Mountain View Voice

News - April 2, 2010

Minton's decision put off to April 27

Developer to revisit concerns over affordable housing

by Daniel DeBolt

Those who were waiting on the edge of their seats to see how the City Council would vote on the controversial Minton's housing project will have to wait a few more weeks.

The council's decision on whether to allow more than 200 apartments at 455 W. Evelyn Ave., across from the downtown train station, is being postponed as developers say they are refining the project. Specifically, Prometheus Real Estate Group says it wants to respond to concerns expressed at a City Council meeting last week about the removal of 21 affordable housing units from the project.

In an e-mail, city zoning administrator Peter Gilli said the council's decision on the project was being postponed to April 27.

"We're looking to present different alternatives" for affordable housing in the project, said John Moss, senior vice president of development for Prometheus. The alternatives could include making payments to the city's "below market rate" fund or creating affordable units elsewhere. He said Prometheus was still ironing out the details of those proposals.

Though they originally supported the proposed apartment complex, Mountain View's Advocates for Affordable Housing and the local League of Women Voters pulled their support for the project after the affordable housing units were eliminated. Many other residents expressed concern about it, even as they praised the project otherwise.

The number of parking spaces and apartment units may receive some "refinement" as well, but no major changes to the design are likely, Moss said.

Shortly before last week's meeting, Prometheus had removed 21 BMR units from the project because of a recent state court decision, Palmer vs. the City of Los Angeles, which ruled against city affordable housing requirements across the state. Mountain View had been requiring developers to sell one in every 10 new homes in a development at a below-market price, or pay an in-lieu fee — 3 percent of the actual sales price of each unit — to subsidize affordable housing elsewhere.

Those rules have not sat well with some local developers. In Palo Alto, developer John Mozart and his son Forrest Mozart have filed lawsuits against that city for its BMR requirements, claiming the program is illegal and amounts to a "special tax" against developers.

John Mozart has worked in Mountain View in the past — his "Classic Communities" development on Miramonte Avenue was just completed, and he hopes to build a new development on the corner of Calderon and Evelyn avenues, right next door to Minton's — and in late 2009 he threatened to sue Mountain View over its BMR policies. So far no suit has been filed.

Prometheus' project would replace Minton's Lumber and Supply with a complex of one- and two-bedroom apartments with porches along Villa and Bush streets, internal courtyards and an underground garage with 301 spaces. Heights range from two stories on Villa Street to four stories on Evelyn Avenue.

At the same time Prometheus removed its BMR units, the developer also reduced the size of the project from 213 to 203 units after lowering its height in certain areas to address complaints about building size.

To address concerns about parking, Prometheus said it would deepen the parking garage to allow 22 car lifts — allowing cars to be stacked two to a space — in case a study finds parking to be inadequate after the project is built.

E-mail Daniel DeBolt at ddebolt@mv-voice.com

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