A hotel and office development at a crucial highway juncture received a unanimous round of approvals from the Mountain View City Council on Tuesday night, despite some concerns over the project's traffic and environmental impacts.
The site, known as the Moffett Gateway, is located at the interchange of highways 101 and 85. The 10-acre property is partly owned by the city and officials have long envisioned it as a lucrative spot for a commercial lease. In 2014, the city signed an exclusive deal with development firm Broadreach Capital, picking it over a dozen other submissions.
Over multiple iterations, Broadreach's proposal grew to include a 255-room hotel, a six-story parking garage and a separate building with 200,000 square feet of office space. Developing that property wasn't just a bonanza for Broadreach, said Craig Vought, the firm's managing director, at the Oct. 18 council meeting. He pointed out that the city is projected to reap about $4.3 million annually from hotel taxes when the project is open for business. In addition, about 2 acres of the site would be dedicated as a public park, he said.
"This site has been off-limits to the public for about 50 years; our goal tonight is to put this back in use," Vought said. "We'd like to think what we're creating is a terrific gateway to the community. We hope to see this up and running soon."
In approving the project, the City Council signed off on an extensive environmental-impact report (EIR), effectively giving its assurance that the project's benefits would outweigh its impacts. The EIR warned the hotel and offices would create significant, unavoidable traffic impacts along Highway 101 from Moffett Boulevard to Highway 237.
Project planners were particularly eager to highlight a proposed bicycle-and-pedestrian bridge to connect Moffett Gateway to the Stevens Creek Trail. In concept, this bridge would serve as a critical link allowing hotel guests or office workers to easily access the trail and head to downtown or North Bayshore, potentially minimizing the site's traffic demands.
Building that bridge will require approval from Santa Clara Valley Water District officials, who have expressed concerns the project could impact their maintenance costs. But Mountain View city staff members were confident the utility district would eventually grant approval for the bridge.
However, the project's affinity for the Stevens Creek Trail wasn't reciprocated. Trail advocates criticized the project for putting the face of its office building against the trail, while hiding the parkland on the opposite Moffett Boulevard side. Similar concerns had been brought up in previous public meetings.
"Stevens Creek Trail users will have a five-story office building right across the creek from them, looming over them," said Ross Heitkamp, a volunteer with the Friends of Stevens Creek Trail. "One would naturally assume the (open space) should have been placed next to the riparian corridor."
Pointing out that he originally opposed adding offices to the project, Councilman Lenny Siegel said that ultimately the project had been reviewed thoroughly and deserved approval. While the project would bring some new traffic to an already congested area, Siegel said the city was working on bringing light-rail or possibly other transit options through the area.
"We need to solve our traffic problems by building transit, not simply by not building buildings," he said.
The Moffett Gateway project was unanimously approved in a 7-0 vote.