Council members voted 5-0 to allow the fitness center, with several conditions. Member Chris Clark recused himself because he owns property nearby and Mike Kasperzak was absent.
The 24-hour fitness center would go in a 40,000-square-foot space that has been occupied by Rite Aide, New York Pizza and The Better Bagel. Marshalls and several other small businesses would remain. The landlord had found a way to relocate New York Pizza, but not the 20-year-old bagel shop, which concerned council members.
The married couple that owns the the Better Bagel said they would lose their livelihood.
"We have two kids in school, that's the only income we have," said Ted, one of the owners. "I did not seek any legal help or anything because I thought I couldn't afford it. All my regular customers urged me to come here to hopefully talk and work something out. This is my last hope."
City Attorney Jannie Quinn said it was beyond the council's authority to require relocation of the bagel shop, though most council members wanted to.
"It is our jobs to keep the fabric of Mountain View intact," said council member Jac Siegel. "We're changing the fabric of the city."
"I want to see hard work happening to try and retain that business," said council member Ronit Bryant.
Eventually Carter Hemming, representing the owner of the shopping center, stepped in. "We would be more than happy to accommodate Better Bagel," he said, but that it would mean the business would have to shut down for four months as the building is remodeled and new space is made for them in the Rite Aide's former garden center. He said he wasn't sure the bagel shop could afford that.
Mayor Inks said the owners have been trying to find a new tenant for the Rite Aide site for years. He said it could "go dark" if the council imposed unrealistic requirements on the project. The problem has been the building's "throated" entryway. Customers enter through a long corridor created by the addition of the small business spaces in front of the building, an unattractive design that no major retailer wants.
The Fitness Center is not a use allowed by the site's zoning, requiring the council to vote on a provisional use permit. Without it, Hemming said a grocery store could take the site, and several grocery stores are interested, despite the presence of a Nob Hill and Ranch 99 next door. No council vote would be required.
"I think you'll hear a lot more opposition to something like that, if that includes losing all businesses on the front side, including Better Bagel" said council member Margaret Ab-Koga of the grocery store option.
Council members did require changes at the rear of the site where residents are likely to enter on Pamela Drive. City staff may end up requiring windows, new lighting, asphalt, pedestrian pathways, and a rear entrance to the building to encourage use of the rear parking lot — all were suggestions by council members.
"I can't support anything unless we do some serious improvement to the back," said council member Ronit Bryant. "The driveway is badly maintained and very unpleasant."
Hemming said adding windows to the building would not be possible because of the building's cement walls.
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