A developer is looking to bulldoze a small strip mall currently home to a party store, a jewelry store and a tax service in Mountain View and replace it with two dozens apartments above ground-floor retail.
The proposal calls for demolishing the commercial buildings, located at the southeast corner of Escuela Avenue and Latham Street, along with an adjacent single-family home, and constructing 25 apartments in their place. The units would sit on top of 2,400 square feet of retail space.
Though the project requires a zoning change and would oust the commercial tenants, the city's Environmental Planning Commission (EPC) quickly backed the proposal earlier this month as a means to add more housing and improve the street corner. Perks of the project include 40 new trees that would replace the single tree currently on the property.
The zoning for the project is conflicted, with the western portion of the half-acre property in a mixed-use area of the city while the eastern half is strictly residential. Under most circumstances, the project would need to win a zoning exemption through the city's onerous "Gatekeeper" process, but city officials say that isn't necessary for this project. It's both small enough and consistent with at least one part of its current zoning, allowing it to skip Gatekeeper authorization and glide through the planning process.
The project is required to meet the city's affordable housing requirements, however, and will include four low-income units.
At the Jan. 5 EPC meeting, commission member Alex Nunez said the significant increase in housing was a "huge win," but he raised concerns about displacement -- both for the family that previously lived in the single-family home and the businesses leasing the existing commercial space. Three of the tenants have already vacated and six remain, and the nearby single-family home has also been recently vacated.
Nunez said he hopes the businesses at the site will be given a shot to return once the new building is complete, and that many are filling a niche for the large Spanish-speaking community living near the strip mall. The property is roughly 300 feet from Castro Elementary School, where the vast majority of students speak Spanish at home.
"A lot of these services and businesses do have a special connection within the Latino community in Mountain View," Nunez said.
Architect Kurt Anderson, speaking on behalf of the developer, said the businesses have already had a "tough time" during COVID-19 and have been asking to pay half of rent or no rent at all to survive, and that none of them have indicated they planned to come back after the redevelopment. All of them are being given the first right of refusal, he said.
The project is tentatively expected to come before the City Council for approval on Feb. 8.