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Merlone-Geier Asks City for Shared Parking for San Antonio Center

Original post made by Jim Neal, Old Mountain View, on May 14, 2014

In what has to be one of the strangest twists yet in the shared parking saga for the San Antonio Center project, Merlone Geier will be going before the Zoning Administrator today at 4pm to request shared parking ( Web Link )

However, they are not asking for shared parking for The Milk Pail, but instead are asking for a portion of the parking associated with Phase II to be re-allocated instead to Phase I! (Which happens to be suffering a severe parking shortage).

Amazingly, staff is actually recommending that the permit be granted! I find this hard to believe since the Council and almost every other City Staff person interviewed keeps saying that the city can't get involved in these issues. If the City treated MG the same way they treat the Milk Pail, they would tell MG "We're sorry but you don't have enough parking so we'll have to shut you down".

I strongly recommend that everyone who can, send email to the City Council and the Community Development Department telling them to reject this application unless the shared parking includes the spaces necessary for the Milk Pail. Here are the email addresses:

If possible you should also show up at today's meeting to make your voice heard. The meeting details are below:

4:00PM TODAY (5/14/2014) City Hall
500 Castro St
Plaza Conference Room
(2nd floor)

Jim Neal
Candidate, Mountian View City Council
Web Link

Comments (17)

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Posted by XX
a resident of Bailey Park
on May 14, 2014 at 10:08 am

The [gentleman] doth protest too much, methinks.

Jim, whereas it's kinda nice that you keep your eye on EVERYTHING the City does (and report back publicly), when you make too much of a non-issue, it reflects more on you than, say, a perceived hypocritical city action.

If you had your way, the temporary permit for the temporary parking would vanish and the diners who enjoy the new restaurants (for there are plenty..the places are always full) would have to consume parking meant for WalMart and other establishments. In this fashion, the special permit keeps the phase one customers in the new development's area.

In this situation, we're talking about land use for the owner of the property. The Milk Pail, as unfortunate as it may be, doesn't own the adjacent land and has no legal rights to it. If you owned a driveway, and wanted to to cover it with some kind of structure that required a permit, would you be upset if the City didn't offer you a permit for the construction of that shelter on your land? Essentially, you're asking the City to deny the petitioner a permit for their own property, a reasonable request to be sure. And I think you're doing it to make a point that the Milk Pail should get equal treatment. Only they are getting equal treatment. They have the right, presently, to use someone else's land for their customers. Until that land use changes (it will) or unless some kind of negotiated deal between the two property owners is reached.

Where do you fall on property rights? Do you think a "big" government is better; a government that decides for you? Based on your other public comments, I'd think that you are not for that. So this is indeed a weird argument for you to make.

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Posted by MVResident67
a resident of Cuesta Park
on May 14, 2014 at 10:37 am

So...did the developer request approval from the city for the development claiming that the parking planned for the development was adequate, except now - after the fact - the developer would like to change the parking deal it negotiated with the city (which was no small part of the approval process) because they miscalculated their parking needs?

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Posted by Silver Lining
a resident of Bailey Park
on May 14, 2014 at 10:38 am

...he does have a great hat though.

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Posted by XX
a resident of Bailey Park
on May 14, 2014 at 10:46 am

Not knowing the answer to @MVResident67's question, I'm going to assume something. This may be completely wrong...take it for what it's worth.

But there is PLENTY of parking in Phase I...I think most people either don't realize or don't want to take advantage of the rooftop parking over the Safeway. I think this recent request is to formalize what people are already doing: parking in the unpermited spots that are near the construction trailer...which in turn are much closer to the restaurants. These spots certainly are more convenient than walking all the way from in front of Safeway (which I've done...and it really isn't that far!).

This simply doesn't smell like a consipracy. Bigger fish to fry in Mountain View. Next issue, please!

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Posted by Jim Neal
a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 14, 2014 at 11:01 am

Jim Neal is a registered user.

@XX -- Thank you for your comments and you do make some good points. However, I think there are a few things missing:

For example, the temporary permit is only temporary insofar as if Phase II is denied (which is very unlikely), then MG must build additional parking. Otherwise the parking can be permanently reassigned to Phase I.

Also, yes MG does own the land in both cases (Phase 1 and Phase 2). However, there is still that pesky San Antonio Precise Plan from 1989 that is still in effect that mandates that all developments must share parking cooperatively with existing property owners. (Not too much wiggle room there).

Lastly, the Milk Pail was allowed to expand under the 1989 San Antonio Precise Plan shared parking arrangement. If the city wanted each and every owner to have their own individual parking, then they should have said so at the time. The Milk Pail expanded in good faith and now is being punished for the Council's lack of foresight. The Milk Pail owner owns his property. How is any of this fair to him when he followed the rules and is now in danger of losing his business for having done so? The effect as I see it, is that the City is taking his business and his property to give to someone else by changing the rules after the fact.

If the Milk Pail had deliberately violated the parking rules and then got caught out, I would be the last person trying to save it. But if this is allowed to proceed, how can any small business be assured that they won't be forced to close just because a bigger, better opportunity for the City comes along? When it comes to property rights, my rule is "Treat everyone fairly". MG surely knew about the shared parking requirement when they started these projects, so they shouldn't be able to complain if the city enforces it.

Thanks for the giving me the opportunity to extend my comments.

Jim Neal
Candidate, Mountain View City Council
Web Link

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Posted by XX
a resident of Bailey Park
on May 14, 2014 at 11:54 am last comment and then it's back to my day job. LOL

With respect to a temporary permit becoming permanent (in this case and in this case only) what's the big deal? If Phase II comes to a screeching halt for whatever reasons, then the propery will sit dormant for some time. That parking will be necessary for the already established businesses.

But the thing I want to respond to most of all is this quote from you (Jim): "The Milk Pail expanded in good faith and now is being punished for the Council's lack of foresight."

Firstly, let me establish that I HOPE the Milk Pail is able to resolve its present challenges and stays in Mountain View. Their situation isn't all that unique. La Costena is/was my favorite burrito place in town. They had a situation where they needed to move due to a development. They did. Their new facility is so much better than their former. I drive a little further than I used to to buy their product, but I will continue to do so because it's superior to many other choices (that, and I'm a loyal customer). I suspect that Milk Pail's loyal customers will do the same if they eventually move locations. I further suspect that they will attract new customers too.

But this lack of foresight, you say. I'm concerned about this claim that previous council had a lack of foresight. You may be entirely correct, there is no real way of knowing. But if you were on that council at that time, would you have envisioned this scenario playing out? I would claim you would not. And even if you had, how would you have addressed it then? How would you have convinced the other 6 council members to change thier vote?

You wish to be a council member. How will you avoid having a "lack of foresight" for every issue? This is a rhetorical question because you can't. No one can. You can try your best to think things through...and then life happens. Things change. To go back and cast aspersions on a prior council that Milk Pail's current predicament could have been avoided is to miss all the other alternatives that could have played out. It's just a silly statement that doesn't mean anything and it attempts to present you in a more positive light.

Anyway, time for me to do other things. Good day to you!

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Posted by @XX
a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 14, 2014 at 12:52 pm

Comparing Milk Pail with La Costena is ridiculous. Milk Pail OWNS their property. If they move to a new location by purchasing property, then their tax assessment will skyrocket. They will have to raise prices and probably lose a good deal of customers reliant on this. Or, they could rent from the developer (Merlone), which was offered. Of course at a high rent, which would raise prices. Also, there is a unique feel to the property that he wouldn't be allowed to duplicate, because Merlone wants a certain slick look and feel. The open air european style market would not be allowed.

I hope Milk Pail is allowed to persist at their location. If they are forced to close, I hope that Steve holds onto that land forever and frustrates that greedy developer that refuses to honor the precise plan for San Antonio.

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Posted by Concerned Resident
a resident of Cuesta Park
on May 14, 2014 at 12:55 pm

The point of the request for additional parking is that the developer was given approval of a plan (Phase I) which allowed the development of so many restaurants etc that the parking is inadequate. So it is the job of the City Council to have foresight and say that if a developer wants X square footage that reaps rent checks every month, is the parking really adequate or should the developer be told to scale back and get less rent but more parking? The parking requirements are based upon formulas per sq. footage of developed space. Every developer wants the maximum amount of development and the minimum amount of parking to maximize profits each and every month. No one is saying that is a crime, but at what cost to the community (overflow parking taking spaces elsewhere, pollution from cars circling and idling waiting for a space etc) and the viability of the businesses that get locked into long term leases regardless of the ability of customers to park there?

It is the job of the Council to ask such questions and be skeptical of a developer's plans. For example, the mixed use project at 801 El Camino (at Castro)has undergone approximately dozen changes because of density and common sense problems which the developer failed to address such as the lack of space for a moving van or even a garbare truck for 175 rental apts (!), no loading dock for the businesses that were to remain (Rose Market, Peets etc.) with only one way in and out for trucks and cars to go...etc.

If the Council approves a plan without considering the impact on the development as a whole, the adequacy of parking, open space, surrounding neighborhood and the quality of life when a developer is allowed to design apartments and businesses using every possible square foot, they have not done their job. Who else is responsible for asking these questions?

Now, the developer wants flexibility regarding parking to as a direct benefit which ensures the success of the businesses which pay rent BUT refuses to do the same for the Milk Pail. Now it is again the job of the City Council to ask about the impact on the community when a developer wants consideration which benefits its bottom line but refuses any such benefit to the community by giving a few parking spaces to the Milk Pail.

Name one large scale commercial parcel in Mtn. View where you cannot park near one store and shop at another. Shared parking is a public benefit. Food is public benefit. Successful businesses are a public benefit.

The job of the City Council is to communicate that to each and every developer and act accordingly.

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Posted by XXX
a resident of another community
on May 14, 2014 at 5:49 pm

"Also, yes MG does own the land in both cases (Phase 1 and Phase 2). However, there is still that pesky San Antonio Precise Plan from 1989 that is still in effect that mandates that all developments must share parking cooperatively with existing property owners. Lastly, the Milk Pail was allowed to expand under the 1989 San Antonio Precise Plan shared parking arrangement. If the city wanted each and every owner to have their own individual parking, then they should have said so at the time."

If what you say is true, why did the MP negotiate a lease to rent parking from a nearby property owner? Your reading of the agreement fails to understand that all owners must share their parking but still must provide their own adequate parking. As it stands now there will always be shared parking
under MG phase II with MP. What the city is requiring of the MP is that they provide their own sufficient parking to share. Otherwise what are they offering to share? This means MP will have to enter into a similar agreement with MG who will set a lot higher price for the MP. I dont see a solution to this problem since MG can set whatever price they want and MP can refuse any reasonable offer.

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Posted by Jim Neal
a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 14, 2014 at 7:54 pm

Jim Neal is a registered user.

@XXX -- The good thing is, you don't have to take my word for it. You can read the 1989 San Antonio Center Precise Plan for yourself. You can find it on the City's website. Also, I never said the shared parking is without cost. Then there is the fact that when the Milk Pail tried to buy a property that would have given it enough parking, MG bought it to prevent MP from staying. Nice huh? Happy reading!

Jim Neal
Candidate, Mountain View City Council
Web Link

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Posted by Steve
a resident of another community
on May 15, 2014 at 3:13 pm

The specifics of the 'temporary' waiving of the rules are perhaps unimportant. It's just another example of a developer promising anything to get their OK, but never expecting to be held to those promises. It's time to change the city's business model to work for the citizens instead of city staff.

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Posted by Steven Nelson
a resident of Cuesta Park
on May 16, 2014 at 10:33 am

Concerned Resident of Cuesta Park has some very good public planning insights. I know the tradeoffs (for instance on Castro near Graham School) can sometimes be unexpected. Good planning - and precise, detailed oversight (by a citizen like Neal or the EPC, or council) can catch major goofs early. Develop and sell - and leave the problems to the neighbors is one of those 'the price of liberty..' costs. Some, but not complete liberty on how to use your property, some, but not complete ability to do community protection. I'm always impressed when I see gov. bodies (like the Parks & Rec Comm.) do that balancing act well, and in public!

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Posted by mom
a resident of Monta Loma
on May 16, 2014 at 10:43 am

Trying to park near the burger place is almost impossible. Have parked in the Safeway and Chili's lots in order to eat there. Would have never given it a second thought before, but with all this "that's mine, and this is yours" fighting over parking in that complex, I now wonder if I'm going to get towed by not parking in the right place. How am I supposed to know which businesses are owned by MG and if I'm in the right parking spot for that business? You should be able to park anywhere you want in that complex for any business. And if you they want me to park in certain spots for the burger joint, they need to make it clear (and then build more spots for it so I don't have to walk over from Chili's).

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Posted by Finally
a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 20, 2014 at 2:57 pm

Jim Neal is a breath of fresh air in this over heated political climate. He speaks plainly and in a straight forward member. Only one of the current city council members can claim to be as honest.

That's why I am voting for Jim Neal this fall!

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Posted by Abby Dasher
a resident of Cuesta Park
on May 20, 2014 at 3:24 pm

...and he's got a big hat!

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Posted by p
a resident of The Crossings
on May 20, 2014 at 4:03 pm

As much as I was hoping they would redevelop San Antonio Center, I never wanted to see the thing we got. The drawings presented did not accurately depict the bare walls, doors, ducting and service entrances that face El Camino, nor did they show the way the buildings would be so close to the streets. It's ugly and dangerous, since it is hard to see around the corners while driving. I am very disappointed. Once the Safeway in Los Altos reopens, I will seldom be forced to deal with the mess that has been created there.

Milk Pail is the one thing there that I will continue to support for as long as possible. I am disappointed with MG and their treatment of Milk Pail, as well as the City Council's actions in this area. Couple that with the failure of the city to address the problem they are causing with school overcrowding by their version of "planning" and we have a disaster brewing.

Thanks for keeping your eye on these guys, Jim. You have my vote.

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Posted by YYXX
a resident of Blossom Valley
on May 21, 2014 at 1:09 pm

@XX says the City Council should not limit MG's use of their property in support of the Milk Pail. Well, since the council screwed up originally by either not adhering to the former Precise Plan or requiring MG to provide shared parking to preserve the Milk Pail. Does anyone actually think MG would have pulled out of the deal if required to share parking? Not likely. Well, this is an opportunity to remedy that mistake. If MG is asking for a concession from the city, it's perfectly reasonable and appropriate for the City to ask for a concession from MG in return. Approve the request with the stipulation that MG must agree to a long term shared parking arrangement with Milk Pail.

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