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Mountain View lays out plans to zone for 11,135 new homes under new state requirements

City officials say existing plans may be enough, but that some rezoning may be required

Housing development in Mountain View is expected to spike in the coming years. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

In just eight short years, Mountain View is being asked to grow by close to 30% under a new state housing mandate that has cities across California scrambling to rezone for a spurt of residential development.

State housing officials are requiring the nine-county Bay Area to zone for at least 441,176 new housing units between 2023 and 2031, a hefty increase from prior eight-year cycles. The high growth targets are seen as a way to ameliorate the regional jobs-housing imbalance and put a dent in the high cost of housing.

The process, called the Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA), has been particularly burdensome on Mountain View, which is being asked to grow by a whopping 11,135 housing units -- nearly a 30% increase over today's housing stock. By comparison, the city was asked to grow by about 8.6% between 2015 and 2023.

At the Oct. 20 Environmental Planning Commission meeting, city officials laid out plans for how exactly to meet the tall order. It appears likely that the city can lean heavily on areas already rezoned for housing growth -- including North Bayshore and East Whisman -- even though both were rezoned prior to the latest allocation.

The RHNA process doesn't require that the units get built, only that there is adequate zoning and a clear path for developers to build the homes. It's possible that the city could identify enough sites ripe for housing that there won't need to be any vast changes to the city's existing residential plans, said Stephanie Hagar, a consultant for the city.

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"We know that Mountain View has created a lot of capacity through various Precise Plans that you've adopted over the last several years and there's also potential for some other sites throughout the city," Hagar said. "So at this point in time we're hopeful that we will be able to identify enough sites without having to rezone."

Trouble is, some of that planned development in North Bayshore and East Whisman may be at risk, and state officials may be reluctant to accept the city's zoning plans as realistic. Burdensome taxes and fees on residential development can be seen as an impediment on housing growth, and the state could decide to preclude both areas from being used to satisfy the RHNA allocation.

Developers have repeatedly called out Mountain View's burdensome costs for building in North Bayshore, particularly park and school fees, and the problem could get worse soon. The Mountain View Whisman School District is considering imposing a parcel tax on homes north of Central Expressway, which is predicted to reduce housing development in the area -- particularly affordable housing.

"It would be considered a constraint on housing development, which could preclude the city's use of those areas for the site inventory used to satisfy the city's obligation under the state's regional housing needs assessment," according to a city staff report.

In a letter to the Planning Commission, Mountain View Whisman School District Superintendent Ayinde Rudolph said the school district faces a massive unfunded obligation to house more than 2,000 new students generated by the projected housing growth, which would require five new schools costing close to $1 billion.

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These newly formed neighborhoods deserve schools that are close by, Rudolph said, and doing so will require contributions from the residents, the city and developers.

"Our community has come to expect elementary schools that are within a mile radius of the neighborhoods that they serve," Rudolph said in the letter. "But without the community's assistance, I fear that the promise of an equitable education will only be afforded to those who reside in certain pockets of our community."

Mountain View's jobs-housing balance has been skewed over the last decade, fueling a demand for more housing. Courtesy city of Mountain View

North Bayshore and East Whisman are not the only options for meeting the state's housing mandate. The city is also weighing significant changes to the so-called R3 zoning, which would revamp residential zoning rules across 480 acres of the city. As of April, the R3 changes could spur close to 9,000 new units, largely through redevelopment.

Residents raised serious concerns at the Planning Commission meeting about overreliance on R3 zoning as a means to meet the state housing requirements. Robert Cox, a former planning commissioner, said residential growth in North Bayshore and East Whisman has been carefully planned and vetted by the community, while R3 zoning has yet to be approved and could cause serious problems.

By ratcheting up density, Cox said the city runs the risk of accelerating redevelopment and the loss of older, more affordable apartments.

Housing growth created by R3 zoning changes will also be far more visible to existing residents, including single-family neighborhoods that border apartments and other multifamily developments. Resident Toni Rath, who described the R3 update as an "upzoning," told planning commissioners that the changes will be deeply unpopular with residents.

"This should come as no surprise because it jeopardizes the character of Mountain View neighborhoods," Rath said.

The Planning Commission meeting marked an early stage in the update of the city's housing element, and showed early signs that the city will have to walk a fine line between spurring development and meeting the demand for amenities. Resident Bill Lambert said Mountain View cannot have a narrow focus on increased density without a commensurate increase in transportation services, school capacity and parks and open space. The northern side of the city, in particular, has a dearth of available park space despite shouldering significant residential growth.

But Kat Wortham, a member of the Housing Action Coalition, pointed out that the city is already asking a lot of developers, with park fees that are already discouraging new housing development by making it too costly to build.

"Mountain View has some of the highest park fees in the county," Wortham said. "Lowering those park fees to allow for more development to occur in the city would be very helpful."

Planning commissioners did not take formal action, but instead weighed in on key priorities that the city should focus on during the update of the housing element. The sprawling list of priorities includes anti-displacement measures for existing residents and "no net loss" policies for housing redevelopment, along with new methods to preserve the city's naturally affordable housing.

While it's up to developers to ultimately build the housing, Commissioner Hank Dempsey said the city should work to streamline the development process and reduce hurdles for those seeking to build housing in Mountain View.

"I think it's an important question to talk about -- what else we can do better on our side to get things out the door," Dempsey said. "Because that's one thing we have pretty good control over."

And while the RHNA housing requirements in Mountain View may be unusually high, Commissioner Preeti Hehmeyer said the city should see the allocation as a positive sign.

"I think in some ways it might be a compliment to see that we have an abundance of jobs, we have transit, we have all these amenities that make Mountain View a desirable community," she said. "Where can we open our arms and say we want more neighbors in our city."

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Mountain View lays out plans to zone for 11,135 new homes under new state requirements

City officials say existing plans may be enough, but that some rezoning may be required

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Thu, Oct 21, 2021, 1:55 pm

In just eight short years, Mountain View is being asked to grow by close to 30% under a new state housing mandate that has cities across California scrambling to rezone for a spurt of residential development.

State housing officials are requiring the nine-county Bay Area to zone for at least 441,176 new housing units between 2023 and 2031, a hefty increase from prior eight-year cycles. The high growth targets are seen as a way to ameliorate the regional jobs-housing imbalance and put a dent in the high cost of housing.

The process, called the Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA), has been particularly burdensome on Mountain View, which is being asked to grow by a whopping 11,135 housing units -- nearly a 30% increase over today's housing stock. By comparison, the city was asked to grow by about 8.6% between 2015 and 2023.

At the Oct. 20 Environmental Planning Commission meeting, city officials laid out plans for how exactly to meet the tall order. It appears likely that the city can lean heavily on areas already rezoned for housing growth -- including North Bayshore and East Whisman -- even though both were rezoned prior to the latest allocation.

The RHNA process doesn't require that the units get built, only that there is adequate zoning and a clear path for developers to build the homes. It's possible that the city could identify enough sites ripe for housing that there won't need to be any vast changes to the city's existing residential plans, said Stephanie Hagar, a consultant for the city.

"We know that Mountain View has created a lot of capacity through various Precise Plans that you've adopted over the last several years and there's also potential for some other sites throughout the city," Hagar said. "So at this point in time we're hopeful that we will be able to identify enough sites without having to rezone."

Trouble is, some of that planned development in North Bayshore and East Whisman may be at risk, and state officials may be reluctant to accept the city's zoning plans as realistic. Burdensome taxes and fees on residential development can be seen as an impediment on housing growth, and the state could decide to preclude both areas from being used to satisfy the RHNA allocation.

Developers have repeatedly called out Mountain View's burdensome costs for building in North Bayshore, particularly park and school fees, and the problem could get worse soon. The Mountain View Whisman School District is considering imposing a parcel tax on homes north of Central Expressway, which is predicted to reduce housing development in the area -- particularly affordable housing.

"It would be considered a constraint on housing development, which could preclude the city's use of those areas for the site inventory used to satisfy the city's obligation under the state's regional housing needs assessment," according to a city staff report.

In a letter to the Planning Commission, Mountain View Whisman School District Superintendent Ayinde Rudolph said the school district faces a massive unfunded obligation to house more than 2,000 new students generated by the projected housing growth, which would require five new schools costing close to $1 billion.

These newly formed neighborhoods deserve schools that are close by, Rudolph said, and doing so will require contributions from the residents, the city and developers.

"Our community has come to expect elementary schools that are within a mile radius of the neighborhoods that they serve," Rudolph said in the letter. "But without the community's assistance, I fear that the promise of an equitable education will only be afforded to those who reside in certain pockets of our community."

North Bayshore and East Whisman are not the only options for meeting the state's housing mandate. The city is also weighing significant changes to the so-called R3 zoning, which would revamp residential zoning rules across 480 acres of the city. As of April, the R3 changes could spur close to 9,000 new units, largely through redevelopment.

Residents raised serious concerns at the Planning Commission meeting about overreliance on R3 zoning as a means to meet the state housing requirements. Robert Cox, a former planning commissioner, said residential growth in North Bayshore and East Whisman has been carefully planned and vetted by the community, while R3 zoning has yet to be approved and could cause serious problems.

By ratcheting up density, Cox said the city runs the risk of accelerating redevelopment and the loss of older, more affordable apartments.

Housing growth created by R3 zoning changes will also be far more visible to existing residents, including single-family neighborhoods that border apartments and other multifamily developments. Resident Toni Rath, who described the R3 update as an "upzoning," told planning commissioners that the changes will be deeply unpopular with residents.

"This should come as no surprise because it jeopardizes the character of Mountain View neighborhoods," Rath said.

The Planning Commission meeting marked an early stage in the update of the city's housing element, and showed early signs that the city will have to walk a fine line between spurring development and meeting the demand for amenities. Resident Bill Lambert said Mountain View cannot have a narrow focus on increased density without a commensurate increase in transportation services, school capacity and parks and open space. The northern side of the city, in particular, has a dearth of available park space despite shouldering significant residential growth.

But Kat Wortham, a member of the Housing Action Coalition, pointed out that the city is already asking a lot of developers, with park fees that are already discouraging new housing development by making it too costly to build.

"Mountain View has some of the highest park fees in the county," Wortham said. "Lowering those park fees to allow for more development to occur in the city would be very helpful."

Planning commissioners did not take formal action, but instead weighed in on key priorities that the city should focus on during the update of the housing element. The sprawling list of priorities includes anti-displacement measures for existing residents and "no net loss" policies for housing redevelopment, along with new methods to preserve the city's naturally affordable housing.

While it's up to developers to ultimately build the housing, Commissioner Hank Dempsey said the city should work to streamline the development process and reduce hurdles for those seeking to build housing in Mountain View.

"I think it's an important question to talk about -- what else we can do better on our side to get things out the door," Dempsey said. "Because that's one thing we have pretty good control over."

And while the RHNA housing requirements in Mountain View may be unusually high, Commissioner Preeti Hehmeyer said the city should see the allocation as a positive sign.

"I think in some ways it might be a compliment to see that we have an abundance of jobs, we have transit, we have all these amenities that make Mountain View a desirable community," she said. "Where can we open our arms and say we want more neighbors in our city."

Comments

Tina
Registered user
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Oct 21, 2021 at 3:00 pm
Tina, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
Registered user
on Oct 21, 2021 at 3:00 pm

The City of Mountain View approved 84 unit apartment building for 88 million. This is absolutely outrageous by any standards. Could the city council think there might be other alternatives? For instance, incentivize the population into building casitas on their properties since we now have senate bills 9 and 10. Give the home owner a grant for 25K. I am sure you can find at least 100 homeowners to jump on the bandwagon. Here is an example of one such company and I am sure there are many more, building homes for 1/10th the cost.
Web Link


Free Speech
Registered user
Martens-Carmelita
on Oct 21, 2021 at 4:15 pm
Free Speech, Martens-Carmelita
Registered user
on Oct 21, 2021 at 4:15 pm

"Kat Wortham, a member of the Housing Action Coalition, pointed out that the city is already asking a lot of developers, with park fees that are already discouraging new housing development by making it too costly to build."
What a load of baloney - from the consultants and lobbyists paid by real estate developers and marketing companies! Building costs are huge because of the prices paid for land. The price of land would drop if there wasn't so much potential profit for developers.
The amount the city requires to be paid towards parks and schools pales in significance. It is parks and open spaces that make living in cities tolerable and without adequate schools, no young adults would entertain living here.


Tal Shaya
Registered user
Rengstorff Park
on Oct 21, 2021 at 6:55 pm
Tal Shaya, Rengstorff Park
Registered user
on Oct 21, 2021 at 6:55 pm

"Affordable housing" means affordable to Googlers. My neighbor works at the car wash. He deserves a nice place to live, too.

Apartment prices are up on Craigslist. They jumped up several hundred dollars over last year. Looks like when folks finally moved out, landlords jacked up the rent.


Raymond
Registered user
Monta Loma
on Oct 21, 2021 at 10:00 pm
Raymond , Monta Loma
Registered user
on Oct 21, 2021 at 10:00 pm

It seems that the State of California has a formal Population Policy by some other name. We are mandated to grow by 30%. The Bay Area and Mountain View will increase carbon footprints, water use, and pollution outputs by significant amounts. I recommend a Population Policy of next-to-zero growth.


Tech
Registered user
Rex Manor
on Oct 22, 2021 at 2:54 pm
Tech, Rex Manor
Registered user
on Oct 22, 2021 at 2:54 pm

Raymond,

It's amazing how badly you missed the point. If it was "mandated growth" it would include a jobs element. It does not. We are being asked to zone housing because we already voluntarily zoned the jobs, and pre-lockdown the city's population grew 50% during the workday with the number of people who commute in. (This is not an exaggeration.)

Everything you say will be increased, will actually decrease as a result of zoning more housing. All we are doing is letting people who already work here have a shorter commute.


Randy Guelph
Registered user
Cuernavaca
on Oct 22, 2021 at 3:34 pm
Randy Guelph, Cuernavaca
Registered user
on Oct 22, 2021 at 3:34 pm

@Tech, it seems like a lot of these objections to more homes usually stems from some weird misconception that people don't exist outside of Mountain View's borders. Once we build those homes, we've suddenly willed into existence a bunch of new people! Previously, as non-beings, they had zero carbon emissions.


Stanczyk
Registered user
Stierlin Estates
on Oct 23, 2021 at 12:15 pm
Stanczyk, Stierlin Estates
Registered user
on Oct 23, 2021 at 12:15 pm

12 square miles. That's it. Mountain View is 12 square miles. Build more...build "up".. but the infrastructure doesn't grow. More people/cars shoe-horned into 12 square miles. Good times.


Steven Nelson
Registered user
Cuesta Park
on Oct 23, 2021 at 5:35 pm
Steven Nelson, Cuesta Park
Registered user
on Oct 23, 2021 at 5:35 pm

Residents of MV "North of the Tracks". Please note that the MVWSD staff (led by Rudolph) has proposed ONLY TAXING RESIDENTS living North of The Tracks. No Commercial/Business taxes to support these new schools. No taxes for us richer folks down South of El Camino!


SRB
Registered user
St. Francis Acres
on Oct 23, 2021 at 5:55 pm
SRB, St. Francis Acres
Registered user
on Oct 23, 2021 at 5:55 pm

@Steven Nelson - Isn't the proposed tax similar to school impact fees? AFAIK those are paid only by residential developments. But a MVWSD wide taxing area would seem fairer and would likely result in far lower taxes per unit -and a smaller impact on new housing production-.


sonnyt650
Registered user
Castro City
on Oct 24, 2021 at 8:15 am
sonnyt650, Castro City
Registered user
on Oct 24, 2021 at 8:15 am

A quick search of RHNA resulted in this: Web Link . A similarly quick scan points at the lack of holistic thought in terms of whether the most populous state in the country should even plan for such absurd amounts of growth. With population growth planning as their reason to be, that commission has no interest in asking that question so we have to ask it ourselves. With California politics being driven by large population centers it's only going to get even more unbalanced with undesirable positive feedback forcing scarcity in power, water, transportation, any resource you can name other than warm bodies.

Closer to home: in my opinion at some point forced population growth is like a malignant tumor encroaching on the lives of those of us who chose not to live in San Francisco, Oakland, or downtown San Jose. Preeti Hehmeyer is missing the point: Mountain View is a nice place to live for a number of reasons, but chief among them is the relatively low population density compared to the population centers.


Jeremy Hoffman
Registered user
Rengstorff Park
on Oct 24, 2021 at 9:03 am
Jeremy Hoffman, Rengstorff Park
Registered user
on Oct 24, 2021 at 9:03 am

Four years ago I gave public comment at a city council meeting where I saluted Mountain View for being the first city in the region to seriously turn the corner on the systemic, devastating jobs-housing imbalance. I told council that regional and state solutions would inevitably be required to get all cities on the same page. And when that day comes, and cities begin to wail about having to actually plan responsibly for their growing populations, Mountain View would be in an enviable position, having already zoned for large amounts of housing in several key opportunity areas.

Well, now here we are!

Mountain View had better get credit for RHNA for zoned housing in North Bayshore and East Whisman!


Steven Nelson
Registered user
Cuesta Park
on Oct 24, 2021 at 9:20 am
Steven Nelson, Cuesta Park
Registered user
on Oct 24, 2021 at 9:20 am

@questioner on MVWSD / see the Community Facilities District plan concocted by a staff consulting firm for the 8/12/2021 school board meeting.
Web Link

Reporter Kevin F. - thanks for 'paying attention'.

The recommendations and Board sentiment were for North of Tracks only special district. Page 10 has the rates (every EXISTING residential unit/yearly) $12 to $99 (to me odd) annual schedule.
NEW UNITS $279 to $5734 PER NEW UNIT per year forever (annually)!

Read the rest of the report - for how the consulting firm breaks down "Voters in proposed development areas/North of Expressway..." for how to sell this new special taxing district.

This is why the City housing consultants wrote - May Be a Deal Breaker, with meeting state housing requirements. Very costly new taxes for Rudolph's $1 Billion vision.


LongResident
Registered user
another community
on Oct 24, 2021 at 5:28 pm
LongResident, another community
Registered user
on Oct 24, 2021 at 5:28 pm

This proposed tax on new housing could keep the housing from being built! Right now the new apartment units would cost over $750K and the property tax on them would be over $700 per month, which has to be covered by the rent. The new taxes are talking about upping the monthly taxes by $400 or so. It sounds quirky to me, to charge residents of new units an extra $400 per month when they are already likely paying more property taxes by far than most of the residents of the school district, as in more than double.

I would think a developer would give this serious thought in determining whether to go ahead with a plan for housing.


MyOpinion
Registered user
Sylvan Park
on Oct 25, 2021 at 2:40 pm
MyOpinion, Sylvan Park
Registered user
on Oct 25, 2021 at 2:40 pm

Let me guess, these 11,0000+ new units will be mostly high-density overpriced apartments east of El Camino Real. Just like the project known as The Flower Mart on 525 East Evelyn, a high density project that did not include nearby Sylvan Ave in their traffic analysis. And BTW, the parking allocated for these 450+ units (suitable for 'sardines) assumes that these residents won't need a car because they live 1.5 miles from the MV Transit Center. In addition, the Castro downtown area has deteriorated with an ever-increasing number of empty storefronts and sidewalks in need of steam cleaning. Downtown Mountain View is no longer the destination it used to be and the City is no longer a desirable place to live.


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