Mountain View's real estate boom has hit a new threshhold: city planning director Randy Tsuda told the City Council that his department has reached its capacity for reviewing development proposals.
On Tuesday, Tsuda asked the City Council to delay a slew of new development proposals, saying, "We've never been at this level of development activity."
The City Council voted unanimously to delay development proposals that have poured in, including seven office projects and one housing project. Most are for North Bayshore and will have to wait for the development of a precise plan, a blueprint for development for the area north of Highway 101 that will take into account the larger needs of the area.
The City Council is hoping to approve the plan by the end of the year.
The delayed projects include the following North Bayshore projects: a 296,000-square-foot, six-story office building for 1625 Plymouth St. by Broadreach Capital Partners; a 200-room, five-story high-tech hotel by the Shashi Grioup for 1625 North Shoreline Blvd.; a three-story, 113,000-square-foot office building at 1040-1060 La Avenida for Berg and Berg Enterprises; and for the north side of Highway 101, "a gateway signature headquarters" for LinkedIn that may go up to eight stories tall, replacing several small buildings near the movie theater that house Togos, Laser Quest, Gold's Gym and others at 1400 N. Shoreline Blvd.
LinkedIn's 370,000-square-foot headquarters campus on Stierlin Court could also double in size in another project.
Outside of the North Bayshore area, the Sobrato organization has proposed a 151,000-square-foot office building for 465 Fairchild Drive.
"You're going to be busy for a long time, you've got a lot of projects, a lot of people wanting to come to your community," said developer Andy Byde of Braddock and Logan, as he made his pitch for the lone residential project amongst the office development proposals. He called them "city changing projects" compared to his own. He proposes to renovate the entire complex at 777 West Middlefield Road, while demolishing eight units and building 46. The City Council was already familiar with the plan, having deadlocked 3-3 on the project last year, but backed away from it once again, some members saying it was because it is outside "change areas" in the city's new general plan.
The city's 13 planners are busy processing around 80 development applications. Tsuda has said that his department can hire contract planners to handle additional projects, but there are only so many projects that he and his deputy director can oversee.
Earlier in the evening, council members approved a four-story, 140,000-square-foot office building at 600 National Ave., which Environmental Protection Agency officials said would be an opportunity to speed up a cleanup of toxic TCE from the soil and groundwater under the older buildings on the site, possibly through use of new cleanup methods being tested on Evandale Avenue.
Council members wanted to know how close the city is to hitting the cap of 3.4 million square feet the new precise plan is expected to impose on North Bayshore office development. Zoning administrator Gerry Beaudin said all of the development proposed for North Bayshore added up to 1.3 to 1.4 million square feet, in addition to 300,000 square feet already approved for the area, "so you're at 1.7m sq feet."
The council also wanted to know whether a 750,000-square-foot office project at 700 E. Middlefield Road was going to be withdrawn to make room for more proposals. Google is expected to buy the property, putting into question a proposal by developer Sares Regis and previous property owner Deutsche Asset and Wealth Management (also known as the Rreefs project). The sale apparently happened right after the City Council cut the project down in size from the 1 million square feet originally proposed, with some members saying there was too much office in the pipeline and that the site would be better for housing. Google has reportedly agreed to pay an unprecedented amount for the site, $250 million.
"We've been bombarded with (talk of the) jobs-housing imbalance (in Mountain View)," said council member Mike Kasperzak Tuesday, as he tried to persuade the council to allow the apartment project to move through the planning process. "Everything we've talked about is thousands of square feet of office space, and maybe 38 (housing) units."
Kasperzak proposed to allow the housing project to go through if the big office proposal for 700 East Middlefield fell though because of the sale to Google, but a slim majority of the council opposed the idea.
"I'm conflicted there," said Mayor Chris Clark. "If Rreefs drops off and that really does free up staff resources, I'm not sure it has more merit than some others."
At the end of the meeting, council member Ronit Bryant suggested that the city come up with ways to "help these older (apartment) complexes," like the one at 777 Middlefield Road. "Had council agreed to let it go through Gatekeeper, we might have found ways to preserve its affordability."
She said preserving such complexes would be preferable to "losing all the older complexes and all the trees and open space that go with that."
Other council members were skeptical, saying that any project renovating older complexes would likely come with higher rents, causing more residents to be displaced from the city.