News

Guest opinion: Housing at any cost?

Amidst the unprecedented building boom in Mountain View, a project has been quietly winding its way through the approval process for the last few years and will appear before the City Council on Tuesday for final approval. This is the project known as Shoreline Gateway on the site of the former Fiesta Del Mar Restaurant at 1001 N. Shoreline Blvd.

While it will deliver much needed rental and ownership housing, it will radically alter the character of the current one to two-story light industrial and residential neighborhoods nearby by building two seven-story buildings in the space of the current office parking lot along with a six-story parking garage. The story of this development illustrates how developers are able to push their projects through the city, leaving residents to deal with the aftermath.

The project started in 2015, when Mark Calvano teamed up with the Carlyle Group to consolidate the lots they had acquired at the corner of Terra Bella and N. Shoreline and develop the land. Phase 1 was the four-story office building which is now leased to Google through 2030. That building was zoning compliant, so it did not require City Council approval even though it would exacerbate the jobs/housing imbalance. However, it exceeded the three-story height limit stipulated by the 2030 general plan, so the applicant, Calvano/CRP, dedicated a 20-foot-wide frontage on N. Shoreline as a public benefit for the future transit lane, and the project was approved by one person, the zoning administrator, in September 2015. Public noticing was only 300 feet for that meeting.

Just three months later, Calvano/CRP made a request for a gatekeeper (the city's system for allocating staff resources) for Phase 2, the apartments and condos on the same property, and this was approved by the council along with several other projects at the time. In the original application, the condos fronting on Terra Bella Avenue were five stories, and the apartments next to Highway 101 were seven. In 2017, the EPC and council held study sessions on the project, but noticing was only 500 feet so no nearby residents were notified. Now the condo building was seven stories in order to increase the total number of units by 16%. The council allowed the project to proceed.

In 2018 Calvano/CRP sold the entire project to LH Shoreline, a front for Lighthouse Realty Holdings, for $170 million, realizing a profit of over $100 million even before Phase 2 was entitled! I gleaned a lot of this information from court documents because Calvano is suing Carlyle (and visa versa) over the profits made from the sale. This seems to be a classic case of big landowners/developers running their projects through the city to maximize their profits, leaving the residents to deal with the consequences like congestion, parking, and an overall degradation in the quality of life.

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Now, over three years after the last study session, a very different City Council from the one which approved the original gatekeeper request is being asked to amend the 2030 general plan and give their final approval. The area where the project is located, commonly known as Terra Bella, was not designated as a change area in the 2030 general plan, and last November the council shelved a vision plan which pushed for high-density growth in the area. This project and follow-on projects nearby which are being considered represent a drastic change which should not be undertaken without more public input and thought into how overall development in the area should proceed. To amend the general plan so easily undermines its role and validity as a long-term road map for Mountain View.

Albert Jeans lives on San Lucas Avenue in Mountain View.

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Guest opinion: Housing at any cost?

by / Contributor

Uploaded: Mon, Jun 29, 2020, 5:03 pm

Amidst the unprecedented building boom in Mountain View, a project has been quietly winding its way through the approval process for the last few years and will appear before the City Council on Tuesday for final approval. This is the project known as Shoreline Gateway on the site of the former Fiesta Del Mar Restaurant at 1001 N. Shoreline Blvd.

While it will deliver much needed rental and ownership housing, it will radically alter the character of the current one to two-story light industrial and residential neighborhoods nearby by building two seven-story buildings in the space of the current office parking lot along with a six-story parking garage. The story of this development illustrates how developers are able to push their projects through the city, leaving residents to deal with the aftermath.

The project started in 2015, when Mark Calvano teamed up with the Carlyle Group to consolidate the lots they had acquired at the corner of Terra Bella and N. Shoreline and develop the land. Phase 1 was the four-story office building which is now leased to Google through 2030. That building was zoning compliant, so it did not require City Council approval even though it would exacerbate the jobs/housing imbalance. However, it exceeded the three-story height limit stipulated by the 2030 general plan, so the applicant, Calvano/CRP, dedicated a 20-foot-wide frontage on N. Shoreline as a public benefit for the future transit lane, and the project was approved by one person, the zoning administrator, in September 2015. Public noticing was only 300 feet for that meeting.

Just three months later, Calvano/CRP made a request for a gatekeeper (the city's system for allocating staff resources) for Phase 2, the apartments and condos on the same property, and this was approved by the council along with several other projects at the time. In the original application, the condos fronting on Terra Bella Avenue were five stories, and the apartments next to Highway 101 were seven. In 2017, the EPC and council held study sessions on the project, but noticing was only 500 feet so no nearby residents were notified. Now the condo building was seven stories in order to increase the total number of units by 16%. The council allowed the project to proceed.

In 2018 Calvano/CRP sold the entire project to LH Shoreline, a front for Lighthouse Realty Holdings, for $170 million, realizing a profit of over $100 million even before Phase 2 was entitled! I gleaned a lot of this information from court documents because Calvano is suing Carlyle (and visa versa) over the profits made from the sale. This seems to be a classic case of big landowners/developers running their projects through the city to maximize their profits, leaving the residents to deal with the consequences like congestion, parking, and an overall degradation in the quality of life.

Now, over three years after the last study session, a very different City Council from the one which approved the original gatekeeper request is being asked to amend the 2030 general plan and give their final approval. The area where the project is located, commonly known as Terra Bella, was not designated as a change area in the 2030 general plan, and last November the council shelved a vision plan which pushed for high-density growth in the area. This project and follow-on projects nearby which are being considered represent a drastic change which should not be undertaken without more public input and thought into how overall development in the area should proceed. To amend the general plan so easily undermines its role and validity as a long-term road map for Mountain View.

Albert Jeans lives on San Lucas Avenue in Mountain View.

Comments

Remote control
Shoreline West
on Jun 29, 2020 at 9:54 pm
Remote control, Shoreline West
on Jun 29, 2020 at 9:54 pm
11 people like this

Insofar as high tech employees work from wherever they live, the traffic and competition of housing will decrease. If you live long enough to see it, Mountain View might be saved yet. No thanks to politicians.


Reside
Stierlin Estates
on Jun 29, 2020 at 10:43 pm
Reside, Stierlin Estates
on Jun 29, 2020 at 10:43 pm
16 people like this

This is not the right project for this area. It is to tall for this area. Right now it’s the parking lot for google, but right now they are working from home. Before the pandemic there was not enough parking. The signs are still there directing to the overflow parking at google on Linda Vista.
This council just approved another google office building in north bay shore. This council works for google and developers and not the residents of Mtn View. Before starting one more project in this area, let’s see how this neighborhood changes with the approved development on Middlefield.


Carlos
Rex Manor
on Jun 30, 2020 at 9:51 am
Carlos, Rex Manor
on Jun 30, 2020 at 9:51 am
19 people like this

This article spends a great deal of time attacking the developers of this project for dubious practices, but very little on discussing the merits of the project or what exactly it means to alter the "neighborhood character." As far as I know (and feel free to there me here), that part of town is mostly offices, the Scientology building, recology, and the Taco Bell. Without homes and commerce, I usually feel pretty alienated going there. I think a new development would lend the area some warmth. Plus, that the apartments would be so close to offices means that workers can walk to work or take the electric shuttle that runs periodically.


Steven Nelson
Cuesta Park
on Jun 30, 2020 at 9:53 am
Steven Nelson, Cuesta Park
on Jun 30, 2020 at 9:53 am
1 person likes this

The LEGAL WAY for this Council to stop the large scope of the PROPOSAL is to simply:

VOTE NO on the 2030 GENERAL PLAN change. The Council majority makes the Public Policy. A vote of NO by 4 current council members is legal. A NO vote does not amend Current Law (a General Plan is LAW in California)

I favor multi-story residential construction on former low-density use land near large employment centers (and next to a public transportation corridor). The height/density/DEVELOPER PROFIT is completely under VOTE control. Examine who developer $$ have gone to - and how they vote. I HOPE Hicks votes no for amending the 2030 General Plan (she does have city planning experience).


Maria
Old Mountain View
on Jun 30, 2020 at 12:19 pm
Maria, Old Mountain View
on Jun 30, 2020 at 12:19 pm
9 people like this

Interesting read, but I am curious why this article is titled "Housing at any cost". Correct me if I am wrong, but the development in question does not seem to be primarily residential.

I am pro-growth, but it is also my opinion that no neighborhood should be subject to sudden and radical change. I am no expert, but the impression I get is this size of development is the consequence of having, for years, forbidden more gradual, organic, and incremental development throughout the city and having a long, convoluted, and uncertain permitting process that has left us with an oligopoly of deep-pocket developers.


Gunn Graduate
another community
on Jun 30, 2020 at 12:39 pm
Gunn Graduate, another community
on Jun 30, 2020 at 12:39 pm
20 people like this

The Terra Bella area probably has the least amount of "character" of any residential neighborhood on the Peninsula or South Bay. I do not see how any sort of residential construction could possibly be detrimental to that, even if it were 20 stories tall.


ML Kyle
Monta Loma
on Jun 30, 2020 at 2:18 pm
ML Kyle, Monta Loma
on Jun 30, 2020 at 2:18 pm
21 people like this

This is true, we should not build any housing at all, until every single Mountain View residents has a chance to modify it in some godawful way.

This place used to be orange groves and single story buildings. Because that was my childhood, it should only ever be orange groves and single story buildings until I die.

To hell with everyone who makes my life possible here. My kids and their childhood friends should be banished because change makes me feel funny.


Reside
Stierlin Estates
on Jun 30, 2020 at 2:46 pm
Reside, Stierlin Estates
on Jun 30, 2020 at 2:46 pm
7 people like this

Wow, I didn’t know I live in a neighborhood without character. ...
And I remember well how the Monta Lima neighborhood fought housing at the old JCPENNEY site. That was not even as dense as all the developments around our neighborhood. It’s been just built everything around Stierlin Estate. How about moving some of this high density into other neighborhoods like downtown near transportation. Not to many people want to live next door to their work. Plus most employees change jobs every few years. Let’s see how many offices will be empty after the pandemic is over. There is the option to work from home, so employees can live in a lot cheaper area..


Pays rent in Mountain View
Old Mountain View
on Jun 30, 2020 at 3:23 pm
Pays rent in Mountain View, Old Mountain View
on Jun 30, 2020 at 3:23 pm
6 people like this

Great that this developer has found some ways around the NIMBY hordes. More housing! Yes!


Bay Area Rez
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jun 30, 2020 at 3:24 pm
Bay Area Rez, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jun 30, 2020 at 3:24 pm
5 people like this

We should kick out all of the tech companies.

Think about it.. if Apple, Google, Facebook, Uber, etc. were unable to put up any offices in the Bay Area.. that would be HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of people who are forced to leave.

That should put an end to any housing development arguments... and the traffic problem will go WAY down.

And if you want to get things even better, put a moratorium on reproduction.


Robyn
another community
on Jun 30, 2020 at 3:57 pm
Robyn, another community
on Jun 30, 2020 at 3:57 pm
8 people like this

If there is anything positive about the current pandemic, it has shown that we need not concentrate workers in crammed offices and housing units stacked on high.
Traffic is now tolerable. People can and should continue to work remotely.


Fred
Stierlin Estates
on Jun 30, 2020 at 4:22 pm
Fred, Stierlin Estates
on Jun 30, 2020 at 4:22 pm
7 people like this

The Stierlin Estates neighborhood is a nice neighborhood, and consists of one and two story residential and commercial buildings. It has two main points of entry and exit, on Shoreline and on Middlefield, both of which get extremely crowded at certain times of the day. The new Google building has already had a noticeable traffic effect on entry and exit on Terra Bella. Seven story condos and apartments will visibly change the character of the neighborhood in a very negative way, and will noticeably impact traffic on Terra Bella, which will spill over to Middlefield, causing a huge impact on all residents when they attempt to enter or leave the neighborhood via either. Given the impact on all residents of the neighborhood, it seems to me that current residents should have been consulted more. It certainly looks like the city cares more about building more housing for new residents than it does about the impact on existing residents. It seems that the city wants to build housing at almost any cost. Adding housing in Stierlin Estates is a good idea. It should be done without changing zoning to allow for seven story buildings, given that the maximum height now is two stories. The city claims that it cannot consider the impact on traffic at all. That should not be recognized as a valid position for the city to claim, since the impact on traffic will obviously be huge.


Kate G
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jun 30, 2020 at 6:45 pm
Kate G, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jun 30, 2020 at 6:45 pm
4 people like this

Since Google dominates most of Mountain View with all their building, the very least they could do it freshly pave Steve's Creek Trail that runs all through Shoreline Park. At a minimum, give something good back to the Mountain View community.


Alex
Jackson Park
on Jun 30, 2020 at 6:58 pm
Alex, Jackson Park
on Jun 30, 2020 at 6:58 pm
9 people like this

1 housing unit is built for every 7 new arrivals in Silicon Valley.
Can we please stop pretending this is anything other than an attempt by current home owners to keep their housing prices artificially inflated in order to massively transfer wealth from the have nots to the haves.
You want to know why young people are rioting and looting and burning? Why shouldn't they? Your greed has left them with no hope for the future.


Humble observer
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jul 1, 2020 at 2:24 pm
Humble observer, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jul 1, 2020 at 2:24 pm
10 people like this

1 housing unit built for every 7 new arrivals in Silicon Valley.

Can we please stop pretending that this problem is ANYTHING besides too many people crowding into an already built-up area (in the interest of the high-tech "gorilla" rapid-growth firms, but the detriment of everyone else -- existing residents -- the majority population who do NOT work for those few firms) -- and cut out the contrived, developer-written fictions that seek to distract everyone from this basic reality?

Meanwhile back to this article, about a project actually proposing to do something positive in this messed-up picture: I'm unsure why Albert Jeans fears "overall degradation in the quality of life" by a project (now approved: Web Link ) blocks away from Albert's own street. And "public noticing" of the proposal didn't reach Albert because it's hardly in his "back yard." Moreover, residents concerned about new developments within their wider neighborhood don't have to rely passively on "public noticing," they can watch the Council and Zoning-Administrator agendas, publicized on the City website. In my experience, that's how many people end up attending and being heard at the decision meetings described in this complaining essay.


David
Rex Manor
on Jul 1, 2020 at 2:53 pm
David, Rex Manor
on Jul 1, 2020 at 2:53 pm
6 people like this

I understand people's concerns but it seems to me like there is a lot more political will to block new housing than new offices. Mayfield is a perfect example. And the Google office at Terra Bella is already built.

The morally proper thing to do is to balance our development. I don't care how people do that. I don't care if it's with single story neighborhoods or 7 story neighborhoods. But the ship has already sailed on letting Google build whatever they want, which to me leaves only the option of "housing at any cost" to catch up. The city's growth is a mess but you are complaining about the wrong project at the wrong time.

Our city's, our region's, and our state's continuing inexplicable ability to name and address the core problem seems increasingly to leave Alex's cynical view as the only viable explanation. Especially with Prop 13, those allowing Google to redevelop every commercial plot in the city largely get to bank the benefits of that while dumping the costs onto others. And there's a lot of cognitive dissonance over our responsibility for the situation, what we're doing or not doing to address it, and the failures of local control.


LongResident
another community
on Jul 1, 2020 at 3:04 pm
LongResident, another community
on Jul 1, 2020 at 3:04 pm
Like this comment

I wonder if the funding will hold up in the current economy. This is huge
bet that growth will continue, because these are going to be some of the least
desirable housing units in the city. It's a very unpleasant location to live
right by a freeway and the ramps thereto. Put it into a pair of 7 story buildings
and no outdoor space to speak of. Weren't they going to build a bike ramp
to cross the freeway to reach Google HQ? Otherwise, walk to work is not going
to happen. This going to be kind of living in an Airport Marriott. It's a nice
thought but it won't be pleasant. I certainly wouldn't want to invest in owning
a condo in a location like this.

People always discount the reason Google workers live far away, as in
Saratoga and Los Gatos. The don't want to live close to work. And imagine
the Covid-19 risk in the elevators of these new buildings. I don't think
these buildings will work with the remote work option available. Maybe
consider turning it into a hotel. I could see Google workers coming together
at HQ a few times a year and needing a place to stay. Maybe Google will lease a lot of units and use it for short term housing for out of town visiting employees. There might be more of that going forward.


Jeremy Hoffman
Rengstorff Park
12 hours ago
Jeremy Hoffman, Rengstorff Park
12 hours ago
Like this comment

LongResident, I would ask you to consider that the tens of thousands of Google employees in the Bay Area are a diverse group with diverse desires that can't be accurately described with absolutes like that they "don't want to live close to work."

Some Googlers want to live close to work in Mountain View or Sunnyvale.
There isn't enough housing in Mountain View or Sunnyvale.

Some Googlers want to live in SF or SJ.
There isn't enough housing in SF or SJ.

Some Googlers want to live in far away places like Saratoga and Los Gatos, as you said.
There isn't enough housing in most far away places, either. The Bay Area's housing deficit is large and growing.

And of course, the less fortunate who get outbid for the limited supply of homes are forced to move even farther out, even into wildfire territory, and suffer for hours of commuting a day, filling our air with pollution. Or they're forced to move out of the region altogether.


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