Other businesses threatened on Castro Street are Peet's Coffee, which could survive in a smaller format, Le's Alterations, Sushi Tei and Tanya's Hair Design. If enough residents speak up it may compel the council to hold off granting final approval for the project, which already has voted 4-3 to advance the project by selling the developer a critical vacant lot owned by the city. Seven street-front businesses on El Camino Real and five on Castro Street, including Rose Market and Peet's, could be lost if the project advances. The new building would have 6,000 square feet of retail space on the ground floor, but that would be no substitute for the character of small businesses that would be wiped out.
City Council member Jac Siegel, who opposes the project, told the council that Peet's coffee shop is his "office away from home." Tentative plans call for the shop, which now is large enough to accommodate small meetings, to be rebuilt as a smaller store, with less parking and possibly backing up to El Camino Real.
Siegel told his fellow council members, "I really challenge you to find a place where people hang out and smell the exhaust on El Camino," he said, criticizing efforts by the city to encourage pedestrians to use the busy street's sidewalks.
For many residents, the Rose Market would be an equally bitter loss. According to a story in last week's Voice, some owners of the property that developer Graystar must have to assemble the building site voiced displeasure with forcing popular tenants like the Rose Market to close. Instead, one of the owners spoke of an obligation to create a "very good" project that includes existing businesses such as Rose Market. The landowner said it was important to the family to see the corner developed well as a "gateway" to downtown at one of the most important intersections in the city. "We are suggesting and hoping that the (existing) tenants are very much considered. We have asked for that."
Rather than rush ahead on this approval, the council should give the developer more time to work with the affected businesses and the property owners who want to do the right thing.
Mountain View residents need a break from wholesale office and housing development, like we are seeing now in the San Antonio shopping center and downtown, where several major office and housing projects are under construction on Evelyn Avenue and elsewhere, even replacing the historic Pearson house, recently demolished at 902 Villa St. to make way for yet anotheroffice building and more dramatic change to the architecture and culture of the city.
The City Council needs to make sure that the tenants in the path of the Castro Street/El Camino Real development get a fair shake, rather than being booted out of space they have occupied for years. As anchors on the south side of the city's de facto "main street," these merchants deserve much better treatment from the City Council.
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