In an unusual partnership, an affordable housing developer is teaming up with a self-storage company to create a seven-story housing complex on Terra Bella Avenue in Mountain View.
Public Storage and the nonprofit developer Alta Housing are proposing a mixed-use project that puts 105 units of affordable housing next door to five-story storage facilities, ratcheting up density in an industrial area poised for rapid redevelopment.
If built, the project would be next door to another recently approved development that puts housing next to offices at the corner of Shoreline Boulevard and Highway 101.
The Mountain View City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to allow the project to proceed through the planning process. While council members said they were happy to support an all-affordable housing project without a massive subsidy, some worried that the future residents would be shortchanged on park space, jammed too close to Highway 101 and far from neighborhood amenities.
"Is it really the best place for affordable housing when we're talking about equity?" asked councilwoman Lisa Matichak.
Public Storage and Alta Housing have been planning to share the site for years, with Public Storage recently donating an extra half-acre of land to double the size of the housing complex. The early design for the project places the seven-story, 74-foot-tall apartment building along Terra Bella Avenue, while the storage facilities would be tucked behind the housing along the highway.
The units would be restricted to those making between 30% and 80% of the area's median income, which means a family of four currently making between $47,000 and $104,000 would qualify.
While there are no nearby parks and no park space included in the project's design, there will be about 11,000 square feet of open space on an outdoor deck area for tenants.
Residents in the Stierlin Estates neighborhood to the south said they worried the project would be anything but family friendly, raising concerns about traffic safety and the lack of park space envisioned for the site. They also complained that the neighborhood is already packed to the brim with on-street parking, and that the future residents would only exacerbate the problem.
The meeting also underscored the fact that the Terra Bella area of the city has no overarching vision or zoning plan for future development -- an ongoing problem that forces council members to handle each development as a one-off. Last year the City Council considered, but ultimately rejected, a so-called visioning plan to guide development for the area, in part due to opposition by Stierlin Estates residents.
Council members have since repeatedly said Terra Bella needs a full-fledged precise plan to serve as a template for projects in the area and analyze the traffic and environmental impacts of future growth. But the problem appears to be self-inflicted: on top of rejecting the visioning plan last year, the council has yet to commit the resources to a Terra Bella precise plan.
Stierlin Estates resident Katy Blus said she worried about the seven-story height of the housing project and the lack of amenities, as well as the city's apparent lack of planning for the area.
"It really feels like these projects are being approved on the basis of first-come, first-served instead of properly planning for the whole area," Blus said.
The council's Aug. 25 vote allows the project to be further refined and vetted by city staff before coming back for approval. While council members were quick to greenlight the project, Matichak said the city needs to find ways to include neighborhood amenities in an area that's slowly changing from a light industrial center into an area packed with housing.
"We do need the infrastructure, we do need the parks, and I think we need to start thinking about that now rather than later," she said. "It's too difficult to do it after the fact."