Council paves way for Whisman development


The City Council has approved zoning to allow 38 acres of industrial land to be converted to a mix of single family homes, row homes and higher density stacked flats along Ferguson Drive.

The council voted unanimously Tuesday night to approve the zoning, which will allow up to 1,120 homes just north of Whisman Station in a development slated to be larger than Mayfield, though probably without as much controversy. The Environmental Planning Commission also backed the zoning change.

Drew Hudacek of Regis Homes said his company would develop only 55 to 65 percent of the density allowed, translating to 492 to 582 units in the first phase, which is slated for 28.5 acres.

The development, which has yet to be designed in detail, involves 9.5 acres in the second phase, which could be many years off. Phase two would require demolition of buildings still in use by Autochlor, an industrial washing machine company, and Cisco, which keeps a Webex data center there that is strategically important to the company, a lawyer told the council.

Council member Jac Siegel predicted the data center would probably stay for several decades, even though it would be surrounded by homes. "Phase one must stand on its own merits," Siegel concluded.

Council member Ronit Bryant suggested Cisco do something to make its parking lot more "green" and fit in better with the neighborhood.

Preliminary plans for the project include a centrally located park next to the data center that is "anticipated to be more than two acres, but the final park size will depend on the unit count," said city planner Stephanie Williams. The developer proposes a network of trails, sidewalks and a grid-like street pattern. There are three driveways along Ferguson Drive, and residents should be able to cross the light rail tracks to Pacific Drive at Whisman Station. Housing densities start small to the south and taper upwards away from Whisman Station.

"We think the plan is a great plan," Hudacek said. "We are excited it's near the VTA light rail station" at Whisman Station. "Creating more housing near [the city's job base is certainly the best thing we can do towards sustainability," he said.

Siegel, a major opponent of the Mayfield project, had mostly positive words for the project after noting that the site, located near Highway 237, was originally zoned industrial for a reason: the noise from the freeway.

"It's transit oriented, and provides a lot of housing close to businesses where people work," he said. "I think we have a quality developer looking at this."

But Siegel expressed concern that the zoning would allow too many homes if Regis were to leave the picture. "I don't understand why it can't go down to help protect it," he said.

Hudacek argued that the precise plan, also approved Tuesday night, would only allow about 900 units once requirements for setbacks and streets, for example, were implemented. He explained that the zoning would allow flexibility in the design of the project in case a "creative" design idea required a few more homes in a section of the plan.

The Valley Transportation Authority complained to the city that the homes in the zoning map were not dense enough near the Whisman light rail station. The approved zoning gives Regis the option to build either two-story single family homes or three-story row homes on the two blocks closest to the station. But so far, the council has expressed a desire for two-story single family homes, which would be lower than the three-story homes next door at Whisman Station.

The zoning would also allow up to 37,000 square feet of commercial space, such as a grocery store along Ferguson Drive. Preliminary plans show mixed use along Ferguson Drive, with retail on the first floor and housing above. A coffee shop in the interior of the development is a possibility, Hudacek said. Regis Homes will be required to incorporate at least 17,000 square feet of commercial space in the first phase, 10,000 of which may already be built.

Williams said the city would allow Regis to use 10,000 square feet of the first floor of the Autochlor building for retail space -- an idea which Autochlor has expressed interest in -- leaving only 7,000 square feet to be built.

Over a year ago, an economic feasibility study reported that a grocery store or other retail business wouldn't work in the development, even though neighbors wanted one. However, recently announced plans for several higher density office buildings north of the development have made the idea more feasible, said Siegel. The developer did not object to the retail requirement Tuesday night.

The City Council also approved an Environmental Impact Report for the project, which says that impacts to traffic on nearby portions of the 101 and 237 freeways are "significant and unavoidable." The resulting impacts to air quality from the development are "cumulatively considerable," the report says.

Because of the environmental impacts, the council also approved a "statement of overriding considerations" to move the project forward. The statement points out the importance of new housing near jobs and transit, park space and a mix of housing in order to meet different needs.

Although the development is just north of the former GTE plant that dumped toxics into the ground below Whisman Station, tests of the groundwater at the site found levels of volatile organic compounds "below screening levels." Nevertheless, the homes are required to have gas-impermeable membranes built into their foundations to prevent toxic vapor intrusion, and construction workers will be required to follow a host of safety precautions to prevent exposure to toxics in the soil.

The development was first proposed in 2005 by several property owners who had trouble leasing their industrial buildings for years. It initially included the 12-acre Francia orchard, which was later dropped from the project.

"We're now four years into this process," Hudacek said. "It will be at least another year or probably two before we can even start constriction."

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3 people like this
Posted by smart growther
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 26, 2009 at 3:21 pm

A surprising 7-0 vote. A great addition to the city.

3 people like this
Posted by one word
a resident of North Whisman
on Mar 26, 2009 at 4:38 pm


3 people like this
Posted by Secondly
a resident of Whisman Station
on Mar 26, 2009 at 8:52 pm

Please don't let the VTA determine the home's density, their goals are not our goals. They want to pay off their white elephant and do not live here. Some high density is fine, but like BART in Fremont, if all you do is build high density homes for the mass transit system, you get, well to be blunt - FREMONT.

3 people like this
Posted by don't do it
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 26, 2009 at 9:02 pm

Water shortage's, traffic, pollution, empty buildings. Why build more? Enough already. How's that song go? First you take paradise and put up a parking lot.You don't know what you got till its gone!Let's plant trees for now and build later when I'm dead and gone.

3 people like this
Posted by A balanced viewpoint
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 27, 2009 at 7:24 am

In response to the post from Secondly above about the City's goals and VTA's goals...

The City's General Plan calls for creation of higher-density housing and commercial development near transit, in order to provide more housing options, improve energy efficiency, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and make the best use of scarce land resources.

VTA would like to see the creation of higher-density housing and commercial development near transit, to help cities provide more housing options (which can create transit riders), improve energy efficiency (which can be achieved by a shift to transit), reduce greenhouse gas emissions (ditto), and see each city make the best use of scarce land resources around the transit system.

Mountain View is a member agency of VTA, is represented in VTA's Board and Committee system (our Mayor is the chair of the Policy committee), and partnered with VTA on the creation of the light rail extension to Mountain View in the 1990s. It is in both the City's and VTA's interest to make the best use of this transit investment to achieve all the goals listed above.

3 people like this
Posted by Don't do it.
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 27, 2009 at 3:19 pm

Dear Balance viewpoint, Thank you for the info, now my question to you is, is there a shortage of housing right now in Mt.View? Do we really need it right now at this time? Can't we just enjoy what we have? How much money are these houses going to sell for? 8 to 1.1 million? Is that affordable to maybe the google and yahoo crowd? Do we need more shops in Mt.View? Whats wrong with the shops on Whisman and Middlefield? Will they survive when there is more competition? Are they struggling now? I just don't understand why we need to build more other then making more money for the developer. Have you seen the project on Mathilda, Its bankrupt and it will be awhile before they finish it.

3 people like this
Posted by A
a resident of another community
on Mar 27, 2009 at 8:38 pm

I've been a Mountain View resident for 16 years now.

I think we're growing too much. Getting too "urban"-ish, along with all the good and bad that it brings.

I'd rather not see more housing, or more shops. I'd like us to take better care of what we have. (Food Street, anyone?).

(By the way, what neighborhood is the East side of North Rengstorff?)

3 people like this
Posted by Rodger
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Mar 28, 2009 at 11:45 am

More cars more noise more smog why would we want high density housing. Light rail is way too slow and goes two few location so the people who live in this new housing might on the average use it once a week or less while all of their other trips will be in cars. The city council has been fooled again.

3 people like this
Posted by USA
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 30, 2009 at 10:05 am

I thought that the city government's primary responsibility was to the current residence. Silly me.

3 people like this
Posted by Eduardo Miranda
a resident of Whisman Station
on Mar 30, 2009 at 12:26 pm

Compared to the Mayfield development which has been under considerable scrutiny and open for public comments from MV residents prior to approval by the City Council, I feel like this zoning change was approved through the back door. Every new development in the Whisman neighborhood is denser and has less public park area than previous development/phase. When approving this type of zoning changes the Council should consider existing densities in neighboring areas. The Mayfield development is primarily surrounded by low density residential areas (1-6 units/acre), whereas density in the existing Whisman neighrhood next to the proposed development is at least three times higher. Providing the developer the option to build either two-story single family homes or three-story row homes with a simple desire from the council for two-story single family homes is not enough. Developers are driven by profit and MV residents rely on the City Council to put clear limits to developers. I find totally unacceptable that impact to traffic by this new project is simply considered as "significant and unavoidable."

3 people like this
Posted by LK
a resident of another community
on Mar 30, 2009 at 7:30 pm

First off ... it's so gratifying to find out that I don't live in a "neighborhood" ... my part of Mountain View doesn't seem to count. Regarding the proposed density of this development ... why is it that Mtn View City Council/Planning Department always insist on putting the super high density housing on this side of Central Expressway????? 38 acres on this side = 1100 homes. 15+ acres on the "good" side of town (The farm on Grant Road) = 50 homes. Hmmmmmm. Wouldn't it be nice if the 38 acres up for grabs became home to just 100 - 150 homes???? Between NASA's business park plan and this plan, traffic is going to become a nightmare.

3 people like this
Posted by heinz brunner
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 31, 2009 at 6:40 am

seems as though the overwhelming majority feels the same way for several reasons against mtn. views high and higher density policies. apparently that majority elected the current council members who have obviously no intention to listen to the people that put them there and are running on their own agenda.
we are facing a water shortage and they want to add more demand?
how idiotic is that? the grant road project isn't that much more demanding as the "farm" had irrigation demands. but the rest of it?
c'mon city councilmen use your heads, oh, that's right................

3 people like this
Posted by smart growther
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 31, 2009 at 2:28 pm

The water shortage is mostly to due to a lack of price rationing. Some cities do not monitor water usage and charge a fixed fee. The council listens very carefully but not to unverifiable claims and just plain nonsense. How much density is too much? Everything mentioned above was studied for several years. To claim the re-zonong was done by the backdoor is just nonsense. Most of the comments above are ill-informed.

Grant road has 30,000 trips per day. hard to argue that 220 more trips from the levin project will have a significant impact.

3 people like this
Posted by Really ?
a resident of Whisman Station
on Mar 31, 2009 at 3:03 pm

Let's all be honest and admit the council in MV is OWNED by developers, all councils are. Remember the other development on Ferguson, I live next to it. They changed the maximum height of the buildings at the behest of the builder - no other reason.

OK by me to build houses, but let's build houses, not the umpteenth set of undistinguished row homes - again - FREMONT - is that what we want, go visit Fremont, come to Mountain View and then tell the council to THINK for once. Really, just tell the council for the first time ever to actually THINK. Is another set of row homes what we need. After looking at Fremont you will say NO.

Congrats to the developers for buying themselves a nice council.

3 people like this
Posted by Secondly
a resident of Whisman Station
on Mar 31, 2009 at 3:10 pm

Balanced ? I must have misunderstood the word. That is an ad for the VTA. Balance means looking at both sides, clearly you aren't - please change your screen name to VTA Monger, that way it is clearer your intentions.

I love public transport, trains and mass transit are great, but they are built for the people of a community, you suggest that we build our people's homes around our transit. OOPS, that is backwards. Does the light rail reduce traffic - i would guess by .000002 percent. It is poorly designed and expensive to ride and stops extensively included on Central Expressway for no apparent reason.

Let's build a community that is served by transit, not the other way round.

3 people like this
Posted by Rodger
a resident of The Crossings
on Mar 31, 2009 at 6:28 pm

I call on the city council to reverse this terrible high density housing. How can we get them to look at this again and come to the aid of the people that elected them?

3 people like this
Posted by Interesting
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 31, 2009 at 7:43 pm

I find it interesting that the most vociferous opponents of this supposed "high density" development on this board are from the Whisman Station and Crossings neighborhoods -- which were primarily built within the past 10 years. Benefit from the newer housing that previous Councils had the foresight to approve, then yell for the gates to be locked after that...

And for truly high-density housing near light rail, check out Portland, or parts of San Diego. The densities in many new developments there are three to four times those proposed in the South Whisman Precise Plan, yet Portland and San Diego rank extremely high on most livability indices.

3 people like this
Posted by Samrt Growther
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 31, 2009 at 9:59 pm

A lot of mis-informed ranting. You are correct "interesting" about some of the whisman residents. They purchased at a location that was previously commercial and then opposed any new development. To suggest that the council is owned by the developers is just plain silly. Check out the campaign spending records , most give thousands of dollars to council member in other cities and little if any to MV council members. What attracts developers to MV is a council and staff that respects the rights of property owners in a fair way. What some residents want is to violate these rights since they were here first.

3 people like this
Posted by concerned
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 2, 2009 at 9:31 am

Bottom line here is greed. More money to line to pockets of city officals, is all they care about.

They don't think about the water shortage, they don't think about the traffic, the over population, the congestion, the air quaility, the sewage problem, the trash problem, all they care about is more money.

It's a sad state when 7 people can control the outcome that involves millions.

3 people like this
Posted by Frances
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 2, 2009 at 4:28 pm

Is thew city council paying any attention to what is going on with enrollment in the MVWSD? Where will these children go to school? I'm tired of high density housing, Mountain View is slowing losing it's charm.

Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Jackson Park

on Jun 4, 2017 at 8:09 pm

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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