City unveils vision for the future
Tall buildings for housing, better transit are key items in General Plan's final cut
The residents who filled the City Council chambers Saturday morning for the most part did not oppose plans for taller buildings, better transit and a more "walkable" city as part of a broad vision for Mountain View's next 20 years.
Instead, most wanted to add some details to the vision or express their support for its more contentious aspects, including the possibility of building housing for Google employees in the North Bayshore area.
"The biggest problem in this town is a lack of housing in high-employment areas," said a resident named Jack. "If you raise the number of housing units in North Bayshore you would substantially improve traffic jams in and out of North Bayshore everyday."
The meeting was part of an ongoing effort to update the city's general plan, a constitution and development blueprint that will guide the city until 2030. It was last updated in 1992. If all goes according to plan, a draft of the updated plan will be finished by the end of the year.
For those who could not attend the Saturday meeting, a second similar meeting will be held the evening of Thursday, July 29, at the Senior Center, 266 Escuela Avenue.
An hour long slide show summarized "emerging goals and policies" after hearing comments from the City Council, various community groups and city commissions over the last year. The focus was on four key areas: San Antonio shopping center, Google's North Bayshore neighborhood, El Camino Real and East Whisman.
Taller buildings that mix retail on the ground floor with offices or housing above are planned for major intersections along El Camino Real, such as those at Shoreline and Castro streets. Those buildings "might go up to four or five stories," said Chris Banen, president of MIG, the consultant group hired by the city to help draft the general plan. "We would want to ensure there are sensitive density transitions. We don't want to densify just for densification's sake."
Part of the presentation was an overhead sketch of what the North Bayshore neighborhood north of Highway 101 could look like in the future. Four- and five-story buildings covered much of the area. The tallest building would be a potential hotel at the corner of Highway 101 and Shoreline Boulevard, the current location of the Century 16 movie theaters. Shoreline Boulevard is lined with retail stores and housing.
"It's been expressed that it needs to be a much more multi-dimensional place for the city," said Chris Banen.
The idea is not to recreate downtown, Banen said, but to allow for enough services, such as a dry cleaner, additional restaurants and perhaps a grocery store, to support thousands of housing units in the area.
Banen added that there could be "great little areas" such as parks, open spaces and recreational areas "infused throughout the (North Bayshore) area."
At San Antonio shopping center, a map illustrated that nearly the entire eastern half would not likely be redeveloped for decades because of ground leases with Wal-Mart and Kohls. A major redevelopment is in the works for the western half where Sears is located that would be almost like Santana Row in San Jose, with attractive, walkable streets, Banen said. A new street is shown running north to south in the center of the shopping center.
A resident named Robert pointed out that "Moffett Boulevard could be developed into a nice area," but noted that the county building at the northwest corner of Moffett and Central was an impediment to extending the downtown environment north from Castro Street. He called on the city to use its leverage to acquire the property.
Other ideas from residents included a dog park downtown at the corner of Franklin Street and High School Way, and to plan housing for a coming wave of adults with autism.
Another idea was for the city to build "gathering spaces, adult playgrounds and community lounges" for adults in the 20- to 40-year-old range who are living increasingly "isolated" and "sedentary lives," said one woman.