http://mv-voice.com/print/story/print/2013/04/26/council-members-praise-intuit-project


Mountain View Voice

News - April 26, 2013

Council members praise Intuit project

Office space would triple, make room for 1,300 more workers

by Daniel DeBolt

In a study session Tuesday, City Council members praised the first major North Bayshore office development proposal under the city's new 2030 general plan.

In a project intended to "make Mountain View a better place," Intuit proposes a pair of four-story buildings at 2600 Marine Way with living roofs, solar panels and architecture that wowed some council members. The project aims to have only 45 percent of employees driving alone to a pair of parking garages, one that's three levels and the other six levels (though only slightly higher than the four-story offices because of solar panels on the top level). Half of the project's power would be generated on site and it would eventually produce zero waste, according to Intuit officials.

"This isn't boring, it's a very unique design that stands out," said council member Chris Clark of a rendering of the two buildings. "I think people will say, 'Wow,' when they see it."

The proposed buildings are nearly equal in size and total 369,000 square feet, replacing eight buildings that total 108,000 square feet and making room for 1,300 new employees to add to the 1,900 employees the tax accounting software company has now in Mountain View. An adjacent Intuit campus will remain.

"I really appreciate the fact you guys listened to what we said about what we're trying to preserve," said council member Ronit Bryant, praising the relatively low building heights, meant to preserve views of the mountains and the Bay. "Towers and parking lots isn't what we want. Environmental restoration and green roofs is very welcome."

Council member John McAlister credited Intuit's real estate manager Michael Gulasch, saying, "He really did listen. He spent months, years, going to every one of these (general plan) events, listening, making notes" and conveying the city's wishes to Intuit administrators and architects.

With a 1.0 floor area ratio, the proposal is at the maximum density allowed under the new 2030 general plan, a blueprint for land use in the city. The density is allowed only for projects that meet certain requirements for reducing car trips and have a high degree of environmental friendliness. The buildings meet the highest standard for green design, LEED platinum, which appears to have become the norm for large new office projects in the city.

Intuit would use shuttles to cut car traffic, joining a transit management agency (TMA) that is being started by Whisman area office developer TMG Partners.

"If all companies in North Bayshore that have shuttles join the TMA, they may consolidate all the shuttles that stop at our (downtown) transit station and possibly the ones that run outside the city" to San Francisco, said zoning administrator Peter Gilli.

The company touted a list of features, including an on-site bicycle mechanic in a "public bike maintenance program," car sharing, eight public electric vehicle chargers and incubator space for start-up companies. It also would include new space for free tax help for the public that had previously been housed in the city library, new trail access, and "bird-friendly" design.

Shani Kleinhaus, a wildlife advocate for the Audubon Society who has been advocating for bird habitat amidst all the redevelopment in the works near Shoreline Park, said she had been in contact with Intuit for "quite a while now."

"We wanted to see more habitat on the roofs" of the buildings, Kleinhaus complained, but added that, despite that, "We feel they have been very responsive."

Council member Mike Kasperzak called the architecture "exciting" while council member Margaret Abe-Koga said that with the use of glass walls, the design "feels very open — you don't feel the massing." The ground floor "looks like an open area."

Council members Bryant and Jac Siegel had architectural concerns.

"I have concerns about very long buildings," Bryant said, suggesting something be used to break up their length. "I don't want to define North Bayshore as a long area you drive along."

Siegel agreed. "I think it is kind of stark looking myself."

To Intuit's credit, the company understood "the concept of what we are trying to do in North Bayshore, unlike other companies I've met with in North Bayshore who will go unnamed," Siegel said.

The buildings would generate 3,200 new car trips everyday, 300 of them during rush hours, said the traffic engineer hired by the developer.

"I'm concerned every project is going to go to 1.0 FAR and we're going to have a million people in North Bayshore," Siegel said.

Mayor John Inks noted that the smaller companies looking to redevelop in North Bayshroe probably won't be able to afford to build a similar project.

"If you are going to propose 1.0 in North Bayshore, the way you approached it is the way I'd hope others will approach it," Clark said.

At a future meeting the council will vote on the project and a list of yet-to-be-determined off-site community benefits it is expected to include.

Email Daniel DeBolt at ddebolt@mv-voice.com

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