News

Editorial: Council members, stick to your guns on housing

Is it election year politics, or can it be that the City Council is finally seeing the light regarding the destructive consequences of Mountain View's jobs-to-housing imbalance? Whatever the case may be, council members took a welcome step in the right direction in delaying action on the proposal for phase two of the Village at San Antonio Center, indicating they want housing to be included. As desperation increases among residents unable to afford skyrocketing rent increases, would-be residents who work here can't find housing at all, and frustration mounts among locals trying to traverse gridlocked roadways. It is long past the time to get serious about this problem.

Although some 350 apartments were included in phase one of the project, developer Merlone Geier proposed no housing at all for the second part of its project; the proposal calls for construction of two, six-story office buildings, 109,000 square feet of retail, a hotel and a movie theater, and multiple parking garages.

Increasingly frustrated advocates of more housing in town have criticized the plan and threatened placing a referendum on the November ballot to overturn approval of a plan that doesn't include housing. That won't happen because the council isn't expected to act on the proposal until after the mid-August deadline for putting a measure on that ballot. Campaign for a Balanced Mountain View, the advocacy group that is considering a referendum, would have to wait until next year to put the question to voters, should the council approve the project as submitted. We hope that won't be necessary, and that council members follow through on their implied commitment to require housing in phase two.

Council commitment to solving the housing imbalance problem hasn't been apparent in recent years, with the council approving job-generating office projects, or zoning for such projects, at a rate that far outpaces the creation of the city's housing capacity. According to the city's general plan, adopted in 2012, Mountain View's zoning allows for an estimated 36,000 new jobs, with up to 6.4 million square feet of new office space, but only 7,000 new homes, by 2030.

Two years ago, a divided council voted against zoning for 1,100 new homes in North Bayshore, along Shoreline Boulevard between Highway 101 and Charleston Road. That's Google's home turf, and the tech giant supported the housing proposal, as did the Chamber of Commerce. The precise plan now being crafted for North Bayshore may allow office growth for as many as 20,000 new jobs at Google, LinkedIn and other firms, with no new housing in that area.

At its July 1 meeting, a number of residents weary of the council's failure to find solutions to the city's housing crisis urged a housing requirement in phase two of the Village. Edie Keating of Peninsula Interfaith Action summed up the situation admirably: "You've got a great project; you need to make it morally right by substituting the office for housing."

— Mountain View Voice editorial board

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by incognito
a resident of Waverly Park
on Jul 17, 2014 at 10:32 am

Thank you for a great editorial.

Council and staff, are you listening?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Confused
a resident of Waverly Park
on Jul 17, 2014 at 3:10 pm

@incognito
"As desperation increases among residents unable to afford skyrocketing rent increases, would-be residents who work here can't find housing at all, and frustration mounts among locals trying to traverse gridlocked roadways."
I'm wondering how you think that increasing the housing supply in that corridor is going to reduce rents and decrease traffic?? If condos are built they're going to be very expensive so that doesn't help the out-priced renters and if apartments are built there will just be more high- priced rentals. The demand will still far out pace the supply, keeping rents high.

And increasing density within our town will never reduce traffic! It will increase traffic as some of those that occupy office space would use public transportation (and worse case, they'd only be here 5 days per week). Anybody living in the spot will have one car for every person over age 16 and traffic gridlock will get worse.

Stop building housing in the area and increase retail, restaurants, entertainment, green space- anything that does not increase density.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by incognito
a resident of Waverly Park
on Jul 17, 2014 at 3:47 pm

Web Link


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Pretty Silly
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jul 17, 2014 at 3:54 pm

The whole editorial is silly and continues the myth that the no growthers and NIMBY's will support housing. Several of the speakers have opposed all housing development in the past. Does anyone really think these people have now changed their minds? Also, its incredibly arrogant for a newspaper editor, who has no clue how to develop property to suggest to another property owner that I have a better idea of how you should use your property.

My bet is that now that housing is allowed in the precise plan, that MG will not include housing in phase two, but will include it in future plans. Plus there are already several housing projects in the works in the SA area. More than would be built by MG.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by There is only so much room
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jul 17, 2014 at 4:41 pm

We can't fit everyone from the Failed Liberal City of Detroit here in Mt. View. And we can't house all the illegals that come to our sanctuary city. Just say no to the Newbies.


NO MORE housing needed. Solution, San Jose, lot of building going on there. Maybe google can have a shuttle going to San Jose.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Ralph
a resident of Rengstorff Park
on Jul 17, 2014 at 4:43 pm

"Confused"'s comments are correct. Building houses will not make mountain view better, will not reduce prices and rents, and will not reduce traffic. We need development that creates open space and gathering spaces for people. This development has a public square and cinema -- both are good. We need more places that draw people here to stay and enjoy the area. Otherwise, we are just another annoying, boring bedroom and office community. Don't blow it -- this is a on e in a generation (or two or three) infusion of cash and activity. If we don't take advantage of this to build business, retail and gathering places now, we will regret it.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sparty
a resident of another community
on Jul 17, 2014 at 4:51 pm

Sparty is a registered user.

impose a city tax of $40,000 per year on all homeowners so that the median income of owners is equal to that of renters. that will help stem rising rents


 +   Like this comment
Posted by concerned citizen
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 17, 2014 at 11:29 pm

We will be getting more new housing in MV, whether we like it or not. That's not an entirely bad thing.

However, "Confused" is absolutely right:

"If condos are built they're going to be very expensive so that doesn't help the out-priced renters and if apartments are built there will just be more high-priced rentals. The demand will still far out pace the supply, keeping rents high."

30,000 new jobs in MV alone? How about the new Apple campus? They won't all live at company HQ in Cupertino. Ditto Facebook, LinkedIn, Samsung, etc. We can't just build our way into cheaper housing. Not without completely trashing the city.

As far as San Antonio Phase 2 goes, this place should be a retail center, with a modest amount of housing. No offices at all. Anyway, take a look at Google maps, and try to imagine cramming two office towers, a cinema, and a hotel into that parcel of land. That would be some density.

The traffic issue alone should make the decision easy for the Council, if they are smart enough to see it.

It's barely possible that the present council will do the right thing, but I'm not too hopeful. I'm hoping they won't do too much damage before the next election.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Not Confused
a resident of another community
on Jul 18, 2014 at 12:16 am

Whether new condos or new apartments are built, the price will depend mainly on the square footage. By having smaller units, there can be an increase in the number available. The idea of building expensive amenities into a complex is another optional way the developer can increase the cost of the units. It's not true that these units will be too expensive to have any effect on rents elsewhere. These will be new units in a somewhat desirable location (near walkable shopping and dining and perhaps entertainment.) That's one reason why units will still be marketable without having their own in-project amenities.

It makes a big difference if there are more units even if they are smaller. It's not entirely futile. We just need these to be less deluxe than "The Village".


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Alex M
a resident of Willowgate
on Jul 18, 2014 at 9:38 am

I have nothing against building more housing. It's the TYPE of housing that matters. As "Confused" above wrote, both condos and apartments will be expensive. The difference is, a resident OWNS the condo. A renter has no ownership tie to the community. A renter is an itinerant, especially when the unit has stratospheric monthly costs, there is no motivation to stay long term.

Mountain view has a disproportionately high population of rental units compared to owned residences. I'd like to see a moratorium on council approvals for any new rental unit construction.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Steve M
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 18, 2014 at 1:26 pm

If you oppose housing, you are opposing other people's homes. How would you feel if your neighbors told you that they wish your house didn't exist? If you oppose new housing, that's what you're saying. You are telling people that their houses shouldn't exist. I can't believe that normally polite people have the gall to oppose housing. It's such an offensive thing to say and indicates a fundamental lack of empathy.

More housing reduces rents, and it's the only way to do it. It will reduce rents directly proportionally to the supply, no matter what type of units they are. More high end units frees up supply of lower end units and so forth.

More housing reduces traffic. People choose to live close to where they work if they are permitted to. If they aren't permitted to by zoning restrictions, then they live far away and take up space on the roads. If you oppose housing, you force people onto the roads.

Mountain View has become a deformed community because it refuses to grow its housing. There's nothing natural or normal about it.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Newbie
a resident of Rengstorff Park
on Jul 18, 2014 at 3:08 pm

What Steve M said. Cause my comment disappeared.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by TheTruth
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 18, 2014 at 3:15 pm

"If you oppose housing, you are opposing other people's homes. How would you feel if your neighbors told you that they wish your house didn't exist? If you oppose new housing, that's what you're saying. You are telling people that their houses shouldn't exist. I can't believe that normally polite people have the gall to oppose housing. It's such an offensive thing to say and indicates a fundamental lack of empathy."

If you oppose offices, you are opposing other people's jobs. How would you feel if your neighbors told you that they wish your job didn't exist? If you oppose new offices, that's what you're saying. You are telling people that their jobs shouldn't exist. I can't believe that normally polite people have the hall to oppose jobs. It's such an offensive thing to say and indicates a fundamental lack of empathy.

"More housing reduces rents, and it's the only way to do it. It will reduce rents directly proportionally to the supply, no matter what type of units they are. More high end units frees up supply of lower end units and so forth."

More jobs reduces unemployment, and it's the only way to do it. It will reduce unemployment directly proportionally to the supply, no matter what type of jobs they are. More high end jobs frees up supply of lower end jobs and so forth.

"More housing reduces traffic. People choose to live close to where they work if they are permitted to. If they aren't permitted to by zoning restrictions, then they live far away and take up space on the roads. If you oppose housing, you force people onto the roads."

More jobs reduces traffic. People choose to live to live close to where they work if they are permitted to. If they aren't permitted to by zoning restrictions, then they work far away and take up space on the roads. If you oppose jobs, you force people onto the roads.

"Mountain View has become a deformed community because it refuses to grow its housing. There's nothing natural or normal about it."

Mountain View has become a great community because it refuses to increase unemployment. There's nothing unnatural or abnormal about it.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Dylan Carlson
a resident of Whisman Station
on Jul 18, 2014 at 5:41 pm

@TheTruth (I'm guessing it's so truthful you're afraid to use your name)

That's a terrible rhetorical argument, particularly since Mountain View's unemployment rate is approaching 3% (downward trend), and that's about the lowest the country as a whole has seen since the 1950s. We do not have an unemployment problem here.

For people who care about data, instead of rhetoric, they know have an office:housing imbalance problem, and a spending problem in government. I and others have shared this data already. It's reflected in our traffic, and in overcompensated civil servants. Instead of a balanced execution of growth in this city, it has turned into an all-you-can-eat buffet for commercial real estate.

A correction is due, for balance and quality of life. There are some opportunities to do something novel here, with or without Google's cooperation, if people care enough to.

Housing & quality of life benefits companies. Nobody will have happy workers and good retention if nearly everyone on payroll is commuting from somewhere else. "Somewhere else" == a place progressively farther away because neighboring cities have a similar planning dysfunction.

I remember ~4 years back, there was an Allstate insurance office on Castro, and the agent told me he lived out towards Tracy. Lady who cuts my hair commutes an hour+ each way to Mountain View by car.

Make the insanity stop. The current trajectory will make this place more costly and more unlivable.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Linda Curtis
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jul 18, 2014 at 5:50 pm

Stop adding so many jobs. Housing can never catch up, no matter how many neighborhoods are despoiled, like mine.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by MoreTruth
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 18, 2014 at 10:07 pm

Most residents in MV do not work here. Build 10,000 homes and still most will not work in MV. People move from job to job. With no pension benefits anymore and thousands of small- medium companies hiring all over the valley, it's best for the career to be mobille. Lots of double-income families that will not be able to arrange their jobs in the same city.

Sorry, but that's just the way it is. Let's make and keep our city livable. More and bigger parks. Community centers. Upgraded library. That's where our focus should be.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Dylan Carlson
a resident of Whisman Station
on Jul 18, 2014 at 11:37 pm

@False

Ugh... FUD about housing and no data.

A majority != most. I can show you one data point and name a source: 27.5% of Mountain View's workers (11,899) also live in the city.

Source: Web Link

Because of a constrained housing market, one can only assume that number could be higher than it is.

The City of Mountain View Housing Element 2007–2014 (City of Mountain View 2010) includes plans and policies to address the housing needs of the City of Mountain View. The relevant policy is:
Policy 1.D: Provide higher density housing near transit, in the Downtown, near employment centers, and within walking distance of services.

OOPS. The city was caught napping. Oh well, moving along...

The EIR from June 18th states that in 2013, Mountain View had 67,327 jobs and 39,784 employed residents for a ratio of 1.69.

Also according to the EIR, the number of jobs is projected to increase 38% by 2035 (+25,584) -- although that number is far lower than the one calculated if you analyze the office space coming online thru 2017 and the average sq footage/employee. They are sourcing data from 2012, which probably did not include a lot of recent permits.

Census does not track where people work vs. live.

The 2010 census data.
General Population and Housing Statistics Web Link
Households and Families:
Web Link

Adding to this, the Mountain View council, in all their collective wisdom, made new residential compliance harder than non-residential. New residential must exceed state Title 24 energy efficiency standards by 15% whereas non-residential have to exceed by 10%. Another example of bias towards commercial development.

OK, your turn.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Condo vs Apartments
a resident of Shoreline West
on Jul 19, 2014 at 6:05 pm

The new housing that is built should be condos for yet another reason. The commercial property always uses tricks to maintain ownership forever. This means the value goes up very slowly due to Prop 13. They make a specific legal entity to own the apartment complex, and then even if it should change hands, it's that entity which is sold. The apartment building(s) are never re-assessed to market value even when ownership changes.

With residences that are condos, each time an individual owner sells the property, the tax value is recomputed. This leads to more revenue for the city and for the various school districts serving that property. So Condo is big win for education compared to Apartment.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Martin Omander
a resident of Rex Manor
on Jul 22, 2014 at 5:03 am

Listen closely to what the candidates in this fall's City Council election say about housing. Our current council missed a chance to take 1,100 cars off Shoreline when they didn't allow housing in North Bayshore.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Steve
a resident of another community
on Jul 22, 2014 at 3:53 pm

This isn't an 'either more offices or more housing' situation. Mountain View has already burst its seams. The quality of life that we all paid top dollar for has been sold out from under us, and the only ones benefiting are the developers and city employees.
Am I "opposing other people's homes"? Not at all, as long as they pay for the added burdens that they'll place on our maxed out infrastructure. They currently do not!
The snarled traffic we experience now is merely a preview of our unpleasant future. Soon, we will all be compelled to pay for those upgrades required to 'update our obsolete(fill in the blank)service, to meet the needs of our great city'. It doesn't take a crystal ball to see it coming...


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Steven N
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jul 22, 2014 at 5:31 pm

What Steve M said (& Newbie).
Single non-community affiliated people tend to rent and run. But the transitory numbers of lower-income renter families is very small in our elementary school district. In the neighborhoods with the highest renter percentages (over 80% near Castro School) there is very little student turnover. In fact, hard to distinguish from the wealthiest neighborhood school (Huff - 78% homeowners in Waverly Park). Love that US Census data Dylan - I also use their ACS, American Community Survey, and the 2010 Census data map (at Tract level).


 +   Like this comment
Posted by TheTruth
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 22, 2014 at 9:00 pm

"A majority != most. I can show you one data point and name a source: 27.5% of Mountain View's workers (11,899) also live in the city."

Dylan is completely incorrect in his statement. 'Majority' IS synonymous with 'most'. While you state that 27.5% of MV workers live in the city, you can also say that only 16 percent of our residents work in this city! Do you not understand this??

The fact is that nearby housing is a small factor in determining a place to work. Salary, benefits, growth of the company, friends that work there, the work itself, etc... are the primary movers. With Prop 13, it is of benefit for homeowners to stay put and not move with their jobs--otherwise, they will be taxed at a significantly higher rate.

So what does this means? It means that building houses and condos in MV is much more likely to be filled with people that will work elsewhere anyway. Rental apartments will be somewhat better, but because Mountain View has the highest renter-ownership ratio in the county (perhaps the entire peninsula?), we need to question the impact of increasing the ratio even further will have on our community.


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