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Issue date: December 01, 2000

Identified by the city as a source of blight, an abandoned car wash at 240 Moffett Blvd. remains tied up in bankruptcy proceedings.

@vcredit:Dick Waters

Council attacks blight on Moffett Council attacks blight on Moffett (December 01, 2000)

By Justin Scheck

The Mountain View City Council decided Tuesday to take steps to reduce blight along Moffett Boulevard, having first made clear that its efforts will be limited to addressing immediate complaints brought by local residents.

At an Oct. 10 study session, the council identified the primary sources of blight as an abandoned car wash at 240 Moffett Blvd., the Cottage Bar at 300 Moffett Blvd., and several automotive repair businesses on Moffett between Central Expressway and Central Avenue.

And while the council's action was referred to on the meeting's agenda as "strategy for upgrading Moffett Boulevard," Mayor Rosemary Stasek said Monday that the council, rather than attempting a large-scale makeover in the area, is now just trying to address pressing problems brought up by residents regarding the quality of life in the area.

"I don't see it as an upgrade. I see it as a relief for the people who live there... We're trying to accomplish some things without using money and staff time that is unavailable," Stasek said.

She explained that the council discussed having city staff do a full-scale study of what could be done to improve the area. However, budget constraints and limited planning staff made this project impossible.

Both Stasek and Council member Ralph Faravelli said there are no plans in the works to extend the downtown business district across the railroad tracks.

"The absolute dead end of the business district should be the railroad tracks," Faravelli said.

In discussing the issues affecting the Moffett Boulevard area, Faravelli and Stasek emphasized the impact that visual blight can have on residents' quality of life.

"Moffett Boulevard is the entryway to the city, and I hope we approve knocking down the car wash buildings, because they look vacated and dilapidated," said Faravelli.

"Sometimes we can underestimate the impact something visually negative can have on a neighborhood," Stasek said.

The owner of the car wash, Sabek Inc., filed for bankruptcy in 1995, and the ongoing legal proceedings have hampered the city's efforts to require demolition of the unused buildings, said Ron Geary, the deputy community development director.

In addition to these complications, Stasek said that the car wash may well be "a haz-mat" site. According to Mike Percy, the city's principal planner, "there is some contamination of the groundwater with solvents like TCE (trichloride ethylene)" from a silicon chip manufacturer that used to be located across the street. There is also contamination from leaky underground gasoline and oil tanks that were at the site.

And while Percy said the gasoline residue could be easily removed, and the TCE should not be a serious problem, "it could be a legal or financial issue, because anyone who takes over the property would assume liability."

According to Stasek, the council must make "an official finding that there is a health and safety issue, and then the council can take action... to authorize cleaning up the car wash site."

At the meeting and the October study session, the Cottage Bar was the subject of both public comment and council concern. Council members spoke of the need for conditional use permits for bars, re-zoning the area to eliminate bars, or seeking other methods to control noise.

According to the report submitted to council at the meeting, the Cottage was the subject of 15 complaints by residents during the months of September and October.

Carol Moholt, an environmental planning commissioner for the city who lives behind the bar, told the council that the noise and public disturbance outside the bar make life difficult for local residents. She urged the council to take action.

"The police are going out there, sometimes multiple times a night, to tell them to shut the door and lower the music," Stasek said. "They just need to operate in a way that doesn't require constant police attention."

At the meeting, council members decided to not take any planning action now, but to discuss it in goal-setting for next year.

The issue of how to tackle residents' problems with auto repair shops parking cars or working on the street will be addressed with a targeted code enforcement effort. Because it is already a violation for businesses to use streetside parking for cars they are working on, the council does not have to take legislative action.

Some auto shops, including C&C Auto Body at 243 Moffett Blvd., have complained about the measures, saying they will have a serious impact on their ability to operate in the area.

"Some of the businesses will be fine. Some of the businesses will be able to follow the rules, and some will not be able, financially, to follow the rules," Stasek said. She said that, in this situation, the city must make residents' quality-of-life concerns a priority, even though they may be at odds with business interests.

At the meeting, the council unanimously approved a motion from Council member Mary Lou Zoglin to "direct staff to take steps to remove sources of blight on Moffett Boulevard, and to pursue the evaluation of buildings and structures on the car wash property on 240 Moffett Boulevard, and implement proactive code enforcement against problem businesses such as some auto repair businesses and bars, and explore the possibility of developing planning or zoning tools for mitigating the bar nuisance." Council member Mike Kasperzak was absent. 


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