An older cluster of apartments in Mountain View's North Whisman neighborhood will be torn down to build an equivalent number of new rowhouses, a decision the owner blames on the city's rent control law. On Tuesday night, the City Council unanimously approved plans to redevelop the Moffett Manor Apartments, replacing the 56 existing rentals with 58 for-sale homes.
Playing to the council's sympathies at the June 12 meeting, John Hickey of SummerHill Housing Group promised that the new rowhouses would be priced to be affordable for the so-called "missing middle" -- that is, working professionals who normally can't afford home ownership in the area.
In earlier plans sent to the city, he indicated the prices would range as low as $680,000 for a one-bedroom and up to $1.1 million for a three-bedroom home. On Tuesday, he amended that promise slightly, saying the homes would be priced "substantially less than $1.6 million to $1.7 million."
"The key here is our units will be smaller but still very livable and efficient," Hickey said. "The current owner has done a very good job maintaining the site, but the simple fact is these buildings are reaching the end of their lifespan."
Apartments at Moffett Manor were generally considered to be affordable by Mountain View standards, ranging from around $1,850 to $2,400 a month. In 2016 Grant Huberty, the owner of Moffett Manor apartments, had warned he would sell his apartments for redevelopment if the city enacted rent control.
In an email to the Voice, Huberty said the housing at Moffett Manor would have needed to be rebuilt in any event. The apartments were showing their age and they didn't meet current seismic standards or utility demands. It was a choice of upgrading old apartments or building new homes, he said.
"The current rental housing climate in Mountain View had an impact on our decision to not undertake these extensive and expensive renovations," Huberty said. "Whether completely remodeled to today's safety standards or simply redeveloped, the existing tenants would be displaced in either scenario."
A total of 12 tenants from Moffett Manor have applied so far for the city's relocation assistance program, Hickey said. Each qualified tenant will be provided the equivalent of three months of rent and help finding a new apartment in the area.
Some residents made a last-ditch effort to preserve the apartments, describing it as their only housing option in the area.
"For me and my neighbors, this is the only way we're going to be able to remain in Mountain View," said Andre Pena, an IT employee at Apple. "A small net gain of housing for such a disruptive project doesn't seem reasonable."
Mayor Lenny Siegel acknowledged that allowing the redevelopment to go forward would mean the loss of "naturally affordable housing" in Mountain View. But approving it was still the right decision, seeing as how it complied with the city's zoning and other requirements, he said, pointing to hundreds of new apartments being built around town.
"I feel obligated to support this project," he said. "But I urge the developer to think about building housing in the future on sites where there isn't any housing."
As part of the project, SummerHill is expected to pay affordable housing in-lieu fees equivalent to 3 percent of the home sales. Planning staff expect the city to receive around $1.67 million.
The project was unanimously approved by the council in a 6-0 vote. Councilman Ken Rosenberg recused himself due to a potential financial conflict.