The Mountain View City Council gave final approval on Tuesday to what may be the largest housing project in the city's history. The colossal development at 777 W. Middlefield Road is slated to include 711 new apartments, including 144 affordable units for local teachers and city workers.
The project by the Los Gatos firm FortBay was approved in a 6-0 vote with Councilman John McAlister recused.
The development has been a long time coming -- it was originally submitted more than four years ago under a different plan by a different owner. In that time, the project has been heavily modified amid concerns about tenant displacement, traffic and parking.
But city officials say the project has greatly improved over that time. They showered praise on the project for carving out 120 units for teachers and other employees at the Mountain View Whisman School District.
"I don't think people understand what a big deal this is," said Councilwoman Margaret Abe-Koga. "One hundred forty-four units is a lot, and to be able to offer it for school staff is quite an accomplishment."
For the most part, the general public will be excluded from this affordable housing. About 20 of the planned units will be reserved for Mountain View city employees, while the rest will go to school staff. Any remaining will be given to displaced tenants from the Village Lake Apartments -- which currently occupies the site -- or to other government employees.
That arrangement stems from [ https://www.mv-voice.com/news/2018/10/24/council-greenlights-716-apartments-teacher-housing a deal between the city and Mountain View Whisman officials to prevent development at Cooper Park, a 9.5-acre area of open space in the Waverly Park neighborhood. As the owner of the park, the school district was originally planning to develop the site as affordable housing for its teachers, but the idea sparked a fierce backlash among neighbors.
To save the parkland, the city agreed to have the Mountain View Whisman district piggyback on the 777 W. Middlefield project. School district officials paid $56 million to FortBay to acquire the 144 units of subsidized housing, with the idea that they would recoup this sum by collecting rent.
Public speakers and the City Council largely praised the deal. Most of the criticism of the development was aimed at its impact on the surrounding neighborhoods. As in past meetings, neighbors provided video footage and analysis of nearby traffic congestion to show how the project would make a bad situation even worse along Shoreline Boulevard and Middlefield Road. When built, the project is expected to generate more than 2,100 additional vehicle trips, but the city's environmental impact report found that this would not significantly degrade the "level of service" of nearby streets.
The housing development would include a parking garage with about 870 spaces, but many nearby homeowners feared the project would deplete their nearby street parking.
Despite its flaws, the City Council threw its support behind the project, calling it a landmark development.
"This project isn't perfect, but overall it sets a precedent in terms of what we're doing with affordable housing and partnering with the school district," said Councilman Chris Clark. "If things were changing so dramatically for the worse, then folks' home values wouldn't be going up by double percentage points by the year."