The year 2013 saw landmark changes as Google, the city's No. 1 employer, gobbled up much of the available commercial space and set on a course to add 3.5 million more square feet of office space to the 7.5 million square feet that it has now. The North Bayshore is tech central at the moment, but don't count on it being hemmed in there forever. There simply isn't enough room.
The next major project to house the ubiquitous bike-riding Google workers is a 1.2 million-square-foot complex at Moffett Field, just across Stevens Creek from the Googleplex. The company is pushing the City Council hard for a permit to build a pedestrian, bicycle and shuttle-bus bridge over the creek, but has been stymied so far by four council members who see the project as the death-knell for the thousands of birds and other wildlife (the burrowing owl, for example) that nest there.
But though the vote to approve the bridge has been defeated three times, the core of the 4-3 opposition — Jac Siegel, Ronit Bryant and Margaret Abe-Koga — will be termed out in 2014. It will take the election next November of only one new member who favors a bridge to effectively change the course of development in the North Bayshore.
Proponents of the bridge see the shuttles as a way to ferry workers across the creek and transport them down Moffett Boulevard, out of the traffic crunch that builds every workday at U.S. 101 intersections with Shoreline Boulevard and Charleston Road.
Another plan that would help eliminate North Bayshore gridlock is the Transportation Management Association, which envisions requiring the use of company shuttle buses that normally are sitting idle for much of the day to move people from downtown to the North Bayshore and back, perhaps with stops at the San Antonio Mall. The build-out of the mall with retail shops and a Safeway squeezed around four-story or higher residential and office buildings will dramatically change the city's skyline. For some, a "mountain view," soon will be only a memory.
All of this development will make it even more difficult for low-income families to find a home here when rent for a two-bedroom apartment in some new Prometheus buildings reaches $8,000 a month. We hope the skyrocketing cost of housing becomes a major issue in the upcoming city council campaign, although it will take more than one or two council votes to change a trend that is rippling through the Peninsula and San Francisco, where angry tenants demonstrate against the private buses that ferry workers to Google and other high-tech employers on the Peninsula.
On another topic of high interest here, local schools are in the midst of several conflicts — one between the popular Bullis Charter School and the traditional Los Altos School District, and the other between newly elected Mountain View Whisman board member Steven Nelson and a majority of his colleagues who recently censured him for disrupting meetings when he disagrees with the majority. It remains to be seen if Nelson will get the message that the board is tired of his antics, some of which stem from his belief that too much of Measure G school bond money is allotted to middle school performing art centers.
The dispute over how much classroom space LASD should allocate for Bullis students, which is required by Proposition 39, could be resolved this year if the two sides can agree on the wording of a bond issue that would go before voters in November. Such a resolution would be welcome news for all school parents who are tired of the constant bickering between the school district and Bullis.
And a perennial story that will not go away anytime soon is the attempts to clean up the underground water table contaminated by TCE, a solvent that was dumped out the back door of many early chip manufacturers. News that TCE had spread far beyond the MEW Superfund sites (bordered by Whisman Road, Ellis Street, Middlefield Road and U.S. Highway 101) was disconcerting and has led the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to do more tests around nearby sewer lines, which apparently leaked toxic flows and caused "hot spots" of contamination under the residential streets of Evandale Avenue and Leong Drive. With proper mitigation the toxic vapors emitted by the underground flow are manageable, but still worrisome, especially for two homes on Evandale Avenue where elevated levels of TCE vapors were found.
Despite the growing pains from a rapidly expanding economy, Mountain View still retains much of its charm, including Castro Street, the downtown destination loved by anyone searching for a wide range of ethnic cuisine within walking distance of easy parking. And visitors to the city can play golf, view waterfowl or go boating at Shoreline Lake, and then take in a concert at Shoreline Amphitheater, where some of the nation's best-known entertainers appear. It is a city that is dramatically different than what it was 10 years ago. The question is, what will the city become in the next 10 years?