News

Mountain View City Council earmarks $16M for costly new 84-unit affordable housing project

Council torn over who should own the land for the proposed housing, and whether it matters in the long run

Nonprofit Charities Housing wants to build 84 affordable apartments off Shoreline Boulevard, even if the price tag is high. Courtesy city of Mountain View.

Looking to boost the city's affordable housing supply and tap into county funds to pay for it, the Mountain View City Council voted 4-3 last week to pursue an 84-unit apartment complex with an eye-popping $88.7 million price tag.

The proposed project at the corner of Shoreline Boulevard and Montecito Avenue has the highest per-unit cost in the city's recent history by a large margin, boosted by larger family units that are a rarity in many of the city's affordable housing projects, according to the nonprofit developer Charities Housing. Rather than pack small studios onto the one-acre property, the five-story project would have 21 two-bedroom units and 21 three-bedroom units.

In order to manage the high cost, city officials and Charities Housing sought to share the burden, with $18 million coming from Mountain View and $16 million from Santa Clara County's $950 million Measure A bond. But council members ultimately decided to swap the dollar amounts -- meaning Santa Clara County would pay $18 million and the city would pay $16 million -- even if it meant the county could end up taking ownership of the property in exchange for kicking in the larger share of funds.

The idea won a bare majority, with some council members worried about ceding the land to the county just to save $2 million in affordable housing money. But Councilman Lucas Ramirez said the two agencies have the same goals in mind, and that there's plenty of important priorities for affordable housing funds.

"In my opinion that money would be better spent delivering more projects," Ramirez said.

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Charities Housing, which owns two other affordable housing projects in Mountain View, bought the property last year for $9.5 million with intent to demolish the office building and replace it with housing. If built, it would neighbor the Bailey Park Plaza shopping center and the Shorebreeze apartments, another affordable housing project. Revamping the property to build 84 apartments would require a rezoning for high density, and the developer is proposing just 44 parking spaces to serve all the units.

The project would cost just over $1 million per unit, making it far more expensive than the previous record of $785,000. The price is more in line with other recent affordable housing projects when breaking down the cost by bedroom, however, meaning the larger units for families are what's driving up the price. City officials also noted that construction costs are up 10% year-over-year since the COVID-19 pandemic began, driven in part by material costs for things like lumber.

The proposed housing would be located next to Shorebreeze, one of the city's largest affordable housing complexes. Courtesy city of Mountain View.

Like all projects using the county's Measure A funds, a portion of the units will be set aside for housing the homeless. A third of the units will be devoted to permanent supportive housing or "rapid rehousing" for those in emergency need of a place to live. The remaining two-thirds will be available to those making up to 80% of the area's median income -- currently about $117,800 for a family of four -- of which half will have a preference for those who live or work in Mountain View.

If built, it would be the second project in Mountain View to use Measure A funds, which have largely been spent in San Jose thus far.

While council members largely supported the project and the cost-sharing arrangement, there was an ideological split on how much to lean on the county. Consuelo Hernandez, director of the county's Office of Supportive Housing, said Santa Clara County typically requires ownership of the land in situations where it pays more than the city. It's possible that the city and county could instead work out a shared ownership model or a long-term deed restriction, but there's no guarantee.

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Councilwomen Margaret Abe-Koga and Lisa Matichak both pushed for city ownership, with Abe-Koga arguing that land is an important asset that retains complete local control. She pointed to the Los Altos School District, which sold off multiple campuses in decades past and now faces having to buy expensive new property.

"You just never know," Abe-Koga said. "And $2 million may seem like a lot right now, but I really believe we have to think about the long-term effects."

Ramirez said the promise of ownership wasn't worth $2 million, and that both the city and county have the same goal of keeping the housing affordable in perpetuity. Paying more does nothing to increase the number of units or make the units more affordable, and only stand to address a speculative concern decades from now, he said. The council agreed on a 4-3 vote, with Matichak, Abe-Koga and Mayor Ellen Kamei opposed.

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Mountain View City Council earmarks $16M for costly new 84-unit affordable housing project

Council torn over who should own the land for the proposed housing, and whether it matters in the long run

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Mon, Jun 28, 2021, 12:27 pm

Looking to boost the city's affordable housing supply and tap into county funds to pay for it, the Mountain View City Council voted 4-3 last week to pursue an 84-unit apartment complex with an eye-popping $88.7 million price tag.

The proposed project at the corner of Shoreline Boulevard and Montecito Avenue has the highest per-unit cost in the city's recent history by a large margin, boosted by larger family units that are a rarity in many of the city's affordable housing projects, according to the nonprofit developer Charities Housing. Rather than pack small studios onto the one-acre property, the five-story project would have 21 two-bedroom units and 21 three-bedroom units.

In order to manage the high cost, city officials and Charities Housing sought to share the burden, with $18 million coming from Mountain View and $16 million from Santa Clara County's $950 million Measure A bond. But council members ultimately decided to swap the dollar amounts -- meaning Santa Clara County would pay $18 million and the city would pay $16 million -- even if it meant the county could end up taking ownership of the property in exchange for kicking in the larger share of funds.

The idea won a bare majority, with some council members worried about ceding the land to the county just to save $2 million in affordable housing money. But Councilman Lucas Ramirez said the two agencies have the same goals in mind, and that there's plenty of important priorities for affordable housing funds.

"In my opinion that money would be better spent delivering more projects," Ramirez said.

Charities Housing, which owns two other affordable housing projects in Mountain View, bought the property last year for $9.5 million with intent to demolish the office building and replace it with housing. If built, it would neighbor the Bailey Park Plaza shopping center and the Shorebreeze apartments, another affordable housing project. Revamping the property to build 84 apartments would require a rezoning for high density, and the developer is proposing just 44 parking spaces to serve all the units.

The project would cost just over $1 million per unit, making it far more expensive than the previous record of $785,000. The price is more in line with other recent affordable housing projects when breaking down the cost by bedroom, however, meaning the larger units for families are what's driving up the price. City officials also noted that construction costs are up 10% year-over-year since the COVID-19 pandemic began, driven in part by material costs for things like lumber.

Like all projects using the county's Measure A funds, a portion of the units will be set aside for housing the homeless. A third of the units will be devoted to permanent supportive housing or "rapid rehousing" for those in emergency need of a place to live. The remaining two-thirds will be available to those making up to 80% of the area's median income -- currently about $117,800 for a family of four -- of which half will have a preference for those who live or work in Mountain View.

If built, it would be the second project in Mountain View to use Measure A funds, which have largely been spent in San Jose thus far.

While council members largely supported the project and the cost-sharing arrangement, there was an ideological split on how much to lean on the county. Consuelo Hernandez, director of the county's Office of Supportive Housing, said Santa Clara County typically requires ownership of the land in situations where it pays more than the city. It's possible that the city and county could instead work out a shared ownership model or a long-term deed restriction, but there's no guarantee.

Councilwomen Margaret Abe-Koga and Lisa Matichak both pushed for city ownership, with Abe-Koga arguing that land is an important asset that retains complete local control. She pointed to the Los Altos School District, which sold off multiple campuses in decades past and now faces having to buy expensive new property.

"You just never know," Abe-Koga said. "And $2 million may seem like a lot right now, but I really believe we have to think about the long-term effects."

Ramirez said the promise of ownership wasn't worth $2 million, and that both the city and county have the same goal of keeping the housing affordable in perpetuity. Paying more does nothing to increase the number of units or make the units more affordable, and only stand to address a speculative concern decades from now, he said. The council agreed on a 4-3 vote, with Matichak, Abe-Koga and Mayor Ellen Kamei opposed.

Comments

redhawk524
Registered user
another community
on Jun 28, 2021 at 2:17 pm
redhawk524, another community
Registered user
on Jun 28, 2021 at 2:17 pm

$88.7M for 84 units is a bit over $1M per unit... I guess the question is, affordable for whom?


catabyte
Registered user
another community
on Jun 28, 2021 at 3:00 pm
catabyte, another community
Registered user
on Jun 28, 2021 at 3:00 pm

Building costs of over $1M per unit?

There are 12 2-bedroom condos available right now in Mountain View with a list price of under $1M. Why not just buy those and then buy more of them as more become available? Or even better just subsidize rents for each family for the next 16 years to the tune of $5,000 per month per family?

Am I mathing this all wrong?


drslb
Registered user
Rengstorff Park
on Jun 28, 2021 at 3:08 pm
drslb, Rengstorff Park
Registered user
on Jun 28, 2021 at 3:08 pm

My only concern is 44 parking spaces for 84 units and probably 150 cars. Where are people going to park? Still can’t live around here without a car. City should demand one space per unit. I’m glad to see subsidized housing though.


Rossta
Registered user
Waverly Park
on Jun 28, 2021 at 4:43 pm
Rossta, Waverly Park
Registered user
on Jun 28, 2021 at 4:43 pm

@catabyte I like your math.
Seems some of our Council members are doing the math based upon only the money coming directly from the city and thinking it is a bargain, but hey, guess where the county money is coming from? Right! Its us taxpayers AGAIN.
We can solve our housing problems much faster if we STOP BUILDING MORE OFFICE SPACE.


ivg
Registered user
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jun 28, 2021 at 5:14 pm
ivg, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
Registered user
on Jun 28, 2021 at 5:14 pm

@drslb, people with incomes that qualify them for subsidized housing like this will have one car per household or less. Transit access is pretty good at this site


Seth Neumann
Registered user
Waverly Park
on Jun 28, 2021 at 9:47 pm
Seth Neumann, Waverly Park
Registered user
on Jun 28, 2021 at 9:47 pm

have to agree: no more office space until housing is under control. Also why not just buy housing units on the market? Supports the market, but $1M per unit, really?


Steven Nelson
Registered user
Cuesta Park
on Jun 29, 2021 at 8:05 am
Steven Nelson, Cuesta Park
Registered user
on Jun 29, 2021 at 8:05 am

housing on-the-market / ah Exactly how old and what is the HOA contribution per month and what is the Fully Funded Maintenance Reserves of these (bargin?) places?

Although I think this is not an entirely poor idea. It would spread the poor among more areas and avoid concentration. The "neighborhood" elementary school serving this area (Theuerkauf) is already one of the poorest. And Stevenson Segregation enrollment policy of the MVWSD does not give any 'lottery weight' to try to make the Economically Disadvantaged demographic at ST match the district-wide %. ST has about a 6X less (S)ED component! (talk about Wealth privilege or "Stevenson Exceptionalism")


LongResident
Registered user
another community
on Jun 29, 2021 at 2:03 pm
LongResident, another community
Registered user
on Jun 29, 2021 at 2:03 pm

To be clear, the last comment must be referring to the earlier one about 12 2 bedroom condos being on the market in Mountain View for under $1 M.

Wow that's a well kept secret. How quickly do this bargain condos sell? Yes, it would be key to know the monthly HOA fee which could easily be $500 per month. I guess you have to be a real estate agent to get access to what condos are for sale all over the city like that. The condo projects vary considerably. I know one complex which was built in 1964 and converted to condos in 1981. Those were mostly 2 bedroom units, 1000 sq ft, each with a single reserved carport space and less than 1 uncovered additional space that isn't reserved. So, you have to consider the fact that HOA's have the ability to add special assessments as needed, and a 50 year old complex like that is going to need some at some point! So it's not apples to apples to compare an old old building to something built brand new. The old stuff doesn't even have fire sprinklers and won't be as earth quake safe, etc.


Jeremy Hoffman
Registered user
Rengstorff Park
on Jun 29, 2021 at 5:15 pm
Jeremy Hoffman, Rengstorff Park
Registered user
on Jun 29, 2021 at 5:15 pm

Shoreline and Montecito has a shopping center that includes a Safeway, and it's a 14-minute walk to Castro St and the Mountain View Transit Center. It's a perfect place to provide the option for some of our neighbors to live car-free.

Every parking space is a setback in our fight against catastrophic climate change. It's a matter of simple geometry and physics. Cars take up tons of space, even when not in use, and they weigh a lot, so they take lots of energy to move around (even if they're 100% electric some day). Providing the option for some of our neighbors to live car-light or car-free lifestyles is the least we can do to reduce carbon emissions.

I just wish the proposed building were taller! Why only five stories at such a prime location?


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