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."