News

Mountain View City Council approves six-story condos, ratcheting up neighborhood density

Mountain View council members approved a new six-story condo project in the San Antonio area. Rendering courtesy city of Mountain View.

In the latest growth spurt for the rapidly evolving San Antonio neighborhood, the Mountain View City Council voted 6-1 Tuesday to approve a six-story condo project next door to some of the city's largest office and housing developments.

The 44-unit project on Fayette Drive brings much-desired ownership housing to the city on a bite-sized property -- only two-thirds of an acre -- nearby a crush of new development in Mountain View. Its neighbors include a recently completed 583-unit apartment complex and a second, 632-unit apartment project currently under construction.

The Fayette condos weren't originally part of this high-density plan. The property fell outside the city's San Antonio Precise Plan -- the blueprint for higher density in the area -- and was originally meant to be a four-story, 24-unit project. But the City Council agreed in 2016 to rezone the area into the precise plan, allowing higher density to creep further west.

The property is currently home to six vacant housing units and a small 6,900-square-foot commercial building previously used for carpet cleaning.

What makes the project unusual is its affordable housing. In order to comply with state requirements, Octane Fayette, the developer, has to provide units at the same income level that the demolished apartments were provided at prior to being vacated. The project includes five affordable units, four of which will be available to very low-income families.

What's local journalism worth to you?

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

Learn more

Ownership units are rarely provided to families making less than 80% of the area's median income. The very low-income units are available to families making up to 50% of the median income, or about $79,000 for a family of four.

Though a rare opportunity to provide deeply affordable ownership housing in Mountain View, council members grappled with a snag in the plans. These low-income families would be subject to the same HOA fees and assessments exacted on all homeowners, and could easily be overwhelmed by an unexpected high-cost project to replace the roof or pool. Low-income families could be getting set up to fail in the future development, absent some kind of special fund.

To that end, Octane proposed setting up a $250,000 fund to help pay for "overly burdensome" HOA fees exacted on those living in the affordable units. The money will be pulled out of the developer's $691,000 public benefit package to the city.

Some council members bristled at the idea of using public benefit money meant to support the San Antonio neighborhood in order to subsidize a future HOA. Councilwoman Lisa Matichak, who voted against the project, said San Antonio has undergone rapid development and badly needs roadway improvements and open space.

"This area is in need of infrastructure to support all this development," she said. "We know we need more park space and there is congestion on the roads, and this is going to add to that."

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox.

Sign up

Matichak also felt the property should not have been rezoned to be part of the San Antonio Precise Plan.

But to the majority of the council, the project was worth approving as a one-off. Future ownership housing projects will be required to set aside an HOA reserve, rather than volunteer the money through public benefits, and council member Chris Clark said the city is not setting a precedent to subsidize HOAs. Plus, Clark said, it's not exactly a huge amount of money.

"If we were talking about $1 million or something that would have a significant public community benefit in the San Antonio area then I might feel a bit differently," Clark said. "But we're talking about $250,000. You'll be lucky if that buys you a new signal somewhere."

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 six-story condos, ratcheting up neighborhood density

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Wed, Nov 18, 2020, 12:21 pm

In the latest growth spurt for the rapidly evolving San Antonio neighborhood, the Mountain View City Council voted 6-1 Tuesday to approve a six-story condo project next door to some of the city's largest office and housing developments.

The 44-unit project on Fayette Drive brings much-desired ownership housing to the city on a bite-sized property -- only two-thirds of an acre -- nearby a crush of new development in Mountain View. Its neighbors include a recently completed 583-unit apartment complex and a second, 632-unit apartment project currently under construction.

The Fayette condos weren't originally part of this high-density plan. The property fell outside the city's San Antonio Precise Plan -- the blueprint for higher density in the area -- and was originally meant to be a four-story, 24-unit project. But the City Council agreed in 2016 to rezone the area into the precise plan, allowing higher density to creep further west.

The property is currently home to six vacant housing units and a small 6,900-square-foot commercial building previously used for carpet cleaning.

What makes the project unusual is its affordable housing. In order to comply with state requirements, Octane Fayette, the developer, has to provide units at the same income level that the demolished apartments were provided at prior to being vacated. The project includes five affordable units, four of which will be available to very low-income families.

Ownership units are rarely provided to families making less than 80% of the area's median income. The very low-income units are available to families making up to 50% of the median income, or about $79,000 for a family of four.

Though a rare opportunity to provide deeply affordable ownership housing in Mountain View, council members grappled with a snag in the plans. These low-income families would be subject to the same HOA fees and assessments exacted on all homeowners, and could easily be overwhelmed by an unexpected high-cost project to replace the roof or pool. Low-income families could be getting set up to fail in the future development, absent some kind of special fund.

To that end, Octane proposed setting up a $250,000 fund to help pay for "overly burdensome" HOA fees exacted on those living in the affordable units. The money will be pulled out of the developer's $691,000 public benefit package to the city.

Some council members bristled at the idea of using public benefit money meant to support the San Antonio neighborhood in order to subsidize a future HOA. Councilwoman Lisa Matichak, who voted against the project, said San Antonio has undergone rapid development and badly needs roadway improvements and open space.

"This area is in need of infrastructure to support all this development," she said. "We know we need more park space and there is congestion on the roads, and this is going to add to that."

Matichak also felt the property should not have been rezoned to be part of the San Antonio Precise Plan.

But to the majority of the council, the project was worth approving as a one-off. Future ownership housing projects will be required to set aside an HOA reserve, rather than volunteer the money through public benefits, and council member Chris Clark said the city is not setting a precedent to subsidize HOAs. Plus, Clark said, it's not exactly a huge amount of money.

"If we were talking about $1 million or something that would have a significant public community benefit in the San Antonio area then I might feel a bit differently," Clark said. "But we're talking about $250,000. You'll be lucky if that buys you a new signal somewhere."

Comments

Glen Dayton
Registered user
The Crossings
on Nov 18, 2020 at 3:01 pm
Glen Dayton, The Crossings
Registered user
on Nov 18, 2020 at 3:01 pm
18 people like this

(We need a new category for Development).

A new six story 583 unit does not seem reasonable given the traffic in the area. It appears the environmental study ignored the already bad traffic on San Antonio heading towards the freeway. The grand boulevard idea for El Camino and San Antonio does not fit the actual infrastructure of the area. High rise apartment buildings demand more services than the property taxes provide, and the water demands alone means we will need to find new sources of water and more bond issues to revamp the water system.


Greg
Registered user
Slater
on Nov 18, 2020 at 3:36 pm
Greg, Slater
Registered user
on Nov 18, 2020 at 3:36 pm
29 people like this

The important point of highrises is that developers from places like Los Altos and Los Altos Hills can make more money. Neighborhood impacts don't matter - to them. They don't live in the neighborhood.


Don
Registered user
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Nov 18, 2020 at 4:50 pm
Don, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
Registered user
on Nov 18, 2020 at 4:50 pm
16 people like this

I think higher density makes an area more vibrant and diverse. I know at certain times of the day the traffic all around the junctions of San Antonio and El Camino/California can come close to gridlock but people need a place to live and more affordable places to live. I wish it weren't so, but we don't have suburban cities planned with affordable well operated mass transit, therefore more cars. I'm happy to see the land used to provide more space for families at the confluence of Mt. View, Los Altos and Palo Alto where generally the cost of housing is unaffordable for the average wage earner.


Greg
Registered user
Slater
on Nov 18, 2020 at 7:26 pm
Greg, Slater
Registered user
on Nov 18, 2020 at 7:26 pm
21 people like this

5 affordable units out of 44 and paid for mostly by the 39 other buyers. Next development will be 7 stories - then 8, then 10. Sky is the limit. But someone makes lots of money - off others. And that someone lives elsewhere.


Activist Socialist
Registered user
Jackson Park
on Nov 18, 2020 at 8:41 pm
Activist Socialist, Jackson Park
Registered user
on Nov 18, 2020 at 8:41 pm
7 people like this

It's a start, but we need dozens of these.

And to the NIMBYs who will no doubt screech about traffic and "neighborhood character", (1) a great way of reducing traffic is to make it so people can live near their jobs, and (2) the character of a neighbor comes from the people, not the buildings. Forcing long time residents out of the area by way of skyrocketing housing costs is a great way to destroy the character of a neighborhood. Don't claim to care about your community when you're actively working to ensure its destruction.


Member
Registered user
Old Mountain View
on Nov 18, 2020 at 9:27 pm
Member, Old Mountain View
Registered user
on Nov 18, 2020 at 9:27 pm
24 people like this

@Activist Socialist

The old 'Nimby' argument is completely specious. The average person keeps a job in the SF Bay Area what 1-3 years before changing? This INCREASES traffic, period. More people = more problems, period. How is a long time resident helped in the face of building condos, where ownership is required all the same? Build so much there is a glut and crash the real estate market? Plus in the face of CV, there is an exodus happening as people can now live anywhere as we all work from home. All these high density housing bring is more traffic, pollution, problems that bigger cities have. Mt. View management has never cared for its citizen, since they all have contributions from developers. We can change the name of the city to 'Blocked Mt. View' since we can't see them anymore. Drop the Nimby argument, its false rhetoric.


Steven Goldstein
Registered user
Old Mountain View
on Nov 19, 2020 at 12:18 am
Steven Goldstein, Old Mountain View
Registered user
on Nov 19, 2020 at 12:18 am
16 people like this

In response to you wrote:

“The old 'Nimby' argument is completely specious. The average person keeps a job in the SF Bay Area what 1-3 years before changing?”

Finally someone pointed out WHY home ownership is NOT viable in the bay and silicon valley and WHY there is so much RENTAL housing. The job market here is so unstable and especially now with COVID and AB5 the REALITY is that the high wage earners are leaving. They CANNOT work on 1 year contracts anymore and the quality of life here is dropping like the titanic. You alos wrote:

“This INCREASES traffic, period. More people = more problems, period. How is a long time resident helped in the face of building condos, where ownership is required all the same? Build so much there is a glut and crash the real estate market?”

Yes again, the crash of 2007-2009 created the Single Family home rental market because of all the foreclosures. And with the low interest rates, people got conned into investment housing markets paying way too much on the price tag. Now if you look at the Zumper (Web Link) average rents in Mountain View they are back to the levels in 2014. Those investments are not producing any Return On Investment, and if this situation does not see any change, those investors are going to have to quit. You wrote:

“Mt. View management has never cared for its citizen, since they all have contributions from developers. We can change the name of the city to 'Blocked Mt. View' since we can't see them anymore. Drop the Nimby argument, its false rhetoric.”

The most scary part is that these projects are being approved and built at the worst time. The COVID and AB5 changes in the jobs market here are permanent, and there is practically no way the investors in the developments are going to see the units sell at the prices they were told they would. Many developers are actually in the tip of collapse, just read the Mercury News article here (Web Link) and the rest of the valley economy in the Forbes article here (Web Link)

The situation is going south but no one wants to acknowledge it.


Santa Rita Mom
Registered user
The Crossings
on Nov 19, 2020 at 11:53 am
Santa Rita Mom, The Crossings
Registered user
on Nov 19, 2020 at 11:53 am
7 people like this

@ Glen Dayton
There would be water - except the city sold it to Palo Alto for a pittance. That way they could raise the cost of water on all of us and complain that everyone was overusing the resource. The grasshopper mentality of the city council is clear if you pay attention to their actions. They want the money from the taxes so they can create more and more programs to support - few of which benefit those paying those taxes or even the residents of the buildings they are so happy to approve.

@Steven Goldstein
The COVID changes are permanent? Really? I sure hope not.

If that is the truth and we are stuck wearing masks in this area for the rest of time, then what is the justification for increasing the housing density? Don't these people know that packing us in like sardines will ensure that any pathogen spreads like wildfire? What is their reasoning, other than $$$$?

Lots of questions but not many plausible answers.


Tech
Registered user
Rex Manor
on Nov 19, 2020 at 12:23 pm
Tech, Rex Manor
Registered user
on Nov 19, 2020 at 12:23 pm
6 people like this

NIMBY concerns are legitimate. Not everyone wants density. The city's growth is poorly planned. Traffic is increasing but retail is farther apart. Budgeting is difficult, COVID is disrupting jobs, etc. Some of the new development is claustrophobic and unappealing.

I get the backlash against politicians who care more about the bottom 10% than the middle 50%. But the few candidates who talked about supply and demand came in even lower than the activists. I get that people want a stable market when their wealth is tied up in it, though America needs to stop treating housing as a financial instrument.

But the main reason housing skyrocketed is planned expansion of offices not matched by new housing. We talk about Palo Alto's jobs-housing imbalance but it's the same everywhere on the peninsula. Even the new "pro-housing" plans in NBS and Whisman are jobs heavy.

Commercial densification is a done deal. To cast FUD on residential densification at this point is specious misdirection.

Enjoy your bed. You made it.


Steven Goldstein
Registered user
Old Mountain View
on Nov 19, 2020 at 2:16 pm
Steven Goldstein, Old Mountain View
Registered user
on Nov 19, 2020 at 2:16 pm
10 people like this

In response to Santa Rita Mom you wrote:

“@Steven Goldstein

The COVID changes are permanent? Really? I sure hope not.

If that is the truth and we are stuck wearing masks in this area for the rest of time, then what is the justification for increasing the housing density? Don't these people know that packing us in like sardines will ensure that any pathogen spreads like wildfire? What is their reasoning, other than $$$$?”

That is what I have been trying to get people to understand. The Washington Post (Web Link) amongst many other groups and individuals are already stating the damage of COVID is irreversible. So many businesses closed for good, and so many people lost work that won’t recover for at least 3 years. The Federal Reserve admits this situation as well if you read the article here (Web Link). This report was written with some optimism, PRIOR to the new wave of COVID and the intensity of this one makes the others small in comparison.

Again, look at the semi-permanent “Work From Home” model that is likely to be permanent, meaning the workers here will be not required to be in the offices except for special occasions. Thus, people will not live here if they can save money living elsewhere. And again, the work terms of perhaps 1 to 3 years per job makes it impossible to rely on earnings to “OWN” a home here. It is not feasible and thus those properties if not rented will not be sold or will be in a “FIRE” sale.

AB5 is relocating many of those jobs out of state too. Even though it was not necessary, once the Microsoft Federal Case in 1996 and the Dynemax State Case in 2018 was finalized, the writing was on the wall. Even if AB5 wasn’t the law, the workers in the valley would go to court and force the Tech Industry to pay so much it would simply leave only executive offices here and all the WORK would be relocated out of state.

We really are not planning long term, and it is going to explode in our faces even more and more.


Tech
Registered user
Rex Manor
on Nov 19, 2020 at 3:27 pm
Tech, Rex Manor
Registered user
on Nov 19, 2020 at 3:27 pm
5 people like this

@Steven Goldstein

We've been in lockdown 8 months and your residential property fire sale has yet to happen.


Steven Goldstein
Registered user
Old Mountain View
on Nov 19, 2020 at 3:57 pm
Steven Goldstein, Old Mountain View
Registered user
on Nov 19, 2020 at 3:57 pm
18 people like this

Tech,

The Mortgage Forbearances have stopped the foreclosures until Feb. 1, 2021 under the CARE act.

So the process is delayed.

Once Jan 31 comes and goes and there is no other COVID relief program is in play. The Banks will start the foreclosures immediately in order to maintain the current price values. In order to protect their Mortgage Backed Securities investments.

We are going to replay the 2007-9 foreclosures on BOTH Commercial and Residential Mortgage Backed Securities on STEROIDS.

You should have known about it. But the people aren't paying attention to the MAN BEHIND THE CURTAIN.

It will work out in either 2 ways, the vacancies for the rental housing is going to spike and the rents will not adjust to prevent the catastrophic losses of the CMBS and the RMBS market, or there is going to be a major drop in property values when the rents do fall.

As well as the loss of demand for the rental housing itself. Given the change in the status of the valley.


Tech
Registered user
Rex Manor
on Nov 19, 2020 at 4:23 pm
Tech, Rex Manor
Registered user
on Nov 19, 2020 at 4:23 pm
5 people like this

Steven,

I haven't bought yet so it's no skin off my back. A market correction would be nice.

But while the rental market is hurting some, the ownership market has gone down maybe 5%. After it was up 80% from 5 years ago. The MV median home is $1.8 million, 18x the median household income of $100k. It can drop 50% and it's still not remotely affordable by most metrics.

Many tech employees who haven't bought are sitting on piles of money. Many moved outward as far as Tracy or Santa Cruz to buy, and commuted in, before COVID. The latent demand is massive.

This has been going on so long people have lost all perspective. I'm sorry, but I think that loss of perspective includes your concerns. If housing drops 50% in February, there will be some big losers and a loss of confidence, but it doesn't mean the crisis is over and the demand is gone. It just puts us back where we were 5 short years ago. That's still after things were bad enough to trigger the 2014 election results.


Steven Goldstein
Registered user
Old Mountain View
on Nov 19, 2020 at 4:46 pm
Steven Goldstein, Old Mountain View
Registered user
on Nov 19, 2020 at 4:46 pm
18 people like this

Tech,

Zumper already has rents set at the prices they were in 2014. See it here (Web Link)

The housing sector INVESTORS expect a ROI EVERY year, if they don't see it, they will drop their investments like an old habit.

If they drop another 50% the way you describe on top of the already lost values, it will crush the private housing companies completely.

You are not understanding we already are at 2014 prices. I am simply pointing out that the "management" of Mountain View has been lousy on the most part on all concerned because the PRIVATE interests tried to take advantage of the city. And it worked UNTIL NOW.

NOW the unsinkable housing market (Titanic) has been hit by the COVID and AB5 (the iceberg) and it is sinking, and the City Council (the band) is still playing the same tune (played on).


Jeremy Hoffman
Registered user
Rengstorff Park
on Nov 19, 2020 at 8:55 pm
Jeremy Hoffman, Rengstorff Park
Registered user
on Nov 19, 2020 at 8:55 pm
5 people like this

"More people = more problems, period."?! What a dismal worldview. Personally I think people have a lot to offer each other.

San Antonio has offices, retail, and a trail station all within walking distance. Seems like a great place for some tall buildings. But I guess I'll settle for medium height 6 stories.

By the way, if you believe that global warming is urgent, you should keep in mind that people who live in more dense areas produce much less CO2 emissions compared to people who live in exurban sprawl.


Don
Registered user
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Nov 20, 2020 at 9:27 am
Don, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
Registered user
on Nov 20, 2020 at 9:27 am
3 people like this

Unless there's a radical event for the health of the planet (beyond COVID-19 and its siblings) people will continue to procreate and they will want their children to live in a safe space near to infrastructure, shopping, medical care, etc. Let's forget the impact of the six story condos and look forward with boldness when the two remaining non-developed corners of San Antonio and El Camino (Chef Chu's & Luther Burbank Savings) are developed into high-rise mixed use areas. Transit lanes are installed along El Camino, a auto and pedestrian underpass is installed allowing free traffic flow past El Camino, Lozano's car wash is converted to housing and all four corners are tied together with pedestrian an bicycle over/underpasses.

Although this would seem outrageous and unacceptable to many, if we first visited the area after all these changes were made (I forgot a new school instead of the old DMV center) it would seem completely natural. Googlers and Microsoftians could/would bike to work along a dedicated safe bicycle route and the area would be vibrant.

Rose colored glasses notwithstanding it's all possible and is a part of a greater consideration for everyone living in and around the junction of Mt. View, Los Altos & Palo Alto.


Steven Nelson
Registered user
Cuesta Park
on Nov 24, 2020 at 10:53 am
Steven Nelson, Cuesta Park
Registered user
on Nov 24, 2020 at 10:53 am
Like this comment

Thank you @Don and @Jerimy. You have aptly expressed many of the reasons why voters like you (probably) and I have voted to shift the balance of th next City Council (Public Policy makers) toward a more housing-related outlook. It is clear from both postings here and the Council election that proponents of less residential (including high rises in almost all areas) like Councilwoman Lisa Matichak will continue to vote - and be reelected to express counter-views.

so be democracy (I do not pine for a national planned central economy)


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

Post a comment

In order to encourage respectful and thoughtful discussion, commenting on stories is available to those who are registered users. If you are already a registered user and the commenting form is not below, you need to log in. If you are not registered, you can do so here.

Please make sure your comments are truthful, on-topic and do not disrespect another poster. Don't be snarky or belittling. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

See our announcement about requiring registration for commenting.