Mountain View Voice

Opinion - February 26, 2010

Give Bayshore housing a look

The city's notion of not mixing housing and commercial development in the North Bayshore has run afoul of Google, its major tenant and the company that has done more than any other to put Mountain View on the map.

So far, there is only a difference of opinion about what the city's new General Plan will say about building housing around the Googleplex, and all the other high-tech companies, located in this area north of the Bayshore Freeway.

The City Council and planning commissioners are in the midst of a major rewrite of the General Plan, the city's blueprint for planning and zoning changes over the next 20 to 30 years. Once the plan is approved, probably early next year, most future development decisions will be expected to line up with the General Plan.

And so far at least, the city's vision of a "commercial-only" Bayshore does not line up with Google's call for more homes, stores and infrastructure to be included in the plan. In part, Google's request addresses Bayshore's main flaw — that it lacks access to mass transit, and requires its workers to commute due to the city's lack of housing.

In a letter to the city, Google said that allowing stores and homes would mean North Bayshore could "continue to be the center of sustainable development for Google's HQ campus."

The environmental argument is compelling: Google employee Deb Henigson asked council members and planning commissioners to "make a place where it is easier to bike, walk and take public transit than it is to drive."

But the council members and commissioners still need convincing. One issue is that housing does not generate as much tax revenue as businesses do. Another is that residents there, even Google employees, might be uncomfortable after their first night alongside a live concert at Shoreline Amphitheatre.

Nevertheless, the council has asked the Planning Department to assess Bayshore's housing potential, and to augment an initial report that suggests housing could be built over retail on Shoreline Boulevard.

There are a couple possible advantages to housing at Bayshore:

• By building homes near the 10,000 or so jobs at Google (plus many more at neighboring companies), the city converts car commuters to walkers and short-haul bicyclists. The city gains on all fronts, from reducing carbon emissions to lessening the freeway traffic crunch.

• Agreeing to consider Google's housing request now could pay benefits later, in the form of new local growth, if the company sees that the city is amenable to more mixed uses in the Bayshore area. With homes near its offices, Google would become a much more attractive place to work.

In the meantime, the city should address council member Laura Macias's concerns about the reluctance of some biotech companies to lease office space near housing. If true, this could hamper the ability to reach full occupancy in the Bayshore properties.

And finally, as noted in a letter this week, the city's Environmental Sustainability Task Force identified the Bayshore area as possibly vulnerable to flooding if sea levels rise as expected in the years ahead. If housing is permitted there, building codes should address this concern.

Comments

Posted by Jeff Segall, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Feb 26, 2010 at 7:28 am

Thanks for taking note of my letter in this editorial. However, in doing so, the editorial significantly understates the risk of flooding. It is incorrect to say that "the Bayshore area possibly vulnerable to flooding if sea levels rise" because substantial portions of that area are in the 100 year flood zone and so are at risk of flooding today. Expected sea level rise makes that risk significantly higher.


Posted by Dazed and Confused, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 1, 2010 at 11:50 am

I generally tend to support Google's positions on these matters, but I think they have gone a little off track on this one. A lack of housing in Mt. View is a complete myth, from what I see. There are numerous half finished developments around town, not to mention the glacier like pace of the Mayfield and Eunice/Grant Rd. projects. Real estate developers are starving for work, and if there were a big demand for housing these projects would be done and filled with proud new homeowners. Retail developers are not in a hurry to put anything new up either. San Antonio Shopping Center didn't get to where it is today by accident. The "If you build it, they will come" theory of land use should be recognized as the unsustainable model that it is. Is Google's housing plan driven by sound economic development principles, or by a utopian vision of their own corporate culture? The reason that the area around the Googleplex was essentially the last to be developed in the city is a function of the fact that it is the least desirable land in the city.


Posted by Steven Nelson, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 4, 2010 at 4:33 pm

Jeff Segall is right - this area is in the 100 year flood zones. It is also somewhat covered by the "sea level rise" maps that have been produced for the Bay Area. PERHAPS Google is, or should be, talking about the Moffett Field potential development area. This area is outside of the city limits - but within a really indistinct type of planning area designated "SOI" (Sphere Of Influence). I happened to be talking to a MV planner - she couldn't really define for me what that meant legally (ie general plan and zoning). But it seems it's just a 'Sunnyvale, NASA and MV need to get together' type of nondescript situation!


Posted by eric, a resident of another community
on Mar 4, 2010 at 11:27 pm

MV residents should demand an end to the Shoreline tax district before a single thing is built there again.


Posted by Kristine, a resident of Monta Loma
on Apr 15, 2010 at 4:03 pm

I saw their plans in an earlier article I honestly hold no complaints. It'll make visiting shoreline park more fun with more retail close by. By the way Google would not be the only benefactor in housing nearby. I'd agree though if this gets built more of the taxes of that area needs to benefit more of the town.


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