Council members voted against any possibility of redeveloping a lush, 1.22-acre piece of property on Rengstorff Avenue Tuesday, deciding instead to preserve its numerous fruit trees in a unique park.
Council member Ronit Bryant called the park-to-be, which sits in the middle of a neighborhood that is notable for lacking parks -- "a gift for the entire city."
"I see it as a green oasis, a place of respite for the neighborhood," Bryant said at the Sept. 24 meeting. "I would like to leave it, as much as possible, as-is."
Council members agreed, voting 6-1 to preserve the trees on the site and not pursue the possibility to build anything there, including an option to build affordable senior housing on half of the site. Mayor John Inks was opposed.
In June the city closed escrow on the $3 million property, purchased from its longtime owner, Frances Stieper, who will continue to live there until November. It has 145 trees -- many bearing fruit -- numerous beehives. The home that Stieper and her husband built over 60 years ago is said to now be in too poor a condition to be saved.
The council had previously decided to place the city's tiny, historic "Immigrant House" on the site after it is restored, an idea championed by Marina Marinovich, whose grandparents once lived in the 1880s home at 160 Bryant Street after arriving in this country.
"We should stay the course and turn this into a beautiful park," Marinovich said. "It's such a jewel for Mountain View. I think it will be a wonderful place for the Immigrant House."
Members also considered having a community garden on the site, but there was disagreement over whether there should be garden plots for individuals on the city's waiting list or if there should be a "demonstration garden" which anyone could be involved in.
Kavita Dave Coombe spoke for a group advocating for a demonstration garden somewhere in the city, possibly at the Stieper property or some open lots near downtown on Shoreline Boulevard.
Demonstration gardens "create a sense of belonging for residents," Coombe said. People of all ages and all skill levels learn "sustainable" farming techniques, she said. Residents pointed to examples: Full Circle Farms in Sunnyvale and Veggielution in San Jose, which also provide thousands of pounds of food to low income residents of those cities.
Council member Jac Siegel made the motion that members approved, which was for "100 percent park" on the site, with "passive uses" only, such as benches and walkways, preserving "as much as possible" on the site, including its "character."
There was not support for Siegel's original motion, which would have kept the city from building garden plots for individuals, a type of garden use that Siegel said he was in "violent disagreement" with as it would serve too few people for such an expensive space.
Google executive chef Liv Wu proposed partnering with the city to create a teaching kitchen on the site. "(It) completes the circle about what to do with food and how to cook," Wu said.
Council members didn't embrace Wu's idea Tuesday. Members were also lukewarm to the idea of building formal play structures on the site, with members Margaret Abe-Koga and Siegel saying that it would be a great place for "unstructured play" for kids, like what exists at the Cuesta Annex.
There's also the problem of there being no place for a parking lot.
"The Immigrant House, fine, but plans to bring in busloads of tourists, I don't think so -- unless there are plans to teleport them in from somewhere," Bryant said. "We're a very small city, we have lots of ideas."
It is important, she said, that "we not try to cram too many things in."