News

Plans to densify Mountain View apartment complex wins council support

Proposed four-story apartments would boost housing at 555 W. Middlefield Road. Rendering courtesy city of Mountain View.

A majority of Mountain View City Council members on Tuesday supported plans to significantly boost the size of a large apartment complex along Middlefield Road, planting four-story buildings in a complex that's been around since the 1960s.

The proposed infill development at 555 W. Middlefield Road, which has been in the works for years, would bump up the number of units from 402 to 731 -- all without demolishing a single existing home. Council members sought to tweak the project at a Feb. 23 study session, but largely agreed to have it move forward.

Previous incarnations of the project received an icy reception, but for the most part proposed the same thing. Two surface parking lots at the Eaves Mountain View apartment complex would be nixed, making room for 329 units across two 50-foot-tall apartment buildings. Parking would be moved into underground garages, and 1.3 acres would be turned into a public park.

The housing boost, proposed by the developer AvalonBay Communities, won praise from housing advocates as a strategic response to the housing crisis. April Webster, a resident who lives across the street from the project, said she supported the project and that Mountain View needs to do what it can to keep the Bay Area affordable for service-sector workers.

"These members of our community keep the economy running, and they can't afford to live in Mountain View," she said. "I think it is critical that we provide more affordable housing so we don't end up displacing these members of our community, and I think continuing along the path we're on is untenable and unsustainable, and everyone's quality of life will suffer."

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But other nearby residents have come out in sharp opposition to the project, arguing the expansion would be too dense for the area and would permanently damage the quality of life in the neighborhood. Daniel Shane, writing on behalf of a group called the Cypress Point Community Preservation Group, warned that the cumulative growth on and near Middlefield Road would cause numerous problems, including traffic snarls, parking overflow and vehicular collisions along Cypress Point Drive.

"We have drunk drivers having accidents and damaging property at Cypress Point Woods," Shane wrote in a letter prior to the council. "The doubling of tenants, their guests and all the vehicles at AvalonBay apartments will exacerbate our concerns about safety."

Shane also suggested that the public park would be "unwanted" and would mostly serve the apartments, and questioned the need for the open space when there are alternative parks nearby.

Tying up the council at the study session was whether to rezone the entire property from medium density residential to high density, which would allow between 36 and 80 units per acre. The proposal lands close to the middle, at around 55 units per acre, and some council members worried the rezoning would allow AvalonBay to scrap the current proposal and come back with something gigantic.

Joe Kirchofer, vice president of development for AvalonBay, assured the council that was not going to happen, and said that the company has been working exhaustively since 2015 to try to get the current proposal over the finish line.

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"We have been pursuing this project for the last five years. We think this is the right way to develop the site," Kirchofer said. "We have no intention of throwing the approval out and starting the process over with a brand new project."

Still, the prospect worried people like Robert Cox, a resident and former planning commission member. He said the city could very well be forced to stomach a maximum density project that would raze the existing apartments, which are subject to the city's rent control law.

"I recommend the council determine whether an airtight legal guarantee can be made that the zoning change can be tied to this specific proposal," he said.

Council members were split on whether to support a special zoning standard specifically for the project, but a majority agreed to study the option. Councilman Lucas Ramirez said properties are frequently rezoned as part of a project's approval, and he didn't see a compelling reason to treat AvalonBay differently.

"I can't personally think of what distinguishes this project from those other projects where a General Plan amendment was approved to go up to high density," he said.

Efforts to cut down on the project's size, including lopping off one story of the apartments along Cypress Point Way, also fell flat at the study session, with only three council members supporting the idea.

AvalonBay is offering nearly $2 million in community benefit funding as part of the project, which remained uncommitted at the study session. Council members raised the possibility that the developer could provide a connection between Middlefield Road and Stevens Creek Trail, creating an important bike and pedestrian link to the neighborhood.

But the council stopped short of making it a requirement, citing concerns that the trail connection could be impossible for the developer to pull off as a condition of approval. Councilwoman Pat Showalter said creating a link to the trail could be difficult due to Highway 85, which runs along the east side of the project and is owned and operated by the state.

"We do not have jurisdiction over Caltrans and Highway 85, so there are some things that aren't going to work there," she said. "I think we need to be careful requiring something that may be infeasible."

The project is expected to come before the City Council for approval in the summer, with construction set to begin in 2023. Construction will be phased over a lengthy five years in order to avoid displacing current tenants.

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Plans to densify Mountain View apartment complex wins council support

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Wed, Feb 24, 2021, 1:01 pm

A majority of Mountain View City Council members on Tuesday supported plans to significantly boost the size of a large apartment complex along Middlefield Road, planting four-story buildings in a complex that's been around since the 1960s.

The proposed infill development at 555 W. Middlefield Road, which has been in the works for years, would bump up the number of units from 402 to 731 -- all without demolishing a single existing home. Council members sought to tweak the project at a Feb. 23 study session, but largely agreed to have it move forward.

Previous incarnations of the project received an icy reception, but for the most part proposed the same thing. Two surface parking lots at the Eaves Mountain View apartment complex would be nixed, making room for 329 units across two 50-foot-tall apartment buildings. Parking would be moved into underground garages, and 1.3 acres would be turned into a public park.

The housing boost, proposed by the developer AvalonBay Communities, won praise from housing advocates as a strategic response to the housing crisis. April Webster, a resident who lives across the street from the project, said she supported the project and that Mountain View needs to do what it can to keep the Bay Area affordable for service-sector workers.

"These members of our community keep the economy running, and they can't afford to live in Mountain View," she said. "I think it is critical that we provide more affordable housing so we don't end up displacing these members of our community, and I think continuing along the path we're on is untenable and unsustainable, and everyone's quality of life will suffer."

But other nearby residents have come out in sharp opposition to the project, arguing the expansion would be too dense for the area and would permanently damage the quality of life in the neighborhood. Daniel Shane, writing on behalf of a group called the Cypress Point Community Preservation Group, warned that the cumulative growth on and near Middlefield Road would cause numerous problems, including traffic snarls, parking overflow and vehicular collisions along Cypress Point Drive.

"We have drunk drivers having accidents and damaging property at Cypress Point Woods," Shane wrote in a letter prior to the council. "The doubling of tenants, their guests and all the vehicles at AvalonBay apartments will exacerbate our concerns about safety."

Shane also suggested that the public park would be "unwanted" and would mostly serve the apartments, and questioned the need for the open space when there are alternative parks nearby.

Tying up the council at the study session was whether to rezone the entire property from medium density residential to high density, which would allow between 36 and 80 units per acre. The proposal lands close to the middle, at around 55 units per acre, and some council members worried the rezoning would allow AvalonBay to scrap the current proposal and come back with something gigantic.

Joe Kirchofer, vice president of development for AvalonBay, assured the council that was not going to happen, and said that the company has been working exhaustively since 2015 to try to get the current proposal over the finish line.

"We have been pursuing this project for the last five years. We think this is the right way to develop the site," Kirchofer said. "We have no intention of throwing the approval out and starting the process over with a brand new project."

Still, the prospect worried people like Robert Cox, a resident and former planning commission member. He said the city could very well be forced to stomach a maximum density project that would raze the existing apartments, which are subject to the city's rent control law.

"I recommend the council determine whether an airtight legal guarantee can be made that the zoning change can be tied to this specific proposal," he said.

Council members were split on whether to support a special zoning standard specifically for the project, but a majority agreed to study the option. Councilman Lucas Ramirez said properties are frequently rezoned as part of a project's approval, and he didn't see a compelling reason to treat AvalonBay differently.

"I can't personally think of what distinguishes this project from those other projects where a General Plan amendment was approved to go up to high density," he said.

Efforts to cut down on the project's size, including lopping off one story of the apartments along Cypress Point Way, also fell flat at the study session, with only three council members supporting the idea.

AvalonBay is offering nearly $2 million in community benefit funding as part of the project, which remained uncommitted at the study session. Council members raised the possibility that the developer could provide a connection between Middlefield Road and Stevens Creek Trail, creating an important bike and pedestrian link to the neighborhood.

But the council stopped short of making it a requirement, citing concerns that the trail connection could be impossible for the developer to pull off as a condition of approval. Councilwoman Pat Showalter said creating a link to the trail could be difficult due to Highway 85, which runs along the east side of the project and is owned and operated by the state.

"We do not have jurisdiction over Caltrans and Highway 85, so there are some things that aren't going to work there," she said. "I think we need to be careful requiring something that may be infeasible."

The project is expected to come before the City Council for approval in the summer, with construction set to begin in 2023. Construction will be phased over a lengthy five years in order to avoid displacing current tenants.

Comments

bkengland
Registered user
Whisman Station
on Feb 24, 2021 at 2:25 pm
bkengland, Whisman Station
Registered user
on Feb 24, 2021 at 2:25 pm

There was significant support for this project voiced by members of the public who spoke and submitted letters. This should be covered in the article. On the trail connection piece, there was an ask for Staff to come back at a future meeting to discuss what might be done through the Capital Improvement Program. Councilmember Showalter didn't say a new connection wouldn't work, but only that it would be a challenge. A new connection is just one option: Improving on existing access is also in discussion.


Shane
Registered user
Willowgate
on Feb 24, 2021 at 2:50 pm
Shane, Willowgate
Registered user
on Feb 24, 2021 at 2:50 pm

I am a long-time homeowner living next to the proposed project. I also represent the Cypress Point Community Preservation Group (CPCPG). CPCPG has 69 members who are mostly homeowners and would be directly impacted by the high-density housing development. CPCPG has argued the reasons and rationale why they are opposed to this ill-conceived project and support a scaled-down project that would fit into our beautiful medium-density neighborhood. The proposed project would more than double the current number of tenants and add hundreds of cars to a narrow, dead-end, cul-de-sac. Problems with traffic safety would be a nightmare. There are already 15 proposed, under construction, and completed high-density housing developments in our area. This one is by far the black sheep of the litter. It is unwanted, unneeded, and 5-years of continuous construction and disruption of our daily lives is totally unacceptable. The lack of concern by some members of City Council was absolutely astounding to me. There was more concern about the apartment renters than the property tax-paying homeowners. CPCPG will continue to fight against this project because we have no choice. We will have to live with this mistake permanently.


Mom and pop landlord
Registered user
Waverly Park
on Feb 24, 2021 at 4:03 pm
Mom and pop landlord, Waverly Park
Registered user
on Feb 24, 2021 at 4:03 pm

This story is illustrative of the challenge we face in providing affordable housing. Five year approval process and millions in concessions adds a lot of cost and additional and expense to new units. All of that planning cost and concession cost needs to be recouped in… Higher rents. All the while supply is lower, driving surrounding rents up. This is the death spiral we live in.


Terrie Rayl
Registered user
Willowgate
on Feb 24, 2021 at 4:15 pm
Terrie Rayl, Willowgate
Registered user
on Feb 24, 2021 at 4:15 pm

I wanted to make a correction to this article. Actually Sally Lieber voted to continue to look at keeping the project as part of the P Zoning in the General Plan and ensuring that the project stayed as proposed and not able to increase to 80 units per acre since this was a Gatekeeper Project and did not come through the normal Zoning project channel. So there were four votes on this item and it did win a majority.


Local
Registered user
Martens-Carmelita
on Feb 24, 2021 at 4:18 pm
Local, Martens-Carmelita
Registered user
on Feb 24, 2021 at 4:18 pm

I wonder if anyone considered the impact to schools in this area? Will there be enough classroom space? What impact will this amount of housing have on our water supply? I agree that the area will have to deal with greatly increased traffic on a narrow street entrance, and the noise of a "five year building process" is a lot to ask of the neighborhood.
Yes, low income housing is needed, but does Mountain View have to carry the load for Los Altos, Menlo Park, etc, forever? I was always told that those making the decisions on a project, should vote as though it was being built next to THEIR home. I wonder if this is being done?


Hala
Registered user
Cuesta Park
on Feb 24, 2021 at 5:58 pm
Hala, Cuesta Park
Registered user
on Feb 24, 2021 at 5:58 pm

Re-zoning this dead end substandard street Cypress Point Dr (36 ft wide) from medium density to high, where the residents number might increase from 750 to potentially 1600 people with vehicles, not to mention the impact of the Adult Education Center parking issues at the corner of this street, represents a great burden on the existing community and their well being. In addition, the removal of the 62 heritage trees, many of them currently act as a barrier to HYW 85 pollution and noise, cannot be mitigated for many many years by young trees that won’t even be planted until the end of this project which is estimated to take five years. Where is the environmental justice in this argument?
A General Precise Plan, which this project lacks, that requires a much more thorough evaluation of community and environmental impacts is essential to having a balanced and responsible development for this neighborhood.


marknn
Registered user
North Whisman
on Feb 24, 2021 at 11:43 pm
marknn, North Whisman
Registered user
on Feb 24, 2021 at 11:43 pm

I live in the neighborhood, on Middlefield rd and this is a great development - the developer really addressed concerns of Cyprus Point residents by _reducing_ number of cars that can exit into cyprus point road even compared to today: most of the new cars will go straight into Middlefield - please check the plans before concern trolling.... To those concerned homeowners who live on Cyprus point I envy you - parking lot on the the side of cyprus road is getting replaced with green space and public park, with some nice looking townhouses *and* reduced number of cars that will be able able to exit on your road and you are still complaining? Speaking of entitlement....

Yes, schools/water/utilities have been studied, ad nasseum, nothing is ever getting built without those being signed off.


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