News

Council deadlocks on San Antonio housing needs

City Council members found themselves considering a change in course Tuesday after a group of residents called attention to a proposed "precise plan" that they say would exacerbate the city's housing shortage in the San Antonio shopping center area, driving up rents and increasing commute traffic.

"This is a place everyone in town seems to think is a great place for housing, but we're going to have three times as many jobs as we have housing," said Lenny Siegel, who spoke at length on behalf of members of the Campaign for a Balanced Mountain View during the study session on the San Antonio precise plan.

The plan is a blueprint for future development in the San Antonio shopping center and surrounding area.

"We can't build our way out of the (housing shortage) if we are building all of this office space all over town," Siegel said, referring to plans for Google, LinkedIn and others to build office space for tens of thousands of new workers, on top of already explosive job growth.

At the end of a contentious three-hour meeting that ran until midnight, council members appeared to be deadlocked 3-3 on the jobs-housing issue and decided to continue the discussion in a different, more "collegial" venue, as City Manager Dan Rich called it. They set a new meeting for July 8, delaying the council's annual summer recess. With member John Inks excusing himself because he owns property nearby, council members voted 6-0 to have city staff come back with a report on "the implications of increased housing" and decreased office space in the San Antonio precise plan.

As proposed Tuesday, the San Antonio precise plan would allow 879,000 square feet of office space in the San Antonio shopping center and surrounding blocks, which could accommodate 4,395 to 5,860 jobs, calculated at 150 to 200 square feet per employee. Meanwhile, the plan would allow the construction of 1,575 homes. This is especially concerning to housing advocates because, according to 2012 general plan documents, most new housing in the city built by 2030 is expected to go in the San Antonio area or on El Camino Real.

Siegel's group has called attention to the city's plans to add office space all over town for tens of thousands of jobs, but has zoned city-wide for fewer than 8,000 homes by 2030.

"There aren't that many other places in town where we'll get a substantial amounts of housing, even if I get my way, and the people I work with get their way, and we get housing in North Bayshore, that's not going to be enough," Siegel said of the group's call for more than 5,000 homes north of Highway 101. Council members voted against a proposal for 1,100 homes there in 2012.

Council members were unusually derisive of residents' comments Tuesday, with Vice Mayor John McAlister saying the growing awareness about the city's jobs housing ratio was simply the "hot topic" of the month.

Council members noted previous opposition to housing proposed for the California Street Safeway site, and before the recession, to a large 450-unit housing project nearby at the former Mayfield Mall, now leased by Google for office space.

"Now all of a sudden they want housing," said Council Member Chris Clark. "We can't let changing preferences (stop us). We have to move forward."

"I question if we would have this much angst, if it were not for the gun that has been put to our heads," said council member Mike Kasperzak, referring to the "elephant in the room" -- the referendum promised by the Campaign for a Balanced Mountain View. Its focus is against Merlone Geier's phase two redevelopment of San Antonio shopping center, which includes nearly 400,000 square feet of office space and a hotel but no housing on a large site now home to Ross, BevMo and several smaller buildings. The group says it will gather the signatures to put the project up for a city-wide vote if the council approves it July 1, before the precise plan is done in December.

Council members noted that no one could have predicted the city's explosive job growth within existing office buildings, and added that working on three major precise plans, one for El Camino Real and another for North Bayshore, was a lot of work.

"I haven't seen us have this much self-doubt," Kasperzak said.

Affordable housing

Council member Ronit Bryant led the council in the new direction. She had opposed making housing a priority during a February study session. Council members Kasperzak and Clark joined her in expressing interest in more housing for the San Antonio area.

"I said I didn't want to have lot of housing because it's a regional shopping center," Bryant said of the February meeting. "The question is, could we encourage people to build homes in some kind of direction towards affordability?" She said that the public benefits to be required of developers who want to build big in the area, as proposed, would give priority to transportation improvements, not subsidizing affordable housing.

"I'm not sure that's the right way to do it," she said.

"We want a priority for housing because that's what the community needs," Lenny Siegel said, adding that the group wanted to "put the housing proposals at the front of the line."

Bryant said she wants to see an economic study of whether housing would be compatible with shopping center development. Santana Row has often been cited as model for the San Antonio area, but council member Margaret Abe-Koga expressed concern that there really weren't many places to shop there, while former mayor Matt Pear said a pair of big box stores would bring $2 million in annual sales tax revenue to the city. Resident Patrick Moore said retail type shouldn't stop housing --stores like Target exist in some places with housing above them.

Several residents spoke of themselves and others being displaced by rising rents, including a college professor who said she is planning to move somewhere more affordable as soon as her son is finished with school. Another spoke through a translator, saying it was having an effect on many children in the community, including her own.

One resident expressed concern that his Saint Francis High School-educated kids and their friends will all have to move away from their parents to the East Bay or the Central Valley.

"This is the biggest problem we have in the Bay Area," he said. "This is your biggest responsibility -- to figure out how to keep housing affordable for people who live here. Every decision you make, take that into account."

New school is needed

Council members have so far resisted requests to find a place for an elementary school in the San Antonio area, which is part of the Los Altos School District.

Lenny Siegel stressed that the area be a "family-friendly" neighborhood for the 600 children he says are expected to live there.

"A school is the core of a family friendly neighborhood," Siegel said. "We're concerned that we'll build out the area and there won't be room for a school."

One resident, a software engineer, noted that younger tech workers will soon want to have kids and will want places to live near their jobs.

Siegel called on the city to study the impact on commute length for various office-heavy development scenarios, or "vehicle miles traveled." Council members say office development brings fewer car trips than housing, but Siegel says that misses the point, when a lack of housing pushes people to live in far off places like Manteca, causing more freeway traffic.

"Any LEED gold, LEED platinum building has minuscule savings in greenhouse gases compared to the enormous amounts released by commuting throughout the Bay Area," Siegel said.

After the meeting, Siegel said he wanted the council to not rush to make major decisions on the precise plan before three members term out at the end of the year.

"The November election may elect new council members who wish to more aggressively address the jobs-housing imbalance, and it would be a mistake for the lame duck council to make fundamental, lasting decisions in the face of the election results," Siegel said in an email.

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Parent
a resident of Whisman Station
on Jun 26, 2014 at 9:55 am

"Lenny Siegel stressed that the area be a "family-friendly" neighborhood for the 600 children he says are expected to live there."
Yay, let's build more housing and forget about schools and other services needed to serve these houses.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Linda Curtis
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jun 26, 2014 at 11:03 am

I am very much for changing the two 6 story office towers into apartments instead. This puts people right where they need to be for easily getting to their jobs. Public transportation of all kinds are handy to this location. There is already discussion of building an elementary school on Showers Drive, so the comment above is based on limited information. And stores & restaurants will certainly be handy to those living among it. SO easy: Just two apartment towers instead of two office towers.

Too bad Mayfield went offices instead of housing, This was supposed to save the trees, which Google chopped down anyway, and during the wrong season, so all the many baby birds in their nests were slaughtered. What's the matter Google? Didn't you "Google it" to discover when nesting season is? This brash wasting of birds and trees that really didn't need to come down shows how much you really don't care, despite your many monetary bribes to convince us otherwise.

For San Antonio Phase II, I would really like to see the Ross and the very large BevMo return to this location. I hate to lose them, as I did the one level, ever so convenient Sears, where one could shop for almost anything. I'm wondering if either the Ross and/or the BevMo could be chosen to return. Why not, if they're thinking of including big box stores?
"...former mayor Matt Pear said a pair of big box stores would bring $2 million in annual sales tax revenue to the city." Sounds good for the city's money and good for serious shoppers. Ross especially does a great volume of business and BevMo isn't slacking, either, so why not them? The shops included in this needn't be all unaffordable high end. And the apartments either. Let's encourage them to go for ATTAINABLE housing!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Will
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 26, 2014 at 2:28 pm

"...Abe-Koga expressed concern that there really weren't many places to shop [at Santana Row]"
WTF??? Has she even been there?? There are numerous places to shop, tons of people walking around and terrific energy. It would be AWESOME to duplicate that here. It would make us a destination instead of just more housing. There are too many houses and not enough business activity here already -- have you noticed that startups and VCs are actually moving to the City now? We must maintain the energy and draw business here or we lose out and become just another stretch of housing that will lose value as businesses go elsewhere. Redevelop into Santana Row style retail, business and entertainment!!! Grrrrrr.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Jun 26, 2014 at 2:47 pm

Why not allow new office buildings for the purpose to get rid of older outdated office building along El Camino Real, and elsewhere in Mountain View.

Many places around San Antonio Center could be used for housing and a school.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Linda Curtis
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jun 26, 2014 at 2:51 pm

I go to Santana Row regularly to eat at the very fine French restaurant + others, to shop, and just to sit out & enjoy some flowers + music in an nice atmosphere. It's not so stretched out that one must walk forever to get somewhere. Parking is varied and available in various places, including underground, so that it can be close to one's destination. The energy there is refreshing.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Upset Monta Loma resident
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jun 26, 2014 at 3:14 pm

"Too bad Mayfield went offices instead of housing"

Yes its too bad but the ML neighborhood activists have only themselves to blame. They kept extracting more community benefits from the developer and after numerous delays imposed on the project by council and the neighborhood, the housing market tanked, commercial became more profitable than housing. The neighborhood lost 3+ acres of parkland and other numerous community benefits.

The same thing will happen with MG phase II. Some council members wanted a hotel and theater, MG obliged and now these council members have changed their minds after numerous public meetings. As for housing, there are plenty of housing projects in the works for that area and MG put housing in phase one where it didnt exist before.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Linda Curtis
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jun 26, 2014 at 4:25 pm

I have watched as MG has improved this plan repeatedly. I think one last change is very important: Change the 2 office towers to apts. that are rentals regular people can afford.

It also is important that some parking spots be spread out all around the place for handicapped people like myself, as well as for the shopper who buys too much to carry very far. Otherwise, businesses will suffer when people buy less than they would have just because it is too much to carry.

Big trees with really substantial canopy will make the place desirable & comfortable. I hope they install trees that amount to something, like Evergreen Ash.

Read this MG, so you can get it right. :)


 +   Like this comment
Posted by We dont' need more
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jun 26, 2014 at 4:37 pm

Housing or office space. Lets use what we have. We do not have to build anything for the people leaving detroit that would rather live here.

Mt. Views population is to big as it is.

The thought that these new building or apartments will be used by people that work here is ridiculous.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Konrad M. Sosnow
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jun 26, 2014 at 8:56 pm

Merlone Geier wants to eliminate the Milk Pail, add offices, an 80 foot tall movie theater, an upscale hotel, and upscale restaurants so they can provide their investors and us with their vision of Mountain View.

The needs and wishes of the community are not even open for discussion.

We, the residents of Mountain View, home owners, renters and businesses, want a Santana Row type development that fits well into the downtown neighborhood, with medium-density housing, a variety of businesses such as the Milk Pail, and the Monument to Where Silicon valley was born.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by OMV Resident
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 26, 2014 at 10:09 pm

@Konrad M. Sosnow: "We, the residents of Mountain View, home owners, renters and businesses, want a Santana Row type development that fits well into the downtown neighborhood, with medium-density housing, a variety of businesses such as the Milk Pail, and the Monument to Where Silicon valley was born."

Speak for yourself, but please do NOT presume to speak for "We, the residents of Mountain View." Unless you have done statistically valid polling covering all the different constituencies in Mountain View - renters, homeowners, business owners, and more - your opinion is just your own, nothing more.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Bored M
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jun 26, 2014 at 10:23 pm

Konrad and folks, please stop complaining... I am 35 and we're a single income family. I do not work in tech or a disruptive company. I am not a libertarian. There are plenty like me in MV... We are Mountain View and don't share your view. Don't confuse a loud minority with the majority.

How can we make our stance known when you minority of residents carry such venom?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Well...
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 27, 2014 at 1:13 am

The Council is supposed to represent Mountain View residents, but they don't seem to have done so the last few years. They seem to make decisions that benefit the out-of-town profiteering developers. There are a few "loud" high-density pro-development shills that live throughout our neighborhood that have been quite happy with what is going on, but "unless one has done statistically valid polling covering all the different constituencies in Mountain View - renters, homeowners, business owners, and more," it is quite obvious that this so-called "loud minority" is probably a plurality if not an absolute majority.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Bored M
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jun 28, 2014 at 12:23 am

Well has a valid post... I do not disagree with the minority being a plurality. The sales of some of my neighbors, who I very much like, make me think Palo Alto like ridiculousness will come sooner rather than later.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sparty
a resident of another community
on Jun 28, 2014 at 4:10 am

Sparty is a registered user.

"Abe-Koga expressed concern that there really weren't many places to shop [at Santana Row"

70 stores is not "many places?"

Compared to...? Is there a secret shopping center in Mountain View that has over 70 shops? How do I get a membership/pass?


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Email:


Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields

Cho's, beloved dim sum spot, to reopen in Los Altos
By Elena Kadvany | 8 comments | 5,428 views

Where DO The Elite Meet?
By Laura Stec | 3 comments | 2,676 views

Why I Became Active in Palo Alto Forward
By Steve Levy | 10 comments | 2,035 views

Early Decision Blues
By John Raftrey and Lori McCormick | 0 comments | 1,370 views

With a Perspective....
By Ms. Jenson | 0 comments | 310 views