Train depot remodel lacks public restroom

In the coming weeks, interior construction is scheduled to begin on a wine bar inside the city's "train depot," a replica 1888 structure located in the middle of Centennial Plaza near the train station. But due to cost and space constraints, city officials say, the building will not be equipped with public restrooms as originally planned.

In an e-mail, the city's real property manager Dennis Drennan explained that there will now be only one restroom in the building, intended only for customers of Savvy Cellar wine bar, which signed a lease with the city in July for the 1,100-square-foot "ticket office" space in the building.

"While the building was initially 'rough-plumbed' for two restrooms, cost and space constraints reduced the number of restrooms to one," Drennan wrote. Also noted that "The nature of the ABC permit held by Savvy Cellar restricts (customers) to those 21 and older."

That means train riders and downtown visitors -- except for those over 21 willing to buy some wine or food during Savvy Cellar's normal business hours -- will have to look elsewhere for a bathroom.

Savvy Cellar had hoped to open its doors on Nov. 1, but delays ensued as the city faced some technical difficulties in ensuring that the building had adequate water and electrical systems for the wine bar and two other tenants of the building. Bank of America has an ATM there, and the Valley Transportation Authority uses a portion as a break room for bus and light rail operators.

Drennan said that the train depot, reconstructed in 2002, was not built to house a retail tenant. After installing some new wiring, water meters and electrical panels, the issues are "all solved now" and a building permit could be issued in the "next week or so." Interior construction could begin anytime after that.

Managed by Jennifer Ayre and Brent Harrison, Savvy Cellar already operates a store in Redwood City (open in the late afternoon and evenings only) and maintains a Web site at The company plans to serve wine and "light foods," as well as offer wine tasting classes and wine by the bottle.

They will be paying the city $30,000 a year to lease the space, and the city is giving them $225,000 to improve the interior of the building.


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Posted by Catherine
a resident of Jackson Park
on Dec 9, 2009 at 11:50 am

Not cool.

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Posted by Robert Brubaker
a resident of another community
on Dec 9, 2009 at 12:39 pm

Most likely, not having a restroom at transit station is a violation of the Calif State Building Code

Web Link

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Posted by Kelly
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 9, 2009 at 2:13 pm

The train depot building was built in the wrong location. The City needs confess to the error, pick up the building, and move it to where passengers pass through to get to the trains, similar to the train depot in San Francisco. The interior needs to house vendors who cater to train passengers with a news stand, coffee bar, sandwich bar, restrooms, and a warm, dry place to wait for the train. Our "transit hub" has coffee served from a mobile stand run by a that's just poor planning.

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Posted by James
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Dec 9, 2009 at 2:36 pm

Another example of stellar planning. Seems to me that paying $2500 a month for this kind of high traffic retail space is practically a gift to the Wine Bar people. Plus they get a $225,000 interior improvement.
I think their restroom should be open to all, irrespective of the wine area. After all probably 40% of Mountain View is not 21.
Is there a restroom for the bus drivers etc?
Was this a "sweetheart deal" - why wasn't it bid out for tacqueria or something which would benefit everyone>

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Posted by GregB
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 9, 2009 at 3:20 pm

@ James: This space has sat vacant for seven years for want of a tenant. Any taqueria or coffee shop or news vendor could have rented the space for their operation. However, none of those places would likely have allowed their single restroom to be used by anyone other than their patrons, like virtually every other commercial establishment out there. Tenancy is determined by the free market -- who is willing to rent the space in a given location for a given rate -- not by city council fiat. Furthermore, the $225K was not a "gift" to the tenant, but the cost of bringing the space up to code so that it could be rented out -- a responsibility of the landlord, in this case, the city.

@Kelly, with 1100 square feet available, the building is a poor candidate for your vision. Perhaps the city should consider the construction of a shelter for the purposes you suggest, of an appropriate size and layout.

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Posted by curious
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Dec 9, 2009 at 3:22 pm

There isn't a restroom there now. How does this change anything? It will be nice to see this space used for something, finally.

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Posted by Robert Cox
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 9, 2009 at 3:25 pm

Perhaps they can put a public restoom into the proposed Prometheus development at Minton's. If so, then MiRNA could be persuaded to support that development.

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Posted by Steve
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 9, 2009 at 5:08 pm

Why do Mountain View residents whine so much? There isn't a restroom today, a new business is going in a long time vacant spot which will (a) add to downtown (b) generate revenue for the city. Quit complaining like a bunch of hippees.

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Posted by Daniel DeBolt
Mountain View Voice Staff Writer
on Dec 9, 2009 at 5:29 pm

Daniel DeBolt is a registered user.

To correct a point made in an above post by GregB, the train depot was not empty because no one was interested in renting the space, it was because it took the City Council six years to figure out the best use for it before selecting the best tenant from a pool of applicants. The free market didn't pick the tenant, the council did.

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Posted by Political Insidser
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Dec 9, 2009 at 7:07 pm

Council is not going to be happy about this since the whole point of the nice lease terms was to have them provide the restroom to the public.

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Posted by phm
a resident of The Crossings
on Dec 9, 2009 at 9:18 pm

How well do the public restrooms in those prefab buildings in Palo Alto work? Are they hard to maintain? Never used them but I think they're worth considering.

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Posted by PP boy
a resident of another community
on Dec 10, 2009 at 7:45 am


What Caltrain station depot has a public restroom ?. What Lightrail Station has a public restroom ? What bus stop has a public restroom ?
Status quo remains constant.

Where is the code enforcement truck when you need it? How do you contact the city attorney? You can write the city manager and ask to use the restroom.

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Posted by Jerry Mulenburg
a resident of Waverly Park
on Dec 10, 2009 at 7:48 am

This is another example of poor understanding of what makes a city a pleasant place to live and visit, and basic human needs.
A better alternative would be to have a public restroom, and not one just for the wine bar.
This would meet the needs of the Wine Bar customers, the Light Rail and Cal Trans passengers, visitors to Castro Street and the Farmers Market, all of which make Mountain View a great place to both live and visit.

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Posted by Seer
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Dec 10, 2009 at 8:19 am

Why is it that the simplest, most obvious things seem absolutely impossible for us to resolve here in the US? Go to Germany, France, Japan, China... any country with a viable train system... and each station will have a snack bar and a restroom either in the station or next to it. It's simple courtesy to treat rail passengers as though they actually had bodies that needed sustenance and relief. People complain that rail travel is uneconomical and uncomfortable in the US, but that's a self-fulfilling prophesy when this sort of brain-damaged management is put into play. Other countries simply have the entire rail system and its stations under the authority of a single entity whose concern is rail travel and passengers. The result is a system that works, rather than the NIMBY-obsessed fiefdoms we maintain in the name of the illusory "free market". In our quest for freedom, we have given up our most basic freedoms.

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Posted by Anne
a resident of Rex Manor
on Dec 10, 2009 at 11:42 am

Good point about European countries. They do all have restrooms in train stations. OTOH, none of them have restrooms in those "rest areas" next to the freeways, with the result that they all smell like sewers. Just like our train stations do.

@city council:
If there is only room for one restroom, make it open to the public. Duh.

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Posted by the299crew
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 10, 2009 at 1:04 pm

So far, Kelly is the only person to have hit the nail on the head. And speaking of heads, I can't tell you the number of times that I have been down by the train station and needed to take a leak. For god sakes MV, find a way to get a restroom at a location where thousands of people pass through each day.

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Posted by reader
a resident of Waverly Park
on Dec 10, 2009 at 2:49 pm

To Kelly, James, Jerry, and Anne in particular and others in general,

Could you kindly do me a favor and run for City Council?

Your insight and logic would be a huge asset.

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Posted by RickC
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Dec 10, 2009 at 8:17 pm

Scene setting: Mountain View Voice offices, immediately prior to a pressing deadline.

Editor: "Ok, team we need to make a decision on what stories to run. How about the technology NASA is developing to support unmanned space exploration?"

Reporter: "Space technology is complicated - it might confuse people."

Editor: "What about Google? They are the city's largest employer, arguably the Internet's most important company and they have unveiled a host of new products recently."

Reporter: "Their market share is slipping. Now they only have 65% or so of the search market - that hardly seems relevant anymore."

Editor: "Good point. Well there's the Minton's redevelopment story. It has everything: the closing of a long-standing Mountain View business (that locals didn't support enough to stay in business), a big money-grubbing developer, a local neighborhood association that is up in arms rallying against it and seemingly storming city hall to demand concessions."

Reporter: "Seems controversial."

Editor: "Ok, then what do you suggest?"

Reporter: "How about a story about a commercial enterprise creating a new business in Mtn View that will have only one bathroom for patrons."

Editor: "Genius. Let's print that one. Great work today. You wanna go for a drink?"

Reporter: "Sure do you know of any good wine bars around here?"

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Posted by jason ravanell
a resident of Whisman Station
on Dec 10, 2009 at 11:42 pm

this makes all the sense in the world. serving light food and beverages WITH NO RESTROOM???? perhaps patrons (if any) can hop across castro street in a pinch and use one of the other restaurant restrooms? the folks trying to get this thing off the ground will get whats coming to them when potential patrons find out theres no place to relieve all of that wine......NO RETURN CUSTOMERS... helllo???

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Posted by Mickey Mouse
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Dec 11, 2009 at 12:28 am

[b]Mickey Mouse is a member (registered user) of Mountain View Voice[/b]

Kelly makes a lot of sense.

Those councillors sure are good at wasting our money...

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Posted by TimM
a resident of another community
on Dec 11, 2009 at 3:53 pm

Daniel not good form to call out a person (GregB) on this thread who attempted to add some additional facts and balance to your story. The "market" is actually just the accumulation of all individuals or institutions coming to leasehold terms on a commercial property. In this instance, the landlord solicited many bids on multiple occasions over the course of several years. Your own paper's archives note this. At least twice they selected another party and those deals fell through. In this instance they were able to negotiate a deal with a business who was willing to invest (in a very difficult market) in opening a new business in a building that has sat vacant for 7+ years. (And yes, just as any commercial landlord would have to do, they needed to invest $'s to bring the building up to what is known as "vanilla shell" in order to make it rentable). This is indeed a single transaction that is now part of "the market."

The alternative in this instance was not a restaurant, coffee shop, tacqueria, news stand or bank of public restrooms. The alternative was the status quo - empty building, no public facilities, no tax revenue and the city paying to maintain an otherwise empty facility. Why the negative tone when we get a new business that complements others downtown, new jobs and tax revenue? In exchange, I'll continue to not expect to go to the bathroom at Centennial Plaza (just as I have for the past 7+ years) unless I'm enjoying a glass of wine.

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Posted by Steven Nelson
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Dec 11, 2009 at 5:35 pm

The station, though scenic, was an expenditure of funds by the Downtown Redevelopment District that does not seem well planned. The poor though on some of these 'special district' projects is why I oppose the long durations of these districts. The Downtown district is close to being closed by a state sunset provision. Perhaps that will cause more sense to prevail (wether market or council sense).

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Posted by Mrs. Clause
a resident of another community
on Dec 14, 2009 at 2:25 pm

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Afforded me stories about pee pee.
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Thy reporters report so smartly!
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The facts they seem to overlook,
With splendor in their gobbledygook.
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Thou bidst us truth and understanding,
And trust in wisdom unfailingly.
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