Evelyn auto shops booted for housing
Proposed projects for Evelyn Avenue are suddenly drawing the attention of downtown residents, who found out last week that several auto shop sites along the corridor are slated for redevelopment into housing.
Developer Classic Communities plans to build 50 condos and 46 row homes from 209 to 251 Evelyn Avenue, where "Abate's Industrial Square" currently is home to half a dozen auto shops totaling 100,000 square feet. Several other auto shops, along with Minton's Lumber and La Fiesta Restaurant, are located behind the site. All of these businesses and buildings could be gone soon if their owners decide to sell.
The whole block between Evelyn Avenue, Calderon Avenue, Villa Street and Bush Street has been zoned for housing since a precise plan for Evelyn Avenue was adopted in 1994. Because the zoning fits, a lengthy series of meetings is not required for approval of Classic Communities' project. The council could approve it as early as Nov. 27.
Some worried over the prospect of Minton's Lumber, which has supplied the wood for decades of city growth, also being swallowed by the housing development.
"The next thing is you push Minton's out," said council member Jac Siegel. "We are encroaching too much on our retail. I think that's gone too far."
After the Voice went to press on Wednesday, the city's zoning administrator was to decide whether to recommend that the council approve the project.
Ralph Foglein, owner of European Auto Works, said the whole industrial square would be out on expired leases by June 2008.
"We don't have a place to go yet," Foglein said.
"We have so many customers who use the train or walk downtown," said employee Cliff Greenman. "You can't beat the convenience."
But the location is also why the City Council decided in 1994 to change the zoning to accommodate housing growth. Due to its location near the train station, the Classic Communities project is considered "smart growth" because it encourages residents to use the train rather than cars. It's also near Highway 85.
Council member Ronit Bryant was torn about the decision.
"Downtown is a very good place to add residents — it's the obvious place," Bryant said. "Yet we want to keep the diversity and not turn ourselves into a bedroom community."
Downtown resident Andrew Holbrook said it was good to have the auto shops near his neighborhood and the Caltrain station.
"After dropping off my car, I could easily walk home or take public transit to work," Holbrook said. "Transit hubs don't have to be entirely residential."
Downtown resident Lenny Siegel, director of the Center for Public Environmental Oversight, was also concerned about the loss of the businesses — as well as the traffic increase that would result from the new homes.
A look at the minutes from the 1994 meeting found only a handful of residents opposed to the rezoning. The Old Mountain View Neighborhood Association steering committee has endorsed the project, said Scott Ward of Classic Communities.
Classic Communities has already built dozens of homes nearby, including those on View Street and Evelyn Avenue and the new homes just across Villa Street from Minton's lumber. The lower density of those projects reflected the times, Ward said. These days, there is more support for high density housing, especially near a rail line, he said.
Ward said three-story condos are proposed along Evelyn Avenue with the town homes along the back of the property. The project will include a centrally located piece of open space, he said.
Directly behind Abate's square, on the corner of Villa and Calderon, is North Star Corvettes, where owner David Bonar wonders if he's being "painted into a corner." Classic Communities has asked him and his partners to sell, but he isn't quite ready to give up his livelihood. Neither are the owners of La Fiesta, a popular restaurant a few hundred feet down Villa.
"If it wasn't them, it would be someone else," Bonar said about Classic Communities, which, ironically, is owned by car enthusiast John Mozart. Development is "how he's built his empire," Bonar said.
The rest of the block could decide to sell to residential developers, but when that will happen is unknown. The lumber yard is already surrounded by homes on two sides. But Minton's general manager Debbie Schulz said the Classic Communities developments have actually used the company's lumber for construction.
"In our opinion it's been good for business," she said.
At Tom's Auto Repair on Evelyn and Calderon, the owner said he has to be out next month. He has not found a new place, but claims he isn't worried yet. Meanwhile, the machine shop in the square is moving to Sunnyvale, and the smog shop is expected to stay longer than anyone else. The two homes between Tom's Auto Repair and North Star Corvettes appeared to be vacant.
Foglein said he is searching for another place in Mountain View, but San Jose is much cheaper. The city has told him he can move to Old Middlefield Road or Yuba Drive, the last two remaining areas for auto shops — places where the lack of space has driven up rents.
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