Heavyweights discuss Bayshore's future

Google, Microsoft, NASA Ames attend General Plan meeting

A city-run General Plan meeting Tuesday drew some high-profile participants -- including Google, Microsoft and NASA Ames -- with the goal of bringing Silicon Valley ingenuity to the problems facing development of the North Bayshore area over the next 20 years.

The federal and corporate participants are among the powerful forces in the Bayshore area that wish to help plot the future of the office neighborhood north of Highway 101 and east of Stevens Creek. The meeting was held in the Maxwell conference room at Google's Crittenden Lane campus.

City planning director Randy Tsuda kicked things off by explaining that the North Bayshore neighborhood was one of nine areas identified by the city as places where significant change was possible. The city does not intend to revise its General Plan for existing residential neighborhoods.

Tsuda said the city's current General Plan had helped Mountain View become "the capital of Silicon Valley," but that the policies, created in the 1980s, were "getting a little creaky, a little stale. It's getting hard to respond to requests because of those policies," Tsuda said.

Everyone present appeared to agree that the North Bayshore area needed to develop more densely than current General Plan and zoning regulations allow.

"Out here there is no land to build on," said Jay Bechtel, real estate and construction manager for Google. "The only way to go is up."

But how to do it without causing major traffic problems in and out of the North Bayshore area, described by some as an "island" accessible by only two streets, was a top concern.

"How do we increase density in a smart way so it doesn't create more problems?" asked one participant.

The answers included various public transit ideas, such as a Mountain View ferry terminal on the Bay, a light rail extension, new shuttle services and the use of a futuristic personal rapid transit system. But the solution which had widest support was to build housing, retail and other services in the neighborhood so office workers would not have to commute in and out of the area, which is currently dominated by offices. (There is one mobile home park on Space Park Way, which was represented by a handful of residents at the meeting.)

One participant said there should be "another vibrant Castro Street" in North Bayshore. Participants called for mixed-use development, with housing or offices above retail in certain areas. Some were concerned that housing needs could overwhelm a "finite" amount of space for offices.

"The time has come in Mountain View for higher-density to be a reality," said one participant, summarizing the thoughts of many at the meeting. The "low-rise tilt-ups" from the past are no longer economical because of rising land values, the person said.

Highway 101 gridlock was also a concern. One participant, a planner who has worked for NASA Ames, said the highway could add two lanes in each direction and still not provide enough "throughput" for large scale future development in the area.

One participant suggested an array of parking garages just off the freeway where people could park and take transit into the area, but the NASA planner scoffed at the idea, saying it wasn't a solution. "Highway 101 -- that will be your parking lot," he said.

The General Plan meeting was one of a series held in neighborhoods throughout the city. The last remaining meeting is for the "Moffett/Whisman Road Area" on Monday, June 8 at 6:30 p.m. at the German School, 310 Easy St. For more information, visit


Like this comment
Posted by Don t. Doit
a resident of Whisman Station
on Jun 5, 2009 at 6:27 pm

Do these people even live here? More density? I wish Mt.View was the way it use to be 30 years ago. Life was simple and we had room to breath. If it gets more populated, I'm going to sell my property and get the heck away from here. What do they want? Another L.A.?

Like this comment
Posted by MV-my-home
a resident of Rex Manor
on Jun 5, 2009 at 7:51 pm

Why the heck do they want 'density'? What happened to the idea of open spaces? Don't they have the slightest concern for the quality of life and aesthetics?

Like this comment
Posted by eric
a resident of another community
on Jun 5, 2009 at 9:10 pm

Does this poor planning have to do with the special tax district? So the city can continue to "borrow" from it and not give the schools their fair share?

Like this comment
Posted by Josephine Morrissey
a resident of North Whisman
on Jun 9, 2009 at 2:28 pm

I was unable to attend the General Plan meeting so this letter is based on the information in the Voice article.

Before deciding we need high density development in Bayshore, I suggest we look at how and where future "employees" are likely to locate as they interact with their "businesses." I was a tad surprised that Google and Microsoft didn't jump on this, since Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) is a highly likely future of enterprise technology. IaaS means that employees can fully collaborate securely, completely and in real-time with their organizations from any location. Employees have all the capabilities they need to work from home or a nearby favorite location as effectively as they work in their current office or cubicle.

So business organizations really do not need the high density layered offices and cubicles that seem exciting at first, but often quickly frame a stressful and confining corporate experience. The future of basic corporate value streams is also indicating shifts away from layered offices and cubicles.

In terms of Bayshore, this opens the door to architecting business buildings as lower square footage areas that (1) support workgroup needs such as weekly face-to-face meetings (2) serve as satellite offices for employees who prefer working outside their homes (3) offer streamlined "headquarters" for the few services that cannot be handled virtually (4) reduce exposure to the cost of vacancy during slower business cycles and, ideally, (5) incorporate outdoor space, entertainment, and other services for employees and the surrounding community.

This argues a decreasing need for high density development and an increasing need for high quality development.

To me, Mountain View is wonderful because of its balance of old and new. The old is a beautiful place to live. The new is leading edge business. Lets preserve these core qualities in the future of Bayshore.

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