El Camino apartments win council approval

Council dismayed over meager affordable housing

While a 204-unit apartment project off El Camino Real won unanimous support from the Mountain View City Council last week, it became the latest disappointment in the city's push to expand affordable housing through private development.

The project, tucked between the 2200 blocks of El Camino Real and Latham Street, would have only 10 affordable apartments. The developer, Lennar Multifamily Communities, agreed to chip in an extra $2.1 million in housing-impact fees, but council members made it clear they were hoping for much more. In particular, they echoed the need for more subsidized units priced for middle-income households earning around $60,000 annually.

Like many of her colleagues, Councilwoman Margaret Abe-Koga had mixed feelings. She expressed support for the project even as she disparaged it as a "disappointment," and voiced her dismay that the developer wouldn't budge on its housing proposal.

"We're not achieving our (affordable housing) priorities, in my mind. I feel like we're going backwards," she said. "When we're talking about affordable housing, I think we should be looking at more like 15 percent (of a project)."

To be fair, the Lennar team was bringing forward its proposal amid a shifting landscape. Just one day earlier at a goal setting session, the Mountain View council had put new priority on increasing housing for middle-income households, in particular, for adding more for-sale condominiums rather than rental apartments. Council members agreed the city's previous push for subsidized housing had largely helped only low-income households earning less than $50,000 per year.

Under their new goal, council members urged Lennar representatives to add more housing for people earning closer to the median income, about $75,000 per year. These units would need a much smaller subsidy, so city officials figured the developer should be able to add more units.

But Lennar's vice president, Peter Schellinger, said his team couldn't modify its development to meet the council's new demands. City planning staff had previously suggested to his team that elected officials would look favorably on including low-income housing, he said. The project was now too far along to tweak, he said.

"Given where we are in the process, we're not capable of doing that," Schellinger said. "We're at our limit relative to the financial hurdles we have to achieve."

Council members did add some less-onerous requirements on the developer. Councilman Lenny Siegel made it a condition of approval that Lennar must notify all future residents that the site was contaminated with perchloroethylene from a dry cleaning business that had been at the site. Councilman John McAlister sought a similar condition making it so that transit Eco Passes be given out to all residents for five years instead of three.

The development was approved in a 7-0 vote at the Feb. 28 meeting.


26 people like this
Posted by Ken
a resident of Monta Loma
on Mar 10, 2017 at 3:18 pm

So if it's a "disappointment" and "going backwards", then why approve it? This council is ridiculous!

21 people like this
Posted by let's get real
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 10, 2017 at 3:24 pm

What is happening to Mountain View! It should be renamed Mountain Views Blocked. It's so sad to see the greed ooze. Developers, please go to Atherton!!

20 people like this
Posted by Steve
a resident of Monta Loma
on Mar 10, 2017 at 3:31 pm

It was unanimous? So what message does that send to the developers? That they can pay their way out of providing affordable housing? I think secretly the Council likes these expensive developments--they pour tons of tax dollars into the city. The problem is that the pay out method pushes the problem on someone else. Money is not the only thing that can create affordable housing--there has to be enough money to create it and space to make it, neither of which we have much of. I'm not saying the developers should be required to provide a substantial amount of below market rent housing, but there should be some magic number (even 15% sounds low, but it might be the best we can get) that the developers must provide, with no pay outs to avoid it.

13 people like this
Posted by Seriously
a resident of Martens-Carmelita
on Mar 10, 2017 at 6:04 pm

By looking online, it appears that many of the newer "luxury" apartment developments - Montrose, Madera, Naya in Sunnyvale, etc. have plenty of available units. Some are even offering move-in incentives. By the time all the newly approved apartment buildings are completed, "below market" rents may be a moot point.

1 person likes this
Posted by Fact Checker
a resident of another community
on Mar 11, 2017 at 7:33 am

According to Bay Ares Census the median income in Mountain View was $88,244 in 2010.

Web Link

7 people like this
Posted by MyOpinion
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Mar 11, 2017 at 9:12 am

@let's get real... Developers don't 'develop' in Atheron, they live there. They certainly would not live in high density Mountain View. Another example, the huge hole in the ground surrounding 100+ year old St Joseph's church (downtown). Sobrato cut a deal with the Diocese,the parish gets very little of out the 'deal'. Billionaires cutting deals, that is what it is all about. Mountain View's suburban character has been completely destroyed, and there is no turning back. I wish we bought in Los Altos or Los Gatos years ago when we could have afforded it.

A downturn is inevitable, and when it happens it is not going to be pretty.

Like this comment
Posted by YIMBY
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Mar 15, 2017 at 2:10 am

I can't imagine the level of zen I'd have to achieve in life to care about "mountain views" being blocked from my house, especially during a housing crunch where these high-density housing developments are sorely needed.

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

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