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Mountain View City Council approves dense 408-unit apartment complex in East Whisman

The proposed 408-unit apartment building at 400 Logue Avenue is moving forward following the council's approval Tuesday. Courtesy city of Mountain View.

The Mountain View City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to approve what will be the first housing project in the office-laden East Whisman area, making good on an effort to revamp the area with high-density housing and balance the region's jobs-housing imbalance.

But the 7-0 vote came with misgivings about the compromises made along the way. The 408-unit project at 400 Logue Avenue cut out all of the ownership housing that was originally included -- making all of the homes rentals -- and received special exemptions to shortchange the city on affordable units in order to make the proposal financially feasible.

Faltering on either front would've effectively killed the project's viability, according to the developer, leaving council members with the ugly choice of approving the faulty project or killing yet another opportunity to build homes in the area. Even the biggest critics on the council ultimately landed on the side of approval.

The proposal by Miramar Capital dates back to 2018, when the developer got the greenlight to move forward after offering to help pay for a school in the Los Altos School District. The original concept was a hulking 11-story apartment complex with 134 ownership units and 236 rentals.

Some council members were surprised at the June 22 meeting to see how much the project had evolved since then, protesting that the city's planning process allows developers to completely redesign projects once they get their foot in the door. The project is now eight stories tall and has no ownership units, both resulting from a tough construction market and difficulties with financing, said Perry Hariri of Miramar Capital.

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Adding to the concessions, the project normally would require 15% of the homes to be below-market-rate (BMR) units, but was instead getting a compromise. A total of 62 units would be affordable, but more than half (38) would be for middle-income families making between 80% and 120% of the area's median income. Only 24 would be available to low-income and very low-income families.

The concession, along with the loss of ownership units, was simply asking for too much, said Councilwoman Lisa Matichak.

"I'm a little bit dismayed at changing the BMR requirements when this is a fundamentally different project than what we were basing that decision on," she said.

Hariri said the project would cease to pencil out if it abided by the city's traditional affordable housing requirements, and that construction costs today are simply too high. The alternative is to do what many other developers do, which is to build no affordable units and simply cut the city a check to build affordable housing somewhere else.

"We can't do the project with a code-compliant BMR requirement," Hariri said.

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Local and regional housing advocacy groups are still rallying behind the project, calling it a positive step for the East Whisman area. Jason Baker of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group said the project is well-positioned next to the Middlefield VTA light rail station, and provides units to both low- and middle-income residents.

"We know the Bay Area is in a dire housing shortage. A lack of housing poses a threat to our economy, our diversity and our quality of life," Baker said. "We need to produce more housing at all levels, 400 Logue is a great step in the right direction."

Hanging over the council's decision Tuesday was the ill-fated SummerHill Homes project, approved in May last year and originally meant to be the first housing project in East Whisman. The seven-story project had a mix of apartments, condos and townhouses, and also got a special exemption on affordable housing units. But in October, it became clear that the project was never going to get built because it was no longer financially feasible, and has reportedly been abandoned.

Losing housing in East Whisman is a serious problem. The area's zoning requires that office development be metered by housing construction, and that job and housing growth in the area must come in tandem in order to meet the city's ambitious goals for up to 5,000 new homes.

Councilman Lucas Ramirez said he was reluctant to force the developer to follow the city's standard BMR requirements, and that the council had to be wary of killing even more housing projects in East Whisman.

"I'm really concerned about having another entitled project that doesn't happen," he said. "We've already lost the SummerHill project."

Adding to the stakes on Tuesday night, Miramar Capital is also paying close to $4.6 million to the Los Altos School District in order to help finance a school in the city's San Antonio shopping center. Under the deal, Miramar has the rights to build an additional 36,000 square feet of development at 400 Logue in exchange for the funding. Council members have long made exceptions for less-than-ideal projects that have helped finance the school district's expensive efforts.

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Mountain View City Council approves dense 408-unit apartment complex in East Whisman

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Wed, Jun 23, 2021, 4:12 pm

The Mountain View City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to approve what will be the first housing project in the office-laden East Whisman area, making good on an effort to revamp the area with high-density housing and balance the region's jobs-housing imbalance.

But the 7-0 vote came with misgivings about the compromises made along the way. The 408-unit project at 400 Logue Avenue cut out all of the ownership housing that was originally included -- making all of the homes rentals -- and received special exemptions to shortchange the city on affordable units in order to make the proposal financially feasible.

Faltering on either front would've effectively killed the project's viability, according to the developer, leaving council members with the ugly choice of approving the faulty project or killing yet another opportunity to build homes in the area. Even the biggest critics on the council ultimately landed on the side of approval.

The proposal by Miramar Capital dates back to 2018, when the developer got the greenlight to move forward after offering to help pay for a school in the Los Altos School District. The original concept was a hulking 11-story apartment complex with 134 ownership units and 236 rentals.

Some council members were surprised at the June 22 meeting to see how much the project had evolved since then, protesting that the city's planning process allows developers to completely redesign projects once they get their foot in the door. The project is now eight stories tall and has no ownership units, both resulting from a tough construction market and difficulties with financing, said Perry Hariri of Miramar Capital.

Adding to the concessions, the project normally would require 15% of the homes to be below-market-rate (BMR) units, but was instead getting a compromise. A total of 62 units would be affordable, but more than half (38) would be for middle-income families making between 80% and 120% of the area's median income. Only 24 would be available to low-income and very low-income families.

The concession, along with the loss of ownership units, was simply asking for too much, said Councilwoman Lisa Matichak.

"I'm a little bit dismayed at changing the BMR requirements when this is a fundamentally different project than what we were basing that decision on," she said.

Hariri said the project would cease to pencil out if it abided by the city's traditional affordable housing requirements, and that construction costs today are simply too high. The alternative is to do what many other developers do, which is to build no affordable units and simply cut the city a check to build affordable housing somewhere else.

"We can't do the project with a code-compliant BMR requirement," Hariri said.

Local and regional housing advocacy groups are still rallying behind the project, calling it a positive step for the East Whisman area. Jason Baker of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group said the project is well-positioned next to the Middlefield VTA light rail station, and provides units to both low- and middle-income residents.

"We know the Bay Area is in a dire housing shortage. A lack of housing poses a threat to our economy, our diversity and our quality of life," Baker said. "We need to produce more housing at all levels, 400 Logue is a great step in the right direction."

Hanging over the council's decision Tuesday was the ill-fated SummerHill Homes project, approved in May last year and originally meant to be the first housing project in East Whisman. The seven-story project had a mix of apartments, condos and townhouses, and also got a special exemption on affordable housing units. But in October, it became clear that the project was never going to get built because it was no longer financially feasible, and has reportedly been abandoned.

Losing housing in East Whisman is a serious problem. The area's zoning requires that office development be metered by housing construction, and that job and housing growth in the area must come in tandem in order to meet the city's ambitious goals for up to 5,000 new homes.

Councilman Lucas Ramirez said he was reluctant to force the developer to follow the city's standard BMR requirements, and that the council had to be wary of killing even more housing projects in East Whisman.

"I'm really concerned about having another entitled project that doesn't happen," he said. "We've already lost the SummerHill project."

Adding to the stakes on Tuesday night, Miramar Capital is also paying close to $4.6 million to the Los Altos School District in order to help finance a school in the city's San Antonio shopping center. Under the deal, Miramar has the rights to build an additional 36,000 square feet of development at 400 Logue in exchange for the funding. Council members have long made exceptions for less-than-ideal projects that have helped finance the school district's expensive efforts.

Comments

Bill
Registered user
Rex Manor
on Jun 24, 2021 at 2:22 pm
Bill, Rex Manor
Registered user
on Jun 24, 2021 at 2:22 pm

Hummm, Miramar gives 4.6 million in payola for a school project and gets lots of concessions and people who cannot afford housing suffer without BMR. Great politics for a very rich high tech area that needs to provide for all social classes and not just the stock rich 1 percent.


Polomom
Registered user
Waverly Park
on Jun 24, 2021 at 2:33 pm
Polomom, Waverly Park
Registered user
on Jun 24, 2021 at 2:33 pm

Developer 1 - Mountain View Residents 0


Miguel Sanchez
Registered user
North Whisman
on Jun 24, 2021 at 3:01 pm
Miguel Sanchez, North Whisman
Registered user
on Jun 24, 2021 at 3:01 pm

I think having "serious misgivings" is irrelevant if you still vote 7-0 in favor of the project. Maybe showing a closer vote would at least show Developers that they can't keep doing this and still expect to pass easily. But 7-0, what's the incentive for them to even try changing?


SC Parent
Registered user
Cuesta Park
on Jun 24, 2021 at 4:58 pm
SC Parent, Cuesta Park
Registered user
on Jun 24, 2021 at 4:58 pm

"Some council members were surprised at the June 22 meeting to see how much the project had evolved since then, protesting that the city's planning process allows developers to completely redesign projects once they get their foot in the door. "

Man, if only the council members could get a hold of those crazy people who created this process. Oh wait, it was the council that creates (and perpetuates) these rules! For crying out loud, it's high-time MV decide whether it wants to be a "real" city rather than amateur hour. By "real" cities, I mean "professional" cities, whereby the council establishes clear, specific zoning standards that projects must abide by, not the project-by-project casserole (soap opera) that MV creates. Variances would not allowed unless they are minor, and are handled by the planning department which should require reasonable compensation for granting the variance, so there is not an opportunity for "re-election" (fundraising) concerns to influence the decision process.


Tal Shaya
Registered user
another community
on Jun 25, 2021 at 6:16 am
Tal Shaya, another community
Registered user
on Jun 25, 2021 at 6:16 am

Told you so. "Affordable housing" in Mountain View means "affordable to Googlers." And BTW, it looks like a slum. Hey, I just thought of a way to beat the housing crush: leave Mountain View.


Steven Nelson
Registered user
Cuesta Park
on Jun 25, 2021 at 9:20 am
Steven Nelson, Cuesta Park
Registered user
on Jun 25, 2021 at 9:20 am

The $4,600,000 is going to the Los Altos School District and not the local Mountain View Whisman District. MVWSD's Vargus Elementary will be a 1.0 mile walk away from these new residences (according to Google mapping).

I certainly agree with the posters - strongly disappointed - BUT VOTE YES? What the heck is that? I agree with Lisa's words, but because of Her Actions her words have no real value in this civics exercise ( public policy decisions).


Raymond
Registered user
Monta Loma
on Jun 25, 2021 at 3:21 pm
Raymond , Monta Loma
Registered user
on Jun 25, 2021 at 3:21 pm

Another 800 to 1000 residents. Good thing they won't have cars or need to get out for groceries or anything.


Randy Guelph
Registered user
Cuernavaca
on Jun 25, 2021 at 7:48 pm
Randy Guelph, Cuernavaca
Registered user
on Jun 25, 2021 at 7:48 pm

@Polomom, it sounds to me more like the score will be:

Residents - 408+
Developers - 1


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