Council OKs eminent domain to secure alley rights


On Tuesday night, members of the Mountain View City Council unanimously approved the use of eminent domain to get itself out of a quandary it entered when it unwittingly approved the sale of an alley that was essentially given to a group of landowners in 1904.

In December, the City Council approved the sale of a portion of Washington Alley to Prometheus Real Estate Group, developers of a 184-unit apartment complex on a portion of the alley and the south end of Stierlin Road. That sale was recently foiled when city officials learned that a map dated, September 28, 1904 of the "Mockbee and Weilheimer" additions to Mountain View, granted access rights to the area's streets and alleys to the property owners in the area. The city apparently neglected to remove the rights from Washington Alley when it was done for other streets in the area.

The City Council voted to use eminent domain to buy those access rights from 90 property owners, including 29 absentee owners. An independent real estate appraiser valued the easement rights to be $1,000, or approximately $11.63 per owner. On May 30, the city government sent letters offering $25 to residents willing to cede their easement rights.

Council member John Inks, who voted in favor of using eminent domain, noted at the meeting that he opposed the council's decision in April 2013 to close the Central Expressway on-ramp at the end of Stierlin Road nearby the apartment construction site, and that he usually would be against using eminent domain.

"I would normally be the last person in the city to support this, but eminent domain is the most efficient way to get land that we have been treating as our own," Inks told the Voice prior to the vote.

City officials said they believe using eminent domain will also prevent vehicles from traveling through the vacated portion of Washington Alley, which risks harming bicyclists and pedestrians.

"We want to eliminate any conflicts between the vehicles and bicyclists and pedestrians," City Attorney Jannie Quinn said at the meeting.

An independent contractor concluded that using eminent domain would create no negative economic impact on lot owners along Washington Alley and Stierlin Road. Inks said he doubts that any residents would face detrimental financial consequences.

"If anyone's getting screwed, it's Prometheus because of the delay in construction," he said.


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Posted by Bikes2work
a resident of The Crossings
on Jul 3, 2014 at 12:41 pm

Dear City Council,

Please use the same process for the alleyway between the Caltrain tracks and Bruce Bauer Lumber near San Antonio Circle. This is an important bike/pedestrian link between the high density Del Medio area and the Caltrain station. The path has recently been posted to prohibit entry, even though it has been used by the public for years. It even shows up as a walking route to the train station in Google Maps. For those reasons, I think it is already a prescriptive easement.

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Posted by reader
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 3, 2014 at 1:16 pm

There's a bike/ped path there? I never found it. But I know that it is a extremely important place to have one since there is not good option to get from san antonio station to del media and palo alto (and in reverse) by bicycle. Going on the sidewalks is forced by the traffic, and by the awful design of the city streets there.
This is needed very very badly.

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Posted by reader
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 3, 2014 at 1:17 pm

And to add, the city should put up good signage marking the path well on both sides of it for walkers and bicyclists.

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Posted by Just heard
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jul 3, 2014 at 2:37 pm

Bicycling on streets is bad for your health from all the exhaust fumes and pollutants.

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Posted by implying
a resident of Jackson Park
on Jul 3, 2014 at 2:59 pm

City council is exaggerating in implying that the alley is used a lot by vehicles & putting pedestrians & bicyclist in danger. The only vehicles that travel down Washington Alley are the ones belonging to the residents who’s garages are on the alley. I have on many occasions ridden & walked on this street w/no issues. It’s generally empty & when there is a car coming they are usually travelling slowly as they are getting ready to pull into their garage. Bicyclists don’t use this alley since there isn’t direct access to shoreline, when I see bicyclists turn down this alley they usually turn right around & go down Stierlin as again, it does not feed into any of the main streets. The only regular bicyclists & pedestrians that use this alley are those that live in the immediate area, like Washington Street, etc.

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Posted by Jeff
a resident of another community
on Jul 3, 2014 at 4:15 pm

@implying is on target. It is hard to imagine anyone wanting to use the alley except those whose property backs up to it. They can will no longer be able to use Stierlin and will have to take a residential street over to Elmwood. They lose, Prometheus wins ...

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Posted by Waiting4Congestion
a resident of Jackson Park
on Jul 7, 2014 at 11:58 am

This story, unfortunately, is missing some key information: Prometheus plans to add more apartments and people to the neighborhood and will closing down the on-ramp to Central Expressway from this street. The city has conceded there is a traffic problem on Moffett Blvd and will (hopefully) make an additional lane for turning onto Central in an attempt to alleviate the current problem. We now hear there will be parking permits issued to the neighborhood due to the congestion that is anticipated due to people wanting to take Light Rail/CalTrain to the new Levi's Stadium. This leaves the residents to believe the traffic problems will only get worse, not better in the future. Hmmm...I wonder why the residents oppose closing down one additional exit of getting out of the neighborhood. Maybe it was the $11 joke we were sent?

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