Mountain View Voice

News - June 15, 2012

Council moves forward with affordable studios; two popular taquerias to be displaced

by Daniel DeBolt

Members of the City Council voted to continue the planning of a $9.3 million affordable housing project Tuesday that will displace 48 low-income residents and two popular taquerias at the corner of Rengstorff Avenue and Old Middlefield Way.

Council members voted 6-0 to move forward with the project, with Mayor Mike Kasperzak absent.

City officials say the city attorney's office has spent many hours dealing with the existing building's numerous code violations, and a court order that could slowly empty the building is expected soon.

"We've got to fix it, and to me the easiest way to fix it is to go to another project that is compliant," said council member Tom Means. "My feeling is we just move ahead and get this to be a better site. It gets rid of a headache to some extent."

The 1940s building known to house La Costena and La Bamba taquerias would make way for 51 studios above a 2,700 square-foot-retail space developed by ROEM and Eden Housing, the same developer building 51 affordable family homes on Evelyn Avenue at Franklin Street.

The studios would be rented to those making between $21,800 and $32,625 a year, with rents ranging from $521 to $793 a month. Up to two people can rent a studio, and city planners estimate 57 tenants based on occupancy rates of similar projects.

Building owner Charles Gardyn had initially promised that the building's existing tenants could return to the redeveloped building, but it was revealed at the meeting that the retail space would be only 2,700 square feet, and La Costena taqueria and market alone now occupies 3,500 square feet. Council members said they hoped that at least two of the five existing businesses in the building would be able to move back into the building.

The city will spend $744,000 relocating existing residential tenants from the building, which could be demolished early next year, at the earliest. City staff members had originally expected to pay $500,000, but learned that 48 people were living in the 10 existing units.

The council gave an initial green light to the project in November, allowing the developer to spend less than a third of the $9.3 million in city housing funds allocated for the project until a better design for parking could be worked out. There were still concerns about the large size of the parking lot, which provides .75 of a space per unit. A survey of similar studio projects found parking use at .57 spaces per unit, while city planners recommended .62 to compensate because of a lack of access to transit.

"I'll join the rest of council with something of a heavy heart," said council member Ronit Bryant. "Spending a lot of money on this project using half the lot for parking doesn't sit well with me. And moving successful businesses is something I'd much rather not do. However I have enormous respect for ROEM and Eden Housing. I believe the final project will be a good project."

Email Daniel DeBolt at ddebolt@mv-voice.com

Comments

Posted by art, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 14, 2012 at 7:32 pm

Roni Bryant says he has "something of a heavy heart" but joins the others in this bad decision (bad for the commoners and small businessses but good of course for the moneyed ones)nevertheless because he has "enormous respect" for the developers. How more nauseating could this get? And then, the calculations/previsions of 2 tenants per studio (up to $793/month) are even more revolting as they sanction a quality of life hardly in line with what would be expected from a city that headquarters the likes of Google. Oh, I forgot: the below the poverty line tenants and the taquerias owners are too small a fish-probably spanish speaking mostly, non-voters, semi-illiterate, disenfranchised. Really, a hard choice for the council to look after the interests of the developers foremost. And this is only what shows on the surface. I'm very curious about lies below the surface of this deal. Investigative journalists come forth.


Posted by art, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 14, 2012 at 7:45 pm

Studio rents from $521 to $793/month for people who earn from 21,800 to $32,625/year. Do you call this "affordable"? Really? This is equivalent to people who make $60-$96K/year paying a rent of $1,500-2,400 for a studio in a poor section of town.Someone stands to gain from this deal and it's not the poor people. And how much in taxes is Google paying to the City? Shhhh, better not say, so we don't blush with embarassment...or rage. Something stinks in Mountain Phew.


Posted by Sonny, a resident of Castro City
on Jun 15, 2012 at 6:00 am

How many hours of city attorney time is worth a $9.3 million dollar gift to a developer to raze buildings that were built long before the current city codes were in place? There are literally hundreds of single-family homes around here that are older than me and likely breaking some current code or other, the only difference being the paycheck to a favored developer.

How much more affordable housing needs to be built up before we realize there's enough rental tenancy in Mountain View and we should let the other cities around here hold up their end? Apparently the city council members haven't walked down California Street past Shoreline and are unaware of the numerous 70's era apartment complexes harboring all kinds of code violations -- hopefully the property tax paying locals aren't on the hook to fix those up too.


Posted by Tony, a resident of Jackson Park
on Jun 15, 2012 at 7:11 am

Well we certainly don't want low-income housing near any of the more affluent neighborhoods!

Enough with social engineering!

And I have to laugh when the city "learned that 48 people were living in the 10 existing units" increasing the cost of relocating them, whatever that means. Does the city have camps set up nearby? And then they want to keep the occupancy limit to two per studio? Wow, just wow. On any given night of the week you've got familiies, yes families, renting floor space for sleeping only up and down California Ave.

And then there's those that will "qualify" for this housing. Spend some time over near the San Antonio Circle low-income housing unit next to CSMA and you'll quickly see that it's full of legal low-output subsidized workers who are looking for a cheap place to squat for the rest of their lives. I'd much rather have 5 illegals in a market rate rental unit and keep La Bamba.


Posted by MV Mama, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 17, 2012 at 1:10 am

$774K to move 10 households? Seriously? I'll do it for $500K.


Posted by resident, a resident of Waverly Park
on Jun 18, 2012 at 1:47 pm

What I'm wondering is did any council members even go look at the inside of this building, upstairs? Do they really know who are the residents whose lives will be greatly affected by their decisions?

A couple of my former students (now high school age) live there. Their family of 5 lives in one bedroom, another family lives in the other bedroom, and an aunt and uncle sleep on the bed in the kitchen/dining room that's between the two. Dad works construction, Mom works long days at the car wash, and the kids are doing the best they can at school, which isn't easy given that they didn't even have a school in their village in Honduras before they moved here in 2nd grade.

The conditions are deplorable. My guess is a lot of people have no idea how very low income people really live. Yet these are some of the happiest, kindest and most polite people I've ever met.

Not sure what should become of that building, just sayin' that it's important for those in the position of power to take a firsthand look and understand those whose lives are impacted by their decisions.

I know for a fact that council members who voted to pull out of Palo Alto Animal Shelter had never visited the facility, just hoping they would take a closer look at those they govern.


Posted by horrible news, a resident of Waverly Park
on Jun 19, 2012 at 10:54 pm

I'm more upset that La Bamba won't be at this location than I am about 22 people living in a two bedroom apartment, most likely out of code.

One of the best burritos I've ever had.


If you were a member and logged in you could track comments from this story.

Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields