News

Council green-lights 1,600 homes

Four gatekeeper projects approved despite short staff, growing backlog

Hoping to keep residential growth in Mountain View moving at a brisk pace, the City Council gave initial approval for proposals to build more than 1,600 new housing units, despite city staff's concerns about being overwhelmed by development projects.

The approvals came on Tuesday night as part of a review of eight projects needing so-called gatekeeper approval. Gatekeeper projects are development proposals that require exemptions to the city's general plan or zoning rules, such as an apartment complex being built on industrial-zoned land.

Staff members warned elected leaders they couldn't handle processing all of the projects due to a shortage of seasoned planners and other key personnel. The lack of staff is particularly pronounced in the city's Community Development Department, which is down by six positions, or about 20 percent, including crucial ones such as the zoning administrator, chief building official and two senior planners.

Presenting his report to council, Deputy Development Director Terry Blount recommended that the council members reject five of the eight gatekeeper projects due to a lack of staff needed for planning reviews.

"Our ability to take on more work at this time is quite constrained," Blount said. "As we've mentioned numerous times, staff has to be selective on which projects we move forward."

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Out of the eight projects seeking gatekeeper approval, only two had the blessing of staff members. That included a relatively minor seven-home project being proposed for teacher housing at the Mountain View Academy, a private high school. The other project, from the United States Army, is much more ambitious.

Staff indicated they could eventually handle a unique project being proposed by the Army to transform a cluster of military townhouses at 500 Moffett Blvd. from military housing into a much denser apartment community with as many as 1,143 units open to the public. That project is being proposed for a unincorporated parcel not within the city's boundaries that would need to be eventually annexed.

"I want to reiterate the Army is 100 percent committed here," said Paul Cramer, department assistant secretary of the U.S. Army. "We have a budget and we think there's great value for the city and the Army in this project."

Blount said his team wouldn't be able to start reviewing the Army's project until next summer.

He recommended the city defer other projects, which totaled more than 500 homes as well as some office expansion. The projects included: a 224-unit apartment complex at 1700 Villa St. proposed by Prometheus; a 261-unit apartment project at 1001 N. Shoreline Rd. from Calvano Development; and a 429,000-square-foot office expansion and parking garage requested by the Symantec Corporation. Just before the meeting, Mountain View planning officials learned one project had been rescinded. Fortbay LLC of Los Gatos had originally pitched a 563-unit apartment complex for 777 West Middlefield Road, but decided not to pursue that plan. An earlier version of that project with fewer homes had already been approved by city officials, and staff said that earlier iteration would be processed.

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Council members made it clear they wanted to find some way to get more projects in the pipeline. As the council asked about the expected workload for the coming year, Blount and Community Development Director Randy Tsuda said they may be able to start "one or two" projects in September, assuming they filled all the vacant positions. That gave the council an opening to add to the workload.

Councilman Mike Kasperzak proposed adding two more, for a total of four: the Prometheus Villa Street and Calvano's North Shoreline projects, putting them at the end of a queue that staff could tackle when they had more capacity.

The four projects were approved in a unanimous vote at the Dec. 8 meeting.

"I do have concerns about future council meetings where the (queue) is a mile long," Kasperzak said. "But I don't like people having to come back for gatekeepers -- it wastes time to have them coming back."

Council members had considered cramming all seven projects into the queue, but City Manager Dan Rich cautioned them to limit themselves to four.

"We're a long ways away and a lot can happen here," Rich said. "I don't want to give false hopes to anybody."

As part of the gatekeeper approval, council members also signaled they wanted a higher ratio of affordable units to be added to new housing developments, especially in cases where existing homes needed to be demolished to make way for new construction.

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Council green-lights 1,600 homes

Four gatekeeper projects approved despite short staff, growing backlog

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Thu, Dec 10, 2015, 12:36 pm

Hoping to keep residential growth in Mountain View moving at a brisk pace, the City Council gave initial approval for proposals to build more than 1,600 new housing units, despite city staff's concerns about being overwhelmed by development projects.

The approvals came on Tuesday night as part of a review of eight projects needing so-called gatekeeper approval. Gatekeeper projects are development proposals that require exemptions to the city's general plan or zoning rules, such as an apartment complex being built on industrial-zoned land.

Staff members warned elected leaders they couldn't handle processing all of the projects due to a shortage of seasoned planners and other key personnel. The lack of staff is particularly pronounced in the city's Community Development Department, which is down by six positions, or about 20 percent, including crucial ones such as the zoning administrator, chief building official and two senior planners.

Presenting his report to council, Deputy Development Director Terry Blount recommended that the council members reject five of the eight gatekeeper projects due to a lack of staff needed for planning reviews.

"Our ability to take on more work at this time is quite constrained," Blount said. "As we've mentioned numerous times, staff has to be selective on which projects we move forward."

Out of the eight projects seeking gatekeeper approval, only two had the blessing of staff members. That included a relatively minor seven-home project being proposed for teacher housing at the Mountain View Academy, a private high school. The other project, from the United States Army, is much more ambitious.

Staff indicated they could eventually handle a unique project being proposed by the Army to transform a cluster of military townhouses at 500 Moffett Blvd. from military housing into a much denser apartment community with as many as 1,143 units open to the public. That project is being proposed for a unincorporated parcel not within the city's boundaries that would need to be eventually annexed.

"I want to reiterate the Army is 100 percent committed here," said Paul Cramer, department assistant secretary of the U.S. Army. "We have a budget and we think there's great value for the city and the Army in this project."

Blount said his team wouldn't be able to start reviewing the Army's project until next summer.

He recommended the city defer other projects, which totaled more than 500 homes as well as some office expansion. The projects included: a 224-unit apartment complex at 1700 Villa St. proposed by Prometheus; a 261-unit apartment project at 1001 N. Shoreline Rd. from Calvano Development; and a 429,000-square-foot office expansion and parking garage requested by the Symantec Corporation. Just before the meeting, Mountain View planning officials learned one project had been rescinded. Fortbay LLC of Los Gatos had originally pitched a 563-unit apartment complex for 777 West Middlefield Road, but decided not to pursue that plan. An earlier version of that project with fewer homes had already been approved by city officials, and staff said that earlier iteration would be processed.

Council members made it clear they wanted to find some way to get more projects in the pipeline. As the council asked about the expected workload for the coming year, Blount and Community Development Director Randy Tsuda said they may be able to start "one or two" projects in September, assuming they filled all the vacant positions. That gave the council an opening to add to the workload.

Councilman Mike Kasperzak proposed adding two more, for a total of four: the Prometheus Villa Street and Calvano's North Shoreline projects, putting them at the end of a queue that staff could tackle when they had more capacity.

The four projects were approved in a unanimous vote at the Dec. 8 meeting.

"I do have concerns about future council meetings where the (queue) is a mile long," Kasperzak said. "But I don't like people having to come back for gatekeepers -- it wastes time to have them coming back."

Council members had considered cramming all seven projects into the queue, but City Manager Dan Rich cautioned them to limit themselves to four.

"We're a long ways away and a lot can happen here," Rich said. "I don't want to give false hopes to anybody."

As part of the gatekeeper approval, council members also signaled they wanted a higher ratio of affordable units to be added to new housing developments, especially in cases where existing homes needed to be demolished to make way for new construction.

Comments

Sandy S
North Whisman
on Dec 10, 2015 at 2:21 pm
Sandy S, North Whisman
on Dec 10, 2015 at 2:21 pm
69 people like this

What about city services and traffic planning for these projects? Services and traffic are already very dense in Mountain View. When do we does the city stop building?


Rick
Martens-Carmelita
on Dec 10, 2015 at 2:42 pm
Rick, Martens-Carmelita
on Dec 10, 2015 at 2:42 pm
30 people like this

Why is the Council so adamant about development,especially in light of the Staff warnings about the workload. Why request Staff opinion if Council is not going to heed their warnings? This could lead to cutting corners in the planning and permitting process, neither of which is good for current residents. Quality of life is deteriorating in Mountain View and rapid development will only make it worse.


OldMV
Old Mountain View
on Dec 10, 2015 at 2:49 pm
OldMV, Old Mountain View
on Dec 10, 2015 at 2:49 pm
32 people like this

Our Planning Commission, the City Council, and local pro-business and corporate interests are hell bent upon sacrificing Mountain View and its residents upon the fairy-tale alter of high density "affordable housing". Affordable housing is a bogus and highly damaging scam dreamed by starry-eyed idealists who have no concept real-world market based economics.


Hmm
Monta Loma
on Dec 10, 2015 at 2:49 pm
Hmm, Monta Loma
on Dec 10, 2015 at 2:49 pm
12 people like this

Come on folks, the developers need to make big money and the city wants more money from all the folks they bring in. Just from the parcel taxes for each home, the city could pave the streets with some google gold.


GDM
Blossom Valley
on Dec 10, 2015 at 2:55 pm
GDM, Blossom Valley
on Dec 10, 2015 at 2:55 pm
28 people like this

This is what happens when you elect 3 people to Council who state that we need more housing. They are trying to create a glut of housing and we may well end up with a great number of poorly built properties that deteriorate and that attract crime. This will create a need for more police and we will ultimately be in the situation that San Jose is in where they can't afford to fill the pot holes in the street.


Traffic
Cuernavaca
on Dec 10, 2015 at 3:29 pm
Traffic, Cuernavaca
on Dec 10, 2015 at 3:29 pm
43 people like this

What substantive steps has this council taken to address traffic and congestion? NOTHING! Nothing now; nothing in the works. Not a peep. Let's see...

- Voted to close a lane on El Camino. (No, that's not going to help)
- Discussed road diets. (No, that's not going to help)
- Considered additional traffic lights. (No, that's not going to help)
- Approved more housing on El Camino & San Antonio. (No, that's not going to help)
- Started a City Shuttle. (Ooops, Google did that).

Before approving any more housing (or commercial for that matter), Our council needs to have substantive discussions leading to concrete short and long term actions that will address traffic and congestion.


Jim Cochran
Monta Loma
on Dec 10, 2015 at 4:23 pm
Jim Cochran, Monta Loma
on Dec 10, 2015 at 4:23 pm
15 people like this

I think the city is being well run and the Council is trying to do what is right for our city.
You can't blame the Council if they are not doing what you want. We elected three residents to represent us and they want to see more housing here, at least partially because our rents are so high which causes too many to move away. They feel that providing more housing is part of the answer.
Council members are on a small salary and never profit from a development here.
Anyone that feels they can do better can plan on running in the next election.


Homeowner
Stierlin Estates
on Dec 10, 2015 at 4:31 pm
Homeowner, Stierlin Estates
on Dec 10, 2015 at 4:31 pm
34 people like this

It's about time the council listens to the residents around these high density projects along Middlefield and Shoreline. 1100 plus units on the corner of Moffet and Middlefield is unreal. How about a traffic study that really studies the impact. If you think that the renters of the units don't drive, think again. And all the other services that are needed, including grocery shopping. You don't walk to the store. We need to put a stop to this madness. This city needs more homeowners, we have enough rental units. Or do we want to live in a city that has a transient population that changed quite often, where homeownership means nothing anymore.


Renter
Rex Manor
on Dec 10, 2015 at 4:54 pm
Renter, Rex Manor
on Dec 10, 2015 at 4:54 pm
17 people like this

We moved here in 2010 planning to rent for one year while we got to know the city, and then buy a modest three-bedroom (we would have been able to afford ~$750K). In that first year, housing prices rose so steeply we were priced out, so we renewed our lease and vowed to keep saving.

Each year since, prices have gone up so much that our efforts to save simply don't leave us with enough for a down payment - not near enough at this point, as most 3BRs seem to be going for at least $1.2M. (For those keeping track, that means we'd have had to save $90,000 over 5 years - and after our student loan payments, child care, and rent, we can generally put away about $1,000/month, which, clearly, won't do the trick.)

I love our life in Mountain View, and I resent the implication that my family and I represent a "transient population" who don't contribute to the community here. I very much want to be a homeowner, but the market simply won't allow it at this point in time - and that will be the case until housing prices go down (or at least stabilize), or we come into some sort of unexpected windfall. I can't help but assume that there are many other renters out there in the exact same boat.

(Oh, and for the record, I do walk or bike to the grocery store quite regularly.)


Albert J
Stierlin Estates
on Dec 10, 2015 at 4:55 pm
Albert J, Stierlin Estates
on Dec 10, 2015 at 4:55 pm
13 people like this

More people is more people. It doesn't matter if it's high end or affordable housing, if you don't upgrade the infrastructure, the quality of life suffers. BTW, I live close to a subsidized housing project on San Veron Ave. and it's not the kind of thing you want in your backyard. The city council should think more about what's in the best interests of current Mountain View residents.


George
Rex Manor
on Dec 10, 2015 at 5:38 pm
George, Rex Manor
on Dec 10, 2015 at 5:38 pm
27 people like this

PLEASE...take the time toREAD. "Agenda 21",,,
You will see the path toward total Govt. control of our live...usually sold under the guise of Helping" solve a perceived problem...but in reality...more govt control.
PLEASE...read the book..Wake up Mtn. View. It begins local.
Bye George


Gladys
Old Mountain View
on Dec 10, 2015 at 8:36 pm
Gladys , Old Mountain View
on Dec 10, 2015 at 8:36 pm
34 people like this

I do not know about you, but I am absolutely fed up with all these new housing units being planned and being built. We do not have an housing imbalance, we have a renters to home owners imbalance. The city is approving almost 20,000 new rental units for our city which means we will have about 75% renters to home owners.

I do not want this city to turn into San Francisco where renters alone will dictate who gets elected and sets the agenda for the city. I moved out from S.F 35 years ago, I know where this is headed. You all ready see council members Seigel and Showater pushing for control over what property owners can do with their property. We must vote them out and make sure the next 2 council seats are filled with the professional people who care about the whole city the way the previous council did for the past 30 years, and who do not take away any rights from any one.

We need to pass a referendum that states that the total rental units and owner units must be balanced at 50% each.

To help address the affordable housing issue, the city must change it's condo ordinance to allow Tenants in Common buildings, aka TIC's, and allow existing older apartment buildings to sell individual units as condo's. If people currently live in them now, there is no reason that they could not be sold without a lot of expensive upgrades to meet current codes. Let's keep them as affordable as possible.

These TIC's and Condo conversations will be truly the very best first step for many people to buy their place and start to build equity so that they can move up the real estate ladder sooner.


Practical
Cuesta Park
on Dec 10, 2015 at 9:39 pm
Practical, Cuesta Park
on Dec 10, 2015 at 9:39 pm
3 people like this

We need more housing - but even more important, we need to reduce commercial development, and Google and LinkedIn adding 100s or 1000s of new employees here. The big problem is too much office space and development, which increases traffic and drives demand for lots of new housing.

It is too late to change the office plans, but maybe not too late to start taking companies with more than 300 employees in Mountain View. Make the tax high enough and we can afford a world class transport system in the city (not that joke of a Google bus), AND we might get Google, LinkedIn, etc to do the responsible thing and distribute their employee centers throughout the Bay area (ideally with a very high percentage telecommuting)


Homeowner
Stierlin Estates
on Dec 10, 2015 at 9:41 pm
Homeowner, Stierlin Estates
on Dec 10, 2015 at 9:41 pm
7 people like this

Gladys,
In 1980, 81 we had a problem with too many rentals and during that time the council allowed a lot of apartment to condo conversion. By the way Mr Siegel was fighting for rent control at that time. It didn't pass. Economy goes up and down and we sure don't want a 1000 units to turn into slums. We need to have control to higher density. Isn't it interesting that all high density seems to go up north of the tracks. By the way the city is asking owners around Linda Vista if they should install speed bumps on Linda Vista to prevent driver doing shortcuts to Terra Bella and Shoreline. This has been a problem for years on a street with a 25 mile speed limit.


Rossta
Registered user
Waverly Park
on Dec 10, 2015 at 9:41 pm
Rossta, Waverly Park
Registered user
on Dec 10, 2015 at 9:41 pm
16 people like this

The "Gate Keeper" projects are taken WAY too lightly. How does a city manage to have the many low revenue services like a theater, bowling alley or hardware store that make a city a good place to live when there are companies like Google operating on a whole different stratosphere and houses selling for well over a million dollars?

If all things were equal, we wouldn't have any of those things that make living here good. That has been true for ages and is why we have ZONING and a general plan. These make sure there is a balance of land uses to create a good city. Zoning makes some land less valuable than other land by restricting the uses - which preserves important parts of our community.

So, these GateKeeper projects give me fits.
1) They are a give away to developers because they usually are taking land with restrictions that has a low value and then allows a new use that previous owners were denied - a windfall for the developer! Like finding gold buried under your land.
2) They disrupt the balance of our community. We used to have 2 bowling alleys quite nearby, as an example. Pretty cheap entertainment and a good hangout for kids, especially during summer. They are high density housing now - netting millions for the new owners. The kids are now in gangs - what else is there for kids to do?
3) Enough has already been said about increasing the density and impact on traffic.
4) Housing prices? If you doubled the number of houses in MtView it would have almost no impact on prices here - it would just pull in more from the surrounding area. You would see the impact at the edges - maybe in Tracy and Modesto. We are not an island and the jobs/housing balance doesn't happen within our borders.


the_punnisher
Registered user
Whisman Station
on Dec 11, 2015 at 8:02 am
the_punnisher, Whisman Station
Registered user
on Dec 11, 2015 at 8:02 am
6 people like this

The Army Corps of Engineers is not about to build shoddy examples of housing. Since it is your Federal Taxes at Work, you are getting back some of those taxes in the form of housing. AFFORDABLE housing. The only people who lose are the developers, who should be told to find some other sucker to peddle their snake oil to.
With that issue settled, the pro-developer faction of the City Council will have to resign or serve the public.

A win-win for Mountain View!


Old Ben
another community
on Dec 11, 2015 at 8:20 am
Old Ben, another community
on Dec 11, 2015 at 8:20 am
9 people like this

You folks sure are paying a lot of money to get cancer in a toxic waste dump. What's the appeal there?


Council watcher
Old Mountain View
on Dec 11, 2015 at 8:36 am
Council watcher, Old Mountain View
on Dec 11, 2015 at 8:36 am
5 people like this

@punnisher - About the 500 Moffett project (1100 units) - I wish you were right, but my impression is that the Army will not be involved in this project, except in divesting itself of the land. Instead, "California Military Communities LLC" will obtain rezoning and preliminary approval, then sell the rights and the land to a private developer. So it looks more like business-as-usual.

Mark Noack, author of the article, left this comment on another thread: "Once the entitlements are in hand, the U.S. Army and its partners plan to sell off the land to a private developer."

I'm certainly hoping for affordable housing here, but don't hold your breath. In addition, I am hoping for some park space, considerably less density than recent Prometheus projects, and ownership units available for purchase, rather than just more of those "luxury" rentals.

If anyone has better information, please let us know.


Renter
Rex Manor
on Dec 11, 2015 at 9:09 am
Renter, Rex Manor
on Dec 11, 2015 at 9:09 am
5 people like this

Gladys, I would welcome the opportunity to purchase a converted apartment or a TIC, assuming it was within my price range (currently, we could swing about $1M) - but I fear that the spiraling prices and competitive bidding would continue to leave me (and many other renters) in the cold, even if this step was taken.


Joe Blough
Blossom Valley
on Dec 11, 2015 at 9:15 am
Joe Blough, Blossom Valley
on Dec 11, 2015 at 9:15 am
9 people like this

"You folks sure are paying a lot of money to get cancer in a toxic waste dump. What's the appeal there?"

You not being here is a big one. You sure are bitter towards Mtn. View. Maybe it's time to move on mentally as well.


Gladys
Old Mountain View
on Dec 11, 2015 at 10:04 am
Gladys, Old Mountain View
on Dec 11, 2015 at 10:04 am
18 people like this

@Renter,

I understand where you are coming from.
Converted apartments to Condo"s and TIC's are the most affordable option for first time homeowners. It allows you to start to build equity right away, and then allows you to move up the property ladder much sooner than if you would be paying rent and trying to save up for a larger down payment.
Start spreading this thought around to your friends, then pressure the city council to change the condo conversion ordinance. Remember, to keep it affordable the city can not require it be brought up to city code, then it won't happen. If it is good enough for people to live in it, then it should be good enough for some people to own it.

@Homeowner,

I remember the 1980's. There was such a flood of empty apartments in the city that some landlords did not care who they rented to and we then had the Nortino's and Sureno's gangs move here and it was not long after that we had our first drive by shooting here. The city for the longest time would not admit that there was a gang problem but eventually the police had to form the gang unit. I do not want that problem here again.

VOTE OUT SEIGEL-SHOWATER-ROSENBERG

Never vote for the candidates that the Mtn.View Voice endorses.


Rick Foster
Willowgate
on Dec 11, 2015 at 12:24 pm
Rick Foster, Willowgate
on Dec 11, 2015 at 12:24 pm
5 people like this

The land at 500 Moffett Blvd. is not a toxic waste site.


500 Middlefield Road
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Dec 12, 2015 at 10:08 pm
500 Middlefield Road, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Dec 12, 2015 at 10:08 pm
3 people like this

It was once an antenna array, just wires up in the air.


Jim White
Willowgate
on Dec 13, 2015 at 3:48 pm
Jim White, Willowgate
on Dec 13, 2015 at 3:48 pm
3 people like this

The last city council got dumped for blocking housing development. They built a staff to block housing development which is carrying on that policy. The staff will get dumped too if they keep this up.


Council watcher
Old Mountain View
on Dec 13, 2015 at 10:20 pm
Council watcher, Old Mountain View
on Dec 13, 2015 at 10:20 pm
3 people like this

@Jim, I don't think that's quite right. No one in the last city council was running for reelection, so no one actually got dumped. In addition, the last council was quite development-friendly, the one exception being that a majority did not want housing in North Bayshore. Granted, it's true that the 3 candidates who were elected ran on a platform of accelerated development, especially in North Bayshore. True also that two of them had the help of $90,000 in campaign money from developers, routed through a shell organization to conceal the source of the funds.

It's not a bit true that Planning is anti-development. On the contrary, staff has been very accommodating to developers, worked closely with them, and given them pretty much anything they wanted, including making recommendations to council that prioritized developers' interests over residents' concerns. This has been going on for years.

I absolutely believe that any delay in processing gatekeeper projects is due solely to shortage of staff. Staff has rarely stood in the way of a major project in the last few years. You are very much mistaken about their mindset.


New Parent
Rex Manor
on Dec 14, 2015 at 12:23 pm
New Parent, Rex Manor
on Dec 14, 2015 at 12:23 pm
19 people like this

Mountain View needs affordable housing for the first time home buyers, not for the renters. Home owners will help build a stronger community because they invest so much more (aka: their life saving, their kids future) in Mountain View than renters. We need to help first time home owners, not developers or business-men who cut checks to help councils to win votes in exchange for making them more money.

Lots of renters are good people, and those good people come and go. I don’t see how a good neighborhood can be formed in a long run. In an economic down-turn, many renters will not stay with Mountain View. The neighborhood turns into slum when there are too many vacancies, and those vacant units will be filled with less credit worthy people. Whatever happens to Mountain View will not be those renters’ problem. For those who stay in Mountain View long enough, they should have seen that happened.

Council members represent renters and the deep-pocket guys, they are doing their job. The council members should not be the one to be blamed. As homeowner, we are failing because we let it happen.


Renter
Rex Manor
on Dec 14, 2015 at 1:07 pm
Renter, Rex Manor
on Dec 14, 2015 at 1:07 pm
5 people like this

New Parent, I completely agree! I have looked into first-time homebuyer programs, and find that my family makes far too much money to qualify for any of them... which would be totally reasonable in a town where a small home could be bought for 3K or 4K. As I stated above, despite our somewhat high salaries (they'd be considered very high in many other parts of the country, I know), we simply can't save enough to make home-buying a reality. If the city of Mountain View put together a program to offer us some sort of assistance with the down payment, we would jump at it!


Renter
Rex Manor
on Dec 14, 2015 at 1:07 pm
Renter, Rex Manor
on Dec 14, 2015 at 1:07 pm
3 people like this

Sorry, clearly I meant 300K or 400K!


Homeowner
Stierlin Estates
on Dec 14, 2015 at 8:59 pm
Homeowner, Stierlin Estates
on Dec 14, 2015 at 8:59 pm
4 people like this

Just a comment,
500 Moffet with 1100 units would be 80 units per acre after the current maximum zoning and no space for any internal road, walkways, parking spaces. So it would have to be more units per acre since there have to be roads etc. That sounds too much for any area in Mountain View. If it gets developed, it should be mixed use with homes, condos and rentals at a much lower zoning.
And were is the water coming from and were are the cars going to drive, since all roads around the area are at max capacity.


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