Mountain View Voice

Opinion - June 6, 2014

Has the council lost sight of 'balanced' development?

by Betsy Collard

Dear City Council: Over the past few years there has been a considerable amount of development taking place in Mountain View, and in the process, it seems to me that we have lost sight of the importance of balance in our community.

There are really three issues in this regard that concern me:

• The lack of balance in the housing being built with the resulting high cost of rents

• The lack of balance in the types of commercial enterprises being favored

• The lack of balance between the number of jobs vs. the number of housing units being built.

In regard to housing imbalance, all the new housing being built in Mountain View is high-end. As each new apartment complex is built, the rents quoted rise — some as high as $5,300 per month for a two-bedroom apartment. Undoubtedly these units can be filled by the young engineers and technical employees in the area, but at what cost to our community as a whole?

I watch as people I know well are being pushed out of Mountain View because of escalating rents. One friend, a 17-year resident, recently retired only to see her rent increased by 30 percent and thus is having to leave the area. Another friend was evicted from his apartment because the owners were going to redo the units and upscale the building. He now rents a room for an unbelievable amount. Another, a single parent active in our schools who was born and raised in Mountain View has had her rent go up by 20 percent and can't find a place to rent that she can afford. These are just three friends' situations but there are others that I am familiar with that are all too similar.

What has happened to our idea of a balanced community where people from different socio-economic backgrounds could live? Will there no place for people of modest incomes to live in Mountain View? Where do people go who are in service jobs and whose salaries are not high-tech? Is this the community we want? Are these the values we embrace?

And commercial development in Mountain View threatens to displace the small, independently owned businesses that give this community texture and character. There are a number of examples of such businesses, but the issue comes into sharp focus for me with the new San Antonio Village (hardly a "village") and the Milk Pail.

With the pending approval of phase two of the San Antonio project there is a very real possibility that The Milk Pail, a 40-year-old, independently-owned Mountain View business, will not survive. Not only does the Milk Pail serve a large number of people from various socio-economic backgrounds, it is the kind of establishment that provides a valuable counterpoint to large scale developments with chain commercial retail businesses..

The housing/jobs imbalance is another concern. Currently there are numerous projects coming before the council that would substantially increase the amount of office space in Mountain View (e.g., Merlone Geier, 700 E. Middlefield and the possibility of proposals from Linkedin and others). If these projects are approved they will increase the imbalance between housing and jobs that already exists in this community. We need housing and it should be built before any further development of office space. We don't need more high-end housing, we need thoughtful housing that takes into consideration diversity and traffic, and that will build a sense of community.

To me, above all else, all of this is a question of the soul of this community. Don't we want a community that recognizes and embraces the importance of balance and diversity — big and small, new and old, wealthy and not so wealthy? I, and I think a whole lot of other Mountain View residents, vote for balanced and diverse.

I urge the Council not to approve phase two of the Merlone-Geier project and instead take the time to develop a plan that addresses our housing needs and our desire for a more balanced community.

Betsy Collard lives on Sherland Avenue.

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