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Publication Date: Friday, November 09, 2001

History Lesson History Lesson (November 09, 2001)

Council explores ways to save historic homes Council explores ways to save historic homes (November 09, 2001)

By Bill D'Agostino

The city council got a primer on historic preservation Tuesday night, triggered by concern over a 100-year-old house slated for demolition.

To protect old homes while the council considers more permanent action to preserve homes, Council member Rosemary Stasek proposed an emergency ordinance to force every building over 75-years-old slated for demolition or alteration to get council approval.

Mountain View, unlike many local cities, has no protection for historic homes.

The old home - located on 902 Villa Street - is planned for demolition by the ownerwho aims to transform the space into a Tung Kee Noodle House and office building.

Ron Geary, the city's community development director, told the council they would eventually have the final say on this particular home, since it's within the downtown precise plan. All developments under the plan that are over 5,000 square feet go to the council for approval.

If the owner of 902 Villa Street - or any historic home located downtown - was to develop under 5,000 square feet, the home would not be under the council's jurisdiction, regardless of its age.

If the city prohibits demolition of the home, City Attorney Michael Martello said the council would need to ensure that the property owner still had reasonable economic use of the property. That could occur either by moving the house to a different location or by other means.

Stasek suggested that since the property had been the site of a business prior to the sale of the home earlier in the year, there would still be an economically viable use for the existing building.

Council Member Matt Pear worried that Stasek's proposed emergency ordinance was too broad. He feared the city would be playing "Russian roulette" if it wasn't limited to downtown.

Council member Ralph Faravelli, who is also president of the Mountain View Historical Association, said the association was interested in compiling a list of historic buildings throughout the town to aid in the process of preserving the city's history.

Council member Mary Lou Zoglin suggested that before the council begin considering an historic ordinance, there should be discussion with the city of Palo Alto.

Over the last few years, Palo Alto has spent over $500,000 preparing a property survey - a required part of drafting an historic preservation ordinance - only to have the ordinance voted down by the city's residents.

Council member Sally Lieber, however, worried about dwelling on Palo Alto's failure in considering an ordinance. Lieber said she wasn't interested in pursuing a process "the way Palo Alto does it."

Jean McCloskey, former president of the Old Mountain View Neighborhood Association, suggested the city take notice of Redwood City's historic ordinance instead, which she said has been vital in their highly lauded downtown revitalization.

McCloskey, who recently helped form the Mountain View Preservation Alliance, a new group of residents dedicated to preserving buildings and places that represent the heritage and history of Mountain View, said there is also an economic benefit to preservation.

Nick Perry, creator of the "A Guide to Mountain View" Webpage, and an honorary member of the city's centennial committee, is another founding member of the alliance. Perry lived and went to high school in Mountain View and is a freshman at UC Berkeley.

Perry wants the city council to consider an historic preservation ordinance to preserve the city's historic buildings as part of the centennial.

In a letter to the council, Perry wrote, "Starting the process of protecting and recognizing these places would be a lasting legacy gift of the Centennial year."

For more information on the alliance, visit its Webpage at


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