Mountain View Voice

Opinion - June 6, 2014

Council member shares vision for North Bayshore

by Ronit Bryant

Recently John King of the San Francisco Chronicle published an article entitled "Mountain View stuck in past when it comes to housing policy." While he has good things to say about our city, Mr. King is unhappy that we are not planning to build housing in North Bayshore, which he (and others) seem to see as some kind of panacea for the housing problems of the Bay Area.

As a Mountain View resident of more than 25 years and a two-term member of the City Council, I disagree.

Mountain View, with an area of 12 square miles, is one of the densest cities on the Peninsula. In North Bayshore we host a regional jobs center that contributes to the economic vitality of the entire area. This regional hub, different from the remote office complexes that abound around the Bay, is an energetic 20-minute walk from downtown Mountain View where I live.

Our downtown is a great example of the engaging neighborhoods that Mr. King praises: walkable, desirable, with excellent services (grocery store, elementary school, public library, buses and shuttles, and one of the most heavily used Caltrain stations on the Peninsula). Downtown Mountain View has a range of housing options (from single-family residences to condos and apartments, new and old) and a population that continues to be diverse in age and income (though probably less diverse than it was before Mountain View became such an attractive place to live). Downtown is also home to a surprising number of start-ups and small high-tech companies, whose employees swarm Castro Street at all hours of the day.

We recently completed our General Plan 2030 (with broad community input) and are now working on precise plans for our identified change areas to turn the vision into reality. In addition to the North Bayshore Precise Plan (which does not include new housing), the city is working on precise plans for both El Camino and San Antonio to encourage vibrant and diverse communities to grow and thrive where neighborhood services already exist. In the near future, I expect many new residents to move into these areas. They will benefit from existing services and make it possible to provide better services (more parks and retail, for example) for current residents.

I cannot predict how many housing units will actually be built — the city's role is not to build housing, but to plan how to accommodate growth while preserving what we treasure. Our housing element identifies appropriately zoned areas (not including North Bayshore) that could be developed to meet the housing numbers Mountain View was allocated by the state-mandated regional housing needs allocation process (which takes into consideration the expected growth in households and jobs in the Bay Area). This number (about 2,900 housing units by 2023) includes units at different levels of affordability (not just luxury housing), and we are using all tools legally available to us (and they are not many, including housing impact fees and below market rate in-lieu fees) to increase our supply of affordable housing.

During the General Plan process, we looked at the possibility of turning North Bayshore into a mix of housing and businesses — allowing residential uses while making it possible for our existing businesses to experience some growth without having to move away. North Bayshore businesses and Mountain View residents participated and the City Council was presented with an alternative that included adding about 1,400 residential units along Shoreline Boulevard by the year 2040. This number is not enough to support services like a neighborhood school or a grocery store (researchers usually consider a store to require about 5,000 residents). For me this proposal was a recipe for temporary housing (not necessarily inexpensive housing), without services and separated from the rest of the city by a wide freeway, U.S. 101.

Could we encourage businesses to leave or to stop adding jobs and then flood North Bayshore with housing instead? Perhaps. Would that be good for Mountain View or for our region? I don't think so. And could we in Mountain View ever build enough to lower housing costs on the Peninsula? I doubt it very much.

I think the vision that we on the Mountain View City Council have been developing for North Bayshore over the course of many public meetings (and the direction in which the precise plan is moving) is more innovative: a magical place along a restored Bay and under the migratory birds' Pacific Flyway, where the landscape and the wildlife are protected and enhanced and high-tech individuals are inspired to greater creativity. To achieve this, development will be focused along transportation corridors and pushed back from natural areas. We are discussing trip caps, a focus on active transportation (biking and walking), and human-scaled architecture. There will be green streets, sustainable buildings, restored wetlands. It will be a place where residents and employees find respite from the built environment. And all this connected to services — rich residential neighborhoods by pedestrian and bike bridges (and an improved public or private/public transit system for those who choose to live elsewhere). With the gift that we have in North Bayshore, we can be innovative in our own way.

Ronit Bryant is a member of the Mountain View City Council.

Comments

Posted by Techie, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 6, 2014 at 11:24 am

As an someone who works in said "magical place", I personally can't wait until my workplace moves back to downtown so I can get out of that dreary office park. Being isolated from restaurants, services and transit does not "inspire greater creativity"!


Posted by Konrad M. Sosnow, a resident of Castro City
on Jun 6, 2014 at 3:16 pm

Ronit has some good points:


"Adding about 1,400 residential units along Shoreline Boulevard by the year 2040. This number is not enough to support services like a neighborhood school or a grocery store (researchers usually consider a store to require about 5,000 residents). For me this proposal was a recipe for temporary housing (not necessarily inexpensive housing), without services and separated from the rest of the city by a wide freeway, U.S. 101."

Her points should be considered and responded to in any plan for housing in North Bayshore. I am not saying don't build there , I am saying to consider both sides of the issue,


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