In a study session on the 1.45-acre lot, located along Bryant Street between Mercy and California streets, a majority of the council supported leasing the land for a private, high-density housing development with retail space on the ground floor. The housing would include a to-be-determined number of below market rate units.
"Downtown residents have wanted a grocery store forever," said council member Ronit Bryant.
The city went through a debate about a grocery store during the design of the nearby five-story parking garage. At that time, downtown residents held a candlelight vigil when the city decided to go with Longs Drugs over a Zanotto's grocery store for the ground floor retail component. Council members said Longs would generate better lease revenue for the city, while Zanotto's wanted a subsidy.
"There was a lot of interest in a grocery store but it was just not economically feasible," said Joan Jenkins, the city's transportation and policy manager.
"There's no question a grocery store was the most popular choice," said council member Laura Macias. "We just didn't have the right grocery store at the time."
Council member Matt Pear said he supported the Asian grocer that already exists downtown, and called on the city to pursue a use for the empty lot that would generate the most lease revenue.
But Mayor Tom Means said, "If a grocery store of some size is willing to come in there, I'm fine with that."
"The city should not be in the business of being a landlord," said one public speaker who identified himself as a developer and owner of an adjacent property at 1046 Mercy Street.
A neighbor who lives in Bryant Street said it wasn't a good place for affordable housing.
"I don't want to see a preponderance of affordable housing downtown," said Council member Nick Galiotto, who added that the city already approved affordable housing downtown on Evelyn and Franklin streets.
Neighbors opposed affordable housing at the site two years ago, but Roy Hayter of Advocates for Affordable Housing pointed out that some residents, and even some council members, thought it was a better site than on Evelyn Avenue.
New fire station design
An all-new Fire Station No. 5 is in the works to replace the long-used temporary facilities on Shoreline Boulevard across from the Shoreline Amphitheatre.
In a Tuesday study session, firefighters were excited to see the council support their favorite of several possible designs: a traditional red brick firehouse on an earthquake-proof steel frame. The design review committee had recommended a modern design that was a closer match to the Google buildings nearby.
The design now includes a multipurpose room for police, who say their current room at the main police station is too small. The room adds $300,000 to the price tag, all of which comes out of the Shoreline tax district.
The council may add solar panels to the project later, seeking LEED silver status for green building.
Permanente trail inches forward
In the city's quest to extend the Permanente Creek Trail over Highway 101, a $9.43 million tunnel under Old Middlefield Way was supported by a majority of the City Council in a study session Tuesday.
Council members and three residents, including a bike-riding Google employee, supported the project, saying it would connect one of the city's largest neighborhoods to Google jobs, the Shoreline Amphitheatre, Shoreline Park and the movie theaters there.
One resident of Telford Drive complained that she didn't know about the project until she received a recent notice in the mail, and expressed concerns about the trail running along her backyard fence.
The project currently lacks a full budget, however, "Once the project is defined we can start looking for grant opportunities," said Cathy Lazarus, public works director.