In its proposed second phase of development at San Antonio Shopping Center, Developer Merlone Geier has offered Mountain View's open-air market an entirely different kind of space.
The nearly 40-year-old Milk Pail market has been offered a modern new building at Pacchetti Way along California Street, near its current location on California Street near San Antonio Road. The more conventional single-story building would be a sort of gateway to the new shopping center and is shown in plans with a large outdoor dining area.
Milk Pail Owner Steve Rasmussen would prefer to stay in his current location, but he only has five parking spaces on his site -- he's relied on a shared parking agreement for years -- and so far Merlone Geier has not offered him any parking in the new center.
"The Milk Pail property I own and it's paid off," Rasmussen said. "I have no debt. One of the things I'm very pleased with is that I save my customers (money). I can sell things for very reasonable prices because I have a very strong control over my cost. I'm very concerned about moving into an extraordinarily expensive environment that is of a different nature than what the Milk Pail has been all these years."
On Tuesday the City Council held a study session on Merlone Geier's proposal to build six new buildings at 405 San Antonio Road on a 9.9-acre parcel now home to Ross and BevMo on California Street, as well as the now-vacant buildings that housed Barron Park Plumbing Supply and the International Halal Market on San Antonio Road.
Council member Ronit Bryant said she wished she could lock Rasmussen and Merlone Geier in a room until they could find a workable solution, but she couldn't. Several council members declined to "take a strong stand and make (the Milk Pail) a community benefit" of the project, as resident Bruce England called for. The council would agreed only that "we really like the Milk Pail and we'd really like them to stay," said Vice Mayor Chris Clark at the end of Tuesday's meeting.
"The quirkiness of it is, we are what we are -- an indoor-outdoor environment," Rasmussen told the city's Environmental Planning Commission recently. "What I said four years ago was that my preference, my hope, would be that I could stay within the existing footprint of what I had and that phase 2 would include me. I had no expectation that phase 2 would become what it has become."
Plans include a 70,000-square-foot movie theater, a 25,000-square-foot plaza, 121,000 square feet of ground floor retail, a six-level garage with 1,480 parking spaces, a 167-room hotel that is seven stories tall and 367,000-square-feet of offices in two, six-story buildings.
All of it would tower over Rasmussen's little market, which is quite popular. "I've heard various people on all sides say they'd like the project to include the Milk Pail. I'd like that too," said environmental planning commissioner Todd Anderson.
Rasmussen has cited concerns in the past that with only five parking spaces his existing location would not have enough parking in the new development -- he currently relies on a soon-to-expire agreement to share parking with soon-to-be-redeveloped Ross and BevMo! lots next to his property. And a parking garage proposed for the redevelopment would be too far away to be convenient, residents said.
"My family and I have been shopping at the Milk Pail Market for 26 years," said resident Alison Hyde. "Steve Rasmussen is the best of what Mountain View has to offer. The poor can afford to buy fresh produce and that is such a rare and wonderful thing. Where is the parking supposed to be? Why are you shafting the community and a good business man!"
Resident Joan McDonald noted how much the developer of 801 El Camino Real, at Castro Street, was working to save several small businesses there, including the Rose Market. There is a "huge contrast between Merlone Geier and the developer looking at changing Castro Street and El Camino Real. We're going to be able to save some local businesses as a result" of that developer's efforts. "That doesn't appear to be happening in phase 2" of Merlone Geier's plan.
"I feel really confident that there is a win-win solution," Bryant said. "I can understand why Steve would not want to move into phase 2. He has five spaces and he needs 22 (to meet city requirements). Even at a cost of $30,000 to $40,000 for each space, that is not a huge amount of money.
Bryant said she knows there would be a win-win solution if the two sides would just sit down and work it out.
"If Milk Pail stays where it is and has a parking agreement with Merlone Geier, I'm sure the Milk Pail will have way more customers because of the office buildings," Bryant said. "I think the solution should be really, really easy. I don't know why we've been stuck for so long."