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EDITORIAL: Council bets on high density rentals

Original post made on May 10, 2010

In the end, fears of traffic gridlock, impossible parking and an imposing, four-story facade did nothing to scare the City Council as they voted 5-2 last week to approve a 203-unit apartment complex on the Minton's Lumberyard site which sits across the street from the downtown train station.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, May 10, 2010, 1:10 PM

Comments (35)

Posted by Seamus, a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 10, 2010 at 2:21 pm

Nice summary. A couple of points, however:

1. "The OMV" group was really "MiRNA" or Minton's Redevelopment Neighborhood Alliance. That group spoke quite loudly for about 300 people living immediately adjacent to the neighborhood, out of a neighborhood of 3,400. Less than 10% of the neighborhood does not represent the entire population of that neighborhood. However, they organized well and took over the OMV Neighborhood Association Steering Committee to use it for the purpose of opposing the development on behalf of the entire neighborhood. In reality, opinion in the neighborhood ran closer to 50/50 on the matter, as evidenced by the show of support vs the show of opposition in Council chambers during the public hearing and deliberation. Councilmember Abe-Koga and Mayor Bryant, both residents of the neighborhood, concurred that neither opinion prevailed, but that opinion was closely divided. If Councilmember Siegel really believed that the entire nighborhood was opposed to this development, he was hoodwinked by MiRNA.

2. I'm not aware of any credible "reports that the site might be sold." This was a pipe dream of the MiRNA group and that group alone. This particular argument, spearheaded by Carter Coleman and Laura Lewis, was based on the fantasy that the city could force the Eaton's to sell. Turns out property owners in this country do have rights, among them to develop their property in whatever manner permitted by law. The project as approved meets that criteria.


Posted by Karen, a resident of Jackson Park
on May 10, 2010 at 2:59 pm

It will be interesting to see what the parking situation will be like. 20 years ago the streets near my house were almost empty. Now they are full of parked cars. Ditto for nearby apartments; there are many cars overflowing onto nearby city streets. Why? My guess is that people can't afford an apartment by themselves, so they are sharing the apartments with other folks who also have cars.

Mountain View used to be so strict with parking ordinances -- isn't that why The Old Mill closed in the 80's? Things have sure changed. It would be great if people did walk or bike or take the bus or train, but I fear the reality is that the streets will become more congested with parked vehicles.


Posted by Konrad M. Sosnow, a resident of another community
on May 10, 2010 at 4:02 pm

Once again the City Council has sent a message: Developers welcome, we will rubber stamp your projects; Residents, _ _ _ _ off, we don't care about you - shut up or leave!


Posted by BBQ, a resident of North Whisman
on May 10, 2010 at 5:04 pm

How could they force the Eatons to sell? Eminent domain? MiRNA might have liked that but I don't think it would go over so well with anybody else.


Posted by Old time resident, a resident of Castro City
on May 10, 2010 at 5:16 pm

We have the best city leaders that money can buy. The problem with politicians today is that when they are bought, they ought to stay bought!
A couple of years after this project is done, I bet we see parking meters and paid parking garages. Hey, we will be little L.A., with congestion and crime!
Shoppers will stay away from our downtown area the same way people avoid downtown San Jose, and for the same reasons.


Posted by Alfred, a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 10, 2010 at 5:28 pm

Note to the MV city council:
If you want to add 4,000 to 5,000 residences downtown, you better do something about Caltrain horn.
90 trains/day x 3 at grade crossings x 4 horns blows/crossing = 1,080 horn blows a day, from 5:30 am until 1:30 am
Not exactly a dream place to live!


Posted by Crazy Daze, a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 10, 2010 at 5:55 pm

When the high speed rail chews up 6 blocks of Castro, according to a recent post, then this will all be a tempest in a tea pot.


Posted by Local observer, a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 10, 2010 at 6:57 pm

I don't know how on earth Seamus could conclude "opinion in the neighborhood ran closer to 50/50 on the matter" based on the City council hearing. Like so many assertions in this whole issue, it looks like rhetoric to buttress Seamus's existing preference. (Many such assertions appeared, sometimes from people perfectly happy to directly contradict objective public data.)

The largest referendum open to all Old Mountain View neighborhood residents, and only to them, was the Steering Committee election late last year. That meeting filled the City Council chamber to overflowing, several times its usual population. Despite being forced to run as write-in candidates, challengers to the ballot slate from the pro-extreme-density 2009 Steering Committee won every seat they contested, by significant margins (63.6% to 34.4% in the case of the Chair).

That was the palpable "revolt" that councilman Siegel accurately cited, and some of his colleagues didn't appear to understand. To date, it was by far the largest test of this issue within Old Mountain View (though smaller-scale attempts to poll residents also found similar opposition to Prometheus's proposal, on various grounds). The smaller audience population at the final Council hearing, whose show of hands Seamus mentioned, was not limited to Old Mountain View or even Mountain View. Part of the flurry of the Council had received was from groups with ideological agendas, with organizers in other towns.

Many neighbors, including the "MiRNA" group (which doesn't include me) went on record as supporting the Prometheus project if it could make such moderate changes as a one-quarter reduction in its density (which also would eliminate the 4-story issue).


Posted by Bob, a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 10, 2010 at 8:45 pm

The saying "cutting off your nose to spite your face" comes to mind.
Adding 4,000 - 5,000 residents to the downtown area in order to create a more vibrant business environment, get a couple of 'destination retailers' and the holy grail of a grocery store, will in all likelihood significantly erode the very qualities of downtown that we've all come to appreciate.

To those that feel high density living is the right thing to do, that's fantastic, and I applaud you. You should find a high density residence and move in ASAP. The peninsula and east bay have plenty of existing options.

The Minton's/Prometheus project is a done deal, but let's not allow this to be the 'beginning of the end' for the town that we all love so much, and members of the City Council - don't let the demise of Mtn. View become your legacy.


Posted by Seamus, a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 11, 2010 at 1:10 am

The 50/50 observation comes from my own conversation with many residents in the neighborhood, as well as a mountain of input received by Councilmember Abe-Koga and Mayor Bryant.

Bottom line: 300 people cannot presume to speak for 3400 homes and close to 7000 residents. It's simply illogical.


Posted by bandage approach, a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 11, 2010 at 10:12 am

Turns out property owners in this country do have rights, among them to develop their property in whatever manner permitted by law. The project as approved meets that criteria.
Bottom line: 300 people cannot presume to speak for 3400 homes and close to 7000 residents. It's simply illogical.



When you purchase the vote you can make the law anything you wish. The whole process is disgusting and the city of Mountain View has lost all and any form of integrity and honesty if it had any to start with. This is the city staff I'm talking about. The City Council decision is purely finance based which is a insult to the community of Mountain View.
I visited the County of Santa Clara clerks office and the Court house. My goodness we have until May 30 to submit papers to the court on the idea the process and output is flawed beyond repair which it is. I have decided it best to move on to someplace less ugly.


Posted by Mike R, a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 11, 2010 at 10:16 am

The proponents of the project based their argument on higher density yet they have been unwilling to provide an estimate of the number people that would live in one and two bedroom apartments versus what would live in three and four bedroom homes. It seems that it would be at best 100 more residents in the apartments. It would take approximately 30 such projects (apartments instead of homes) to get to the downtown population increase desired by some council members.


Posted by Mike R, a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 11, 2010 at 10:27 am

> Bottom line: 300 people cannot presume to speak for 3400 homes and close to 7000 residents. It's simply illogical.

It's how America works. If you care, you show up and vote. The OMV election is the only concrete, formal example of for/against. You had to prove residency. Everything else is anecdotal. Folks showing up at meetings do not necessarily live in Mountain View.

> as well as a mountain of input received by Councilmember Abe-Koga and Mayor Bryant

What is this mountain of input? Are these letters and emails from anonymous persons? Perhaps from one person? Perhaps from a person or persons not living in Mountain View? How many such letters? Three-hundred perhaps? But this three-hundred somehow carries more weight than the 300 at the OMVNA election?

(btw - there was an informal door-to-door survey that indicated something like 96% against, 2% undecided, 2% for)


Posted by AC, a resident of another community
on May 11, 2010 at 7:45 pm

AC is a registered user.

I'm really starting to wonder... Am I the only person who loves Mountain View as the small city that it is, with no desire to watch it grow, but rather to remain the best place to live in the area?


Posted by Political Insider, a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 11, 2010 at 9:59 pm

"Whether Old Mountain View residents will pay the price, as they claimed in their strident opposition to the plan, won't be known for several years, when the project is completed. The OMV group strongly objected to a slightly lower parking requirement (1.5 vs. 1.8 spaces per unit) for the complex, fearing residents would park extra cars in their neighborhood."

As to support, for what it's worth, Prometheus gathered over 1000 signatures. It was clear the local neighborhood was divided. What was interesting was the fact that all staff reports and data were essentially ignored by the opposition because they didn't support their claims. The issues raised above were thoroughly investigated and it was clear the opposition was dishonest about the extent of the traffic and parking problems. The reports clearly showed the small impact of the project. The majority of council appeared to rely on staff for accurate information, once it was clear the opposition was less than honest and dismissive towards the data.

It's easy to sling cliche's at the council but this only reflects the lack of serious thought on the issue.


Posted by Local observer, a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 12, 2010 at 8:08 am

"300 people cannot presume to speak for 3400 homes and close to 7000 residents."

Um, ALL those homes and residents spoke. ALL were invited and entitled to attend the Steering Committee election after this issue became hot. ALL residents received written invitation to do so in the neighborhood newsletter, supplemented by signs and by the neighborhood email list some 500 households receive, where the subject was debated. Choice whether, and how, to vote, and responsibility for the result, was theirs alone.

"As to support, for what it's worth, Prometheus gathered over 1000 signatures. It was clear the local neighborhood was divided."

Um, Prometheus hired professional signature gatherers at incentives up to $5 per signature. They're on record soliciting signatures with lines like "This petition is for low income housing for the disabled and the elderly." Even to City officials. The signatures were gathered in public shopping areas outside Old Mountain View. This has no possible connection to the "divided" neighborhood opinion.

You can argue eloquenly that war is peace, freedom is slavery, and black is white. You can even believe it. That doesn't make it true, but it does show how you think.


Posted by Political Insider, a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 12, 2010 at 11:10 am

LO, The statement on the petition was crystal clear. What difference does it make if they paid someone to get signatures. As Mr. Tuttle stated a significant proportion were from OMVN. My point is that a few upset people with poor arguments does not make for good decision making. Public input is more about letting council members posture and show they are concerned, and not about good decision making. All of the data was public, the opponents just chose to ignore it ( like this editorial did).


Posted by Local observer, a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 12, 2010 at 1:08 pm

Um, when you pay touts incentives to gather signatures, and they're observed making all sorts of misleading appeals, do you seriously believe they stop and caution everyone to read the attached text before signing? More eyewitness testimony:

'The petition gatherer says they have a goal of 1500 signatures, after which they will be able to force Mountain View to let them build the buildings. "After all, it's just Mountain View. You don't need many signatures." ... The guys out there this morning were much less motivated that one of the guys yesterday, who was shouting "help us rezone to build a green sustainable growth building with affordable housing." ' [That was after the court decision declaring that builders didn't need to, and Prometheus reps had said they might not.]

That petition was no neutral poll requesting yes or no votes. It was paid ammunition to pressure the city, per the gatherer's frank remark. The sole referendum open to all of Old Mountain View was the neighborhood election, whose result was a landslide. (I don't know what about that simple reality is unclear. Again, arguing contrary to reality says less about reality than about you.)


Posted by Political Insider, a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 12, 2010 at 2:02 pm

What's the point here. Same arguments can apply when you ask friends to sign a petition. Who's to say whose petition is better? Using terms like "force", 'paid ammunition" is just pure silly. It's why decision making should not be done as a popularity council. Even your alleged referendum is a limited sample of the entire neighborhood. I live there and my feeling was that people were upset about the current board supporting the project without adequate input. You didn't see the new board take a new opposing position and perhaps that would have caused another uproar.

The simple reality is that Prometheus gathered more signatures and had more addresses from OMVN than MIRNA supporting the project. You can spin that reality all you want with speculation as you suggest above.


Posted by Political Pork, a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 12, 2010 at 2:11 pm

The issues raised above were thoroughly investigated and it was clear the opposition was dishonest about the extent of the traffic and parking problems. The reports clearly showed the small impact of the project.

The CEQA Initial Study was so Flawed the consultant stated it works for INFILL, LOL, Which does not require analysis. The data was not collected it was from a data cookbook. The study did not relect reality and was based on what the city staff wanted. It was purchased and written to make the project sucessful not relate the impact rather the method of how to make it a non-issue. The initial report was so flawed if was rejected by the EPC as non-informative and biased by not considering the current zoning regulations at all.

The public knows who voted YES. I know who I will not vote for again.


Posted by Political Insider, a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 12, 2010 at 9:52 pm

Pure nonsense PP. Data was collected and actual counts were used to confirm that the city base traffic rates were already too high and lower numbers should have been used. The study did reflect reality since it used real sample data for traffic and parking counts. It's all in the report. EPC did not reject the report, they just ignored the data and conclusions just like you did. Bottom line, no significant traffic impact on the outgoing traffic patterns. NO ONE had provided evidence to dispute these findings.

The developer did pay for the study but the city picked the consultant. Easy to make claims, but difficult to ignore the real data in the report.


Posted by Ideology is in the eye of the beholder, a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 12, 2010 at 11:13 pm

One of the commenters above dismisses some of the input received by the Council as coming from groups with 'ideological agendas', and in past message boards on this project I've seen others claim people who supported the project were supporting 'social engineering' in the neighborhood.

Well, ideology or social engineering are in the eye of the beholder. Many of the project opponents made it very clear through this process that they look down upon rental housing (and perhaps the people who might live in it)... They made wildly exaggerated claims about the project, calling a 2 to 4-story building 'ultra high density' or claiming that this one project will somehow mean the demise of Old Mountain View or the city itself. They read traffic reports showing negligible impacts on traffic no matter how you calculate it (assuming Minton's is occupied or unoccupied) and claim the neighborhood will be gridlocked regardless.

This is ideology, too, and the kind that can prevent healthy debate or positive change from happening. And as for social engineering? Well, it's also social engineering to put arbitrarily low caps on density when the market will clearly support higher-density living -- caps that, if left unchanged, would lead us to only build row houses with 3+ bedrooms and 2 parking spaces when many would happily live differently -- if we only would let them. It's social engineering to insist that a project provide parking at suburban tract house rates when not all need or want to live that way. And it's social engineering to take acres of downtown land -- publicly owned and maintained land that could be used for other more productive purposes -- and devote it to free parking for all.

All of this is in the eye of the beholder. I'm glad that our Council on the whole looked past the 'ideological agenda' or 'social engineering' arguments of the opponents in their decision on the project.


Posted by PlsRuinMyBackyard, a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 13, 2010 at 12:52 pm

I think we are down to a religious argument:

On one side, we have folks like Political Insider(Aaron Grossman) who wants to jam as many people in a small an area as possible in order to save the world. This is the Ultra-High-Density religion.

On the other side, we have people that are willing to tolerate high-density projects like 25 homes/acre in order to preserve *some* of the character of the 8 homes/acre neighborhood. This is the High-Density religion.

Ultra-high density proponents also used the loaded term "Smart Growth". Unfortunately, this has permeated State & County staff, which is then influencing City Staff to comply. City Staffers are under great pressure to comply and will 'assist' councils in complying as well.

This is a question that needs to be asked of future Council Members--"Which religion do you follow?" Ultra-high density or High Density??


Posted by Political Insider, a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 14, 2010 at 11:16 am

Great comments by Ideology. I thought the rebuttal letter from the Mayor in today's Voice was appropriate. All of us have an ideology we believe in and use to inform us. What was disappointing in this discussion was the failure of some to move beyond and support the project after staff addressed ALL of the issues.

Comments like "City Staffers are under great pressure to comply and will 'assist' councils in complying as well" are just silly. I have met some of the staff members on other issues and they are professional in their approach to present the best information for council.


Posted by Political Pork, a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 14, 2010 at 5:40 pm

Pure Pork Political outsider

The initial report did not collect numbers it used estimates from a traffic study book. The EPC rejected the report as it did not reflect reality and did not take into account the current zoning regulations. The EPC requested the staff conduct a study that was very limited in scope and did little to include traffic and parking that surround the area.

Guess where I tried to park for lunch today, at the new site for low cost housing which is NOW a Caltrain overflow lot that was full.

was this included in the study???? NO it was NOT. The consultant noted why, The study is good for INFILL projects that pass without issue.

The city staff is useless and corrupt as is yourself

You can rah rah all you like with the any notion you believe and even use the applicants presentation as your own with the fabricated reality story. Hey look at the new MATH you take the world population and add a few more at the Mintons redevelopment and the outcome is really nothing at all.

I know who I will not be voting for this is for sure.


Posted by Voting, a resident of another community
on May 14, 2010 at 6:18 pm

Prometheus's Requests for
Variances: How City Council Voted
Mayor Ronit Bryant Yes
Vice Mayor Jac Siegel No
Margaret Abe-Koga Yes
Laura Macias No
Tom Means Yes
John Inks Yes
Mike Kasperzak Yes

Next election cycle for
Mayor Ronit Bryant NO
Margaret Abe-Koga NO
Tom Means NO
John Inks NO
Mike Kasperzak NO

Get the political special interest pork barrel crowd and send them packing.


Posted by Political Insider, a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 14, 2010 at 9:28 pm

Pure nonsense PP. Shows you didn't read the report. As to parking , there is plenty if you live in he neighborhood like I do and you know where to go. You are not unlucky, just inept.


Posted by Poltiical Pork, a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 15, 2010 at 8:09 am

[Portion removed due to disrespectful comment or offensive language] Political outsider
I read the report and spoke with the consultants myself.
You and your kind cannot accept critical review and play make belief.

You spoke you supported the project no matter the impact, to get the end result by any means even by outright fraud and deception meets with your approval. You cannot even create your own charts.

The people of Mountain View will not forget this insult to reasonable thinking.

Keep digging the hole.


Posted by Political Insider, a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 15, 2010 at 5:29 pm

Nice try PP. Name calling is not critical review. Never said I supported the project no matter what the impact. Most of your comments are non-denial and evasive. So what if you spoke with the consultant. Doesn't mean you read the report and know what's in it.

"The people of Mountain View will not forget this insult to reasonable thinking. Keep digging the hole."

Keep talking. I really dont need to think hard to reply to this line of reasoning.


Posted by Political Pork, a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 16, 2010 at 10:31 am

Political outsider
[Portion removed due to disrespectful comment or offensive language] This is just like the members of the council who will be voted out of office.

The initial report was flawed beyond reason to continue with the notion the MND was reasonable and it assumed all impacts can be mitigated. The only party in denial of reality is you. The scheduled was pushed and the report was rubber stamped as good. The record speaks for itself.


Posted by Political Insider, a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 16, 2010 at 12:51 pm

"The record speaks for itself." At least you agree with me on this.



Posted by Political Pork, a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 16, 2010 at 4:10 pm

It appears we read the record a bit different.

Fraud and contempt for the law is what you call it.

The whole process is nothing more then snafu by any standard. Your nothing more then a cheerleader for the city because they fund your radios and CERT garbage.


Posted by Andrea Gemmet, Mountain View Voice Editor
on May 16, 2010 at 7:55 pm

Andrea Gemmet is a registered user.

Keep it civil, or I'm shutting this down. Name-calling violates this site's terms of use.


Posted by Political Insider, a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 16, 2010 at 8:52 pm

Andrea,

Seems to me if he refers to himself as pork, then I should be able to refer to him as a P**.

PI


Posted by no one listening, a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 18, 2010 at 6:40 pm

Thank you editor

once again
Political Insider(Aaron Grossman) {not from my post}
It way off tangent and nothing more then a person who, because of political favor, supports the city even if the city process is not within legal bounds of the legislative laws. Then that itself ignores the law, with known Fraud votes in false dates for the project start and approval at a hearing.

Then he is wonders why we(the people of MV) do not support the Mayor. What a JOKE!

eod


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