|After four years of meetings, the City Council finally delivered the massive Mayfield housing project Tuesday night, approving a conceptual master plan, a demolition plan and the first phase of construction.
"I think we're all tired and we all want to see this completed in the best way possible," said Nola Mae McBain, a Monta Loma resident who had fiercely opposed the project over the years.
The council would vote 4-2 on the master plan, with member Jac Siegel being the only earnest "no" vote. He explained that he felt there were too many concerns about the loss of trees, the lack of park space, the un-designed pedestrian tunnel, the poor location of the pool, and the strange plan for garbage removal.
The 450-unit project, located at 100 Mayfield Ave., is one that residents ultimately will be unhappy with, he said.
"I won't be supporting the motion," Siegel said. "There are too many unanswered questions."
The other "no" vote came from council member Nick Galiotto, who opposed the conceptual plan because of the pedestrian tunnel, which he felt was unsafe.
The council was warned by Wouter Suverkropp, Monta Loma Neighborhood Association president, that "Once the project is underway, Mountain View has lost its bargaining position."
After the master plan was approved, the council would unanimously vote for a different location for the pool in the design. Siegel said the pool was in "the worst place they could have found," being only a few feet away from a Central Expressway on- and off-ramp.
For the first time, the council had a discussion about the "quality" of the project. Siegel said quality was "a measurable thing." Mayor Tom Means, who had previously criticized the use of the word, asked staff how the city was focusing on quality and whether it included building materials or just design.
Building materials can be an issue, said project manager Peter Gilli, but "the focus will be on what is visible to a passerby."
When the "horse-trading" began on the details of the project, the council found itself deadlocked 3-3 on two major issues: park space and the pedestrian tunnel. Member Ronit Bryant had to recuse herself from discussions because her husband works for Hewlett Packard, the owner of the site.
"The only way this project looks like smart growth is with access to transit," said member Laura Macias about the pedestrian tunnel, which would connect residents to the San Antonio train station on the other side of Central Expressway.
Member Matt Pear proposed that the tunnel be separated out of the master plan approval, which Means and Galiotto voted for. Siegel, Macias and member Margaret Abe-Koga voted against the idea, reasoning that taking it out of the master plan would reduce its chances of being built. Representatives from the project's developer, Toll Brothers, said they are still studying how deep the tunnel would run, and whether utility lines might be in the way.
Other disputes surfaced as well. Staff found that a fraction of an acre -- about 6 percent -- would have to be removed from Mayfield Park to adequately widen one of the streets, unless the space was taken from a set of 17 row homes called Area Three. Pear was vehemently opposed to taking space from the homes, and was joined by Means and Galiotto. But neighbors, along with Macias, Abe-Koga and Siegel, wanted to keep the park as it was and take from the housing area.
"We worked so hard to get as much park space as possible," McBain said.
In the end, a compromise was reached: Half of the space would be taken from Area Three, and the other half from the park.
A significant amount of time was spent talking about the future of the 167 heritage trees that would be removed on the site, and the 56 redwoods that were to be carefully transplanted and boxed for future use on the site.
Suverkropp said the tree removal program was "a recipe to remove the trees permanently." Council members asked how long the trees could live in a box, given that the project could take many years to complete. The answer from Toll Brothers was "indefinitely."
Garbage collection was an issue for Macias and Siegel. The current plan is to have the homeowners association, or HOA, manage a team of workers who will take garbage out of trash compactors in two parking areas and haul it to a central location for pick-up. Macias said this added a "whole new layer of complexity to the HOA." But Gilli said the system, unprecedented for Mountain View, was supported by city staff.
Toll Brothers expects demolition of the old Mayfield Mall/HP office structure to start this summer and could take 10 to 12 months. The first phase of construction is for 42 single-family homes along the project's northern and eastern edge. Toll Brothers will also build a sales facility on Mayfield Avenue that will eventually be demolished as well to make way for the row homes in Area Three.
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