The city of Mountain View is drafting plans for a vibrant, dense hub for the "gateway" into North Bayshore, designed to attract local and visiting residents with a rich mix of housing, offices, a hotel, open space, retail services and a fitness center.
Mountain View City Council members agreed at a Nov. 5 study session that all of the amenities would bring allure to what could eventually become one of the most public and visible components of the city's North Bayshore redevelopment plans. Whether the gateway project will look even remotely like what the council wants, however, is completely up in the air.
The gateway site, about 28 acres west of Shoreline Boulevard and north of Highway 101, has been a major challenge for the city. While it's supposed to be the location of comprehensive redevelopment that include a broad range of uses, two developers -- Google and SyWest -- own portions of the property and have significantly different visions for its future. The two companies conceded in February this year that they could not come up with a way to resolve the differences, leading the City Council to launch its own master plan for the area.
Details of the draft master plan revealed at the meeting include 500,000 square feet of offices, between 1,700 and 2,000 housing units and a mix of retail space, fitness, theater and hotel uses, along with 1.5 to 3 acres of open space. Cramming all those uses in one spot means building heights are tentatively planned to go up to eight stories for commercial buildings (140 feet) and 15 stories for residential buildings (160 feet).
Built into the plan is the assumption that North Bayshore will be a "car-lite" area of the city, encouraging alternative forms of transportation. As such, the master plan will have about 2,800 parking spaces instead of the 4,000 that would be typical in a suburban environment.
Adding to just how aspirational the city's designs are, the draft master plan lays out the ideal locations for offices, residential uses and the theater and fitness retail district, assuming that Google and SyWest will be interested in land swaps and lease deals. SyWest owns 15 acres in the central part of the gateway property, while Google owns chunks along the west, east and southeast corners adding up to 13 acres.
Councilman Lucas Ramirez said he is supportive of the city's vision thus far, but worried that it was unlikely to ever exist.
"I'm not terribly optimistic that the plan will be implemented as we like," he said. "If you have two property owners who have fundamental disagreements about the development of the site, I'm personally not confident that our imposition of a third plan will necessarily make any development more likely."
On the other hand, Ramirez said the city shouldn't design the master plan based on existing property lines between the two companies, which he said could result in a suboptimal design. He said city residents continue to point to the design of the San Antonio shopping center as an example of a poorly designed mixed-use center that he said should be avoided in the future.
"It's embarrassing and painful, I live within 1,000 feet of the quintessential example of bad development in Mountain View. And I don't think we need a second instance of that in North Bayshore."
Councilwoman Margaret Abe-Koga defended the idea of the city stepping in to create a vision for the gateway project, and said the redevelopment of San Antonio -- while not perfect -- was a vast improvement over the old shopping center dominated by Sears and Burger King. Establishing an overarching vision for North Bayshore's gateway can spur development that will ultimately lead to better plans, she argued.
On paper, the draft master plan appears to be profitable for Google and SyWest. A feasibility analysis found that it's going to cost the two companies about $2 billion to fully redevelop the property, which would be a money loser without an adequate amount of office space. Council members agreed that the half-million square feet of office space is enough to ensure companies make enough money for the gateway project to be worth their while.
Though city leaders have been cautious about permitting more office growth in order to maintain a careful jobs-housing balance in North Bayshore, Abe-Koga pointed out that the master plan is a pretty big improvement, and that the previous iteration of the project approved by the council called for 1.4 million square feet of offices on the gateway site.
"We're bringing it down to a third of what was originally approved by the past council to make it something that is more reasonable, manageable and doable on this site," she said.
The council is expected to continue reviewing the master plan into 2020 prior to adoption.