News

Mountain View City Council approves 463-unit housing project in East Whisman

The Mountain View City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to approve a seven-story housing project in the city's East Whisman office park, marking the first major step in transforming the area into an urban mixed-use neighborhood.

The project, located along Middlefield Road east of N. Whisman Road, has been in the works for years, developed alongside the city's plan outlining the overarching vision for the future of East Whisman. The city has held firm that East Whisman must maintain a strict jobs-housing balance, meaning future office development hinge on the housing project's approval.

Council members were quick to praise the proposal by developer SummerHill Homes for incorporating a mix of ownership and rental housing in the 463-unit project. It includes 270 apartments and 157 for-sale condos located in two seven-story buildings, along with a 36 four-story townhouses to the west.

SummerHill's project also stands out in that the affordable units included in the development will be available to both low and middle-income families. It's responding to the city's appetite for options for the so-called missing middle -- those who earn too much for subsidized low-income housing but too little to afford market rate units. Of the 270 apartments, 27 will be available to those making up to 80% of the area's median income, roughly $104,000 for a family of four, while 41 units will be available to families making up to 120% of the median income, nearly $153,000 for a family of four.

Despite its significant height relative to the rest of the city -- topping out at 90 feet in some places -- the housing project complies with the new zoning for East Whisman, making it a sign of things to come in an area marked for rapid redevelopment.

What's local journalism worth to you?

Support Mountain View Online for as little as $5/month.

Join

Though the project won unanimous approval from the council, it wasn't without some misgivings about traffic and lengthy debate over how to spend a total of $4 million in community benefit money from SummerHill. School district officials suggested at the May 5 meeting that much or all of the funding should go to pay for school facilities, noting that a spurt in residential growth in East Whisman would inundate schools with additional students.

"Allocating the full $4 million to the local school districts would enable the families and kids who actually live in the SummerHill development to be the direct recipients of the community development," said Mountain View Whisman School District board member Laura Blakely. "It only seems fair."

School funding has been a thorny issue in Mountain View for years, and remains contentious as the city moves forward with plans for intense residential growth in the North Bayshore and East Whisman neighborhoods. School officials say the state-mandated developer fees to offset the cost of accommodating additional students are paltry at best, and long-term plans to boost the city's housing by as much as 20,000 units threaten to dump the financial burden on schools.

Though the city has mulled the possibility of an overarching school district "strategy," devising a fair plan for extracting fees from developers without killing the financial viability of much-needed housing, that framework doesn't exist yet, complicating the approval of the SummerHill project.

Mountain View Whisman Superintendent Ayinde Rudolph told council members that the city and the two affected school districts -- Mountain View Whisman and the Mountain View-Los Altos High School District -- should all come together to figure out an equitable way to spend the $4 million, with an eye towards prioritizing the money for schools.

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox in our Express newsletter.

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox in our Express newsletter.

"We all need to keep the needs of our community at the forefront of all our minds," Rudolph said.

Mountain View-Los Altos Superintendent Nellie Meyer suggested the council go a step further and postpone the approval of the SummerHill project until the school strategy is put in place. At the very least, she said, the council should avoid earmarking any of the community benefit money for the city's priorities -- including affordable housing, transportation, schools and open space -- until the school districts are accommodated.

Council members ultimately voted on a two-part split of the community benefit funding. Of the $4 million, $1.5 will go towards schools, while another $2.5 million will remain unallocated until the school strategy is fully developed.

Beyond schools, council members wondered just how well the future housing would be served by public transportation in the area. Though the expectation is that residents will use the nearby Middlefield VTA light rail station, Councilwoman Lisa Matichak said the station has low ridership and may not be seen as a viable transit option for the future residents.

"It really is not an effective form of public transportation," Matichak said.

Ideally, some residents won't be boarding public transit at all. Mayor Margaret Abe-Koga said the vision for East Whisman puts homes and jobs right next door to each other, and the expectation is that some of the people living in the SummerHill housing project would be in close proximity to where they work.

"My hope is that by providing residential opportunities in this area, we would reduce the need for people to go outside of Mountain View and be able to walk to their jobs or bike down the street," she said.

Development rights dumped

The SummerHill Homes housing project is unique in the sense that it was designed and went through the city's development pipeline while the blueprint for East Whisman was still in flux, putting it ahead in the queue as developers seek to redevelop the area.

The city granted the developer early access, in part, because SummerHill was part of a larger plan to build a school on the opposite side of town. The Los Altos School District recently purchased $155 million in property at in the San Antonio shopping Center in order to build a new campus, and is relying on developers -- including SummerHill Homes -- to offset the costs.

Through a process known as the transfer of development rights (TDRs), the Los Altos School District will sell the San Antonio property's "unused" square footage entitlements, totaling 610,000 square feet, for $79.3 million. SummerHill formally announced its intent to buy 10,000 square feet for $1.3 million to increase the size of its housing development in East Whisman.

In partnering with the school district, SummerHill was allowed to proceed with its project in 2018. But in a surprise move shortly before seeking approval of the project, SummerHill announced it no longer intended to use its 10,000 square feet of TDRs. SummerHill is permitted to resell the 10,000 square feet to another developer, which it intends to do.

Matichak bristled at the idea, saying this was never the intent of the TDR program. The so-called secondary market for TDRs was intended for developers who ultimately don't move forward with a project proposal, she said. Instead, it's being used as a vehicle for early development access only to be discarded afterward.

Smoothing over those concerns, SummerHill planning director John Hickey said the plan is to sell the TDRs and grant all of the resale money to the Mountain View Whisman and Mountain View-Los Altos school districts. The value of the sale is broadly estimated to generate between $400,000 and $1.3 million.

A front row seat to local high school sports.

Check out our new newsletter, the Playbook.

Follow Mountain View Voice Online on Twitter @mvvoice, Facebook and on Instagram @mvvoice for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

Mountain View City Council approves 463-unit housing project in East Whisman

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Wed, May 6, 2020, 1:36 pm

The Mountain View City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to approve a seven-story housing project in the city's East Whisman office park, marking the first major step in transforming the area into an urban mixed-use neighborhood.

The project, located along Middlefield Road east of N. Whisman Road, has been in the works for years, developed alongside the city's plan outlining the overarching vision for the future of East Whisman. The city has held firm that East Whisman must maintain a strict jobs-housing balance, meaning future office development hinge on the housing project's approval.

Council members were quick to praise the proposal by developer SummerHill Homes for incorporating a mix of ownership and rental housing in the 463-unit project. It includes 270 apartments and 157 for-sale condos located in two seven-story buildings, along with a 36 four-story townhouses to the west.

SummerHill's project also stands out in that the affordable units included in the development will be available to both low and middle-income families. It's responding to the city's appetite for options for the so-called missing middle -- those who earn too much for subsidized low-income housing but too little to afford market rate units. Of the 270 apartments, 27 will be available to those making up to 80% of the area's median income, roughly $104,000 for a family of four, while 41 units will be available to families making up to 120% of the median income, nearly $153,000 for a family of four.

Despite its significant height relative to the rest of the city -- topping out at 90 feet in some places -- the housing project complies with the new zoning for East Whisman, making it a sign of things to come in an area marked for rapid redevelopment.

Though the project won unanimous approval from the council, it wasn't without some misgivings about traffic and lengthy debate over how to spend a total of $4 million in community benefit money from SummerHill. School district officials suggested at the May 5 meeting that much or all of the funding should go to pay for school facilities, noting that a spurt in residential growth in East Whisman would inundate schools with additional students.

"Allocating the full $4 million to the local school districts would enable the families and kids who actually live in the SummerHill development to be the direct recipients of the community development," said Mountain View Whisman School District board member Laura Blakely. "It only seems fair."

School funding has been a thorny issue in Mountain View for years, and remains contentious as the city moves forward with plans for intense residential growth in the North Bayshore and East Whisman neighborhoods. School officials say the state-mandated developer fees to offset the cost of accommodating additional students are paltry at best, and long-term plans to boost the city's housing by as much as 20,000 units threaten to dump the financial burden on schools.

Though the city has mulled the possibility of an overarching school district "strategy," devising a fair plan for extracting fees from developers without killing the financial viability of much-needed housing, that framework doesn't exist yet, complicating the approval of the SummerHill project.

Mountain View Whisman Superintendent Ayinde Rudolph told council members that the city and the two affected school districts -- Mountain View Whisman and the Mountain View-Los Altos High School District -- should all come together to figure out an equitable way to spend the $4 million, with an eye towards prioritizing the money for schools.

"We all need to keep the needs of our community at the forefront of all our minds," Rudolph said.

Mountain View-Los Altos Superintendent Nellie Meyer suggested the council go a step further and postpone the approval of the SummerHill project until the school strategy is put in place. At the very least, she said, the council should avoid earmarking any of the community benefit money for the city's priorities -- including affordable housing, transportation, schools and open space -- until the school districts are accommodated.

Council members ultimately voted on a two-part split of the community benefit funding. Of the $4 million, $1.5 will go towards schools, while another $2.5 million will remain unallocated until the school strategy is fully developed.

Beyond schools, council members wondered just how well the future housing would be served by public transportation in the area. Though the expectation is that residents will use the nearby Middlefield VTA light rail station, Councilwoman Lisa Matichak said the station has low ridership and may not be seen as a viable transit option for the future residents.

"It really is not an effective form of public transportation," Matichak said.

Ideally, some residents won't be boarding public transit at all. Mayor Margaret Abe-Koga said the vision for East Whisman puts homes and jobs right next door to each other, and the expectation is that some of the people living in the SummerHill housing project would be in close proximity to where they work.

"My hope is that by providing residential opportunities in this area, we would reduce the need for people to go outside of Mountain View and be able to walk to their jobs or bike down the street," she said.

Development rights dumped

The SummerHill Homes housing project is unique in the sense that it was designed and went through the city's development pipeline while the blueprint for East Whisman was still in flux, putting it ahead in the queue as developers seek to redevelop the area.

The city granted the developer early access, in part, because SummerHill was part of a larger plan to build a school on the opposite side of town. The Los Altos School District recently purchased $155 million in property at in the San Antonio shopping Center in order to build a new campus, and is relying on developers -- including SummerHill Homes -- to offset the costs.

Through a process known as the transfer of development rights (TDRs), the Los Altos School District will sell the San Antonio property's "unused" square footage entitlements, totaling 610,000 square feet, for $79.3 million. SummerHill formally announced its intent to buy 10,000 square feet for $1.3 million to increase the size of its housing development in East Whisman.

In partnering with the school district, SummerHill was allowed to proceed with its project in 2018. But in a surprise move shortly before seeking approval of the project, SummerHill announced it no longer intended to use its 10,000 square feet of TDRs. SummerHill is permitted to resell the 10,000 square feet to another developer, which it intends to do.

Matichak bristled at the idea, saying this was never the intent of the TDR program. The so-called secondary market for TDRs was intended for developers who ultimately don't move forward with a project proposal, she said. Instead, it's being used as a vehicle for early development access only to be discarded afterward.

Smoothing over those concerns, SummerHill planning director John Hickey said the plan is to sell the TDRs and grant all of the resale money to the Mountain View Whisman and Mountain View-Los Altos school districts. The value of the sale is broadly estimated to generate between $400,000 and $1.3 million.

Comments

roaksinri
another community
on May 6, 2020 at 2:25 pm
roaksinri, another community
on May 6, 2020 at 2:25 pm

Re: The East Whisman-Summerhill Project:
"SummerHill's project also stands out in that the affordable units included in the development will be available to both low and middle-income families. It's responding to the city's appetite for options for the so-called missing middle -- those who earn too much for subsidized low-income housing but too little to afford market rate units. Of the 270 apartments, 27 will be available to those making up to 80% of the area's median income, roughly $104,000 for a family of four, while 41 units will be available to families making up to 120% of the median income, nearly $153,000 for a family of four."

So basically, Mountain View is telling service workers, teachers and social workers don't bother living here- come here and serve our meals, our drinks, mow our lawns and tend to our landscaping at the big corporations and public buildings, serve our homeless, our poor and our aged,teach our children, but after business hours- go away and get out of town....


James
Old Mountain View
on May 6, 2020 at 2:39 pm
James, Old Mountain View
on May 6, 2020 at 2:39 pm

Yes! Congratulations!

I hope we can proceed with more of these developments to increase supply, lower rent costs, decrease commute times, and increase our quality of life.

We need about 99 more!


Seriously
Martens-Carmelita
on May 6, 2020 at 2:52 pm
Seriously, Martens-Carmelita
on May 6, 2020 at 2:52 pm

Today's high rise housing solutions - tomorrow's slums.


Old Mtn Virw
Old Mountain View
on May 6, 2020 at 2:53 pm
Old Mtn Virw, Old Mountain View
on May 6, 2020 at 2:53 pm

This isn’t the Mountain View of the 60s and 70s and it’s never going to be a place that’s cheap to live.Yes a family of 4 will have to work two full time jobs in a lot of cases if they want to live in one of the most expensive cities in the country. That is not a guarantee either. That’s the way it should be if we have too many people.

Until you invent a time machine, this is what we got.

The root cause is there are too many people who want to live here and we don’t have roads or parking or enough services and nobody who lives at this giant complex is going to take VTA. Zero. They’ll all be driving those new cars or junkers and parking them on the streets and merging onto highway 101 at rush hour.

A cap on growth is the only solution but nobody wants to talk about that, they all want to jam more people in here. They want to make it easier for people who would live in an affordable town to move here.


Rodger
Sylvan Park
on May 6, 2020 at 3:00 pm
Rodger , Sylvan Park
on May 6, 2020 at 3:00 pm

This is a monstrous building to put in Mountain View
I hope something will cancel this project, it seems the City Council is a collection of builder zombies.


RoxieK
Slater
on May 6, 2020 at 3:08 pm
RoxieK, Slater
on May 6, 2020 at 3:08 pm

Traffic, traffic and more traffic. Certainly not affordable. And, a monstrosity to boot. I'd live to see this sort of development in the "nicer" parts of town, maybe along Grant Road or Cuesta. What's good for the goose is never good for the gander.


East Berlin of Mountain View
Whisman Station
on May 6, 2020 at 3:29 pm
East Berlin of Mountain View, Whisman Station
on May 6, 2020 at 3:29 pm

Anyone notice that all of the high density affordable housing is never located west of El Camino or near downtown? It's pushed as far away as possible while still remaining within city limits, maybe they should build a wall along highway 85.


Perfect!
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on May 6, 2020 at 3:36 pm
Perfect!, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on May 6, 2020 at 3:36 pm

We need higher density housing and this is an available place to put it without displacing others.
As for affordability, MV isn't that place anymore. Considering the fate of most old farm towns, this isn't a bad thing. We could have been another Gilroy or one of the countless farming ghost towns that dot the nation. The days of MV being a blue collar "Middle class" town ended starting in the 70s and after the 90's it as clear.
Also, my gardener would be able to afford on of these as would 4 of my friends who are MV teachers.


Steven Nelson
Cuesta Park
on May 6, 2020 at 3:37 pm
Steven Nelson, Cuesta Park
on May 6, 2020 at 3:37 pm

The great minds of local school financing -
Los Altos K-8 district gets $1.3 million in TDR (Transferred Development Rights - guaranteed) while MVWSD and the high school get Together a Total of $1.5 million guaranteed [ and ALL THE NEW STUDENTS - guaranteed! and 'the plan is' - $ to those districts but NO Legal guarantee.

This is partially why reporter writes "development rights dumped," the school age kid's classroom needs will be dumped onto the MVWSD (K-8) and the high school district.


Greg Coladonato
Slater
on May 6, 2020 at 7:04 pm
Greg Coladonato, Slater
on May 6, 2020 at 7:04 pm

Sounds like I'm going to have a lot more neighbors soon!


Coladonato
North Whisman
on May 6, 2020 at 7:51 pm
Coladonato, North Whisman
on May 6, 2020 at 7:51 pm

Greg,

Please run for Council. The City needs you more than ever. I know you're busy raising a family but you've been successful all your life and its time to give a little bit of that success back by being on the Council.

Please run for City Council.
Thank you. :)


GS
Rengstorff Park
on May 6, 2020 at 8:12 pm
GS, Rengstorff Park
on May 6, 2020 at 8:12 pm

Have the future residents starting complaining yet that the airplanes flying into KNUQ (which are below them) are too loud?


PJ
Sylvan Park
on May 7, 2020 at 6:50 am
PJ, Sylvan Park
on May 7, 2020 at 6:50 am

Anyone notice the remodled Whisman school down the street? I'm in favor of the housing, wish the city council would relax or reduce some of the hurdles for developers so we can get more housing. Maybe reduce the funds needed to go to the city (while still trying to keep low and middle income housing available), reduce some of the park requirements other sites have had to deal with, encourage more housing.

Mountain View isn't a sleepy suburb any more. Time to start opening up housing and start opening up all the blocked off streets. Two massive condo and apartment sites off Evelyn, another one coming from the former flower factory, and there are still a half dozen blocked off streets around the area funneling all the traffic on bernardo and sylvan. Open it up, let everyone deal with the traffic.


Maria
Old Mountain View
on May 7, 2020 at 9:52 am
Maria, Old Mountain View
on May 7, 2020 at 9:52 am

Another commenter said the city approving this project is Mountain View telling gardeners, social workers, and teachers not to bother living here. I disagree. Looking at the average salaries of teachers, a household with two teachers would likely qualify. Keep in mind two teachers can not afford the existing housing stock that is in mountain view even if it is quite old and poorly maintained. In my opinion, not building this project, leaving this lot commercial, and not trying to build enough housing to catch up to all the added jobs would have been more of a "you are not welcome" message.

I think the other idea expressed in the comments that a new high-density development on some of the most valuable real estate in the world is going to turn into a slum is highly unlikely and kind of offensive. This development is not a poorly designed and poorly funded government project in the 70s; these are homes for our middle class! People who can not afford single-family homes in this area can care just as much about maintaining their homes as single-family homeowners do.

Thank you city council for supporting a job to housing balance and transit-oriented development! I know a lot of people who would be happy to get rid of their car or leave it at home if they could live this close to their work and downtown.


Leased out school sites
Slater
on May 7, 2020 at 1:31 pm
Leased out school sites, Slater
on May 7, 2020 at 1:31 pm

How many school sites has this school district leased out for extra spending money? Move to remote learning. Cut staff.


GeoffT
Whisman Station
on May 7, 2020 at 1:37 pm
GeoffT, Whisman Station
on May 7, 2020 at 1:37 pm

A magnificent example of the city "managing" unbalanced development. They have been pumping new housing into this corner of the city for years with no accompanying commercial development. All of this while they are claiming to be trying to get us out of our cars and while we are "served" by a transit agency that thinks we are a suburb of San Jose and out to ride there on VTA to do our shopping. More zoning for shopping in the area is needed. 7-11, Roger's Donuts and Dollar General do not make an adequately supportive commercial district, that is unless the plan is for everyone to get everything from Amazon. Oh, are they going to put in parking spots for delivery vans or are they just going to park in the middle of the street like they do in other new developments?ucyUT


Susan
Slater
on May 7, 2020 at 2:57 pm
Susan, Slater
on May 7, 2020 at 2:57 pm

Thank you, @GeoffT. I love Roger’s, but our area of Mountain View is a virtual food desert and I haven’t seen any plans to address that. I guess we’ll be adding 400+ households to the neighbors who complain about the Shoreline Safeway on Nextdoor!


Robyn
another community
on May 7, 2020 at 3:32 pm
Robyn, another community
on May 7, 2020 at 3:32 pm

Where will the natural resources come from to support more people?
And what about infrastructure - hospitals, parking? It seems no one will use public transportation anymore.


Karen
Old Mountain View
on May 7, 2020 at 3:47 pm
Karen , Old Mountain View
on May 7, 2020 at 3:47 pm

Excellent news! As a long-time resident, I welcome this urgently needed housing to our fair city.


Wonderful
Jackson Park
on May 7, 2020 at 6:02 pm
Wonderful, Jackson Park
on May 7, 2020 at 6:02 pm

Well thank god for that. It doesn't make up for the Terra Bella vote last year, but at least it's something. Now they just need to approve several thousand more. The only way to save this city is to build, and build quickly. A community that the working classes can't afford to live in is no community at all.


The Business Man
Castro City
on May 7, 2020 at 8:34 pm
The Business Man, Castro City
on May 7, 2020 at 8:34 pm

My only but important question:

Isn't this the area that has a TCE plume and will these units be required to have TCE vapor intrusion technology to have a residential unit?

WOW here we go again, placing either offices or homes in a DIRTY environmental zone.

The important thing for us to do is make sure anyone considering buying or renting form this area KNOWS the public air is contaminated with TCE.

LET MAKE SURE NO ONE WILL BUY INTO THIS PROJECTS UNITS THUS MAKING THE PROJECT VANISH.


DC
Sylvan Park
on May 8, 2020 at 2:59 pm
DC, Sylvan Park
on May 8, 2020 at 2:59 pm

Looks like such a small parcel of land for such a large number of living quarters. Whats up with all that empty green area along side that land? Where are the outside spaces Console had a meeting while no one else was able to attend was the disturbing news I read .... what else was passed that night?


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Post a comment

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