Mountain View Voice

News - July 19, 2013

Protest over Rose Market's fate

Crowd turns out to protest proposed apartment building

by Daniel DeBolt

Over 80 people gathered in front of the Rose Market on Monday night to protest the possible loss of the small shops at the corner of Castro Street and El Camino Real, but the ensuing discussion soon became more broad, complex, and at times, divisive.

A 200-unit, four-story apartment building has been proposed to replace the Sufi Coffee Shop and Cultural Center, Peet's Coffee, Le's Alterations, Tanya's Hair Design, the Rose Market and Bill the Barber, among other businesses, which residents say have become an important part of their community.

Protest organizer Linda Curtis raised fears about traffic and a towering apartment building overlooking people's backyards. Organizers said El Camino Real should not be full of five-story buildings, and that Castro Street in front of Graham Middle School should not be narrowed to prevent pedestrian deaths.

"They are taking away our neighborhood and replacing it with a citified area," said a co-organizer of the event. "Mountain View claims they are for small businesses, but here they are taking these out."

The proposed redevelopment would include only 6,000 square feet of retail on the ground floor, replacing the 23,000 square feet that exists now for seven street-front businesses at 801-819 El Camino Real, and five others at 1032 to 1062 Castro Street.

An example of what's to come?

Raising a frightening scenario, Curtis said she had spoken with Mayor John Inks who told her that the city wants single-family homes in the area torn down for development.

"He told us that in 20 years all these houses will be gone," Curtis claimed. "That's the plan."

"I don't know about you, I bought my house to live in this area until I die," said a co-organizer of the event. "If you have children and you want to leave your homes to your children, you aren't going to have the opportunity to do that if we don't speak up."

In an interview with the Voice, Mayor Inks said that wasn't what he told Curtis. Residents were not going to be forced out of the neighborhood, though land values are rising in the area so much that homeowners may want to sell to developers.

"I happen to be a policy maker that supports that," Inks said of redeveloping residential areas, though adding that neighbors had little to fear because the city's general plan, recently adopted after years of discussion, specifically excludes residential neighborhoods from "change areas" where new zoning encourages redevelopment.

"The whole theme for the General Plan is neighborhood preservation," Inks said.

When the discussion turned to criticizing the design of the four-story apartment and retail building, some residents said they actually supported it.

"I live there and I'm actually not too concerned," said a woman who lives next door to the site.

"I met with the developer. I actually feel that they are responsive and it could actually be beneficial," she said. "I'm already next to a tall building." She later added that the developers were trying to build "very high-end apartments."

Organizers acknowledged that the owners of half the project site want a high quality project and are willing to refuse to sell the land unless there is popular support. One attendee even suggested that the owners not be overwhelmed with input from the community.

Speaking about the loss of the Rose Market, Curtis said, "I want to keep my market so I can walk one block, and not get in my car and cut through the neighborhood to get into Nob Hill or Safeway."

A petition was passed around opposing the redevelopment of the corner, as well as opposing reducing lanes on Castro Street, threatening to derail demands for traffic-calming measures after several children were hit by cars there last year.

Neighbors say that traffic in the area will be "horrible" from the 200 apartments proposed for the site and narrowing Castro Street there from four lanes to two would make it worse. Some neighbors disagreed, saying residents would probably be Google employees who use shuttles and bikes to get around.

Despite the rancor among neighbors, council member Jac Siegel said it was noteworthy that such a protest occurred.

"In my memory of being in the city all these years, I can never remember a protest of people actually coming out on something like that," Siegel said. "That shows how strongly people feel about that. Mountain View is going to cease being Mountain View if we keep pushing out businesses and changing things so fast."

Just before the protest, a plea was made in a letter to the City Council and the press by a group of patrons of the Sufi coffee shop, Bill the Barber and the Rose Market.

"Places of business that the same patrons frequent on a regular basis engender their own power, the Power of Place," the letter says. "There, proprietor and patron get to know each other, shaking hands in friendship, not merely exchanging goods for money. A community is born, sustained, and fostered. In stark contrast, large apartment complexes are characterized by frequent turnover of residents, which cannot sustain the same dynamism and nourishing energy."

Email Daniel DeBolt at ddebolt@mv-voice.com>

Comments

Posted by Concerned Citizen, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jul 18, 2013 at 10:29 pm

Will Council listen to the citizens and act to prevent this??

Narrowing the road is a foolish idea. There are much better ways to protect kids without causing worse traffic - and narrowing the road is likely to increase risk to kids by making people impatient with the traffic slowdowns.

The apartments are out of proportion to the neighborhood. City code lets them skimp on parking in the apartment itself, which will make street parking in the neighborhood much worse - and that also increases risks to kids by reducing visibility and narrowing drive area.

And it takes away local neighbor gathering spots.

There is no aspect of this proposal that is good for the neighborhood. It needs to be stopped in its tracks and completely re-thought.


Posted by ViewFromAfar, a resident of another community
on Jul 19, 2013 at 6:59 am

It should be noted that many of the homes in this neighborhood have driveways that only fit one car in them, so the streets are already quite full of parked cars every evening/morning. If a 200 unit apartment block is going to be dropped on top of this neighborhood, it wouldn't be surprising if the neighborhood streets would need to be resident/permit parking only.

I thought I heard that the developer planned to put a driveway for this development on Castro Street - where Rose Market currently sits - literally, right next to a single family home and not more than 15 yards from Sonia? I'm sure that a driveway in that location won't cause any traffic, noise or pedestrian safety issues, right?


Posted by Jim Neal, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 19, 2013 at 11:04 am

Jim Neal is a registered user.

I was one of the people that was at the Rally for Rose Market and the article that I wrote can be found here:

Web Link

Even if you do not live near Rose Market, what happens here will affect you. We need everyone in Mountain View to get behind this effort to save Rose Market and the other local stores nearby. High density developments popping up everywhere may be fine for Manhattan or San Francisco, but THIS...IS....SPARTA! (Sorry, I mean Mountain View!). Kick this project into the hole before it makes a huge one in the middle of our community!


Posted by Ron, a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jul 19, 2013 at 7:07 pm

I attended the protest at the Rose Market Monday night. I am saddened but not surprised to hear that Plan Bay Area has been approved. A group of unelected officials nearly unanimously approved a plan with far reaching ramifications for our communities. There was no way for residents to vote on any aspect of this development at any level. I honestly believe we are reaping the rewards of having a single party dominate political power at every level of the California government. As long as this is the case, I do not see any credible means for concerned citizens to push back against unwanted changes that will transform our home communities; the government has no incentive to listen to us.


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