Uploaded: Mon, Jun 23, 2014, 1:45 pm
More downtown retail space may be lost to office
In a meeting Wednesday evening, the city's Zoning Administrator is set to approve an office developer's request to use a downtown retail space for an employee break room instead of a cafe, shop or restaurant.
The move by developer Roger Burnell for his new building at 902 Villa Street has caused some concern among downtown residents, who say the 932-square-foot space should be home to a cafe, public meeting space, restaurant or shop.
"This is our vibrant downtown?" asked an email alerting downtown residents from resident Julie Lovins.
The space has been vacant since the building was leased by Facebook-owned WhatsApp. While city staff originally pushed for the retail space to be included in the project, they now recommend approval of Burnell's request to use the ground floor space as an employee break room.
"This small retail space will improve the pedestrian friendliness of the building," wrote a city staff member in a July 2012 City Council report for Burnell's project, which was controversial for years as it sought to replace a historic home on the site, and sought to tower above Chez TJ, the neighboring gourmet restaurant.
Called a "commercial/restaurant space," the report adds that "The applicant provided this area at staff's request." It also allowed Burnell to have an exemption from providing an additional 46 required parking spaces, according to city documents, which add that "parking in-lieu fees" must be paid if the space is not occupied by commercial, retail or restaurant use.
Increasing office development is slowly eating away at what's considered to be a key component of a vibrant downtown: ground floor retail space. Meyer Appliance was a fixture for years in a Castro Street building that was taken over by tech company Quixey. The former PayPal building at Bryant and Dana was originally slated to include ground floor retail space. A few blocks south a small Castro Street strip mall once home to a half dozen small businesses was allowed to be renovated for office space. And across the street from there a small gym near Starbucks was forced out to make way for higher office rents.
The meeting begins at 4 p.m. on June 25 in City Hall's second floor plaza conference room.
Posted by incognito,
a resident of Waverly Park
on Jun 25, 2014 at 12:40 am
Thanks for the link to the story about Custom Fitness. Yes history repeating itself! The planning department seems to be at odds with what Mountain View residents want.
Here's the whole article.
News - July 6, 2012
Landlord doubles rent, forces gym out of downtown
by Daniel DeBolt
It's like the dot-com boom all over again.
Facing a huge rent increase, Custom Fitness has been forced from its longtime Castro Street location, and Mountain View city officials won't allow the owner to relocate elsewhere on the city's main street.
Owner Dale Dunlap said her landlord, apartment development and management giant Prometheus Real Estate Group, upped her rent to $12,000 from $5,500 for the 2,200-square-foot space at 650 Castro St., which sits below a large apartment complex.
Opening in 2004, the small gym staffed with personal trainers and masseurs had become "quite successful" and was growing in popularity among downtown start-up employees. On top of more than 70 regular clients, she provided service to a nearby Mozilla office with 120 employees. She said three other companies requested similar services recently, which she couldn't provide.
According to Dunlap, the tech start-up Sococo will be expanding into the space she has vacated. Custom Fitness closed its doors on June 30.
"The landlords know they can get the highest rents from dot-coms," Dunlap said.
The demand for office space in downtown is at an all-time high, with vacancy rates approaching zero as tech start-ups lease every available space. But as a result, "personal service businesses like mine are being squeezed out," Dunlap said. "We tried for six months to find a new location in downtown Mountain View."
Dunlap said the business was her "baby," and the only one like it downtown. With 15 years of experience, she'd take on school teachers and the elderly, and "I would do a special rate," Dunlap said. "It ate into my profit and it was hard, but they need to be fit, too. Everybody needs to be fit." She would tell her clients that she was still a "volunteer mom" having raised three kids in Mountain View.
She found another location on Castro Street's 200 block, but the city planning department said a fitness center wouldn't be a good fit. She even had the help of a City Council member, Laura Macias, but no luck. "She was working real hard to try to get this to happen," Dunlap said.
The city wants retail or restaurants only on Castro Street, said her lawyer, Frank Flocks. "A service business doesn't have a chance," Flocks said. "It's a real shame."
Dunlap wonders why she wasn't told about restrictions on Castro Street when she first moved there. Officials encouraged her to look for space just off of Castro Street, but she could not find anything available, she said.
Flocks blamed the rent increase on the city's zoning, which is unusual in allowing office use on a first floor of some of the city's main downtown streets.
Dunlap said she is trying to keep the business together as one of her employees, personal trainer Daniel Green, takes over the business and applies for city permits to move the operation to Polaris Avenue, a 1.3-mile trip from the old location. Until then, she and Green will be working out of Shawsu, a similar business at Loyola Corners.
Like the Castro Street location, the Polaris Avenue location also requires a conditional use permit from the city's zoning administrator.
"It's not easy trying to get all these things done," Dunlap said of the city's permit process. "It is one slow process after another."
"We have to look forward," she said. The new location is larger, but customers from downtown "will now have to drive to us instead of walk, that's the bummer."
Updates on the effort to move the business can be found at custom-fitness.com.
Email Daniel DeBolt at firstname.lastname@example.org
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