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.