A respite for the poor makes way for offices

Developer must help with relocation of long-term residents

The Pacific Euro Hotel is not the sort of place most people would want to stay. The smell of cigarette smoke permeates the air, and many of the rooms share a bathroom. A bulletproof window protects the front desk, and the general manager is known for her bulldog personality.

But the downtown hotel at 891 West Evelyn Ave. is a welcome respite for many who are down on their luck, and some have stayed for more than a few years. The rent is as low as $1,188 a month for a small room with a TV, a microwave and a fold-out bed. No questions are asked about credit or rental history, and there is no waiting list -- as there is with subsidized housing. Several families with children have even found refuge in the hotel.

A couple in their late 20s, David and Michelle, say they moved here in November with their pre-school-aged son after a family dispute left them nearly homeless last year. They say they know of two other families in the building, one with three young children.

David says that few landlords would rent a studio apartment to a family of three with no credit history, and they could afford nothing more. David works as a chef and Michelle stays home with their son.

"This is the first time I've lived in Mountain View," Michelle says. "This is the first time I've lived somewhere and I actually like it."

Soon, David and Michelle and everyone else in the hotel will have to move. The City Council has approved a new four-story office building development on the hotel site and an adjacent vacant lot. Demand for offices downtown is huge. Downtown's popularity with tech startups has filled nearly every available space, creating a downtown office vacancy rate that is now less than 1 percent, says Mike Cobb of Colliers International.

The hotel is a short walk away from busy Castro Street, the downtown transit hub, the social services agency on Moffett Boulevard, and the Community Services Agency, which gives food to low-income residents several days a week. David takes the train, which runs in front of the hotel, to his job in San Jose.

The couple has lived in more affordable San Jose, but the apartment complex they lived in had too many problems, they say.

"You don't see as much violence out here as you do in San Jose," Michelle says. "You don't see as many police officers out. You don't see as many stabbings here or shootings here. I worry about that when it comes to my son."

Michelle says she feels safe in the building -- the general manager won't let anyone in who isn't greeted by a tenant in the lobby.

"I like it because the manager runs a tight ship," Michelle says. "You can't just say 'hey, I'm here to see so and so, they are expecting me.' She will tell you 'you have to call on the room phone'," and visiting a tenant is allowed only "if they come out to get you. If not, you have to wait out there in front. We know that no one can just come back there and get to our kids. Our kids can't get out and get to the street. That's why I like it here."

"I really don't think they should tear it down," David says. "It's been a home to a lot of people. For a lot of families that are struggling and need a place to go, this would be a good place."

Though City Council members in recent years have wrestled with how to adequately compensate low-income apartment residents who are displaced by development, no one expressed concern about the people who live in the Pacific Euro Hotel when the office building was approved.

Relocation questions

Residents of the hotel may be asked to leave the Pacific Euro Hotel anytime now, but it remains unclear how they will be compensated for being displaced.

Buried deep in the project's conditions of approval is a requirement that the developer help relocate long-term tenants of the hotel. It must be done according to a complicated and little-known state law: The Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Policies Act of 1970. When the City Council approved the building, council members did not ask city staff to elaborate on those requirements, as they often do.

It is clear, however, that long-term tenants "shall be compensated for relocation and shall be relocated to suitable housing in decent, safe and sanitary condition" according to the law, the condition states.

At press time, it was still unclear to city staff exactly what the relocation requirements would be and who would be considered long-term tenants. It is the community development department's responsibility to make sure the relocation compensation requirements are met.

"We would not allow them to take action on demolition without satisfying the requirements of the project," said city planner Rebecca Shapiro.

In a previous instance where the council was concerned about tenant relocation -- the redevelopment of a 64-unit apartment complex at 291 Evandale Ave. -- concerns were expressed about implementing tenant relocation policies before tenants moved out and could not be found.

Developer Daniel Minkoff did not respond to requests for comment before the Voice went to press, but said in April that the project would begin construction "soon."


Like this comment
Posted by The Rent is Too Damn High!
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Aug 19, 2011 at 11:38 am

It's only a matter of time before a staggering number of families are driven out of Mountain View. I have a full-time AND a part-time job just to keep my family afloat, and we live in a freak'n mobile home (at nearly $2,000 a month!).

You tell me WHY the average rent for a three bedroom house/apt. is nearly $3,000 in Mountain View?! WHY? Greed, plain and simple.

In 1999 a two bedroom duplex on Sylvan was $1,600 a month. Now it's $2,700. We are economically crippled in 2011 compared to the boom of 1999, so what's with the 70% increase in the cost of housing?

Standard rental requirements are that an applicant must make three times the monthly rent, which means household income must be at minimum $108,000 a year to be able to support a $3,000 rent payment.

There is a very large percentage of families (especially single head of household families) living in our city that doesn't make half that. Where are we supposed to go?

Look at the new housing going up all over this area. The Enclave - priced from the $1,600,000 - Really? I sure wish someone would start building housing for those of us who make $30K to $50K. Or aren't we good enough for you Mountain View??

Like this comment
Posted by @rent to high
a resident of Shoreline West
on Aug 19, 2011 at 1:28 pm

This is prime silicon valley land. I pay almost 1000/month for a 1 bedroom apt. Unless you are a techie, baller or willing to share a place with 5-6 people you will suffer. If you travel a hour away you can rent a 3br house for 800/month. Commuting doesn't seem that bad anymore to be honest.

Like this comment
Posted by @The Rent is Too Damn High
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Aug 19, 2011 at 2:30 pm

You wrote: "You tell me WHY the average rent for a three bedroom house/apt. is nearly $3,000 in Mountain View?! WHY?"

Simple: Supply & Demand. Basic Economic Theory 101.

Plenty of people willing to pay the price = sustainable high levels of pricing.

Like this comment
Posted by sld
a resident of North Whisman
on Aug 19, 2011 at 3:35 pm

I agree that there is a housing problem for lesser-income people in Mountain View.
But my comment has to do with the size of the child: he is obviously over-fed, perhaps with the wrong kind of food.

Like this comment
Posted by Jose
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Aug 19, 2011 at 4:13 pm

The kid needs to go on a diet.

Like this comment
Posted by kathy
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Aug 20, 2011 at 8:18 am

Mountain View is an expensive area. if you do not have the income to support living here you should move further south. Just crossing over to Sunnyvale you will see a decrease in rents and housing prices. If Sunnyvale still too pricey go to San Jose or East Bay. Live within your means.

And to people who feel they need to comment about the child, leave the poor baby out of it, maybe he has health issues, but it is nobody's business. His parents have enough to deal with living in that flea bag of a hotel, I hope things improve for them.

Like this comment
Posted by GSB
a resident of Monta Loma
on Aug 20, 2011 at 9:30 am

People facing homelessness, and you end up commenting about the kid's weight? *smh*

Like this comment
Posted by jay ravanell
a resident of Whisman Station
on Aug 20, 2011 at 7:07 pm

i lived there many years ago (or so it seems) there was drug use and for the cost of rent in mountain view? get over yourself mountain view!its not that great![Post removed due to disrespectful comment or offensive language] the streets are dirty and the neighborhoods i grew up in are NOT places i choose to go to now. the entire state of of California is expensive. we have our politicians to blame.this was once a great little city to live in. it has succumbed however, to the suburb it is today.the facade of putting an office building there is just a reason to move the at risk homeless families out of the area. there's acres of empty office buildings allover the city. we need one more? REALLY??? what we really need is housing for all. not just the ones who hold the bet a dozen donuts to mountain view police that when that 4 story building goes up , it waits empty for a business (one that has money to burn) to rent it for a very long time.

Like this comment
Posted by Old Ben
a resident of Shoreline West
on Aug 21, 2011 at 8:39 am

Silicon Valley is riding for a hard fall. The tech industry here is completely dependent on slave labor in China. It seems fairly obvious that in the fullness of time, China will also take over the design and development of the products that they make, and then where will you be?

Like this comment
Posted by DCS
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Aug 21, 2011 at 9:36 am

@Jay - I could be wrong, but I think the builder needs a certain occupancy rate before the loan is approved. There has been a delay in building of this structure, it was supposed to be open for occupancy this year!

Like this comment
Posted by Ready to snark
a resident of Gemello
on Aug 22, 2011 at 10:11 am

Good lord. The story is about a family about to lose their current home, but people want to comment on the size of the toddler in the picture?!?!
Whoever had such comments, please, please, PLEASE put up a picture of yourself...I'm sure the example of your physical perfection will astound us all.

Like this comment
Posted by Old Ben
a resident of Shoreline West
on Aug 22, 2011 at 12:12 pm

This family takes precedence over Hangar One and that ridiculous high-speed rail scam. Who might that child become, given a chance?

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