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Trees axed for $1.6 million condos

Original post made on Apr 27, 2012

The loss of two cedar trees nearly killed a plan for five, $1.6 million condos which the City Council narrowly approved Tuesday for a downtown portion of California Street.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, April 27, 2012, 12:39 PM

Comments (19)

Posted by mv dad, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Apr 27, 2012 at 2:51 pm

Did a tree expert inspect these trees? Although I love old trees, at our house a huge, old cedar tree had to be cut down. One morning with no warning, not a windy day, a gigantic limb fell in our front yard. Thankfully it did not crash into the roof or fall when kids were out playing. The tree inspector explained that those type cedar trees get to an age where they are very vulnerable to snapping limbs (or even tops). He said that the tree was not safe to have over the house given the age of the tree. Neighbors later told us that they had the same type cedar tree and years ago the entire top 1/3rd of the tree snapped and fell over their house, landing on their back fence. It too (obviously) had to be removed.


Posted by David, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 27, 2012 at 4:32 pm

The City Council seems prone, by a small majority of one, to favor development over preservation of neighborhood character and the small, perhaps intangible and silent touches that lend grace and joy to our daily existence.

Isn't it time for the Council to develop a rational plan to replace the one they completely abandoned when they permitted the high-rise boxy Evelyn Ave apartment complex to be built by Prometheus, and the four other huge projects for Prometheus? I don't think the incremental additions to the property tax rolls will make up for costs in services, education, etc, but we can only guess without seeing the balance sheets. And again, think of the loss to peace, character, aesthetics, environment and neighborliness brought by rampant development.


Posted by Sepi, a resident of North Whisman
on Apr 27, 2012 at 4:36 pm

City for sale. We got four growth-besotted city council members who will vote your way every time. Come one come all. Build here. Cut down trees. Cram in your one bedroom apartments, five-story tall buildings. DIg deep for underground parking garages stacking cars two high.

I say: follow the money. Who is benefiting? Why does City Council roll over again and again for development?


Posted by Hardin, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Apr 27, 2012 at 5:13 pm

"Isn't it time for the Council to develop a rational plan to replace the one they completely abandoned when they permitted the high-rise boxy Evelyn Ave apartment complex to be built by Prometheus, and the four other huge projects for Prometheus?"

-------------------------

Not sure what you mean here. The City has developed a both a rational master plan and precise plans that are consistent with the types of projects Prometheus is building, in the areas located. I'm not aware of any changes to the zoned density requirements that were made in order for Prometheus to build what they have been proposing.

Web Link

In addition, Mountain View has been very inclusive in inviting the public to provide feedback on developing the Master Plan. I attended one of the workshops held at City Hall where members of the public were presented with the options for the Master Plan, and encouraged to break up into brainstorming groups to evaluate those options and provide input, with the City's planning consultant facilitating these activities.

With the recent announcements to build higher density housing in North Bayshore and on El Camino Real, it appears that the City is beginning implementation of what was agreed to.


Posted by Garrett, a resident of another community
on Apr 27, 2012 at 7:07 pm

I saw this project on the City website, looks pretty well designed, looks more like single family homes on a parking garage. People will spend money on homes that are well designed, that blend in to the area, style, and knowing that it is close to downtown I will see people buying these. Take pictures or maybe offer the homes that are their for free, move them to some empty lot in Mtn View, that might help. On the trees maybe had building give out gift cards so the city can be replace trees and plant them thoughtout the city. Or how about trees for the Cuesta annex seeing that it was a fruit orchard, or how about a butterfly garden


Posted by Jack Perkins, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 27, 2012 at 9:20 pm

I hate Cedar Trees


Posted by Ben, a resident of Monta Loma
on Apr 28, 2012 at 1:04 pm

We need to replace those council members that have not realized that the whole area is overdeveloped which is causing more traffic congestion and environmental problems. They are sure to get more developer campaign funds to run for higher offices and create more high rise development.

Ben


Posted by garrett, a resident of another community
on Apr 28, 2012 at 6:43 pm

I don't know what a high rise is to most people, but a 3 story to 5 story building is kinda of smart in places. Or we can building on hills, farmland, or on the baylands.


Posted by echow, a resident of Blossom Valley
on Apr 30, 2012 at 7:10 am

Are Heritage Trees special? How special? Why bothered to classify some trees to be the heritage of the city, then turn around and cut them down because some developer requires it? Does Mountain View have more heritage for sale? Is the City Council supposed to preserve the heritage of the city, or to serve any developer comes our way?

This sets a great precedence for future developers who require unusual building conditions. Come to Mountain View, the city is for sale. For here any development plan is fine with the City Council if the price is right!


Posted by Day Worker, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 30, 2012 at 8:04 am

Forget building another drive-thru fast food chain (Chick-fil-a) to curb air pollution and traffic congestion.
The city council however, will sell their souls to increase bigger revenue by building overpriced, unaffordable, high density housing.
Old trees? Who cares, chop them down. It wasn't generating enough revenue anyway.


Posted by Fran, a resident of Blossom Valley
on Apr 30, 2012 at 9:27 am

mv dad:

Funny how the city inspector only tells you about the danger of cedar trees once they've fallen. Are cedar trees even natural to this area?
One would think that if the city were so concerned with cedar or heritage tress it would make more of an effort to be proactive. As is currently stands the city either just reacts to an event involving trees or sells them to developers. Why then even have a city inspector inspecting trees? It all seems like a revenue making system and little more.


Posted by parent, a resident of Waverly Park
on Apr 30, 2012 at 10:28 am

The "heritage tree" ordinance is a joke. The city has decided that trees of a certain size are "special" but the routinely gives the green light to developers who find them to be in their way.

AND the worst part is after the McMansion goes up and is sold, the developer is long gone, and no one has replanted the tree. This rule about replacing heritage trees is not often enforced, in my view.


Posted by Andrea Gemmet, Mountain View Voice Editor
on Apr 30, 2012 at 2:25 pm

Andrea Gemmet is a registered user.

The following comments have been moved from a duplicate thread, which has now been closed:

The City of Mountain View is no longer a place of which I am a proud resident. I moved here in 1976, after commuting 9 years from San Jose, to my workplace, Awalt High School–now Mountain View High School. As a high school art teacher, I was attracted to the politics of the city, as well as the surrounding beauty of the landscape, and was happy to call this town my beloved home. It has been painful over the years, to see landmarks like The Ferry Morse Seed Company torn down, the orchards ripped out for housing for our ever expanding and uncontrolled population girth, and the last farm on Grant Road turned into another developer's greedy cash cow. As a complacent resident, bowing to progress, I have come to realize that I am no longer comfortable living in Mountain View. I am no longer proud of this city, and in fact, rather disgusted with our city council. Now, removing Heritage Trees to build condos–and notice the headline always has to mention the $$–completely breaks my heart. I agree with council member Ronit Bryant, that the message is clear: We've got the land, you've got the money. Come spend it in Mountain View. We even kill our Heritage Trees for your future dollars. Is this the best Mountain View can do to sustain our future? Karen Koshgarian
by Karen Koshgarian Apr 27, 2012 at 1:55 pm


Also, we should get rid of those horse-less carriage thingys, and all those cell phone thingys. Walking and yelling at each other was good enough for a million years, how can you justify changing that?
by Gene Cavanaugh Apr 29, 2012 at 7:55 am


Posted by oldabelincoln, a resident of Blossom Valley
on Apr 30, 2012 at 3:55 pm

I'm sick of watching the City Council make decisions like this.

What's the point of having a Heritage Tree ordinance that is not enforced or exceptioned to death? What's the point of living here if the city changes beyond recognition? This one fight is minor, but it's typical of the ongoing issue of development in the city.

As to cedars, per se, of course they can drop limbs on people, houses, cars, and whatever else is under them. Any tree will do that under the right conditions. If you have a tree on your property with large limbs, hire a certified arborist to check it out - there are many such in the area.

As to our beloved City Developers, er, Councilors, November is coming, and ballots are your weapon. Let's get rid of this repulsive bunch who never met a developer they didn't like.

Means is thankfully termed out, but unfortunately, so is Macias.

Kasperzak and Inks are running again, presumably to do more work that will please developers. Let's get rid of these guys, and Abe-Koga as well, who pretty much votes pro developer quite often.

Let's take Mountain View back from the deep pockets developers. Watch out who you vote for - Inks ran initially as something of an environmentalist!


Posted by Garrett, a resident of another community
on Apr 30, 2012 at 10:14 pm

As for the trees get the builder to replace them around the project. Now for the other point of view, the Silicon Valley is going thur a boom, jobs are being created but not enough housing. You only have so many places to build, you either build up the density, build out, or just let people move further and further out to a point where relocating because a matter of choice. I have nothing against making money, companies or Google. The problem is as people in the area are making more and more money, they want to buy or rent in a tight market. So tight that if you get more buyers then homes, the person with the most will win, Free Market. A store manager, teacher, police officer, plumber, welder, CEO, lawyer, fund manager, a tech worker who has done well with a IPO and the other tech worker who hasn't. You have 10 people looking for a house and only 3 units, who do you think will get the 3 units that are for Sale. Don't forget about the nurse, the waiter, the city clerk, the young married couple transferred from someone else, the repair guy from the garage, truck driver, the baker, the business owner, artist who has done well, doctor and loan officer. So well you think about trees and the density, think who gets in and gets to stay out.


Posted by Hardin, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Apr 30, 2012 at 10:14 pm

A quick Google search shows the heritage tree ordinance for Mountain View is a little more nuanced than many here believe it to be.

Web Link

If you read it, you'll see that many of these trees are on private property, and that a review is conducted to determine what steps will be taken to protect the tree.

Preserving a tree in place is only one of many options for a heritage tree. Other options exist, including paying a fee for planting another tree elsewhere to offset the environmental effects of tree removal. This is routinely done with endangered species that reside on land that is valuable for development; land elsewhere can be purchased to offset the loss. The burrowing owl near Google facilities is another example of this.

Also, judging from the architect's rendering of the proposed condominiums, these look like wonderful additions to the immediate vicinity, matching the character, style, and relative density of the neighborhood. These aren't McMansions, or high density apartments.

Finally, a quick look on Zillow.com shows a $1.6M price tag for a luxury home with underground garage is on the high side, but not unreasonably out of the range of some of the existing homes in the immediate area.

Web Link

Not sure why all the knashing of teeth, seems a knee-jerk reaction to any development in this City, sensible or otherwise.



Posted by echow, a resident of Blossom Valley
on May 3, 2012 at 12:37 am

Can the City Council declare that the protection of the city heritage is NOT one of its responsibilities? It takes a long time to have a tree grow to be 18" or 23" in diameter, be it heritage or not. I dare say it has more 'heritage' in these trees than any one of you who willingly, or wouldn't mind to have it cut down mindlessly.

'Heritage Trees' aside, not long ago three magnificent conifers were being cut down to make room to build a Walgreen's on El Camino and El Monte where a TOGO's sandwich shop used to be. Long time Mountain Viewers would remember the joy of having a peaceful, cooling lunch time sitting under those trees, even in the hottest summer day. No replacement trees in sight. While the whole world is trying its hardest to go green, Mountain View under this City Council is decidedly going brown.

Glad to be reminded that the design of these $1.6M units 'looks wonderful'. I am also sure any $3.2M unit will look even better. Are we building the city of Mountain View to be the heaven of a tech boom town for CEOs, lawyers, doctors, loan officers, and newly on board IPO'ers, and let 'the person with the most' win, as one of the other commenters stated? It was kind of him to have also mentioned that there were nurses, waiters, city clerks etc in the community, but if he implies these folks can well afford a $1.6M and up residential unit, surely he jests.


Posted by Hardin, a resident of Cuesta Park
on May 3, 2012 at 8:31 am

"Can the City Council declare that the protection of the city heritage is NOT one of its responsibilities? It takes a long time to have a tree grow to be 18" or 23" in diameter, be it heritage or not. I dare say it has more 'heritage' in these trees than any one of you who willingly, or wouldn't mind to have it cut down mindlessly."

----------------

You need to read and understand the heritage tree ordinance:

Web Link

There's nothing mindless about heritage tree protection, in fact, it is much more nuanced than "All heritage trees will remain in perpetuity at any cost regardless of the circumstances..." It may seem arbitrary, but that's because typically we don't know the specifics of any heritage tree removal and tend to jump to conclusions as to why a tree has been removed.

Let's remember, since many of these trees are located on private property, there are provisions and options for both the City and the property owner with regards to this issue.

Fortunately, we live in a democracy, not a dictatorship.


Posted by Hardin, a resident of Cuesta Park
on May 3, 2012 at 8:57 am

"Glad to be reminded that the design of these $1.6M units 'looks wonderful'. I am also sure any $3.2M unit will look even better. Are we building the city of Mountain View to be the heaven of a tech boom town for CEOs, lawyers, doctors, loan officers, and newly on board IPO'ers, and let 'the person with the most' win, as one of the other commenters stated? It was kind of him to have also mentioned that there were nurses, waiters, city clerks etc in the community, but if he implies these folks can well afford a $1.6M and up residential unit, surely he jests."

------------------------

The point I am making is that the range of existing home prices in the immediate area do not preclude homes at the $1.6M level from being excluded.

Web Link

In fact, the range of property values in that area span from $400K up to $1.4M, which allows people of many different economic backgrounds to purchase homes in this area.

If your argument is that $400k is still too high and that we need housing that is even more affordable, I'll agree with you on that, but also point out that this problem is not endemic to Mountain View exclusively, but to the Bay Area as a whole, and not a problem easily solved.

Case in point, one way to reduce home prices is to build high density housing, but there's already been a lot of resistance from the public to do this.

Developers don't build $1.6M homes because they THINK someone will buy them. They do so only when they KNOW someone will. Even though this is not a house I can afford, there are obviously many people who want to live in Mountain View that can.

Prosperity is not the problem here, and accusing the "rich" as driving out the common man construes this to be a class struggle that is win/lose.

I don't accept this to be the case. I believe it is the dynamic nature of Silicon Valley business that allows for accelerated wealth generation for some, and that our infrastructure (like real estate prices)and governmental bodies have a difficult time in maintaining a healthy balance because of this.

If we don't get this right, everyone loses.


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