News

Mountain View City Council approves seven-story housing complex next door to new offices

Seven-story apartments will soon border the Shoreline Boulevard onramp onto Highway 101. Image courtesy of the city of Mountain View

An area of Mountain View dominated by diffuse industrial buildings is about to undergo a major transformation, after the Mountain View City Council on Tuesday approved a 303-unit mixed-use housing project for the Terra Bella neighborhood of the city.

The project, which won unanimous support by the council, will replace surface street parking lots near the corner of Shoreline Boulevard and Highway 101 with seven-story apartments and for-sale condos. Showing the stark contrast in land uses, future residents will have next door neighbors that include the Church of Scientology and a company that makes security robots.

The housing proposed at 1001 N. Shoreline Boulevard is also a clear example of the city's strategy in recent years to reduce traffic by co-locating jobs and housing. The apartments and condos will be right next door to the recently completed office building at the corner of Shoreline and Terra Bella Avenue, which is currently leased to Google. The housing and offices are so integrated that they will share a parking garage, which will serve employees during weekdays and residents in the evening.

The hope, said Mayor Margaret Abe-Koga, is that the close proximity means more people will walk or bike to work — either to the offices next door or into the city's North Bayshore tech park — and that the city will see a decline in car commuters.

"If we don't, then we really have a real issue about our whole thought process of putting housing next to jobs," Abe-Koga said.

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The project places the seven-story apartment building north of the offices, abutting the northbound onramp connecting Shoreline to Highway 101, with 203 units above two levels of podium parking. To the east of the offices along Terra Bella will be a similar seven-story building with 100 condos. Thirty of the apartments and 10 of the condos will be available at below-market-rate for a mix of low and moderate-income households.

Apartments along Shoreline Boulevard will border Google's office building at the corner of Terra Bella as part of a larger, mixed use development. Image courtesy of the city of Mountain View

Council members praised the project for having a mix of ownership and rental units with a range of affordability, with Councilman John McAlister saying the city needs a "smorgasbord" of housing options as it continues to grow.

But the project also faced criticism for its sheer size, particularly the height and density of the housing compared to the neighboring uses. Several residents living in the single-family neighborhood to the south told council members they opposed the project on grounds that it would exacerbate traffic, and worried it could set a precedent for massive buildings across all of Terra Bella.

"We're not opposed to development or housing, just to the scale of this particular project in this area," said resident Albert Jeans. "I'm concerned about the precedent this sets for future development in this city."

Worries of precedent-setting come, in part, because there is no solid plan for redeveloping Terra Bella on the whole. While city officials often have a clear roadmap for neighborhood development through "precise plans," no such document exists for Terra Bella. Council members have long said the area needs a precise plan, but have been reluctant to commit the staff time and resources to create one.

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While the project is huge compared to its neighbors and would tower over the Taco Bell to the south, McAlister said he believes the project is far enough away from existing residents that it should have a muted effect on them.

"To me this is somewhat isolated, it's close to the freeway, it's away from neighborhoods," he said. "It has industrial to the west, it has some light industrial to the south and a freeway to the north, so I think my concerns about traffic and all that would be tempered just because of the location."

Several speakers at the meeting urged the council to support the housing as a means to further dig Mountain View out of its jobs-housing imbalance, saying projects like the one before them can alleviate the housing shortage and, in turn, bring down gridlocked commute traffic.

"The city has a serious lack of housing," said resident David Watson. "The office uses are generating the majority of vehicle miles traveled into the city because there aren't enough homes for people to live near their job — ideally walking distance from their jobs."

The sticking point for the council wasn't in the size of the project, but in the lack of amenities and community benefits for the area. The developer is planning to cut a $15.8 million check to the city in lieu of providing park space for the future residents, and much of the $4.2 million in community benefit funding isn't geared toward residents in and around Terra Bella at all. The majority of the money will instead go toward public easements to run sewer and water infrastructure into North Bayshore.

"I believe we have a practice, and I personally have the philosophy, that community benefits should be spent in the neighborhood that has the project," said Councilwoman Lisa Matichak. "And to me the easement, that $2.9 million, is not a huge benefit to the Terra Bella neighborhood."

Council members agreed to have staff explore the possibility of using that funding to convert the Mountain View Recycling Center to the east, owned by the city and occupied by Recology, into a public park.

Another snag in the housing project was what to do with 3,000 square feet of retail space, to be included in the apartment complex, in the event that it completely fails. For years, the developer has asserted that retail may not be able to survive in the area, and that it would be difficult to find willing tenants to fill the space. Rather than let it go vacant for years, city officials suggested that the retail space could be converted into some other use to serve the neighborhood — but only after the developer puts in a good faith effort.

The original plan was to give retail a chance for two years after the project is complete, but city council members voted 5-2 to contract that duration to just one year, with council members Abe-Koga and McAlister opposed.

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Mountain View City Council approves seven-story housing complex next door to new offices

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Wed, Jul 1, 2020, 1:31 pm

An area of Mountain View dominated by diffuse industrial buildings is about to undergo a major transformation, after the Mountain View City Council on Tuesday approved a 303-unit mixed-use housing project for the Terra Bella neighborhood of the city.

The project, which won unanimous support by the council, will replace surface street parking lots near the corner of Shoreline Boulevard and Highway 101 with seven-story apartments and for-sale condos. Showing the stark contrast in land uses, future residents will have next door neighbors that include the Church of Scientology and a company that makes security robots.

The housing proposed at 1001 N. Shoreline Boulevard is also a clear example of the city's strategy in recent years to reduce traffic by co-locating jobs and housing. The apartments and condos will be right next door to the recently completed office building at the corner of Shoreline and Terra Bella Avenue, which is currently leased to Google. The housing and offices are so integrated that they will share a parking garage, which will serve employees during weekdays and residents in the evening.

The hope, said Mayor Margaret Abe-Koga, is that the close proximity means more people will walk or bike to work — either to the offices next door or into the city's North Bayshore tech park — and that the city will see a decline in car commuters.

"If we don't, then we really have a real issue about our whole thought process of putting housing next to jobs," Abe-Koga said.

The project places the seven-story apartment building north of the offices, abutting the northbound onramp connecting Shoreline to Highway 101, with 203 units above two levels of podium parking. To the east of the offices along Terra Bella will be a similar seven-story building with 100 condos. Thirty of the apartments and 10 of the condos will be available at below-market-rate for a mix of low and moderate-income households.

Council members praised the project for having a mix of ownership and rental units with a range of affordability, with Councilman John McAlister saying the city needs a "smorgasbord" of housing options as it continues to grow.

But the project also faced criticism for its sheer size, particularly the height and density of the housing compared to the neighboring uses. Several residents living in the single-family neighborhood to the south told council members they opposed the project on grounds that it would exacerbate traffic, and worried it could set a precedent for massive buildings across all of Terra Bella.

"We're not opposed to development or housing, just to the scale of this particular project in this area," said resident Albert Jeans. "I'm concerned about the precedent this sets for future development in this city."

Worries of precedent-setting come, in part, because there is no solid plan for redeveloping Terra Bella on the whole. While city officials often have a clear roadmap for neighborhood development through "precise plans," no such document exists for Terra Bella. Council members have long said the area needs a precise plan, but have been reluctant to commit the staff time and resources to create one.

While the project is huge compared to its neighbors and would tower over the Taco Bell to the south, McAlister said he believes the project is far enough away from existing residents that it should have a muted effect on them.

"To me this is somewhat isolated, it's close to the freeway, it's away from neighborhoods," he said. "It has industrial to the west, it has some light industrial to the south and a freeway to the north, so I think my concerns about traffic and all that would be tempered just because of the location."

Several speakers at the meeting urged the council to support the housing as a means to further dig Mountain View out of its jobs-housing imbalance, saying projects like the one before them can alleviate the housing shortage and, in turn, bring down gridlocked commute traffic.

"The city has a serious lack of housing," said resident David Watson. "The office uses are generating the majority of vehicle miles traveled into the city because there aren't enough homes for people to live near their job — ideally walking distance from their jobs."

The sticking point for the council wasn't in the size of the project, but in the lack of amenities and community benefits for the area. The developer is planning to cut a $15.8 million check to the city in lieu of providing park space for the future residents, and much of the $4.2 million in community benefit funding isn't geared toward residents in and around Terra Bella at all. The majority of the money will instead go toward public easements to run sewer and water infrastructure into North Bayshore.

"I believe we have a practice, and I personally have the philosophy, that community benefits should be spent in the neighborhood that has the project," said Councilwoman Lisa Matichak. "And to me the easement, that $2.9 million, is not a huge benefit to the Terra Bella neighborhood."

Council members agreed to have staff explore the possibility of using that funding to convert the Mountain View Recycling Center to the east, owned by the city and occupied by Recology, into a public park.

Another snag in the housing project was what to do with 3,000 square feet of retail space, to be included in the apartment complex, in the event that it completely fails. For years, the developer has asserted that retail may not be able to survive in the area, and that it would be difficult to find willing tenants to fill the space. Rather than let it go vacant for years, city officials suggested that the retail space could be converted into some other use to serve the neighborhood — but only after the developer puts in a good faith effort.

The original plan was to give retail a chance for two years after the project is complete, but city council members voted 5-2 to contract that duration to just one year, with council members Abe-Koga and McAlister opposed.

Comments

girl
Rex Manor
on Jul 1, 2020 at 2:23 pm
girl, Rex Manor
on Jul 1, 2020 at 2:23 pm
6 people like this

While I am not against forward progress, how does the council intend to address the additional traffic on Terra Bella which is a currently a small two lane road. It's nice to think everyone will "walk or bike" to work but I do not think that a thought process set in reality. Is anyone aware of any studies that show that people that live near work do not utilize cars? I would really like to see some studies around that other than "hoping and wishing" people will do this. Also, I am reading this right that the recycling center will be moved? We use that quite frequently. It will be disappointing to see that go.


RoxieK
Slater
on Jul 1, 2020 at 2:29 pm
RoxieK, Slater
on Jul 1, 2020 at 2:29 pm
4 people like this

"The hope, said Mayor Margaret Abe-Koga, is that the close proximity means more people will walk or bike to work — either to the offices next door or into the city's North Bayshore tech park — and that the city will see a decline in car commuters.

"If we don't, then we really have a real issue about our whole thought process of putting housing next to jobs," Abe-Koga said."

I'm sorry. Is there a requirement that only people who work next door can rent one of these apartments or buy one of the condos????? How does that work exactly? If I get another job somewhere else, say Palo Alto or Menlo Park, or heaven forbid, San Jose or Fremont, will I have to give up my apartment or sell my condo?


Humble observer
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jul 1, 2020 at 2:59 pm
Humble observer, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jul 1, 2020 at 2:59 pm
14 people like this

RoxieK: "If I get another job somewhere else, say Palo Alto or Menlo Park, or heaven forbid, San Jose or Fremont, will I have to give up my apartment or sell my condo?"

Do you realize, RoxieK, that every single one of your hypothetical cases is already neatly provided for, by this new project being adjacent to Highway 101 entrances? In fact it would be ideal for commuters (car-pooling, naturally) to any of those towns!!! None of those commutes you described would use Mountain-View streets at all. You've helped clinch Abe-Koga's argument.

In fact it's virtually ideal for someone with silicon-valley employment that changes over time (as it often does, I can attest).


Mark
North Whisman
on Jul 1, 2020 at 3:07 pm
Mark , North Whisman
on Jul 1, 2020 at 3:07 pm
12 people like this

This is a great location for dense housing - it is right across walkway from North Bay Shore where Google, Microsoft, and Intuit have their campuses, and far removed from SFH zones and will help reduce the total traffic.


LongResident
another community
on Jul 1, 2020 at 4:19 pm
LongResident, another community
on Jul 1, 2020 at 4:19 pm
7 people like this

Well, there is nothing wrong with the thought process of putting housing
closer to jobs, but this is a bad example of that. There are other
considerations such as walkability, expanding near transit, cost of the
units to occupy, amenities nearby, and inclusion within existing
neighborhoods. Building this project anticipates a premium pricing
on the housing there. It's an effort at adding luxury housing at
a high occupancy cost.

Now the question is, how will it work? I don't think this makes much
sense as a place to site DESIRABLE housing. It would be different if
it were a hotel. You know in fact, if the hotel going in on Moffett Blvd
were instead residential housing and this took the place of the hotel, that
would make a heck of a lot more sense. A pleasant location along
the creek with nice vegetation for a view along Stevens Creek Trail. That site
has an oblong shape with only a narrow side adjacent to the freeway.
Just comparing and contrasting the two locations shows the flaws in
this project.

This complex borders Shoreline Blvd, which is one of just two main arteries into the Google megaplex across the freeway when traveling from the rest of Mountain View, especial for 4 hours weekday mornings and 4 hours weekday afternoons.
That alone is not bad enough, the project also borders the freeway with its 12 lanes of vehicle traffic 24x7. These will be some of the least desirable housing units in the city. Yet the developer clearly expects them to command a premium
price over other housing stock. I just don't see it working to appeal
to occupants. Most housing in the city is occupied by people who work
in a mix of locations, and it is true that this is a good place to be if
you are intent on a freeway commute to work in Redwood City or Santa CLara.
But why would you then want to pay premium Mountain View rates
for housing? Both of these two cities have cheaper housing. It seems
to me that this location encourages sprawl to a great extent. I can't see
Google workers wanting to invest in a condo at such a location just because
they work in the massive complex across the freeway. It just makes no
sense. Time will tell. Maybe people like window views of thick freeway
traffic as they look down out of their window. It's a freeway housing
project even if 25% of residents work at Google or the few other north
Bayshore companies. That's about all it will be--just 25% unless Google
buys up units for its own private housing supply for visitors and such.
We need to be realistic in assessing things. This project will have a large
vacancy rate for a long long time after opening.


Visibly Shaken
Whisman Station
on Jul 1, 2020 at 4:25 pm
Visibly Shaken, Whisman Station
on Jul 1, 2020 at 4:25 pm
9 people like this

"...future residents will have next door neighbors that include the Church of Scientology and a company that makes security robots."

Hahaha! That's the only thing that made me smile all day today. Thank you!


Nihonsuki
Stierlin Estates
on Jul 1, 2020 at 4:43 pm
Nihonsuki, Stierlin Estates
on Jul 1, 2020 at 4:43 pm
3 people like this

LongResident, I totally agree with you and wish you had spoken at last night's meeting! In fact, the marketability of the condos will be even worse, because a 7-story affordable housing apartment is being planned on the east side of the condos, so those people will have excellent views of the building 20 or 30 ft away. Those on the west side will get a view of the office building, complete with bright lights at night (ask the people who live near Google's Mayfield building).


PEG
North Whisman
on Jul 1, 2020 at 6:10 pm
PEG, North Whisman
on Jul 1, 2020 at 6:10 pm
5 people like this

Where is the city proposing to relocate the Mountain View Recycling Center?


When
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jul 1, 2020 at 11:07 pm
When, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jul 1, 2020 at 11:07 pm
3 people like this

Is that going to be adorable housing? How much would those apartments cost? I would have bought one and wouldn't need to drive anymore, because it is really next to my work and next to kids school.


Mark
Monta Loma
on Jul 2, 2020 at 5:10 am
Mark, Monta Loma
on Jul 2, 2020 at 5:10 am
15 people like this

One would think that, since the Covid-19 crisis sent the techie world into a panic, and showed them their future lies in telecommutation & not butts in cars, that the techie world who have lined the pockets of the City Council for some whiles would take heed- their office -housing development schemes are actually superfluous- All they manage to accomplish is switching out longtime MV residents for company droids, although they are yet to realize, not all of MV are particularly happy with the way they have all worn out their welcome here. They could stay away, sell their massive property holdings back to the city & THEN the city could build its "affordable" housing directed toward the community which was here before they brought their blight to town. Sell the properties, & get the h out of MV, because some of us who've lived our lives in this neck of the woods are damn tired of their arrogance and undue political influence.


Humble observer
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jul 2, 2020 at 9:12 am
Humble observer, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jul 2, 2020 at 9:12 am
8 people like this

But Mark, haven't you heard? According to "Alex, aresident of Jackson Park" commenting on the earlier guest-opinion piece about this project, Web Link
there's no problem of arrogant growth firms pushing off their externalities for longtime communities to deal with; no yet-more of their new-hire arrivals driving up housing prices (while complaining those prices are too high); no cynical property developers contributing to jobs-housing imbalance.

No. According to Alex (or rather the real-estate development industry that originally promoted this line, which some individuals usefully embrace), the whole housing problem is just "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."


to the not-so-humble observer
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jul 2, 2020 at 9:53 am
to the not-so-humble observer, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jul 2, 2020 at 9:53 am
4 people like this

Alex just points out the math of the situation. In order for buying a home to be a good investment from a monetary standpoint, housing has to be getting less affordable. Any actions you take to preserve and perpetuate buying a home as a good investment will be contributing to rising inequality and lack of affordability. You can't have both.


Humble observer
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jul 2, 2020 at 10:17 am
Humble observer, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jul 2, 2020 at 10:17 am
14 people like this

However, without a constant press of new residential demand (which reflects a few firms expanding since the early 2000s at rates exceptionally, demonstrably high even by silicon-valley historical standards), residential property is not such a "good investment from a monetary standpoint," no MATTER what any home owners do or don't do.

The rapid hiring and the housing demand it creates is the independent, wild-card factor in this picture. Everything else is dependent on and subordinate to it in influence.


The Business Man
Old Mountain View
on Jul 2, 2020 at 10:36 am
The Business Man, Old Mountain View
on Jul 2, 2020 at 10:36 am
2 people like this

Thanks for someone to point out the reality we are in today.

This has been a market manipulation strategy similar to the housing market problems that got us into the 2007-8 housing crisis.

The recent area housing need revision reported by Stephen Levy on this website here points out that the problem is far worse than people know You can read it here (Web Link)

Specifically it stated:

“The California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) has released the Regional Housing Needs Allocation for the Bay Area,.

The total for the 8.5 year period is 441,176 units, which I believe is approximately 135% (more than double) higher than the current target.

Almost 60% of the units are targeted at low and moderate income households while 40% are for HH making more than 120% of the area median income

About half of these units are for the projected growth in population and half are to "catch up" on existing shortages: to reduce the number of overcrowded and cost-burdened households and to target a normal supply of vacant units. These catch up requirements are the result of recent state legislation to relieve housing challenges for current low and moderate income residents and are new to this round of RHNA allocations.

Palo Alto should expect to get a higher % increase as goal. The ABAG RHNA allocation committee criteria (not final yet) target above average allocations for 1) cities that are high opportunity areas and 2) cities that have an abundance of jobs relative to housing. I expect Palo Alto would score high on both of these criteria.

Whatever allocation Palo Alto ultimately gets will need to be planned for in the Housing Element update due in 2022. This will be a major work element for staff and the council in 2021. The Housing Element needs to contain credible and feasible sites for housing as well as an array of policies to meet state goals.

This is where local control can come into play as Palo Alto can adopt its own plan to meet the targets though it has to be credible and feasible.

Current and future housing proposals should be considered with this knowledge about Palo Alto's upcoming RHNA goals.

A final note.

The HCD determination was not based on the ABAG job and population growth forecast. If it had been, the target likely would have been 100,000--150,000 housing units higher.”

WHERE IS THE PRIVATE HOUSING DEVELOPMENT? WASN’T COSTA HAWKINS SUPPOSED TO PREVENT THIS PROBLEM?

Now we have another chance to repeal Costa Hawkins, WE HAVE TO TRASH IT THIS TIME.


It's a start
Shoreline West
on Jul 2, 2020 at 5:12 pm
It's a start, Shoreline West
on Jul 2, 2020 at 5:12 pm
2 people like this

Beautiful. Now lets get a few dozen more just like it.


Nihonsuki
Stierlin Estates
on Jul 2, 2020 at 5:20 pm
Nihonsuki, Stierlin Estates
on Jul 2, 2020 at 5:20 pm
4 people like this

The Recycling Center could move to the city's Municipal Operations Center on Whisman. I thought I heard the developer say the condos would go for about $1 million. Remember, the current owner paid $170 million for the office building and lot in 2018 which had previously been assessed at $70 million so they're expecting to make some big money.


RMresident
Rex Manor
on Jul 2, 2020 at 9:07 pm
RMresident, Rex Manor
on Jul 2, 2020 at 9:07 pm
Like this comment

To humble observer and others,

Let's get some things straight. Alex may be overly cynical in the other article, but a number of things are undeniable facts.

First, only current residents of a city can vote in council elections, and only the council can decide zoning.

Second, tech is expanding but it is the city that is allowing them to expand. Tech isn't just shrinking cubicles, they have new buildings (at 3-4x a site's previous FAR) everywhere you look.

Third, prop 13 means existing property owners get most of the benefit with little cost when their property value goes up. Maybe not a matter of malicious intent but easily one of willful ignorance.

Fourth, techies may be moving here for jobs but they don't have much of a say in where those jobs are located.

Fifth, there has long been a net domestic migration OUT of California. California's population is only increasing because of immigration, and the Bay Area because of H1b specifically. Telling people to leave is pointless; plenty of them are.

Your fight is not with techies. It's with tech, a council that is in tech's pockets, and voters who don't care what happens until it crosses 101 and is in their backyard.


To "It's a start": Mountain View's current shortfall is not a few dozen buildings like this. It's literally a hundred or more. (40,000 net inbound commutes according to some now pretty old census data.)


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