Council quiet on North Bayshore housing

With millions of square feet of new office space likely, jobs-housing imbalance getting more extreme

Mountain View City Council members are paving the way for a boom in office development, but they have been oddly silent on the relative scarcity of housing development in the city's future.

As the city's precise plan for the future of the North Bayshore area winds its way toward approval, the addition of several million square feet of office space is highlighting the increasing strain on Mountain View's housing supply and rapidly escalating rents.

Council member Jac Siegel didn't get support from his colleagues for putting such a discussion on the agenda for the March 4 meeting.

"The fact is that in North Bayshore we are proposing 3.4 million square feet of office in the same city a lot of working people are being displaced in large numbers, rapidly," Siegel said to his colleagues. "I'd like some discussion with council about what this is doing to the housing market in our city."

In phone interviews with the Voice, council members had plenty of opinions on the issue. Several expressed the feeling of being in a bind.

"There is an imbalance, there has been one, and it's fascinating to me, frankly," said council member Margaret Abe-Koga. "I try to listen to the community. What's been interesting to me is I hear the community saying that job growth is good. But with job growth comes the pressure to build more housing. Yet the public doesn't want us to be higher density so I don't know how to reconcile that."

"I'm trying to understand better what people really want," she said.

Resident Lenny Siegel (no relation to Jac Siegel) says there is growing interest in his campaign calling for housing in a new planned community in North Bayshore, mixed in with those 3.4 million square feet of offices. And despite significant community support for zoning for 1,100 North Bayshore homes in 2012, Abe-Koga and three other council members successfully opposed it. She said she still opposes the idea, as does fellow members Ronit Bryant and Jac Siegel, despite his stated concern about adequate housing.

They have various alternatives: Councilman Siegel wants to limit office growth and Bryant and Abe-Koga suggested they may support that as well. Bryant says solving the city's housing problem "depends to a great degree" on efforts to subsidize below-market-rate homes; the city has approved fewer than 150 in recent years.

Regional problem

Nearly every council member who spoke to the Voice suggested that other cities need to build more housing for all of Mountain View's jobs. Calls for a "regional" solution were common, though the council cried foul when it was given an F grade years ago for failing to meet a housing quota set by the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG), while cities without so many jobs got higher marks. ABAG is the regional body that looks at big-picture planning issues such as housing and transportation, among other things.

"We don't have even close to having enough for everyone who works here," Siegel said. "It's certainly a good thing to do, but I don't know how you do it." He recalled being told that 10,000 homes were needed to solve the city's housing problem. "You wouldn't want to live here if we did that," Siegel said.

Bryant made controversial comments in 2012 comparing the proposed North Bayshore housing to Chinese factory dorms where workers "do not live happily ever after." She said in an email that part of the reason she opposed 1,100 units of North Bayshore housing was that it wasn't enough to support a community there, causing many more car trips into the city's center.

"It is generally accepted that a neighborhood must have about 5,000 people to make a local grocery store viable," Bryant said. "In other words, the limited number of units proposed would not create a neighborhood capable of supporting retail, a grocery store, a school, the kind of services that our residents expect."

Despite acknowledging that North Bayshore has 580 acres, not including streets, when it comes to finding a place for housing there, Bryant said in an email, North Bayshore "is actually quite small."

Lenny Siegel, who has launched a "campaign for a balanced Mountain View," has said exactly the opposite.

No housing for North Bayshore

In 2012 council members chose against an "increased housing alternative" for the city's general plan that would have allowed its housing stock to grow to 50,870 units by 2030, including an unspecified number of new homes in North Bayshore. Instead, the council-approved plan allows Mountain View's housing stock to grow to 41,129 homes, said planning director Randy Tsuda. The number now sits just above 34,000, while the city's current job count is estimated to be near 70,000, said city planner Martin Alkire.

The environmental impact report for the general plan expiring in 2030 "concluded that the increased housing alternative was an environmentally superior alternative," Tsuda said.

Jac Siegel seemed to disagree with the EIR, citing impacts on traffic within city limits and on wildlife such as the rare burrowing owl at Shoreline Park, potentially hunted by house cats.

"People have pets, like cats, which get out," Siegel said. As a landlord himself, Siegel said making rules against having pets "doesn't work, in my opinion."

Siegel says that homes generate seven car trips a day on average to and from stores, dropping kids off at school and so forth, while office jobs create only two. Tsuda said the traffic issue was more complex than that, because those seven trips could be short if homes were built in North Bayshore, especially if residents are near their jobs and other services. Presumably, they could walk or bike.

Council member John McAlister, who was elected after the council's housing vote, did not respond to multiple requests for comment for this story. Council member Mike Kasperzak was unable to comment for this story, but has supported building housing in North Bayshore in the past.

Mayor Chris Clark supported North Bayshore housing as an environmental planning commissioner in 2012 and says he still supports it.

"My colleagues on council have said no and I have to respect that unless one of them changes their mind," Clark said Monday.

Clark says housing development could only alleviate rent hikes.

"Even if all the new housing is high-end, that means people who can afford to pay really high prices" won't be displacing lower-income residents. In the current state of things, higher-paid workers "are willing to move into some of this lower-quality housing and pay vast sums of money, which drives up rents for everyone."

Clark is a 30-year-old tech executive who says he's watched his friends grow older and grow tired of commuting from San Francisco to their jobs in Mountain View. It has its appeal for a while, but eventually, commuting five days a week seems less appealing than just visiting San Francisco for fun on the weekends, he said.

"It's going to make it much worse, no question about it," Jac Siegel said of the proposed North Bayshore office growth. "When the 3.4 million square feet was picked, it was based on what was estimated the market would require for new office space. Housing wasn't looked at, traffic wasn't looked at, none of that. It's absolutely a significant thing we the council should be having a discussion on."


Like this comment
Posted by Jim Neal
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 14, 2014 at 2:47 pm

Jim Neal is a registered user.

As a candidate, I have been supportive of limited housing in the North Bayshore Area. I would rather see housing there rather than new offices as long as existing businesses are not displaced involuntarily.

I believe that housing would have a lower far than the planned office space, would have at least some effect to lower traffic, and would help the existing retail businesses to survive.

As far as pets, an zero pet ordinance could be put into place that effectively bans pets in this environmentally sensitive area and has stiff financial penalties for property owners if it is violated. This is one of the areas that I believe is a legitimate use of police powers.

Questions such a this are one reason that I believe that the North Bayshore Precise plan should not be finalized this year.

The TMA (Transit Management Authority) is also a vital component to solving the traffic issues that are already near critical mass for that area. Once we see the result of the initial phase of the TMA's solution, I think then and only then should we decide what and where to build and finalize the Precise Plan for that area.

What do you think?

Jim Neal
Candidate, Mountain View City Council
Web Link

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Posted by hmm
a resident of Monta Loma
on Mar 14, 2014 at 4:28 pm

This is nothing but fear mongering, this will not solve anything, just make matters worse.

I'm sorry, but we cannot accommodate all of Detroit previous residents in such a small town as MT. View.

What would make a big difference is widening the freeways, the main arteries for entrance into and out of our town. So the workers can travel safely to their destination where housing is much more available and cheaper.

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Posted by OldTimes
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 14, 2014 at 4:44 pm

I'm sorry, but since when does the government regulate whether people can own a pet?

Let's get our facts straight: There are sufficient safeguards in place already for protecting the nesting burrowing owls (all 7 pairs of them) at Shoreline Park. They are NOT an endangered species. All cats are banned from the Park. In October 2012 the City Council budgeted $791,000 to pay for a wildlife biologist ($115,000) and make improvements ($676,000) to Shoreline Park to make it more habitat-friendly for the burrowing owls. Stray cats are not the reason why the numbers are in decline there -- read the Public Works' Burrowing Owl Preservation Plan.

The Audubon Society (which has the ear of 3 Council members) wants to ban ALL outdoor cats from the entire North Bayshore area, claiming the area is environmentally sensitive. But the area is already developed, and already has housing on it.

We don't need a zero pets policy. We need Councilmembers who are educated about animal issues -- before they make absurd claims fed to them by special-interest groups.

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Posted by Jim Neal
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 14, 2014 at 6:04 pm

Jim Neal is a registered user.

@Hmm &@OldTimes -- You both make very good points. With regard to a pet ban, I know that there are laws against owning non-domesticated animals. The City has also banned things like plastic bags and more recently, styrofoam take out products, in the name of protecting the environment. So why can't they say 'no pets'? I am not saying that I necessarily agree, I am saying that given a reason such as protecting the environment, this then allows for the use of police powers to put a ban in place. These are the types of things that I think people need to pay attention to.

I also do not think that Mountain View should build housing to support every job that is here, but I do think that limited housing in that area is a good idea. I like it better than getting rid of existing successful businesses in the city and better than building yet more office space which will benefit only a few companies and further exacerbate the housing shortage.

I hope that everyone will pay close attention to what is going on and what is being discussed and let the Council and those of us that are candidates know your thoughts. After all, it's your city.

Jim Neal

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Posted by Eve of Destruction
a resident of another community
on Mar 15, 2014 at 4:57 pm

> ‘Nearly every council member who spoke to the Voice suggested that other cities need to build more housing for all of Mountain View's jobs. … [Siegel] recalled being told that 10,000 homes were needed to solve the city's housing problem. "You wouldn't want to live here if we did that," Siegel said.’

Yes, this is a regional problem, but when one city – be it Mountain View or Palo Alto – runs amok building office space and expects other cities to bear the brunt of housing, no one will want to live here.

We’re having a success crisis, exacerbated by ABAG dictating how we should grow our cities and towns, regardless of what residents want. All this “new urbanism” high-density housing is destroying what used to be a great place to live.

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Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Mar 16, 2014 at 11:00 am

10,000 units is way too much, not everyone will want to live in Mountain View, but we do need housing. Housing in North Bayshore does have it shares of problems, and family housing is needed just as much as dorms.

Funny thing is apartments complexes do regulate about pets, I live in place that no pets allowed of any kind. Guess what? People still have pets, cats do get out, and left behind. It is so sad when you have to catch a stray and take it to animal control.

The city spend time and money to have Shoreline as a natural preserve, guess what some animal will be play things for household pets.

We do have plenty of open space around the bay area, the area of south of San Jose might come in handle for a medium to high density city. The state and ABAG might consider the idea of creating cities out of open space,

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Posted by Confused
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 18, 2014 at 1:58 am

Why does it seem like the concerns of renters are a priority? Also, isn't it only developers that really benefit? After all, no one is building low income units?

I'm not the brightest guy in the world, but I know when people are playing a losing game... Buy something at a reasonable price, live in it for a long time and you'll be able to retire almost anywhere else in the US.

Like this comment
Posted by MVResident67
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 18, 2014 at 9:42 am

Ah, but Regis Homes is proposing to build FIVE "very low income" condos on a .89-acre site at 1101 El Camino Real W., which is presently the home of Harv's carwash.

The developer is requesting re-zoning as well an amendment to the city's General Plan in order to reclassify a portion of the land from "Medium Low Density Residential" to Mixed Use Corridor". The developer is also requesting a "density bonus" and numerous additional variances, including a height variance (this is a four story + (maybe) underground parking) as well as "encroachment variance" for all balconies, many of which will "encroach" directly over the single story duplexes directly behind this proposed development, on Park Drive. The developer is also requesting reduced setbacks from El Camino Real and removal of all 9 trees that currently live on the site.

The developer is also planning to provide 84 parking spaces, and no visitor parking.

According to page seven of the staff report:

"In the CRA zoning, the 0.89-acre project site has a maximum density of 38 units. Under State density bonus law, the applicant is requesting a 35 percent density bonus on the 38-unit maximum in exchange for providing 11 percent of the units at the very low-income affordability level, equating to 5 affordable units on-site. In exchange for the affordable units, the developer is permitted 13 more units than otherwise allowed, for a total of 52 units. The applicant is pursuing the maximum density bonus permitted under State law."

...and more...

Requested Project Concessions

The applicant’s requested project concessions include:

1. Increased FAR. Develop the project to a maximum FAR of 1.95, exceeding the CRA District’s maximum allowable residential FAR of 1.35 and the General Plan’s Mixed-Use Corridor maximum FAR of 1.85, for a site not identified as a key location allowing greater FAR.

2. Additional Building Height. Develop the four-story building up to a maximum building height of 55’, exceeding the CRA District maximum of 45’ for residential developments.

Requested Waiver(s) from Development Standards

The applicant has also requested an additional waiver from a development standard to allow balconies to encroach approximately 6.5’ into the required 15’ side setback along the western project edge adjacent to Jiffy Lube. This encroachment applies to all four stories.
Requested Additional Incentive

The applicant is proposing to utilize the parking ratio identified in the State density bonus law of one space per one bedroom and two spaces per two or more bedrooms. This standard is the same as the City’s Model Parking Study for high- density, multi-family residential rental projects. This model parking study ratio has not been applied to an ownership project in the City. While staff has concerns with the use of this parking standard for an ownership project, per the State density bonus law, the applicant can request to utilize it."



Web Link

and READ ALL OF THE STAFF REPORTS AND EXHIBITS. There are numerous reports and exhibits to peruse, but it is WELL WORTH the time in order to gain a better understanding of the full scope of what this developer is requesting.

The meeting to discuss this project proposal is scheduled for WEDNESDAY MARCH 19th, City Hall, Plaza Conference Room @ 7PM. If you have ANY questions or concerns about about this development - and you should - please either write city council at, (and request that she provide a copy of your letter to the mayor and all council members) or attend the meeting and direct your questions/concerns directly to the Environmental Planning Commission members during the time allotted for public comments.

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Posted by MVResident67
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 18, 2014 at 10:35 am

Ironically, I know someone who owns a parcel of land that is almost 12,000 SF (in a large and dense city of nearly 400K residents in the bay area) and this person is not going to be allowed to subdivide that property to allow the building of just ONE additional single family home. The city actually DOWN-ZONED the area. Imagine that, a city actually DOWN-zoning in order to preserve the neighborhood and the quality of life of the current residents...clearly,it CAN be done.

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Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Mar 18, 2014 at 4:45 pm

We have large lots outside of Google, they are talking about Pod cars, building large enough complexes but to huge. Build Pod cars right into complexes or nearby shopping centers.

Extend when needed, would be cheaper then building a new freeway to newly need housing away from Mountain View and Palo Alto.

Like this comment
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 18, 2014 at 7:27 pm

DEVELOPER is a registered user.


Like this comment
Posted by Moffett Resident
a resident of Willowgate
on Mar 19, 2014 at 10:40 pm

MVResident67 - Thanks so much for the above post regarding the proposal for 1101 El Camino. It's kind of amazing, and really disconcerting. I had no idea that there was a state law that would preempt city density limits this way.

It's obvious that we will be seeing more use of this law to jack up the density in future proposals. This just points up the necessity of setting a lower FAR for El Camino in the first place.

The only good thing about this proposal is that it is for ownership housing. MV needs this, rather than more of those $8,000/month "luxury' apartments.

About those "very low-income" units - it's nice, but 5 units isn't much.

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

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