Mountain View Voice

News - April 27, 2012

Neighbors object to roof-top patio

Developer of Minton's project adds top deck after council approval

by Daniel DeBolt

After the City Council approved the project without it, a roof-top patio was added to the 200 luxury apartments under construction near the downtown train station, and some neighbors aren't happy about that.

After a call went out Sunday on the neighborhood email list to oppose the deck, Robert Cox, vice chair of the Old Mountain View Neighborhood Association, says 109 people have sent emails indicating their opposition. It's being described as a "party floor" on top of a project overlooking a neighborhood where many already thought the building was was too tall for the former Minton's Lumber site.

"The activity definitely wasn't discussed or approved" by the City Council, said council member Jac Siegel. "I just think it's wrong, with such a contentious project, for them (the developer) to be so brazen."

Cox's email calls on neighbors to ask Peter Gilli, the city zoning administrator, to turn down the deck at a meeting Wednesday, April 25, at 4 p.m., after the Voice goes to press. But Jon Moss, senior vice president of development for Prometheus Real Estate Group, said the deck has already been approved by city administrators as a way to add open space and recreation amenities to the complex, and it was done after City Council approval.

The deck has already been built because it also doubles as the building's roof, Gilli said. But access to the deck, either by elevator or stairs, has yet to be approved.

"The deck was not in the Council-approved plans, nor were the stairway and elevator shaft projections that are currently on the building," Gilli said in an email. "Prometheus raised the deck issue during the building permit review. In hindsight, staff should have required Prometheus to introduce this to the neighborhood as a courtesy."

Explaining why the deck was approved, Gilli wrote, "The use of the rooftop as an outdoor open space did not result in any noticeable architectural changes that would otherwise trigger a planning (discretionary) permit. The roof deck was added to the building plans, with staff's knowledge, and approved."

Gilli said his decision Wednesday has to do with adding a stairway to the project. The stairway is less visible than the elevator access to the roof that was in plans approved by the City Council, said Nathan Tuttle, senior development manager for Prometheus. Gilli said the elevator shafts now in the building "were not correctly shown on the primary building elevations in the building plans" and a stop work order was placed on them.

Neighbors say the deck would mean late night parties and noise for neighbors, who are not protected by a city noise ordinance. They also point to the TV, barbecue, speakers and lights on the deck as potentially problematic.

Tuttle said the patio would close at 10 p.m. every night. The 42-inch television would be mounted a foot from the ground, and the speakers would play ambiance music. "Both have volume limiters built in," Tuttle said. "(It) is not going to allow booming bass off the roof deck."

The lights would be for the barbecue and the path from the stairs, the minimum to comply with the city, and would not light up the whole area brightly, Tuttle said.

Moss and Tuttle say the people living in the complex below the deck are a concern, and existing neighbors of the complex would be much further away, separated from the deck by half the block's width and Villa Street.

"It's a very sensitive management issue for us," Moss said. "We have to manage the roof deck and uses up there so they don't disturb any of our residents."

Adding a design detail to a project after City Council approval is not unusual, but the additions are usually at the request of the City Council and generally have not been large or controversial, Siegel said.

Neighbor association chair David Lewis said the deck effectively adds a fifth story to the building and its approval after the fact by city staff could set a bad precedent for other developments.

"I attended all of the public meetings and never once heard that plans included a party area on the roof," Lewis wrote in an email to the Voice.

Email Daniel DeBolt at ddebolt@mv-voice.com

Comments

Posted by William Symons, a resident of another community
on Apr 28, 2012 at 11:05 am

I am amused and sad all at the same time, at the knee jerk NIMBY reaction. Let the apartments create a sense of community on the rooftop. Isn't Mountain View all about community? Aren't Mountain View residents so lucky to have the beautiful weather conducive to outdoor gathering? And if you live close to downtown, you don't get 50 acres of solitude to yourself.

When I first met my wife, a PhD Stanford graduate, she lived in a restricted entrance studio apartment right on University Ave in downtown Palo Alto. The roof was accessible to tenants and their friends. Occasionally she would invite friends for a rooftop social gathering, sometimes there were other neighbors up there too. it was very social and fun, normal adult behavior. not a college party brawl as many opponents expect from this nice luxury apartment complex. It's not East Palo Alto, or a rowdy college dorm.... Let Mountain view grow upwards, not outwards.


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