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Mountain View faces another proposal to raze rent-controlled apartments, sparking concerns over displacement

A rendering of proposed condos at Gamel Way, which would replace existing apartments. Courtesy city of Mountain View.

A developer is looking to transform a small cul-de-sac of rent-controlled apartments across the street from Castro Elementary School into four-story condos, raising familiar worries that Mountain View is at risk of displacing longtime residents who can't afford the high cost of new housing.

The proposal by the DeNardi Group calls for demolishing 29 apartments along Gamel Way and constructing a 121-unit condominium complex in its place -- a plan that hinges on the developer purchasing the street from the city. Despite the fourfold increase in housing units, city planners say the project is consistent with the zoning blueprint for the area.

If approved, the project would be the latest in a string of developments that have built new housing in Mountain View but bulldozed older apartments that are considered "naturally" affordable and subject to the city's rent control law.

As of 2019, the city was on pace to destroy 127 of these apartments each year, as developers sought to replace aging housing with for-sale row houses and condos. City officials have flagged the trend as a serious concern, and have hatched plans to prevent further displacement.

The strongest protections against displacement, however, come from a new state law. Senate Bill 330 requires that tenants ousted by the redevelopment be given the first right to return, and requires that the property owner offer those returning residents the same affordable rates.

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But the city has yet to see SB 330 in action, and it won't apply to the Gamel Way redevelopment. City officials say the DeNardi Group was able to file an application prior to Jan. 1, 2020, when SB 330 took effect, meaning it won't be subject to the provisions of the state law.

Mountain View has been negotiating with the DeNardi Group since at least September 2019 over the possible sale of Gamel Way in order for the developer to build out its condominium project. Though the City Council has yet to discuss the project outside of closed session, local housing advocates began talking to residents living on Gamel Way and raising alarm bells over the potential loss of vulnerable, longtime residents of the city.

In an August 2020 letter, the Mountain View Coalition for Sustainable Planning (MVCSP) laid out what's at stake: Many of the current residents are low-income Latino residents, including working families, seniors on fixed incomes, veterans and people with special needs. At the time, the group wondered how the DeNardi Group planned to comply with SB 330, though city staff has since clarified that the project is exempt.

"MVCSP is concerned about the project due to the potential displacement impacts," the group said in a letter. "Continuing to displace Mountain View residents through the course of redevelopment will worsen our environmental crisis as former workers are forced to take on longer commutes to work jobs in Mountain View, while worsening our homelessness crisis."

Despite sliding the application in prior to SB 330's requirements taking effect, the DeNardi Group is still offering benefits to those currently living on the property. The project will have 29 affordable units, and tenants who lived in the apartments will still get the first right of refusal for the newly constructed units at an affordable price -- a cost that's based on the tenants' income.

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Regardless of whether they return, displaced tenants will also receive 42 months of rent subsidies covering the difference between future rent and the current rate they're paying. These benefits are largely restricted to those making up to 120% of the area's median income.

The project may not be subject to SB 330, but it still must meet a whole host of other requirements under California's State Density Bonus Law, which allows developers to boost density in exchange for providing affordable housing. The law requires the replacement of affordable units and housing subject to price controls -- specifically rent-controlled units -- meaning the developer has to pony up at least 29 affordable units, Community Development Director Aarti Shrivastava said in an email Monday.

Though the redevelopment project has been quietly kicking around for years, it's finally coming before the council for approval next month. As a procedural step, the City Council is expected on Tuesday, Aug. 24, to approve a notice of intent to vacate Gamel Way. If approved next month, the city would be selling off the street in exchange for $4.8 million, which will be paid once all the existing buildings are demolished. The city has yet to determine how to spend the money.

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Mountain View faces another proposal to raze rent-controlled apartments, sparking concerns over displacement

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Tue, Aug 24, 2021, 1:12 pm

A developer is looking to transform a small cul-de-sac of rent-controlled apartments across the street from Castro Elementary School into four-story condos, raising familiar worries that Mountain View is at risk of displacing longtime residents who can't afford the high cost of new housing.

The proposal by the DeNardi Group calls for demolishing 29 apartments along Gamel Way and constructing a 121-unit condominium complex in its place -- a plan that hinges on the developer purchasing the street from the city. Despite the fourfold increase in housing units, city planners say the project is consistent with the zoning blueprint for the area.

If approved, the project would be the latest in a string of developments that have built new housing in Mountain View but bulldozed older apartments that are considered "naturally" affordable and subject to the city's rent control law.

As of 2019, the city was on pace to destroy 127 of these apartments each year, as developers sought to replace aging housing with for-sale row houses and condos. City officials have flagged the trend as a serious concern, and have hatched plans to prevent further displacement.

The strongest protections against displacement, however, come from a new state law. Senate Bill 330 requires that tenants ousted by the redevelopment be given the first right to return, and requires that the property owner offer those returning residents the same affordable rates.

But the city has yet to see SB 330 in action, and it won't apply to the Gamel Way redevelopment. City officials say the DeNardi Group was able to file an application prior to Jan. 1, 2020, when SB 330 took effect, meaning it won't be subject to the provisions of the state law.

Mountain View has been negotiating with the DeNardi Group since at least September 2019 over the possible sale of Gamel Way in order for the developer to build out its condominium project. Though the City Council has yet to discuss the project outside of closed session, local housing advocates began talking to residents living on Gamel Way and raising alarm bells over the potential loss of vulnerable, longtime residents of the city.

In an August 2020 letter, the Mountain View Coalition for Sustainable Planning (MVCSP) laid out what's at stake: Many of the current residents are low-income Latino residents, including working families, seniors on fixed incomes, veterans and people with special needs. At the time, the group wondered how the DeNardi Group planned to comply with SB 330, though city staff has since clarified that the project is exempt.

"MVCSP is concerned about the project due to the potential displacement impacts," the group said in a letter. "Continuing to displace Mountain View residents through the course of redevelopment will worsen our environmental crisis as former workers are forced to take on longer commutes to work jobs in Mountain View, while worsening our homelessness crisis."

Despite sliding the application in prior to SB 330's requirements taking effect, the DeNardi Group is still offering benefits to those currently living on the property. The project will have 29 affordable units, and tenants who lived in the apartments will still get the first right of refusal for the newly constructed units at an affordable price -- a cost that's based on the tenants' income.

Regardless of whether they return, displaced tenants will also receive 42 months of rent subsidies covering the difference between future rent and the current rate they're paying. These benefits are largely restricted to those making up to 120% of the area's median income.

The project may not be subject to SB 330, but it still must meet a whole host of other requirements under California's State Density Bonus Law, which allows developers to boost density in exchange for providing affordable housing. The law requires the replacement of affordable units and housing subject to price controls -- specifically rent-controlled units -- meaning the developer has to pony up at least 29 affordable units, Community Development Director Aarti Shrivastava said in an email Monday.

Though the redevelopment project has been quietly kicking around for years, it's finally coming before the council for approval next month. As a procedural step, the City Council is expected on Tuesday, Aug. 24, to approve a notice of intent to vacate Gamel Way. If approved next month, the city would be selling off the street in exchange for $4.8 million, which will be paid once all the existing buildings are demolished. The city has yet to determine how to spend the money.

Comments

Tim
Registered user
Blossom Valley
on Aug 24, 2021 at 2:57 pm
Tim, Blossom Valley
Registered user
on Aug 24, 2021 at 2:57 pm

With all the talk about providing low-cost housing, would the city approve this project? If so, displaced tenants could find themselves living in their vehicles like RV dwellers parked on Mountain View streets. Oops, I forgot. On 85 percent of the streets in Mountain View, that's unlawful. Oh well...


Dan Waylonis
Registered user
Jackson Park
on Aug 24, 2021 at 3:31 pm
Dan Waylonis, Jackson Park
Registered user
on Aug 24, 2021 at 3:31 pm

So, ask any economist if rent control works and the answer is no. All it does is protect the current tenants. And now, a developer wants to add nearly 100 additional units over an existing apartment building and there's a debate? This should be a no-brainer, rubber-stamp, get this thing going now project.


Polomom
Registered user
Waverly Park
on Aug 24, 2021 at 3:38 pm
Polomom, Waverly Park
Registered user
on Aug 24, 2021 at 3:38 pm

@Tim did you read the details? The number of affordable units offered and 3 1/2 years of rent subsidy to cover the difference between existing and new rent. Our city needs affordable housing and ownership housing. Condos are more affordable for the first time homeowner. A first step to being able to own a home. Maybe not in Los Altos or Atherton. I would encourage council to go ahead with this project!


WaterWoes
Registered user
Stierlin Estates
on Aug 24, 2021 at 3:45 pm
WaterWoes, Stierlin Estates
Registered user
on Aug 24, 2021 at 3:45 pm

How are we continually approving housing projects with MORE units when we cannot even support the housing we do have with resources like WATER. Realistically how will we support all these new developments???? I want people to have affordable places to live, but what’s that worth if there’s no water to drink?


Pam
Registered user
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Aug 24, 2021 at 5:22 pm
Pam, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
Registered user
on Aug 24, 2021 at 5:22 pm

I live in the area of this project ~ this project does not fit in the neighborhood, working class neighborhood. There are way too many units with inadequate parking for units. Street parking is not available even now.
We are in a drought….no water issues addressed. This drought could continue off and on for years.
Traffic issues not addressed…..Escuela is a small two lane road with school backup traffic three times a day and a fast drive thru between El Camino n California. This many units would add to the traffic issues. If built, where would the construction workers park? How would the large trucks/equipment bring in the materials without impacting traffic?
There seem to be many VACANT apartments/condo along El Camino, why add more?
So many issues with this project!


ivg
Registered user
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Aug 24, 2021 at 8:23 pm
ivg, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
Registered user
on Aug 24, 2021 at 8:23 pm

Yes, the water crisis is awful. The city may have to stop irrigating its golf course.


Christopher Chiang
Registered user
North Bayshore
on Aug 24, 2021 at 8:28 pm
Christopher Chiang, North Bayshore
Registered user
on Aug 24, 2021 at 8:28 pm

Is the article correct that its 29 apartments being razed will be replaced with 29 affordable units with in 121 new units, if that's correct, then, not only are the same number of affordable housing units being retained, but 92 additional units are being created, which also helps with the housing crisis. Are these 29 units permanently affordable or just temporary?

If correct as reported, then this is far better than past projects that either reduced the amount of affordable housing or simply 1-1 swapped older affordable units for newer pricer units.

Earlier comments on water shortages shouldn't apply. Housing demand didn't create new people: living closer to work, densification, and reducing suburban sprawl reduces water usage. If you want to reduce growth, slow down the number of new jobs in Mountain View. A homeowner watering their yard uses far more water than a yardless condo. Web Link If you allow jobs to come to MV, then it's a human right to find ways to house these people. Forcing workers to have to commute far or live unhoused is either more environmentally costly or more costly in social determinants.


Alex M
Registered user
Willowgate
on Aug 25, 2021 at 5:47 am
Alex M, Willowgate
Registered user
on Aug 25, 2021 at 5:47 am

I have said repeatedly over the years, Mountain View DOES NOT need more rental units, and proposals for yet more rental units should be disapproved. Rubber stamp, DENIED, done. Mountain View needs more homes that residents can OWN. Condos, townhouses, regular homes.

The scarcity of own-able homes is one of the factors that keeps prices so high. Put more homes people can own on the market, and remove the upward pressure on home prices.


Nancy
Registered user
Rengstorff Park
on Aug 25, 2021 at 9:11 am
Nancy, Rengstorff Park
Registered user
on Aug 25, 2021 at 9:11 am

As someone who has rented different apartments in this particular Mountain View neighborhood for two decades, and is part of the service industry, I wonder if all the people who think this is a good idea are home owners? You don’t have to deal with the traffic, noise, pollution & lack of parking. The giant buildings that are going up all around my neighborhood are not only pushing people out, but they are tearing up heritage trees and displacing wildlife for luxury condos. Water and electricity should also be a concern. Anyone who lives in the area near this new proposed development has experienced many random power outages and surges over the years.
The latest development across the street from me took over 2 1/2 years to build, 6 days a week, starting at 7 am. Besides the constant noise and air pollution, a 700 sq ft. apartment is currently going for $4,000+/ mo!! Soon all Mountain View residents will be in tech, since essential workers who’ve managed to survive thus far, mostly thanks to rent control, will be forced to leave. Good luck getting a decent meal at a restaurant when there are no more workers left here to feed and serve you.


Longview
Registered user
Slater
on Aug 25, 2021 at 9:56 am
Longview, Slater
Registered user
on Aug 25, 2021 at 9:56 am

Ask any renter if the unregulated rental market works. You get a raise, but your rent goes up by even more. Demoralizing. Why do only those rich enough to buy a home get stable housing costs, thanks to prop13 and a fixed rate mortgage? If our society supports stable housing cost for the rich, then why not also stable housing cost for the working class? That is what rent control provides.
The "affordable ownership opportunity" that is being offered may work out - but there are a lot of questions. Will banks give working families a loan?


PaulK
Registered user
Shoreline West
on Aug 25, 2021 at 11:04 am
PaulK, Shoreline West
Registered user
on Aug 25, 2021 at 11:04 am

I don't understand the Mountain View Coalition for Sustainable Planning (MVCSP) complaint if, as the article states, "The project will have 29 affordable units, and tenants who lived in the apartments will still get the first right of refusal for the newly constructed units at an affordable price -- a cost that's based on the tenants' income." Unless there's some hidden flaw not articulated in the article, that is certainly sounding like affordable housing.


sfcanative
Registered user
Whisman Station
on Aug 26, 2021 at 11:08 am
sfcanative, Whisman Station
Registered user
on Aug 26, 2021 at 11:08 am

Mountain View's problems are best solved by refusing further employment, denying further development of office buildings, and realizing that the economical and utilitarian value of 60+ year old apartments have run their course. Between city requirements for soft-story seismic retrofitting, plumbing upgrades, electrical upgrades, rent control and a generally hostile attitude toward landlords, is it any wonder these dominoes continue to fall?

Mountain View, and the region as a whole, doesn't need, want or support an influx of more people, more jobs or more housing. There are affordable areas to live and work in many metropolitan areas outside of the Bay Area and state. Employers, please move there. Recent arrivals, please move there. Builders/developers, please invest there.


I can't breathe pollution
Registered user
Shoreline West
on Oct 5, 2021 at 12:35 am
I can't breathe pollution, Shoreline West
Registered user
on Oct 5, 2021 at 12:35 am

Big surprise, increased density AND increased prices
People use most of their water for eating actually, so having a yard is a marginal increase and also a necessity to avoid cancer and other diseases
A human being uses a tremendous amount of water. Adding anything but affordable homes in the name of "humanitarianism" is a thinly veiled joke. I'm sure everyone would love a few hundred off their rent, too bad the environment is dying and your pathetic attempts to justify density are ill conceived.


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