A controversial downtown office proposal to replace two restaurants in adjacent historic buildings was dealt a severe setback on Tuesday night when City Council member John McAlister announced he was pulling his support.
In surprise announcement at the tail end of the Dec. 5 meeting, McAlister said he would reverse his endorsement for removing the Chez TJ and Tied House buildings from at 938 Villa St. Both sites are recognized by the city as historic resources although preservation efforts were mainly focused on saving the 123-year-old Chez TJ building known as the Weilheimer House.
At a study session Nov. 28, a bare majority of four council members, including McAlister, signaled support for relocating the Chez TJ building and razing the 86-year-old Tied House structure. Replacing those sites for a four-story office building spurred fierce opposition from Old Mountain View residents and other advocates.
Following the meeting, McAlister told the Voice he had a change of heart after talking to people and further considering the debate.
"I was thinking about the importance and the historic value of the property," he said. "I was torn at the time, but after thinking about it, I had to reconsider my decision."
McAlister's change of heart effectively reverses the consensus from last week's study session. He is now siding with Mayor Ken Rosenberg and councilwomen Margaret Abe-Koga and Lisa Matichak in opposing removal of the historic buildings.
What this means for the proposed office development at 938 Villa St. isn't yet clear. The project applicants -- who include the owners of Chez TJ and the Tied House along with the Minkoff Group development firm -- could still bring forward a revised office proposal for the City Council to consider.