On Tuesday the City Council was presented with a proposal from RREEF Real Estate that could bring 2,500 more employees to 700 East Middlefield Road and 1101 Maude Avenue. Two eight-story buildings and two six-story buildings would replace four two-story office buildings occupied by Synopsis, increasing the square footage on the site from 380,000 to 1 million square feet.
And if that isn't enough office space for you, other new offices in the works nearby total 784,000 square feet, including 625 Clyde Avenue (six stories proposed) and 690 East Middlefield Road (five stories under construction and Synopsis' future home).
Council members decided to wait to discuss the project along with the other office buildings slated for the area on Feb. 26. A new environmental impact report (EIR) may be needed to consider the proposal's impact as the proposal exceeds what was considered in the EIR done for last year's general plan update: only 1.1 million new square feet of office in the neighborhood.
Explaining the need for a new EIR, city planners said in a report, "The (general plan) EIR was initiated in 2009 and was based on an estimate of projected growth based on historical trends within Mountain View, not the theoretical maximum buildout," before the city began to experience the increased office demand of the past two years.
It turns out that the "theoretical maximum buildout" is what developers want in Mountain View's current office boom.
"We've certainly seen big spikes before," in development activity, said planning director Randy Tsuda, "It's not uncommon. There's these big spikes of development, then the economy bottoms out."
An example is 690 East Middlefield Road, approved during a similar boom before the recession that is now finally under construction.
Architect Thomas Yee said the buildings proposed for 700 East Middlefield would be easily seen from Highway 237 and that by building up instead of out, more space could be made for common open areas — 40 percent of the 24-acre site would be open space. Special efforts are being made to remove parking lot asphalt and preserve trees on the site, though their numbers would be reduced from 267 large trees to 156.
Council member Ronit Bryant questioned the usefulness of so much open space, noting that she toured Moffett Towers in Sunnyvale, which is slightly taller and also in an isolated location. "There was plenty of open space. I don't think it was useful," she said.
The project also includes a pair of parking garages that are four stories tall and back up to Sunnyvale housing complexes. None of those residents spoke Tuesday, but Kelley Ketchmark, of the Wagon Wheel Neighborhood Association, representing residents west of Whisman Road, expressed concerns.
"We feel this is just too much for this area," Ketchmark said. "The square square footage (is) two-and-half times what's there now. More and more workers are coming to the area on a daily basis," she said, noting that the number of employees on the site would increase from 1,500 to 4,000.
"The freeways are already jammed with traffic." She said the light rail line within a five minute walk "is not going to solve the problem" and "doesn't make it a transit-oriented area — that's why Google has their own shuttle buses."
The city's new 2030 general plan allows for a near tripling of allowed building densities to what it known as a 1.0 floor area ratio for "transit oriented" development — if developers pay towards transit improvements. City planners are pushing for more transit improvements to justify the project's density, such as "improvements leading to the transit station on Middlefield," said zoning administrator Peter Gilli.
As to environmental friendliness, RREEF proposes a LEED Gold building, though city planers are pushing for platinum. There's long-term bike parking inside the building and showers for bike commuters, as well as bike paths to encourage biking to and from the site.
On March 19, the council is set to discuss the office buildings proposed for 625 Clyde Avenue.