Mountain View city officials are moving briskly to approve an all-affordable housing project -- including units for the homeless -- located next door to some of the Bay Area's biggest tech powerhouses.
It's the kind of project that might spark protests in other neighborhoods, with residents raising concerns about traffic and the prospect of the chronically homeless living nearby. But things are different when your neighbors are Microsoft offices and Google buildings.
Council members unanimously agreed last week to commit $15 million toward building a 100-unit apartment complex at 1100 La Avenida, proposed by the nonprofit Eden Housing. The project would bulldoze a vacant office building and replace it with the affordable units, all of which will be available to those making between 30% and 60% of the area's median annual income, which ranges from $47,370 to $94,740 for a family of four.
It's a high price for the city, which will be pitching in $150,000 per unit, but much cheaper than previous public subsidies by the city.
North Bayshore is undergoing the first steps of a major transformation into a mixed-use, urban neighborhood, replacing sprawling single-story office campuses with high-density housing and offices. While 1100 La Avenida isn't the first housing project in the pipeline for the area, it's the first all-affordable project.
The only current nearby residents, who live at the Santiago Villa mobile home park, gave a full-throated endorsement of the project at the meeting. The move stands in sharp contrast to past efforts to place supportive housing for the homeless elsewhere in Mountain View.
"The city needs this," said Trey Bornmann, president of the Santiago Villa Neighborhood Association. "I don't think there is going to be any other neighborhood that is going to say, 'Bring this project right next to us.'"
Eden Housing reached a purchase agreement for the property in 2016, right around the time land costs in North Bayshore were on the rise, buying the 1-acre property for $12.2 million. Add in construction and development costs, and Eden is expecting to pay a total of $78.5 million to create North Bayshore's first affordable housing project. It's the highest per-unit cost for affordable housing in the city to date, and leverages a variety of financing strategies to make it pencil out.
One critical source of cash is Santa Clara County's $950 million Measure A bond. The 2016 measure has been used to build affordable housing throughout the county, but North County cities including Mountain View and Palo Alto have yet to tap into the funding. Eden Housing's project would be the first, using $19 million in Measure A money.
In exchange, 33 of the units in the project will be available as permanent supportive housing for the county's chronically homeless population, who will require case management, rental assistance and on-site support services while living in the units. Residents will be selected via a countywide waiting list, and there will not be a preference for those who live or work in Mountain View. City officials say "targeted marketing" will be done to ensure as many homeless people in Mountain View as possible sign up.
The funding won full support of the council, but not without some misgivings. Councilwoman Lisa Matichak, who supported the project, said she worried about the available parking and the need for future residents to get around. Though the area has a bus stop and access to the city's municipal shuttle, North Bayshore is a desert when it comes to retail and neighborhood services like grocery stores.
"Odds are they are going to take a car," Matichak said.
Councilman John McAlister suggested the $78 million cost isn't worth the investment, and made a pitch for the city buying and repurposing existing apartments currently on the market. Doing so would be cheaper, he said, and would put the city in direct control of its affordable housing stock.
"Here is a property that is naturally affordable -- it exists right now -- and it's up for sale," McAlister said, pointing to one property on the market. "And they're advertising to tear it down and put in other project. We need to start taking a look at those opportunities."
Eden is hoping to get final approval from the city by the end of 2021 and begin construction by the end of 2022, with the project finished and open in the third quarter of 2024. Eden could opt for a quicker approval through SB 35, a new state law that allows for streamlined approval of affordable housing projects, but representatives from Eden did not disclose whether they planned to use the by-right housing law.