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.