeway stores near me. If they take out Milk Pail I would have to go to Felipe's in Sunnyvale or the place next to Trader Joe's on Homestead. The city planning department is sending residents like me out of town to do our shopping.

I used to go to Sears for hardware and the best garden hoses made. Now I have to drive to Sears Vallco in Cupertino, and as long as I'm down that way, I'll stop at the Cupertino Joann Fabric and Target instead of the MV stores.

I used to go to Rite Aid on Grant for ice cream, cosmetics, toiletries, prescriptions, office supplies, and tons of other day-to-day items. Now that's being replaced by an "upscale" fitness club.

It's just really pissing me off that the city seems hellbent on replacing businesses that provide goods and services to many, with businesses that provide goods and services to only the wealthy.

And if you believe in free market and property owners rights and developers calling the shots, that's your choice and you don't need to reply to my post because I already know we disagree.

Posted by Brett, a resident of another community
on May 20, 2014 at 2:37 pm

I don't care about new housing. They need to fix the traffic mess on San Antonio Road. The stretch between El Camino and Central Expressway has become impassable. The new traffic light at Fayette is a disaster. Hundreds of cars on San Antonio backed up every minute so that half a dozen cars can go through cross traffic on Fayette. Totally ridiculous!

Posted by Dennis, a resident of Monta Loma
on May 20, 2014 at 2:39 pm

I live on San Antonio Rd down by Middlefield and the greatest threat I see to any sustainability to growth in this whole area is the ability of San Antonio Rd to even remotely being an avenue for proper traffic flow as the city grows. Several years ago San Antonio was reduced from three to two lanes each way with a large center divider put in. As I write San Antonio is greatly over loaded with traffic that often backs up to Central. Heavy trucks that shouldn't be on the road have devastated the intersection at Middlefied Rd causing large groves in the payment that was never made to handle the tonnage of said vehicles. I want the city to grow, and especially with Google coming into the old H/P, Mayfield mall area, how is the city going to deal with roads that cannot bear that growth. Even on weekends the San Antonio Rd. traffic is a nightmare.

Posted by sick of it, a resident of Waverly Park
on May 20, 2014 at 2:40 pm

Web Link

Posted by Ron, a resident of Waverly Park
on May 20, 2014 at 2:42 pm

@sick of it: I think your anger is misplaced. The city of Mountain View had nothing to do with getting rid of Sears and RiteAid. The closing of Sears stores nationwide has been going on for decades now. RiteAid chose to leave that location on Grant, and you have a different CVS and multiple Walgreens to choose from in Mountain View. I have no personal use for a fitness center either, but this is not part of some plot to chase others out. Things change. Some stuff leaves and new stuff comes in.

Posted by Agree with parts, a resident of Shoreline West
on May 20, 2014 at 2:43 pm

Agree that we should get MG to replace the office space with housing and a more local mix of stores. We advocate for CC to give that direction to MG. Why mount an expensive recall?

Posted by Lenny Siegel, a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 20, 2014 at 2:49 pm

We (the Campaign for a Balanced Mountain View) can't collect signatures to repeal the Council's action until the Council takes action. If you want to be contacted if and when we have to circulate a petition, go to to find out how to join our e-mail list.

Posted by Bored M, a resident of Cuesta Park
on May 20, 2014 at 3:09 pm

People should quit complaining and go make more money... I don't say that to be crass, but as a way of solving individual issues such as rent price increases. I have left money on the table for work-life balance. That's my choice, but I sure wouldn't let my present decisions come back to bite me financially down the road.

Life decisions have consequences and being priced out of markets is a consequence.

Posted by Dave, a resident of Sylvan Park
on May 20, 2014 at 3:12 pm

What a bunch of whining. Bring people here to work. It's a good thing. So is constructing office buildings near a train stop. We will never build enough housing for everyone who works in Mountain View -- that's why people can live elsewhere and take the train and walk to work. We need to grow -- if you don't like it, get in your car and move to some bedroom community in the midwest so someone who wants to live and work here can move into your house.

Posted by Confused, a resident of Cuesta Park
on May 20, 2014 at 3:26 pm

Wouldn't housing also cause congestion issues? I mean, presumably those people have to drive somewhere to make money...

Posted by p, a resident of The Crossings
on May 20, 2014 at 3:43 pm

I am so tired of hearing about more shopping, more housing, more traffic and more people.

I would hope that the City Council would have enough sense to understand that this constant and enormous addition of housing is causing a huge problem. They are perfectly happy to get revenue from these new businesses and dwellings, but don't have enough sense to add even one school. They are content to place the burden on the city of Los Altos, while they continue to CAUSE the problem.

I spend VERY little retail money in Mountain View anymore due to this issue. My child attends an LASD school and I want my money to go to the city that educates him, not to the city that creates overcrowding in the schools we already have.

Is there a reason that the city doesn't make the old Safeway site into a school? Why do they feel that it is reasonable to burden another city by their greed and foolish "planning"?

I will sign if only to slow this train wreck caused by the greed and lack of awareness of the consequences of the actions they are taking.

Posted by GDM, a resident of Blossom Valley
on May 20, 2014 at 4:03 pm

Do all you people who are clamoring for more housing remember that several years ago Home Depot wanted to come in here and every one got all up in arms about it. Now you don't like what you got in it's place.

Referendums are a bone headed way to solve a problem. They turn the decision making over to the voters who will decide based on very little information, propaganda, and sound bites.

Milk Pail needs to quite whining and get real.

I will not be signing any petition.

Posted by Save the Milk Pail, a resident of Cuesta Park
on May 20, 2014 at 4:13 pm

I will sign just TO KEEP THE MILK PAIL. I don't disagree with everything else the petition is talking about, but I will do my part to hold up the entire phase II, if Merlone Geier will not give shared parking to Milk Pail.

Posted by Konrad M. Sosnow, a resident of Cuesta Park
on May 20, 2014 at 4:28 pm

We need carefully thought out, responsible growth for residences, retail and offices.

Build!, Build!, Build is the irresponsible mantra of the majority of our City Council.

Posted by Need better, bigger roads, a resident of Monta Loma
on May 20, 2014 at 4:40 pm

If we build more and more, than our roads have to get better. Cars are not going away and not everyone that moves here from Detroit will ride a bike to work. Actually they will probably drive a Big GMC.

Bigger and better roads are vital to this city's future, especially where the big stores will be located and new houses.

I will sign it, especially if it saves the Milk Pail.

Posted by CP Resident, a resident of Blossom Valley
on May 20, 2014 at 5:00 pm

Sounds like Campaign for a Balanced Mountain View has a view that "balanced" involves a cloistered automotive-centric suburban lifestyle glamorized post-WWII. It banishes all walkability, bike-ability, mass transit and higher density community to serve oneself.

Growth is coming, and if it's not coming here; it'll go somewhere else. So why are we letting the Luddites ruin it for everyone else?

Posted by K, a resident of Sylvan Park
on May 20, 2014 at 5:01 pm

Too late for reasonable growth, the new housing being developed is typically out of reach and impractical, for example a studio for $2700 at the San Antonio 'Village'. I kid you not... Web Link

Posted by Geek, a resident of Sylvan Park
on May 20, 2014 at 5:35 pm

"Add more housing" mantra is nauseating. Adding more houses will not solve traffic problems, school overcrowding, etc.

Posted by MV Mama, a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 20, 2014 at 5:53 pm

Agree with Geek, adding more housing creates more of a nightmare, we do not have the infrastructure to support it. Plus, they would just add high rise luxury apartments anyways. Very few people can afford the rents for the many buildings going up in Mountain View right now. The demand it so high that supply will continue to demand premium rents.

Posted by Lucas Ramirez, a resident of The Crossings
on May 20, 2014 at 6:14 pm

Just to clarify, a hypothetical referendum would not add housing, save the Milk Pail, or build a school in the San Antonio area. It would merely give the voters the opportunity to approve or reject the proposal ultimately accepted by the city council. No signatures could be collected until the council formally approves the proposal.

Posted by Too Narrow of scope, a resident of Jackson Park
on May 20, 2014 at 8:10 pm

If your going to go to all the trouble of making a referendum, Why not make a referendum to halt all office development until the traffic problem is solved for an entire year!

How long are we going to build corporate owned housing consessions while we force our old folks to cling to their houses because they have no fixed housing cost condos to down size into?

The only way to force rents down by building housing, is to build enough that demand falls off from the overcrowding. How about a referendum to put rent controls on all new housing that is not owner occupied, and stop building units with stairs, instead of flats appropriate for the elderly?

Posted by Nancy, a resident of The Crossings
on May 20, 2014 at 9:24 pm

What can residents on San Antonio, Palo Alto do to help this fight. The heavy traffic affects us too.

Posted by Logical, a resident of Sylvan Park
on May 20, 2014 at 9:54 pm

Hey...let's not do anything. We don't need any of this. Stop the commercial development and all construction until it is properly planned and the infrastructure is in place. Who says we always have to grow or expand? When does it stop?

Posted by AA, a resident of Rex Manor
on May 21, 2014 at 9:20 am

I don't really see how more housing helps. I think it just creates the need for even MORE building and MORE traffic. People who live here (as opposed to people who just work here) will need more services - more schools, more parks, more doctors offices, more grocery stores, more, more, more. This puts an even greater strain on Mountain View than if we just needed to accommodate the needs of more workers.

I think the only solution here is to be smart about where we build new housing. Ideally close to town centers, bike routes and bus stops so people can minimize car trips (I live in a wonderful neighborhood where I can walk to many things I need, even with two small children in tow.)

Office space should be placed near Caltrain and light rail stops so it's easier for people to commute to work from outside MV. Not everyone will want to live in MV, and not everyone will want to live in high-density housing, which is really the only new kind of housing we have space to build in Mountain View any more.

Mountain View is a great place to live. We will never be able to build enough housing to support all who want to live here. With some smart planning I think we can build some additional housing (mostly apartments), and make it easier for those who want or need to only come here for work.

Posted by Robert, a resident of another community
on May 21, 2014 at 11:30 am

Unfortunately there are too many people who think its acceptable, once they move somewhere, to close the door behind them. Newsflash: you're just as responsible for the traffic, school crowding, etc. as anyone else.

Posted by Garrett, a resident of another community
on May 21, 2014 at 12:34 pm

I agree with mixed use projects like phase 1 and 2, places where people can live, shop, work and spent time after working.

The project sits within walking distance of Caltrain, this is a major plus, VTA needs to be extended to the San Antonio Rd. Right now parking is needed, transit options must be built. We aren't going to have transit options until we get away from the 50's idea development that leads to drive everywhere.

The city of Los Altos or Mountain View doesn't make any decision regarding the LASD which they get most of property tax money from the San Antonio Center. The city of Mountain View and MVWSD should offer help or one of the many sites in reserve until LASD can find a site.

Office buildings, shopping centers, movie theaters, hotels and restaurants don't produce children. Not everyone living in Mountain View wants to have children, not everyone wants to get married right away.

If we are talking about adding housing in North Bayshore, we are going to need another phase 1 and 2, much higher density.

Posted by Garrett , a resident of another community
on May 22, 2014 at 11:02 am

One more thing to add which is very impoetant. Lots of people left for rising rents, home prices or having to increase costs of staing in business here. Yes Sears, Arrow, Pac Press, Ferry Morse and others left for better and cheaper pastures.

Some left due to traffic, some left due to changes in the work force or just plain costs. Others left because the business climate changed for growth to no growth. I am not saying we have to grow like there is no tomorrow but we have to plan for tomorrow.

Posted by No, Garrett, a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 22, 2014 at 6:18 pm

" Others left because the business climate changed [from] growth to no growth..."

I don't know how anyone could *honestly* say that MV has had a "no growth" climate. It's simply not true. The opposite, in fact. City government has enabled and encouraged growth, to the point where we are now facing some serious problems.

This referendum is a great idea. Where do I sign?

Posted by Garrett, a resident of another community
on May 22, 2014 at 7:00 pm

I am not saying Mountain View ever had No Growth or even long term slow growth. But growth like no growth can change a city, suburb or a town.

Mountain View grew out of post war car suburban sprawl, wasn't even a rail suburb like in the 20's. The tech industry that is growing is a hometown industry spun out of the world wide desire of tech.

Yes people left, businesses left due to the growth of tech and the wealth of this giant industry. If you want to see some real No Growth places, north bay is a good place to start, political careers were made fighting growth that some held or hold federal office.

Posted by yesforbalancedmv, a resident of The Crossings
on May 23, 2014 at 2:42 am

yes we'll definitely sign! 6 story office bldgs, 6 theaters, 8 story hotel, no shared parking and no milk pail - TERRIBLE!! cannot stand the design and density of the proposed phase 11. PS : website does not work. Many thanks to Lenny Siegel and Jac Siegel for all the good work they do for this city.

Posted by Garrett, a resident of another community
on May 23, 2014 at 7:34 am

This is the kind of projects that should be built in North Bayshore and Whisman

Posted by GarrettForMayor, a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 23, 2014 at 11:23 am

I agree with Garrett. We need to completely pave over Mountain View, because that is the right thing to do.

North Bayshore is wasted. I saw some birds nesting over there, plus while on a sidewalk, I saw the sky peeping over a google building. Why not build 8 stories all the way to the sidewalk? Grassy areas? That is to 1950's.

Pave it all over and build to the sky. It is the right thing to do, because Garrett says so.

Garrett has my vote for Mayor!

Posted by Garrett, a resident of another community
on May 23, 2014 at 2:05 pm

Lets go and find a small town that can be changed into a suburb. Build thosands of homes and apartments with shopping centers. Clear away the farms, the rural based economy for auto centric living.

Sounds familiar

Widen streets, build freeways and enjoy the easy commute.

While all this happens, don't encourage the local industry to grow.

Posted by Lenny Siegel, a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 23, 2014 at 3:19 pm

Those who wish to be placed on the Campaign for a Balanced Mountain View e-mail list while our website ( is down can do so by e-mailing me at

Posted by GoGarrett!, a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 23, 2014 at 11:15 pm

Garrett has it right! Because the last farm in Mountain View was converted into homes, there is nothing left to save, so might as well pave it over.

That is the best thing to do, otherwise it is the not the best thing to do.

I wish all City Council candidates were as smart as Mr. Garrett!

Pave it over!

Posted by Garrett, a resident of another community
on May 24, 2014 at 6:15 am

Not saying we pave over homes or yards to make room for offices. The sad thing large scale farms were cut up, housing built and people have back yard gardens. Ok great, but not going to feed the masses.

San Antonio in its hey day was a sea of parking with not very many trees or green space. Yes I agree way to much office space but I don't see major retailers beating down the door.

Don't see anything wrong theaters, Old Mill had 6 of them across the street. Might even attract evening activities and late night dining options.

Shared parking, Milk Pail Market needs to surive, mixed use businesses in mixed use project is the future for old shopping centers and who knows North Bayshore.

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