A public discussion of the proposed project at Castro Street and El Camino Real that would replace the Rose Market and other surrounding businesses drew about 80 opponents a few weeks ago, yet this corner represents only the tip of the iceberg of what is currently envisioned for the city.
The first phase of the San Antonio shopping center is a cruel joke at best: this is the end product for a "gateway to Mountain View" and a "pedestrian friendly" development, another (goliath) Safeway and (yet another) Starbucks, topped with high-rent apartments? If this an example of visionary perspective, we should all be suspicious when inspecting the other pending monstrosities which may be deemed worthy of approval by the current City Council, from developer Merlone-Geier's phase two at San Antonio, and well beyond.
For anybody even remotely interested in the excessive quantity and scale of proposed and approved developments, both residential and commercial, visit http://is.gd/LPmhtr and you will be shocked. Sixty-eight projects, including Google's 1- million-square-foot campus (technically on federal property) for a yet-to-be specified number of workers and residents and an additional 1-million-square-foot development at the (soon to be former) Synopsis site.
Adding a million here, and a million there doesn't seem to faze the city council much and one has to wonder if more than a passing thought has been given as to the enormous impact these projects will have throughout the city which is already reeling from congestion before many of these projects have even broken ground. Cramming as many edifices and people into any available space as quickly as you can does not seem indicative of good planning. Although many consider it a blessing that we are essentially Ground Zero for national employment and prosperity, I beg to differ; we have seen the consequences of rampant development in other communities before. The corresponding Pandora's box of over-development produces less a spectrum of diversity and uniform prosperity than a preponderance of homogeneous affluence and a framework whereby we are all crammed together like rats.
As escalating real estate prices continue to displace more people, there is an erosion in the city's unique quality of life, formerly accessible to and inclusive of people of more modest means.
Just because you can build something doesn't mean you must, that you go overboard, that you say yes to any and all developments, or gravitate toward aesthetically-mundane architecture, the highest densities, the tallest buildings allowable, or the developer with the deepest pockets. One notable exception was the purchase of Frances Stieper's Rengstorff property under the assumption that it would otherwise be developed, so the council preserved it for public use as a park; too bad we haven't advocated for projects such as this tenfold instead of selling out to wholesale development.
If we continue to operate and accelerate at the current unbridled pace and wonder five years ( or three years or two years?) from now why the city is as gridlocked as downtown Palo Alto and why it is characterized by generic high-density developments from one end to the other, we will have only ourselves to blame. Once the last vestiges of old Mountain View have been exploited and obliterated and the concrete has been poured, it will be way too late to reverse the damage. "If you build it they will come" is a mantra best reserved for Iowa corn fields.