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Mountain View looks to replace safe parking site with high-density affordable housing

The VTA parking lot at the corner of Evelyn Avenue and Pioneer Way on May 7, 2019. Photo by Magali Gauthier

A former Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) parking lot currently serving homeless residents in Mountain View could soon be replaced by as many as 220 affordable apartments, as city officials look to build dense housing for low-income residents on the property.

The city is currently leasing and expects to buy the parking lot at 87 E. Evelyn Ave., with a goal of converting the 2.1-acre site into housing. The location is currently one of three safe parking sites operated by the city, which allows homeless residents living in vehicles to park their cars and RVs on the site.

The safe parking site supports up to 30 oversized vehicles and up to 21 passenger vehicles, making it a significant part of the program, but it was always meant to be temporary. Now the city is looking to take ownership of the lot, for a purchase price to the tune of $13 million, and build anywhere from 160 to 220 units across a five- to eight-story building.

The Mountain View City Council laid out its priorities for the future housing project at its May 10 meeting, drafting a framework to give prospective developers an idea of what the project should look like. Council members largely agreed that the housing should be dense, and that they would be open to going beyond the height limits recommended by staff. Councilwoman Alison Hicks said some nonprofit developers are finding it feasible to build mid-rise buildings of seven stories and taller, and the site's location – in an industrial district far from single-family homes – makes it an appealing place to go for taller buildings.

The council also agreed to maximize the number of units subject to the city's live-work preference, meaning those who live and work in Mountain View will have priority access to the coveted affordable units. The Plan is to include units with a broad range of income eligibility requirements ranging from extremely low income to middle-income households.

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In March, the nonprofit Charities Housing announced that it was purchasing two properties along Evelyn Avenue for development into affordable housing, both of which form a triangle-shaped lot right next door to the VTA parking lot. Charities is seeking to build around 160 units, leveraging cash from Santa Clara County's Measure A bond to pay for construction.

City Council members agreed that the two projects should be strongly coordinated, potentially even under the same planning process, and that any contract with a developer to build on the city-owned lot should require collaboration with Charities Housing. Mountain View is required to go through a competitive bidding process, however, and cannot simply award a contract to Charities to do a combined development, according to the city's legal staff.

The council was split on how much parking ought to be included, and whether to set defined parking requirements. Hicks said the initial ask of developers should have no minimum requirements, and that the number of spaces should be based on future traffic demand management (TDM) measures and a careful look at the lower parking demand typical of affordable housing projects.

But Councilwoman Lisa Matichak warned that parking on nearby streets like Pioneer Way is already constrained, and that nearby businesses are already concerned about spillover parking that could deter customers. She said she was wary of any standards that involve fewer than one parking space per unit.

"If someone is proposing less than one, I would want a parking study," she said. "Without that I think it has to be at least one per unit in addition to a robust TDM program."

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Councilwoman Margaret Abe-Koga took a similar stance, and said it's unrealistic to assume people are going to walk and bike to neighborhood amenities or Landels Elementary School.

But ratcheting up parking requirements to at least one space per unit also fell short of majority support, with the council instead falling back on a recommendation by staff to build between 0.5 to 0.75 parking spaces per unit.

As it stands, the city is still using the VTA site on a long-term lease with VTA, which stipulates that the safe parking operations must shut down by the end of 2024. But once the city purchases and owns the parking lot, it can extend that timeline indefinitely until construction of affordable housing begins. City officials told council members that they would take measures to ensure those living in vehicles on the VTA lot will have an "appropriate pathway" to affordable housing, with a goal of avoiding displacement once the safe parking shuts down.

Kevin Forestieri is an assistant editor with the Mountain View Voice and The Almanac. He joined the Voice in 2014 and has reported on schools, housing, crime and health. Read more >>

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Mountain View looks to replace safe parking site with high-density affordable housing

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Fri, May 13, 2022, 12:41 pm

A former Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) parking lot currently serving homeless residents in Mountain View could soon be replaced by as many as 220 affordable apartments, as city officials look to build dense housing for low-income residents on the property.

The city is currently leasing and expects to buy the parking lot at 87 E. Evelyn Ave., with a goal of converting the 2.1-acre site into housing. The location is currently one of three safe parking sites operated by the city, which allows homeless residents living in vehicles to park their cars and RVs on the site.

The safe parking site supports up to 30 oversized vehicles and up to 21 passenger vehicles, making it a significant part of the program, but it was always meant to be temporary. Now the city is looking to take ownership of the lot, for a purchase price to the tune of $13 million, and build anywhere from 160 to 220 units across a five- to eight-story building.

The Mountain View City Council laid out its priorities for the future housing project at its May 10 meeting, drafting a framework to give prospective developers an idea of what the project should look like. Council members largely agreed that the housing should be dense, and that they would be open to going beyond the height limits recommended by staff. Councilwoman Alison Hicks said some nonprofit developers are finding it feasible to build mid-rise buildings of seven stories and taller, and the site's location – in an industrial district far from single-family homes – makes it an appealing place to go for taller buildings.

The council also agreed to maximize the number of units subject to the city's live-work preference, meaning those who live and work in Mountain View will have priority access to the coveted affordable units. The Plan is to include units with a broad range of income eligibility requirements ranging from extremely low income to middle-income households.

In March, the nonprofit Charities Housing announced that it was purchasing two properties along Evelyn Avenue for development into affordable housing, both of which form a triangle-shaped lot right next door to the VTA parking lot. Charities is seeking to build around 160 units, leveraging cash from Santa Clara County's Measure A bond to pay for construction.

City Council members agreed that the two projects should be strongly coordinated, potentially even under the same planning process, and that any contract with a developer to build on the city-owned lot should require collaboration with Charities Housing. Mountain View is required to go through a competitive bidding process, however, and cannot simply award a contract to Charities to do a combined development, according to the city's legal staff.

The council was split on how much parking ought to be included, and whether to set defined parking requirements. Hicks said the initial ask of developers should have no minimum requirements, and that the number of spaces should be based on future traffic demand management (TDM) measures and a careful look at the lower parking demand typical of affordable housing projects.

But Councilwoman Lisa Matichak warned that parking on nearby streets like Pioneer Way is already constrained, and that nearby businesses are already concerned about spillover parking that could deter customers. She said she was wary of any standards that involve fewer than one parking space per unit.

"If someone is proposing less than one, I would want a parking study," she said. "Without that I think it has to be at least one per unit in addition to a robust TDM program."

Councilwoman Margaret Abe-Koga took a similar stance, and said it's unrealistic to assume people are going to walk and bike to neighborhood amenities or Landels Elementary School.

But ratcheting up parking requirements to at least one space per unit also fell short of majority support, with the council instead falling back on a recommendation by staff to build between 0.5 to 0.75 parking spaces per unit.

As it stands, the city is still using the VTA site on a long-term lease with VTA, which stipulates that the safe parking operations must shut down by the end of 2024. But once the city purchases and owns the parking lot, it can extend that timeline indefinitely until construction of affordable housing begins. City officials told council members that they would take measures to ensure those living in vehicles on the VTA lot will have an "appropriate pathway" to affordable housing, with a goal of avoiding displacement once the safe parking shuts down.

Comments

Johnny Yuma
Registered user
Blossom Valley
on May 13, 2022 at 6:28 pm
Johnny Yuma, Blossom Valley
Registered user
on May 13, 2022 at 6:28 pm

Let’s be honest, “affordable housing” does NOT exist in Mountain View. NEVER WILL. When is enough enough?

Some council members are actually considering a 5 to 8 story building? That’s a joke, right? How about showing concern for gridlock and the water shortage in this town?

Should this development go through, where are the 30 oversize vehicles and 21 passenger vehicles in the safe parking lot going to go? Where Council???

I’m convinced that the current crop of council members must find another way of providing public service.


Randy Guelph
Registered user
Cuernavaca
on May 13, 2022 at 8:54 pm
Randy Guelph, Cuernavaca
Registered user
on May 13, 2022 at 8:54 pm

What fresh nonsense are Margaret Abe-Koga and Lisa Matichak coming up with. This is right by the Stevens Creek Trail, which leads to Landels, and only a few blocks from downtown and the transit center. Plenty of people will walk or bike from these homes.

Why are these two Councilmembers obsessed with forcing car storage on everyone else? Is it simply because they can't imagine not using a car or is it just pretext for trying to make sure fewer homes are built?


Derek
Registered user
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on May 14, 2022 at 8:56 am
Derek, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
Registered user
on May 14, 2022 at 8:56 am

Randy what since does it make to build living space without a parking space? Walking is an option. Would you want to park 3 blocks away from your home? Or would you like to come home and find that there is no parking in front of your home due to a lack of parking two blocks away? If the project is going to happen it should be done correctly with sufficient parking for each unit. Otherwise your asking for major problems in the future with cars and space.


3rdMAW
Registered user
Old Mountain View
on May 14, 2022 at 11:48 am
3rdMAW, Old Mountain View
Registered user
on May 14, 2022 at 11:48 am

False flags, posturing and rhetoric. We've been living in OMV for ~20 years, We took Cal-train twice to Sunnyvale to eat, mistake. Once, on a VTA bus to Sunnyvale for dealer car service, bigger mistake. SFO/SJC trip is a joke. We keep 2 cars on site. The cars exist to visit family, friends, road-trips, shopping and the kids to get to SCU and Foothill. The 10 year old car has 24K miles and the 20 year old car has 52K miles. The developers pencil out a building that makes money and the city caves on parking, "those renter folks don't need parking spaces." They are super commuters, masters of bus, shuttle and transit schedules" and the developer make $$$. "BMR" folks will not walk to Costco or or spend $30 on Ubers to get back and forth:) and know they don't wait for you to shop. All we see are empty employee shuttles, empty VTA buses at the train station. Now the traffic is back and parking is scarce.

In fact, public transportation is more expensive than keeping a well maintained used car or two. If the city wants to encourage BMR, etc. Then they ave an obligation to keep the required parking. If and when the underground parking is empty, the developer can turn these dusty old parking spots into $storage for tenants:)

I'm a YIMBY/NYMBY so long as you park within your own footprint and don't complain to the city you need residential parking permits. That includes homeowners, apartment dwellers, condo and PD dwellers. Please don't clog city streets. Save for visitors to Castro to shop and dine.

I remember when the folks in OMV asked for residential parking permits, 2 permanent and 2 for guests/workers and excluded folks that lived in PD's, Apartments and Condo's. The rationale was those folks had plenty of room to park. That plan was deemed discriminatory by the court and was struck down. Now imagine a 200 unit complex within waking distance of trains, downtown and ride shares asking for a max of 800 parking permits.

Include parking till until its not needed.


Leslie Bain
Registered user
Cuesta Park
on May 15, 2022 at 11:48 am
Leslie Bain, Cuesta Park
Registered user
on May 15, 2022 at 11:48 am

3rdMAW, thank you for sharing your experiences. IMHO, taking away parking when acceptable alternative transportation solutions do not exist is nothing but cruel.

When inducing change, one can use carrots or one can use sticks. "Take away parking" is nothing but a stick; make driving so painful that people are forced to find other solutions. The carrot approach is to provide transportation alternatives that are so wonderful, people are more than happy to live car-free.

Why do we see so much advocacy to take away parking, and so little advocacy to improve transportation alternatives in MV? Some persons don't understand the suffering that will occur because of their "advocacy". Seeing all of the empty shuttles must be like rubbing salt into the wound.

Again, thank you for sharing your own personal story.


Randy Guelph
Registered user
Cuernavaca
on May 15, 2022 at 1:29 pm
Randy Guelph, Cuernavaca
Registered user
on May 15, 2022 at 1:29 pm

Leslie, you're always talking about how you want more affordable housing here. This is 220 affordable homes! Instead, you are most concerned about the real victims of the housing crisis: people looking for places to store their car.


LongResident
Registered user
another community
on May 15, 2022 at 4:11 pm
LongResident, another community
Registered user
on May 15, 2022 at 4:11 pm

Why stop at cutting back on garage space. Think how much MORE affordable this could be if there was a communal bathroom down the hall on each floor! I bet you could get 10% more units that way!

It's not illegal for low income people to own a car or two per household. Maybe they work as a gardener. Not really practical to take VTA to custoemrs. People sure have a lack of compassion. There's not reason low income housing should have less parking than market rate.


Randy Guelph
Registered user
Cuernavaca
on May 15, 2022 at 4:29 pm
Randy Guelph, Cuernavaca
Registered user
on May 15, 2022 at 4:29 pm

SROs do exist, and they're a type of home that fits the lives of some people. If someone wants to build it, I don't see why they shouldn't. What's wrong with that?


Allie Flanders
Registered user
Old Mountain View
on May 16, 2022 at 11:51 am
Allie Flanders, Old Mountain View
Registered user
on May 16, 2022 at 11:51 am

Agree completely with Johnny Yuma


Leslie Bain
Registered user
Cuesta Park
on May 16, 2022 at 11:51 am
Leslie Bain, Cuesta Park
Registered user
on May 16, 2022 at 11:51 am

Randy, your response saddens me. To say that I am "most concerned about the real victims of the housing crisis: people looking for places to store their car" is a complete mischaracterization of my words. Its almost as if you want to move the conversation onto stale YIMBY talking points and away from the cruelty of forcing residents to use an inadequate public transportation system.

A car that only has 24K miles on it after 10 years is a car that is barely used. 3rdMAW is living the life that people like you want to impose on everyone. Why aren't you more open to their feedback?

Speaking of stale YIMBY talking points, how about the old "I like people!" canard? Can we bury that one too? It reminds me that "cats like mice", they like to torture them before they kill them. I cannot imagine being an advocate for "solutions" that will bring misery to others, and all so developers can maximize their profits.

I think in a previous article it was @LongResident who suggested that developers be required to contribute to "community transportation" funding if and when parking spots are no longer needed. GREAT IDEA!!! If cars are the system of the past, developers should be funding the system that replaces cars, not just pocketing the savings that comes from not creating parking spots.

3rdMAU summed it all up very nicely: "Include parking till until its not needed."

Not everyone has access to free company shuttles, or is able to afford an uber whenever they need to drive someplace.

ETA: Just realized that the article is about how best to use a former VTA parking lot. The irony, it burns.


Randy Guelph
Registered user
Cuernavaca
on May 16, 2022 at 12:38 pm
Randy Guelph, Cuernavaca
Registered user
on May 16, 2022 at 12:38 pm

Leslie, this is an affordable housing project. The end result of forcing more parking spots is fewer affordable homes. You're substituting your personal judgment of what someone living there will want for the judgment of the actual people that will live there, and saying that you'd rather have fewer affordable homes than fewer parking spots.

It's likely to be built by a nonprofit affordable housing developer, so saddling them with even more fees will just lead to fewer affordable homes being built. They're not trying to make a profit!

I think your heart is in the right place, but please don't just kneejerk react every time someone says they support more homes for people.


LongResident
Registered user
another community
on May 16, 2022 at 2:26 pm
LongResident, another community
Registered user
on May 16, 2022 at 2:26 pm

This location is an assemblage of a lot of perverted local factors:

(a) it only exists because VTA once had a light rail station across Evelyn. That state never got any riders and was abandoned. What a waste was light rail's design in so many ways. It's light ridership still today all over shows a lot. It could have been so much more had it not tried to be so terrific. It's a victim of its own ambitions.

(b) There is a big difference between 5 and 8 stories. 5 might fit ok, it seems to me, but no need to treat lower income people to substandard parking. The current standards are already reflecting a lot lower rate of car ownership than is found overall in Mountain View.

(c) Consider the neighboring properties. These are old 1 story low quality business construction with lots of surface parking outside. It seems like the current land values would lead to redevelopment of these too. Will they be residential or business? Hmmm. Put an 8 story low income housing project on the VTA site and it might lead to a 6 story office building or 3 built nearby.

(d) When this is called affordable housing it means BMR housing. This is housing which for 30+ years has regulated rents that depend on the income of the residents compared to the county average. So they don't pay depending on local rental rates which are higher in Mountain View. They pay based on their income compared to the median in the county. Some have to earn less than 50% of the county's median income, which is pretty rare in Mountain View. They may only make 30% of the median income. Their rent is set so they pay 30% of their actual income toward rent. Two different renters can pay different rents--one could pay 50% more than another. It's rent that may not look affordable based on your expectations for other locations, but it's set according to income.


Leslie Bain
Registered user
Cuesta Park
on May 17, 2022 at 12:58 pm
Leslie Bain, Cuesta Park
Registered user
on May 17, 2022 at 12:58 pm

Randy, you really have some nerve, saying that “You're substituting your personal judgement of what someone living there will want for the judgement of the actual people that will live there.” You imply that YOU know what is best for them. On what basis?

Yes, it is my personal opinion that being forced to live in an area with insufficient parking and poor transit is miserable. I hold that opinion because I have lived it. @3RdMAW has also shared their lived experiences as well. Did you hear them say, “In fact, public transportation is more expensive than keeping a well maintained used car or two”? @Derek raises important questions which you ignore: "Would you want to park 3 blocks away from your home? Or would you like to come home and find that there is no parking in front of your home due to a lack of parking two blocks away?"

@LongResident wrote, “There's not reason low income housing should have less parking than market rate.” and “It's not illegal for low income people to own a car or two per household. Maybe they work as a gardener. Not really practical to take VTA to customers.” Or what if they work as an uber or lyft driver, or as an amazon delivery person? You know, the people who do the work that makes it possible for higher-paid persons to do their online shopping and live their “car-free” lifestyle (that is not actually car-free at all).

These words from @3RdMAW especially moved me: “I remember when the folks in OMV asked for residential parking permits, 2 permanent and 2 for guests/workers and excluded folks that lived in PD's, Apartments and Condo's. The rationale was those folks had plenty of room to park. That plan was deemed discriminatory by the court and was struck down.”

Advocacy that results in hardships and increased expenses for lower income workers is classist and exploitive. No thank you very much. We need to have better transit options before taking parking spots away.


Randy Guelph
Registered user
Cuernavaca
on May 17, 2022 at 1:17 pm
Randy Guelph, Cuernavaca
Registered user
on May 17, 2022 at 1:17 pm

If someone would rather park 3 blocks away from their home, or doesn't want to own a car, or is happy to look for free parking, why do you want to force them to build car storage? Leslie, cars are expensive, and poor people that you claim to care about are less likely to own them. Fewer affordable homes is a specific harm that's inflicted on poor people, but you are fighting an affordable housing project to have fewer homes and more car storage.


Leslie Bain
Registered user
Cuesta Park
45 minutes ago
Leslie Bain, Cuesta Park
Registered user
45 minutes ago

@Randy, I would like to see substantial evidence that these mythical people whom you are apparently advocating for actually exist.

Provide evidence that low-income people WANT to routinely park 3 blocks away from their homes, and/or live car-free when their transit alternatives are terrible.

If we want to discourage the use of cars, we NEED to improve the quality of transportation alternatives. Period. Forcing people to live car-free when quality transit alternatives do not exist is cruel. Not everyone has access to a free company shuttle or can afford to hail an uber whenever they want to drive somewhere.

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” - Upton Sinclair Web Link


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