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Condo project fails, leaving eyesore behind

Original post made on Nov 14, 2008

Apparently unable to get a bank loan, the owner of an aging apartment building at 291 Evandale Ave. has given up on a plan to demolish the structure and build 144 condos. Instead, he wants to rent the apartments out again, and quick.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, November 14, 2008, 11:56 AM

Comments (33)

Posted by E.M., a resident of North Whisman
on Nov 14, 2008 at 10:19 pm

The Summerhill Apartments need to be condemned and demolished. The floors and ceilings are so weak they sag just from their own weight. I can't imagine how they would ever hold up in a decent-sized earthquake.

Posted by Resident, a resident of North Whisman
on Nov 15, 2008 at 10:52 am

Please don't approve the apartment complex again. An empty flat area (demolished) is a better option instead.

Posted by Randall Flagg, a resident of North Whisman
on Nov 15, 2008 at 4:19 pm

The city should seize the property immediately and do something useful with it. The owner is clearly incompetent and completely lacking in any sense of the common good.

Posted by Liza, a resident of North Whisman
on Nov 15, 2008 at 4:28 pm

Another case of someone putting profit before people... I hope the city comes down hard on the owner. There's got to be some kind of penalty for doing work that is unpermitted.

Posted by Amy, a resident of North Whisman
on Nov 16, 2008 at 1:16 pm

My family lives down the street from the Summerhill apartments. Since the apartments were vacated we have enjoyed much safer streets (less traffic and speeders) less crime and our children can play at Devonshire Park once again. The park was taken over by older teens and adults who intimidated families with young children. Our hopes were that clean, safe living quarters would replace the apartments that have been standing empty for months. They were boaded up and one can only imagine the mold, mildew and infestation of bugs and rats.Surely the owner realizes these apartments are not fit for human beings to live in. It's a shame this "landlord" wants to take advantage of the impoverished to make a buck. Our neighborhood deserves better; the city already paid to relocate the tenants. We pay our taxes and should have a say in whether these shoddy apartments remain the eyesore and health hazard that they are!

Posted by Concerned Neighbor, a resident of North Whisman
on Nov 16, 2008 at 1:38 pm

Based on the news article, since "the horse is no longer in mid-stream", maybe the area can be re-zoned back to lower density housing. Maybe even a promonade with boutique restaurants and outdoor seating. I'm sure the folks in the nearby businesses would enjoy the area during the week and the neighborhood enjoy it on weekends. With other areas in Mountain View being built up, it would be a shame if the city chose to allow this eye-sore to remain. Since clean-up has started (and is continuing), rats are running all over the neighborhood plus I can count at least 10 buildings with tarps on the roofs just by driving by the complex. After a year of rain, what does the mold look like, not to mention the possibility of asbestos throughout the buildings? Tear 'em down! Thanks, Mountain View, for stopping the owner from allowing re-occupancy of this complex.

Posted by S.P., a resident of North Whisman
on Nov 16, 2008 at 6:16 pm

I agree with Concerned Neighbor. The only reason it was zoned R4 to begin with was because of the owner's greediness. If it ever comes up again the city council should approve something more in tune with the neighborhood. I can picture lovely 3-story homes there that would be perfect for the people that work in the offices across the street. Some sort of mixed-use with restaurants and retail on the bottom floor or corners and some green spaces in the form of courtyards would be great too.

Posted by T.O., a resident of North Whisman
on Nov 17, 2008 at 9:37 am

Before these apartments were evacuated, I never walked in our neighborhood. I felt unsafe. Now, with these apartments gone, I feel safer and take walks with our dog and baby. Please just level the area until something good for the community can be built.

Posted by NW Parent, a resident of North Whisman
on Nov 17, 2008 at 10:41 am

I also agree with my neighbors' comments here that since these apartments were vacated, the neighborhood is much safer, traffic has been reduced and our neighborhood park is in much better condition. It's great that we can enjoy the park again since we waited so many years for it to be built.

I know that there were some hardworking families who lived at Summerhill, but now is the time to make a real improvement in the neighborhood with this piece of land. I can't see any way that these dilapidated apartments can simply be reconditioned for new renters.

At the very least, they will need the kind of remodeling that was done at 449 Tyrella, 2230 Latham, and 570 S. Rengstorff in years past, if we can't get a different type of use for that property.

City of Mountain View, thanks for stepping in and halting the current activity. We urge you to do the right thing for the good of the neighborhood!

Posted by Cynthia, a resident of North Whisman
on Nov 17, 2008 at 3:50 pm

Reading the above comments make me regret not being more proactive-I noticed the work being done beginning over a month ago. I drive by these apartments everyday and cringe. Many of the families who lived in the Summerhill Apartments had multiple school-aged children, toddlers and babies. When they closed Slater School these kids were bussed to Castro, Bubb and Huff. Just today your headlines mention possible severe school budget cuts and how the "no child left behind" is failing to reach our students here in Mtn View. If these apartments are once again filled with multiple families living in one apartment, how will our schools handle an already broken, over-burdened system? How much more can you ask of our very dedicated teachers? Who would want a child to live in such a filthy mess as the Summerhill Slum!? Our neighborhod is finally safe and relatively family-friendly. We can walk our babies in strollers and take our kids to the park. Please consider the health of the people who would have to live there and the safety of those of us who live near that "eyesore." I would welcome the opportunity to meet with other residents who feel the same way.

Posted by H.H., a resident of North Whisman
on Nov 18, 2008 at 11:39 am

I totally agree. It became much safe after SummerHill was evacuated. I can walk around the neighborhood and go to Devonshire park without fear. There are much less speedy cars on the street too.

Posted by Raz, a resident of Castro City
on Nov 18, 2008 at 3:38 pm

I say we let the day workers build their new center on this lot instead of try to build it in my neigborhood.

Posted by USA, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Nov 18, 2008 at 4:10 pm

Other than that one about a new center for illegals, those are all good suggestions. Another one is to have the city buy it, level it, and use the space for the Mountain View history museum.

The museum with off-street parking and a small demonstration orchard at the back would an asset for the neighborhood and would spare Cuesta Annex from being paved over.

Posted by AG, a resident of North Whisman
on Nov 20, 2008 at 1:07 am

These people that are not from the North Whisman neighborhood don't know what they're talking about. Neither a day worker center nor a history center makes any sense at this location. Those things need to be in a central location with easy access by car and/or public transportation. The Summer Hill site is neither.

Posted by QM, a resident of North Whisman
on Nov 20, 2008 at 8:57 pm

Since the apartments have been closed, I have not had to wake up inside a police perimeter lock down with armed thugs trying to break into my home. In Feb 2007, my neighbor was lucky enough to find a loaded hand gun in his driveway where his child plays. Then gun had been ditched by a gang member after he tied up and beat seven people with his fellow gang members inside the Summerhill Apartments during a home invasion robbery (look it up here online in the archives from Feb 2007.) Those "teenagers" mentioned in the earlier posts are MVS and Norteno gang members. They routinely left gang graffiti all over Devonshire Park soon after it was open. The park was a great idea, but it was taken over by gang members, and the city had a hard time trying to keep up with the graffiti cleanup from the rival gangs who were trying to claim it as their own. -- The Evandale property should get the same deal from the city that the Wagon Wheel owner got when he turned his property into a vacant lot. Re-opening the apartments would just invite gangs and gang activity back into the neighborhood.

Posted by S.P., a resident of North Whisman
on Nov 20, 2008 at 9:23 pm

Just curious... What kind of deal did the Wagon Wheel owner get from the city when he turned his property into a vacant lot? That would be great if they would be willing to do that with the Summerhill Apartments as well.

Posted by QM, a resident of North Whisman
on Nov 21, 2008 at 7:28 am

From Nov. 14th 2003 MV Voice --- excerpts

Wagon Wheel demolished
After standing vacant for the last three years, Walker's Wagon Wheel Restaurant and Casino -- a Silicon Valley landmark for more than half a century -- was bulldozed to the ground this week.

"Apparently they thought it was an eyesore," said Gazzera's father, who has the same name as his son.

There are no immediate plans for the lot on the corner of East Middlefield and Whisman Roads, Gazzera said. The property is zoned for commercial use.

"I imagine you will see a vacant lot for a long time," Gazzera said.

Asked if the city threatened legal action if the old building wasn't torn down, Gazzera gave a long pause before finally saying, "No comment." City Attorney Michael Martello couldn't be reached for comment by press time.

Posted by NW Parent, a resident of North Whisman
on Nov 21, 2008 at 9:40 am

Thanks for sharing your experience, QM about the gang members who tried to claim Devonshire Park as their turf. I also remember that not long after the park was dedicated in January 2007, the play structure was tagged with MVS graffiti in black Sharpie ink. This area has long been Norteno turf and I agree with you that re-opening an eyesore like Summerhill would invite gang activity back to that area.

The Wagon Wheel Neighborhood Association (WWNA) is actively working with the city to speak out on this issue, so look for a public meeting to be announced soon.

Posted by AG, a resident of North Whisman
on Nov 21, 2008 at 11:38 am

I was out for a walk a couple of years ago over by Summerhill Apartments and happened to have on a blue sweatshirt, jeans, a baseball hat, and sunglasses. I came around the corner and noticed a couple of seedy-looking people in a "low-rider" car giving me menacing looks.

Now it makes sense, NW Parent, when you mention that this was Norteno turf. They probably thought I was a member of the rival Sureno gang (whose gang-color is blue) until they noticed that I was just a neighbor out walking my dog.

Posted by Cynthia, a resident of North Whisman
on Nov 21, 2008 at 2:15 pm

I have seen the graffiti and wondered why the city tolerated the gangs in the Summerhill Apts. If we lived downtown in a McMansion, you can bet they would have done something about it. Most of the people in our neighborhood are decent and hard-working people. All we are asking is that we can raise our kids without fear of being attacked by thugs and that Devonshire park remains gang and drug free. If Summerhill is allowed to reopen, the city should be held accountable for the increase in gang-related crime. It'll be interesting to see whether the city cares even a little bit. I wish they read some of these comments-what a wake up call for all of us!

Posted by Betty, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Nov 21, 2008 at 4:22 pm

You all obviously did not appreciate the diversity of cultures that once inhabited the apartments. We should celebrate the diversity that high-density appartment dwelling attracts to Mountain View, even though most of it is the result of illegal immigration.

Posted by DAP, a resident of North Whisman
on Nov 21, 2008 at 4:37 pm


Our neighgorhood is rich with economically diverse families of multi-ethnic backrounds. If you read most of the comments, we are families with children and working class people. The main thing we object to is the disregard for the health and safety of the children who lived in such squallid conditions AND GANG RELATED CRIME. I'd invite you to take a look inside those apartments and see if your child would thrive in such filth. If you don't mind gang and drug "culture" perhaps the Summerhill should relocate to YOUR neighborhood!

Posted by S.P., a resident of North Whisman
on Nov 21, 2008 at 5:46 pm

I think Betty was just speaking tongue in cheek... I hope so anyway.

Posted by H.H., a resident of North Whisman
on Nov 23, 2008 at 2:13 pm


If your "diversity of cultures" means crime, drugs, gang activities, speedy cars, and unsafe environment, then yes, I don't appreciate it.

Posted by B. W., a resident of North Whisman
on Nov 23, 2008 at 10:10 pm

While we're on the topic of "speedy cars"... don't forget the broken down cars sitting up on cinder blocks either with their dead batteries sitting alongside on the sidewalk leaking acid into the drains that lead into the bay.

Posted by USA, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Nov 24, 2008 at 10:05 am

Mountain View has a higher percentage of people living in rentals than any other city in our area. We need more permanent residents, not more "affordable housing".

How about some high-density, row-house style SFR housing? The property owner could probably make that work financially if the city would zone it.

Posted by L.L, a resident of North Whisman
on Nov 24, 2008 at 7:45 pm

Please don't approve the apartment complex again. The city should seize the property immediately and do something useful with it.

Posted by A.S., a resident of North Whisman
on Nov 26, 2008 at 3:47 pm

Please demolish the Summerhill complex. It is an absolute eyesore and since it was evacuated, the neighborhood feels much safer.

Thanks, City of MV.

Posted by Cindy, a resident of North Whisman
on Nov 29, 2008 at 8:54 am

The Wagon Wheel Neighborhood Association has met with city representatives and hopes to have a public meeting sometime early 2009. This will be an opportunity for all of us to voice our concerns regarding the Summerhill projects. It seems the majority of the comments express the fear of the projects reopening. If we all join together and attend the meeting (s) perhaps the city will listen to us and reject the Summerhill reopening. Flyers will soon be distributed throughout our neighborhood with information on how we can improve our community. Surely there must be a better way to use this parcel of land!

Posted by USA, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 1, 2008 at 1:48 pm

Cindy -- Best of luck to you and your neighbors.

Posted by Red & Blue Killer !!, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 2, 2008 at 3:26 pm

That area has been a slum for over 20 years now. They need to tear it down or burn it , which ever comes first. That eye sore is the reason why the home values are so low for that area. Cause people are afraid to walk in their own neighborhood. They finally stepped up and did something with the vacant lot down the street and they need to do the same with that liquor store and Motel that rents people rooms so they can cook there Meth and pimp their girls out of the rooms. That area was starting to come back to life when that idiot "Slum-Lord" decides to try and rent the place out again !! Are you kidding me !! Torch the sh*t hole !!!!!! And another thing all you lame MV Norteno's and Sureno's are the BIGGEST phonys I have ever seen... you wouldn't last a single day in East L.A. Citizens of Mountain View rise up and take back what is yours !! I eat phony gang members for breakfast... I'm always at Whisman walking my dog I see you ... look for me... 6 Foot 225lb Brown on Brown Shaved Head... come heavy or don't come at all !!

Posted by Neighbor, a resident of North Whisman
on Dec 2, 2008 at 9:09 pm

It appears that people are already living in the Summerhill Apartments. There are now old mattresses out front, lights in the units are on and part of the parking lot on Evandale is now open and looks as though it's being used. It's a shame because it appears like a third world slum, with rats and vermin running in and around the place. I find it sad that anyone would think that this place, no matter how "fixed up" or even with paint slapped over the cracks, would be fit for human beings. Then again, maybe the owner and others don't think of the kind of people living there as human beings and will be willing to overlook safety hazards and health codes so that people can be packed in there again.

Posted by Another neighbor, a resident of North Whisman
on Dec 2, 2008 at 11:22 pm

There seems to be a case of some overactive imaginations going on here. Although I am not sorry that the Summerhill Apts will be closed (they were obviously overcrowded and are unsafe), I personaly never felt unsafe or intimidated in the 4 years I've lived in the area. Aside from the one criminal incident in 2007 (ironically directed against a resident of Summerhill, not one of the neighboring houses), were there any other major incidents? I parked my car on Devonshire Ave right next to the complex regularly (as did several of my neighbors) and my car was never broken into, even if left accidentally unlocked overnight. My house was never broken into, my wife was never accosted. My impression was that the vast majority of the people in the apartments were working several jobs to live there (and left for work very early to do so). People who work that hard don't have time to commit crimes. I also think it doubtful that the same people who had community birthday parties for the children in the apartments were also plotting to rob me blind and kill me in my sleep. And it was rarely that noisy (aside from those terrible childrens' parties). And as for traffic and speeding in the area, I find that the majority of the "bad" drivers ride in pretty nice cars, not beat up pickups and 10 year-sedans, as such traffic is now lighter but not slower. The lower population density is nicer, I agree, but let's not fool ourselves. It wasn't East Palo Alto or Cabrini Green. I don't see rats swarming around the complex (as some have described), and I routinely park near the apartments at night. As others have mentioned there are several other places in the area that are probably more dangerous.

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