Mountain View Voice

News - July 10, 2009

Grand plans for San Antonio

Prospective owner eager to bring new look to aging center

by Daniel DeBolt

The developer in contract to buy 16 acres of the San Antonio shopping center released conceptual plans on Tuesday that promise a major urban redevelopment.

Merlone Geier Partners of San Diego plans to buy the corner property from the Thoits family and demolish Rite Aid, Burger King, Sports Authority and Sears to make way for construction that will double the density of a portion of the shopping center at El Camino Real and San Antonio Road.

Once built, the new shopping center, approached from the east along El Camino Real, will no longer present a vast parking lot and aging 1950s buildings. Instead, the area City Council members have called a "gateway" to the city will be transformed into a modern urban shopping center built out to the sidewalk, with a parking garage hidden behind the shops in the first of two floors.

"We would like to put the buildings up to the street and make it a more pedestrian-friendly area," said Mike Grehl, director of Merlone Geier Partners. "What we're proposing is to bring in a really modernized retail shopping center."

A second floor courtyard would run between two rows of buildings on the rectangular lot, and a bridge would cross over a driveway — paved over the Hetch Hetchy aqueduct right of way — and connect to another second floor courtyard in a similar set of buildings to the north.

Grehl said he had no idea whether authorities at the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, which controls the Hetch Hetchy right of way, will let Merlone Geier Partners build the bridge. "But that's what we would like to do."

As for the new stores, he said, space will be made for a mix of small boutique shops and large retailers at the site.

"There will probably be a grocery store, some service retail, boutique shops," he said. There will be "actual restaurants" along with some smaller food retail, like Quiznos or Starbucks. But he noted that so far, "We don't have tenants lined up."

A mix of materials will be used in the architecture, including stucco, glass, metal and wood.

Grehl said he is working with neighboring property owners who may also redevelop their portions of the 56-acre shopping center. Another major owner, San Antonio LLC, whose parcels include Trader Joe's, Kohl's (which replaced the bankrupted Mervyns) and Walmart, has asked the city to revise its precise plan for the center.

The city is also discussing the future of the shopping center as part of hearings to update the city's General Plan, a set of plans and policies to guide all future development in Mountain View.

Challenges for redeveloping the site include the fact that Walmart has a lease for over 50 years, and the fact that there are 16 property owners at San Antonio with staggered leases for each space.

"Working with the neighboring property owners and the city has been a pleasant process up to this point," Grehl said.

Home Depot was slated to take over the Sears property in 2007, but the City Council rejected that idea while expressing hopes that the shopping center would be redeveloped.

Numerous public hearings lay ahead for the project, which is only a concept at this point.

E-mail Daniel DeBolt at


Posted by Linda, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 10, 2009 at 6:20 pm

Sounds like a fine plan as long as they don't touch, Walmart.
Walmart is a life saver, is this town..

Posted by Ned, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 10, 2009 at 8:10 pm

The problem with Walmart is that there isn't enough parking and the lot is very dangerous to drive in, especially on the weekends. Parking and traffic will need to be carefully consider. Moving it underground would require no tight spaces.

Posted by Will Joseph, a resident of Shoreline West
on Jul 10, 2009 at 11:33 pm

Right, let's pack in more traffic, more congestion and pollution. Underground parking? Sure, return from Wal-mart and find your wheels stolen. In a city that can sustain $800,000+ house prices, what we need is affordable housing for the middle class, not more sandwich and coffee joints. If localities won't steer development in that direction, then the state should cut aid to them to finance roads so commuters can get to them.

Posted by Pat, a resident of another community
on Jul 11, 2009 at 9:50 am

It is time to consider more affordable housing. I moved here from NY and can't even begin to touch the price of anything. The small apartment is overpriced, old and outdated. Why spend more on business ...affordable housing is what is needed. I make very good money but can't begin to touch the prices in the area. Why do you think CA is in so much trouble now.....think long term people.

Posted by Pete, a resident of Cuernavaca
on Jul 11, 2009 at 12:48 pm

Forget about a new shopping complex, let's put the Forty Niners stadium there. It would tie in perfectly with the glorious murals at Burger King. We could hire the Mexican workers to maintain the grass.I say we start a petition.

Posted by Joe, a resident of Shoreline West
on Jul 11, 2009 at 2:04 pm

I'm with you 110% Pete; having the Niner's in Mt.View will energize the community beyond our wildest dreams. Great idea buddy! Where's that petition?

Posted by Jonathan, a resident of The Crossings
on Jul 11, 2009 at 2:27 pm

The lack of affordable housing should not take precendence over the developer's goal of providing us with a more convenient and enjoyable shopping experience.Come on people,give him a chance.He obviously means well, even if he hasn't actually lined up any stores to occupy his visionary mega mall.I like the idea of a bridge over the Hetch Hetchy pipeline. Hey maybe he could work out a deal with the SF Water Company to include gondola rides as well.

Posted by Luis, a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jul 11, 2009 at 2:32 pm

Hey, if you need a tenor to sing on the gondolas, my cousin Vinny is a pretty darn good singer.He even bares a strong resemblence to Pavaroti.Mama mia...

Posted by Tony Z., a resident of Monta Loma
on Jul 12, 2009 at 1:20 pm

This is GREAT!!! Just when I thought it was over,the Niners are comin'to old MV.Can we have gondola rides too?

Posted by Nico, a resident of Castro City
on Jul 12, 2009 at 1:24 pm

Hey whadda mean demolish Burger King? I'm gonna fight that one,tooth and nail.Forgetaboutit...

Posted by sigrid rosenthal, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 12, 2009 at 2:48 pm

i sure would like to see that ugly corner (of San Antonio and El camino ) gone.I twould be great to have a decant shoppingcenter there.

Posted by J. Ravanelli, a resident of North Whisman
on Jul 13, 2009 at 2:46 pm

i've been in mt. view since 1981. im going to miss the "old" san antonio, however. it is time to upgrade that last corner of the san antonio complex. mountain view is hands down, the best litte city in the bay, and, the new north west corner of san antonio shopping center will add to an already beautiful city!

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