Council to vote on office project, demolition of historic house


A four-story downtown office building would overshadow a gourmet restaurant and result in the demolition of a historic home if the City Council approves the developer's proposal Tuesday.

Calling the building "a four-story wall next to Chez TJ" (the gourmet restaurant), zoning administrator Peter Gilli recommended against the project on June 13, and the project's design has not changed significantly since. An 1870s home on the quarter-acre site at 902 Villa St., which is on the city's historic register as the Pearson House, would have to be demolished.

Los Altos-based developer Roger Burnell claims the four-story building height is "pretty normal" for the area, which has buildings of similar heights nearby. But the Michelin-star winning restaurant next door, Chez TJ, has come out in opposition.

"It's going to be a huge detriment to what we do here," said Joey Elenterio, executive chef at Chez TJ, where the prix fixe dinner costs well over $100 a person. "There's going to be this large building overshadowing this beautiful Victorian house."

"A giant office building doesn't add culture to the city, maintaining a high-class restaurant does," said a neighbor at the June 13 hearing, "It would block out all of the light into our building (condos at 108 Bryant Street) And having a garage as a first floor does not add anything to our street."

Burnell proposes to tear the Pearson House house down after searching for places to move it, including the city's Cuesta Annex, with no luck.

"You shouldn't assume that because the porch is falling apart that the historic building is as bad," Gilli said of the home's dilapidated appearance. "The porch didn't have same quality as the original construction."

The project's ground-level garage may be a bone of contention for council members who had seen a previous iteration of the project with 17 parking spaces in an underground garage, and two ground-level spaces. Gilli called for the garage to be moved back underground on June 13, reducing the building to three stories, but it remains at ground level in the proposal submitted to council.

Burnell says the 21,745-square-foot building meets city guidelines for the site, even at 61 feet in height and set back only 5 feet from the Chez TJ property line. A 932-square-foot retail or restaurant space was added to the ground floor of the project at the request of city staff members.

To make up for a lack of parking on site, Burnell said on June 13 that he and another downtown office developer would pay $4 million in fees to help build a new city parking garage nearby. He added that there would be a historic display on the building about the Pearson House and the history of Silicon Valley.

There were also several supporters of Burnell on June 13, including one woman who said he had "worked his heart out" on the project and another who said Burnell "proposed a lot of options to save the (Pearson House) building. All of these proposals have been put down. It's not a perfect world."

Gilli also noted that the building also lacks environmentally friendly features and would be rated LEED silver, the city's minimum requirement for new office buildings.

"Most projects that are coming through the process are LEED gold," Gilli said. "I'd say this is doing the minimum in terms of sustainability."


Like this comment
Posted by Ann
a resident of Castro City
on Jul 9, 2012 at 2:35 pm

Thanks Chez TJ, maybe now the Council will listen and understand that the building next door can be restored, repurposed and fit that block.

Tell the developer to build tall down at Calif. and San Antonio, after all the Council hasn't consistently protected that neighborhood from taller developments and increased crazy drivers.

Hey Voice, you don't have my neighborhood in your list. Is that why those of us who live on or near California get so little respect from the City?

Like this comment
Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Whisman Station
on Jul 9, 2012 at 2:44 pm

This project has all the earmarks of DOG CITY II..

" Deja vu all over again "

-Yogi Berra

You have to wonder if the fix was already in....

I've discussed at length what the Denver Metro area does with historic houses.....THEY KEEP THEM! Not put up a fancy plaque where the house WAS. The HOUSE gets the plaque....

Like this comment
Posted by LItsa
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 9, 2012 at 3:01 pm

If I had to guess. I would say the City Council will approve the demo. Historic or not. It doesn't generate enough revenue for the city council's liking.

Like this comment
Posted by BurnItDown
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 9, 2012 at 3:40 pm

That house is a piece of junk. Get rid of it already. There is a 6 story parking garage and a 5 story office building right across the street from that over hyped, over priced restaurant.

There used to be junky houses (actually converted horse carriage stalls) on the other side of the street where the condo complex now is. You want to make in improvement to downtown, you have to clear out the brush.

And while we are at it, let's get rid of Chez TJ too. When was the last time a low income housing occupant could even afford to stand outside that restaurant? Chez TJ is for profit company, and they are pulling the oldest trick in the book trying to gather "community support" to keep their pockets lined with gold.

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Posted by Max Hauser
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 9, 2012 at 3:49 pm

Max Hauser is a registered user.

Peter Gilli's comment "you shouldn't assume that because the porch is falling apart that the historic building is as bad" makes me wonder how much he has personally inspected that building (5 minutes' walk from City Hall).

When touring Chez TJ's herb garden during its public showings a couple weeks back, I noticed on that side (away from Bryant) the old building's roof appears to be falling in. Maybe we still shouldn't assume anything from both the roof and the porch collapsing, but that building has been vacant, and evidently neglected by its owner, for how many years now (since the former shop in it closed)?

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Posted by Steve
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jul 9, 2012 at 3:51 pm

"...meets city guidelines for the site..."
Maybe if they offered more cash. $4 million doesn't go as far as it used to, you know.

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Posted by Sly
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jul 9, 2012 at 4:27 pm

Sure, why not. Then frkn google can buy it and push ALL the mom & pop Bussiness out of town. WAKE UP MV DON'T PUT ALL YOUR EGGS IN ONE BASKET

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Posted by Sandra DiGiulio
a resident of North Whisman
on Jul 9, 2012 at 6:50 pm

To BurnitDown: Since when does a business have to exist for everyone, all income levels? There is no reason to get rid of higher-end restaurants or businesses just because we can't all go there. For that matter, lots of places downtown are not affordable to all people.

Like this comment
Posted by Otto Maddox
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jul 9, 2012 at 7:37 pm

The "Pearson House" is a mess. And it will only get worse. The current owner wants to tear it down.

If he loses this vote I promise he will just let it sit.. and crumble.. until there is nothing left standing and the city begs him to haul away the remains.

The council needs to let people do what they want with their property.

Like this comment
Posted by Doug Pearson
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jul 9, 2012 at 9:06 pm

All of the area bounded by Franklin, Evelyn, Bryant and Church streets, including the Pearson (no relation) house an Chez TJ are undergoing a long-term transition from mainly parking lots and small, single-story buildings to bigger, taller multi-family homes and mixed commercial-residential developments. Building heights will eventually average out at 3 to 5 stories, even on Castro Street.

I agree that a 4-story wall right next to Chez TJ will interfere with its garden and overall ambiance but the grossly run-down mess (Pearson house) is not a pleasant neighbor either.

The City Council has a tough decision and I will accept their solution. (Of course, I have very little skin in the game; I can afford to be complacent.)

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Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Jul 10, 2012 at 10:50 am

I don't see this building becoming DOG CITY II, times are different and office space is sorely needed. The Pearson house is kinda of old and rundown, yes it can be fixed up but to house what. We don't have such a big retail market in downtown. Yes Retail space is needed, we need more retail stores, we also need to offset Google which I don't have a problem with. I have read about certain building being purchased, I think Google has purchased enough buildings, they seem to be growing away from Mountain View while here it will be Home Office.

Like this comment
Posted by Doris
a resident of North Whisman
on Jul 10, 2012 at 12:19 pm

Maybe its time to move to Campbell or Willow Glen, if Mountain View keeps modernizing its old-time charm away. Do Google employees really commute from San Francisco only because Mountain View lacks modern multi-story structures? Or are we selling out a vibrant community to financial interests?

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

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