| Jimmy Carter's Habitat for Humanity could soon be coming to Mountain View, where a small army of volunteers and future homeowners would build 20 row homes on Middlefield Road.
At a study session Tuesday, the City Council expressed unanimous support for the project even though it poses some challenges. For one, the city would have put up $4.5 million for the 1.15 acres -- itself not a problem because of the city's large "below market rate" housing fund.
The problem is that the property owner wants to make a sale by Aug. 1, 2008, and staff said that in order to do that the city's other affordable housing project on Evelyn Avenue would have to wait, even though it is only six months away from construction bids.
Staff said the purchase would take time because a re-zoning from office space to R3-2 housing would have to be processed. Ever so, council member Nick Galiotto said, "there's got to be a way" to do both projects.
"I in no way want to sidetrack the project on Evelyn," he said. "It would be really shameful to sidetrack it just because there is this August 1 deadline."
At the end of the meeting, city manager Kevin Duggan said the key may be getting an extension on the Aug. 1 deadline with the property owners.
Habitat for Humanity found the site after years of looking for a place to do a project in Mountain View. The property is next to the Rotten Robbie gas station on the corner of Middlefield Road and Whisman Road. It used to be the site of the Wagon Wheel, a famous watering hole in the heyday of Silicon Valley which was closed in 2000 and later demolished.
Notices of the meeting were sent to neighbors, and two spoke with concerns. One neighbor said she has a great view from her home next door, and that the R3-2 zoning would allow a tall building to block her view. She concluded, however, by saying "If it goes through I'll be out there with my hammer, OK."
Mayor Laura Macias was the only council member who agreed that lower density zoning may be necessary. Staff said the R3-2 zoning would fit with the surrounding neighborhood.
Resident Doug Bailey, a former Habitat volunteer who says he can now "sink a nail with a single blow," spoke with enthusiasm about the project. The homes would be built completely by volunteers like Bailey and the future homeowners, who must spend at least 500 hours doing everything from laying a foundation to installing sheetrock on walls.
"You'll be amazed at the energy released in this community," said Roy Hayter, speaking on behalf of Advocates for Affordable Housing. He added the project would be a "rare opportunity" for affordable housing -- "ownership, no less."
The 20 families to live in the "very below market rate" project would be selected through a rigorous process. Applicants must meet certain income requirements, but Habitat for Humanity said it is looking for potential homeowners who can make a long-term commitment to the project.
The $4.5 million for the land would come from the city's developer-generated BMR housing fund, which is currently at $14.2 million.
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