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Mountain View City Council says it can meet state housing targets and then some

Council takes a second look at sites inventory list for new housing development

Mountain View City Hall on Oct. 10, 2016. Photo by Michelle Le

Mountain View’s proposed Housing Element – a once-every-eight years process in which jurisdictions show how they’ll meet housing targets set by the state – forecasts that the city will not only meet its housing quota, but exceed it by nearly 4,000 units. But some City Council members are concerned about overcommitting.

"I fear that a lot of the sites that we have in the site inventory have not historically had interest in housing developments," Mayor Lucas Ramirez said during a June 14 study session, during which the council deliberated over what to include in or remove from the city's sites inventory. "So while we might get away with it for a few years, down the road a different council’s going to have to make some tough decisions to address the no net loss requirement."

The city will submit its sites inventory list -- sites that could reasonably be developed into housing in the next eight years -- to the state later this year. This map shows the proposed sites presented to the council at its June 14 meeting, a few of which the council chose to remove. Map courtesy City of Mountain View.

The sites inventory is a list of sites that the city can prove may reasonably be developed into housing in the next eight years. The city will submit the list to the state later this year, and if any of those sites don’t end up being developed into housing, the No Net Loss Law requires the city to make up for that housing somewhere else.

“So we can make a hard decision now, or we can make a hard decision later, but at some point I think we’re going to have to contend with the site inventory that I personally think is a bit optimistic," Ramirez said.

In addition to creating a sites inventory, the city must also provide the state's Department of Housing and Community Development with the constraints the city faces that make it harder to build housing -- like zoning that's stopping multi-family units from being developed, for example, Ramirez told the Voice in an interview.

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"The law also requires that for every constraint identified, we have a corresponding program to mitigate or eliminate those constraints," Ramirez said.

At the June 14 meeting, multiple council members brought up concerns that the city was committing to too many such programs in its proposed Housing Element.

"Some of these programs are good programs, I just fundamentally don’t think they should be in the Housing Element, because what this is doing, from my perspective, is filling up the CDD (the city's Community Development Department) with their work for the next I-don’t-know-how-many years, which means we don’t have the opportunity to talk about other projects," said council member Lisa Matichak at the meeting. "So I’m really concerned that we’re adding things to the Housing Element that are going to tie our hands for other projects."

Council member Margaret Abe-Koga shared Matichak's concerns.

"If we’re going to just fill up our staff capacity with Housing Element items I don’t see how we’re going to be able to do much at all elsewhere," she said.

With these concerns in mind, the council debated which sites to either add to or take off the sites inventory list. Here's what was proposed and what was decided:

Removed the Community Services Agency site (204 Stierlin Road)

The council received a letter from CSA Executive Director Tom Myers stating that CSA’s leadership does not see it as “a realistic expectation that housing will be developed at that site within the next eight years.” At staff’s recommendation, the site was removed from the list.

Did not add Castro Commons (843 Castro St.)

“We have people who want to develop them for housing and we know that, so it seems to me that it’s logical that we include them,” Councilmember Pat Showalter said as she recommended adding Castro Commons to the list.

But the site failed to get majority support from the council, so it wasn’t added to the list.

Did not add 901 N Rengstorff Ave.

Council members were curious about adding this site to the list, given that there was a previous application to develop housing here that was closed out. Staff explained that while the previous applicants were planning to reapply, the project would require a rezone, which the city would be responsible for. The council did not support adding the site to the list.

Removed El Camino Real and Phyllis Avenue site

The council received a letter from Julia Miller, chair of the El Camino Healthcare District, who asked that this site be removed.

“...Healthcare services are the driving purpose for this land and as will be the same for all district-owned land,” Miller said. “We reserve the right to make our own development decisions on this land in keeping with the mission of the Healthcare District for Mountain View and the surrounding community.”

The council supported removing this site from the list.

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Malea Martin
Malea Martin covers the city hall beat in Mountain View. Before joining the Mountain View Voice in 2022, she covered local politics and education for New Times San Luis Obispo, a weekly newspaper on the Central Coast of California. Read more >>

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Mountain View City Council says it can meet state housing targets and then some

Council takes a second look at sites inventory list for new housing development

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Sat, Jun 18, 2022, 8:54 am

Mountain View’s proposed Housing Element – a once-every-eight years process in which jurisdictions show how they’ll meet housing targets set by the state – forecasts that the city will not only meet its housing quota, but exceed it by nearly 4,000 units. But some City Council members are concerned about overcommitting.

"I fear that a lot of the sites that we have in the site inventory have not historically had interest in housing developments," Mayor Lucas Ramirez said during a June 14 study session, during which the council deliberated over what to include in or remove from the city's sites inventory. "So while we might get away with it for a few years, down the road a different council’s going to have to make some tough decisions to address the no net loss requirement."

The sites inventory is a list of sites that the city can prove may reasonably be developed into housing in the next eight years. The city will submit the list to the state later this year, and if any of those sites don’t end up being developed into housing, the No Net Loss Law requires the city to make up for that housing somewhere else.

“So we can make a hard decision now, or we can make a hard decision later, but at some point I think we’re going to have to contend with the site inventory that I personally think is a bit optimistic," Ramirez said.

In addition to creating a sites inventory, the city must also provide the state's Department of Housing and Community Development with the constraints the city faces that make it harder to build housing -- like zoning that's stopping multi-family units from being developed, for example, Ramirez told the Voice in an interview.

"The law also requires that for every constraint identified, we have a corresponding program to mitigate or eliminate those constraints," Ramirez said.

At the June 14 meeting, multiple council members brought up concerns that the city was committing to too many such programs in its proposed Housing Element.

"Some of these programs are good programs, I just fundamentally don’t think they should be in the Housing Element, because what this is doing, from my perspective, is filling up the CDD (the city's Community Development Department) with their work for the next I-don’t-know-how-many years, which means we don’t have the opportunity to talk about other projects," said council member Lisa Matichak at the meeting. "So I’m really concerned that we’re adding things to the Housing Element that are going to tie our hands for other projects."

Council member Margaret Abe-Koga shared Matichak's concerns.

"If we’re going to just fill up our staff capacity with Housing Element items I don’t see how we’re going to be able to do much at all elsewhere," she said.

With these concerns in mind, the council debated which sites to either add to or take off the sites inventory list. Here's what was proposed and what was decided:

Removed the Community Services Agency site (204 Stierlin Road)

The council received a letter from CSA Executive Director Tom Myers stating that CSA’s leadership does not see it as “a realistic expectation that housing will be developed at that site within the next eight years.” At staff’s recommendation, the site was removed from the list.

Did not add Castro Commons (843 Castro St.)

“We have people who want to develop them for housing and we know that, so it seems to me that it’s logical that we include them,” Councilmember Pat Showalter said as she recommended adding Castro Commons to the list.

But the site failed to get majority support from the council, so it wasn’t added to the list.

Did not add 901 N Rengstorff Ave.

Council members were curious about adding this site to the list, given that there was a previous application to develop housing here that was closed out. Staff explained that while the previous applicants were planning to reapply, the project would require a rezone, which the city would be responsible for. The council did not support adding the site to the list.

Removed El Camino Real and Phyllis Avenue site

The council received a letter from Julia Miller, chair of the El Camino Healthcare District, who asked that this site be removed.

“...Healthcare services are the driving purpose for this land and as will be the same for all district-owned land,” Miller said. “We reserve the right to make our own development decisions on this land in keeping with the mission of the Healthcare District for Mountain View and the surrounding community.”

The council supported removing this site from the list.

Comments

Leslie Bain
Registered user
Cuesta Park
on Jun 20, 2022 at 7:46 pm
Leslie Bain, Cuesta Park
Registered user
on Jun 20, 2022 at 7:46 pm

So let me get this straight. If the crystal ball that the city council is looking through TODAY turns out to be flawed, the state has a No Net Loss Law will end up forcing the city to "make up for that housing" LATER. Somehow. Someway. Some way that nobody has even thought of today. And we will be forced to do it by our benevolent state overlords.

The state is essentially asking the city to sign it's name in blood for whatever is on this list. Smart negotiation in this case should be to make the list as SMALL as possible. It should not have any "maybe" or "hopefully" or "possibly" items ... it should only have sites that the council is 100% sure about. It scares me that only SOME City Council members "are concerned about overcommitting." They ALL should be concerned, especially when they are essentially kicking the can down the road. Mayor Ramirez gets it.

""So while we might get away with it for a few years, down the road a different council’s going to have to make some tough decisions to address the no net loss requirement."" - Ramirez

Ramirez thinks that the list is "optimistic". This scares me. If so, that list needs to be revised ASAP. It needs to be REALISTIC.

“So we can make a hard decision now, or we can make a hard decision later, but at some point I think we’re going to have to contend with the site inventory that I personally think is a bit optimistic," Ramirez said.

More bad news:

""So I’m really concerned that we’re adding things to the Housing Element that are going to tie our hands for other projects."" - council member Lisa Matichak

""If we’re going to just fill up our staff capacity with Housing Element items I don’t see how we’re going to be able to do much at all elsewhere," - council member Margaret Abe-Koga

What on earth is going on here? Housing is an important issue, but not so important that the Council is 100% occupied with it alone and nothing else.


Leslie Bain
Registered user
Cuesta Park
on Jun 21, 2022 at 12:21 pm
Leslie Bain, Cuesta Park
Registered user
on Jun 21, 2022 at 12:21 pm

I'm struggling to figure out how to write words that younger persons might “hear”. As an older person, I have some memories of what life looks like as a younger person (the opposite is not true). I was primarily interested in my career, not the community where I lived. I was a workaholic. I rented, was indifferent to the quality of schools, all I primarily wanted to do was please my employer and enjoy my social life. My focus re housing was the cost and the distance from work. Period.

They say that those who rent think differently from those who own. When we bought our first place, a condo, we primarily considered commute and the quality of the housing. Still didn't care about the community too much, we didn't have kids. We made an effort to know our neighbors and be good to them.

When we bought a house, we did some deeper thinking. Where did we want to raise A FAMILY? We wanted good schools. We looked all over the peninsula. I wanted a sexier zipcode than MV, but in the end we decided that MV matched our values. We wanted to live in a place that had racial and economic diversity, to model for our children. MV was a sweet and progressive little community back then, although Castro was almost entirely a ghetto for Chinese restaurants.

Frankly, I don't think that young people at Google think so much about the COMMUNITY of Mountain View. Do they care about things like schools, and parks? When I was their age, I didn't. So I think I get it. They want cheaper rent, period. If the schools suffer, if greenspace suffers, too bad so sad. If it doesn't affect them, then they don't really care so much. And the Googleplex is awesome, right? THAT is where they spend most of their time, so who cares about the rest of the city?

I don't want the quality of life in MV to be sacrificed in order to help certain wealthy players to make more money. That pretty much sums up where I stand these days. These state housing mandates are not going to lower the rent, they will do the exact opposite. And in addition, the Council's ability to focus on other matters of importance to the community is being hampered.

What a sad time we are living in, when longtime residents who care about the entire community are demonized and outside agitators are considered “local stakeholders”.


JAFO
Registered user
Old Mountain View
on Jun 21, 2022 at 3:08 pm
JAFO, Old Mountain View
Registered user
on Jun 21, 2022 at 3:08 pm

JUST AN FYI IYAI

I just posted my first Youtube video demonstrating the current state of the rental market in Mountain View. I plan on doing a video regarding the SCC Tax history of my building shortly.

The video can be seen here (Web Link

It demonstrates that our property values are in no way in position to stay the way they are. And in fact due to the increasing Fed and Mortgage rates, MANY project will be stopped. Several already have in the recent news in the area.

The facts are that INVESTMENT expectations regarding housing were never going to be met consistently, the best rates of return in this market should be no more than 1.5% above CPI. Any history of higher has been met with property value corrections since 2007.

My video shows how VOLITILE the local market is. I am amazed at how rapidly values change in an market area that should be the most stable. It has NEVER been a reliable investment. And the City Council and this City better get used to this REALITY CHECK, or their CHECKS are going to BOUNCE.


LongResident
Registered user
another community
on Jun 21, 2022 at 6:57 pm
LongResident, another community
Registered user
on Jun 21, 2022 at 6:57 pm

The thing is that Mountain View is mainly behind in providing subsidized housing. Palo Alto has way more units of BMR housing built to date. Mountain View lags.

For the current RHNA cycle through 2022, MV has already exceeded its market rate targets. If you only consider market rate for profit housing, MV has a good case to believe that they will once again produce more such housing than the RHNA mandates. The critics are erring by leveling criticism toward that. HCD will look at the track record of what has been done in the past, not just the HE stand alone.

The MV rental market is harmed by the lack of BMR housing. PA has the BMR housing in place, but they need to add for profit housing. The difference is material. PA doesn't get a lower quota based on their existing BMR stockpile. That shows how wacky the state RHNA assessments are.


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