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'Any amount of growth is still on the table': Mountain View seeks community input on R3 Zoning Update

A sign reads "Now Renting" at the Mountain View Gardens apartment complex at 570 S. Rengstorff Ave. in Mountain View on Aug. 31, 2021. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

When the Mountain View City Council narrowly voted in favor of an 85-unit rowhouse development at 570 S. Rengstorff Ave. last September, along with demolishing 70 apartments to make way for it, community members like Jackie Cashen felt a pang of deja vu.

Cashen was displaced from her home when 2310 Rock St. was razed in a similar redevelopment project approved in 2019. As the Voice reported, Cashen said the redevelopment of her apartment complex separated families and forced her neighbors to scatter throughout the city.

"Don't let any more affordable housing slip through our fingers and make a difficult situation even worse than it already is," Cashen said at the time.

What happened at 570 S. Rengstorff has become a familiar event in Mountain View in recent years: naturally affordable housing — typically older, multifamily apartments — are redeveloped into market-rate rowhouses or townhomes that ultimately displace the residents living there. But for Mayor Lucas Ramirez, what happened at 570 S. Rengstorff was particularly disheartening: If the city's R3 zoning wasn't so restrictive, Ramirez said, the outcome at 570 S. Rengstorff could have looked very different.

"Years ago there was a developer who was looking at that site who wanted to build multifamily ownership condos," Ramirez told the Voice. "But the (city) staff said you can't do that because the zoning doesn't allow you to go that dense, or that tall."

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What could have been a form of housing that's more affordable instead turned into another entry on the city's growing list of redevelopments that displace residents.

"The totality of this has been really bad for our community," Ramirez said. "We've lost over 1,000 units in the past several years."

For the past few years, the Mountain View City Council and city staff have been looking at ways to revamp the city's R3 zoning district, encompassing large swaths of the city that allow for multifamily housing like apartments, condos, rowhouses and townhomes, and accounts for close to one-third of all homes in the city.

According to Ramirez, current requirements in the zoning ordinance make it next to impossible for developers to propose apartment and condo projects that are profitable for them but also affordable for residents.

The city's R3 zoning update is an attempt to ease some of those restrictions, which could lead to the development of 9,000 additional housing units, according to previous estimates by city staff.

In looking at a property like 570 S. Rengstorff, Ramirez said, if there hadn't been so many barriers in the city's zoning for building dense R3 housing, perhaps the originally proposed project for more affordable, multifamily condos could have been the outcome instead.

A map of all R3 zoned areas in Mountain View. Image courtesy City of Mountain View.

"I think we can all agree that 570 S. Rengstorff is an appropriate place for high density housing. It's already zoned R3, we're building 85 houses there right now," Ramirez said. "If that's the case, could we accommodate greater density to allow for more accessible, entry-level ownership housing? Would it have been appropriate to work with the developer to get dedication of land for a new park? Wouldn't it have been nice to have inclusionary housing? I think those are the kinds of questions that the community should be asking."

Starting tonight, July 19, the community will have a chance to ask those questions and more. The city is holding a series of community meetings to seek input on what residents would like future growth in R3 zoned areas to look like in their neighborhoods.

"What we're going to be presenting to the community tonight and over the coming weeks is really some alternative ways to look at how we can modify the R3 district with the potential for a range of possible growth scenarios," said Eric Anderson, advance planning manager for the city. "Just because we presented in 2021 a possible 9,000 unit growth scenario doesn't mean that that's set in stone."

The R3 zoning changes could also create more opportunities to build different housing types, such as stacked-flat condos and more ownership units. The revamped standards could lead to more community benefits including parks and open space.

All meetings will be held on Zoom from 7 to 9 p.m. Here's the meeting schedule:

July 19: Monta Loma/Farley/Rock

•Monday, July 25: Moffett/Whisman

•Tuesday, Aug. 2: San Antonio/Rengstorff/Del Medio

•Tuesday, Aug. 9: Central Neighborhoods

•Thursday, Aug. 11: Springer/Cuesta/Phyllis

•Tuesday, Aug. 16: Grant/Sylvan Park

The meetings will give residents a chance to not only reimagine what multifamily housing could look like in Mountain View, but also express concerns and questions about what that growth means for the city.

"We're really going out to the community to get the pulse of the community on this question of growth," Anderson said. "There is a state law that says we can't down-zone, we can't reduce the overall capacity of the R3 zone, so we have to be at least growth neutral. But any amount of growth is still on the table."

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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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'Any amount of growth is still on the table': Mountain View seeks community input on R3 Zoning Update

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Tue, Jul 19, 2022, 1:47 pm

When the Mountain View City Council narrowly voted in favor of an 85-unit rowhouse development at 570 S. Rengstorff Ave. last September, along with demolishing 70 apartments to make way for it, community members like Jackie Cashen felt a pang of deja vu.

Cashen was displaced from her home when 2310 Rock St. was razed in a similar redevelopment project approved in 2019. As the Voice reported, Cashen said the redevelopment of her apartment complex separated families and forced her neighbors to scatter throughout the city.

"Don't let any more affordable housing slip through our fingers and make a difficult situation even worse than it already is," Cashen said at the time.

What happened at 570 S. Rengstorff has become a familiar event in Mountain View in recent years: naturally affordable housing — typically older, multifamily apartments — are redeveloped into market-rate rowhouses or townhomes that ultimately displace the residents living there. But for Mayor Lucas Ramirez, what happened at 570 S. Rengstorff was particularly disheartening: If the city's R3 zoning wasn't so restrictive, Ramirez said, the outcome at 570 S. Rengstorff could have looked very different.

"Years ago there was a developer who was looking at that site who wanted to build multifamily ownership condos," Ramirez told the Voice. "But the (city) staff said you can't do that because the zoning doesn't allow you to go that dense, or that tall."

What could have been a form of housing that's more affordable instead turned into another entry on the city's growing list of redevelopments that displace residents.

"The totality of this has been really bad for our community," Ramirez said. "We've lost over 1,000 units in the past several years."

For the past few years, the Mountain View City Council and city staff have been looking at ways to revamp the city's R3 zoning district, encompassing large swaths of the city that allow for multifamily housing like apartments, condos, rowhouses and townhomes, and accounts for close to one-third of all homes in the city.

According to Ramirez, current requirements in the zoning ordinance make it next to impossible for developers to propose apartment and condo projects that are profitable for them but also affordable for residents.

The city's R3 zoning update is an attempt to ease some of those restrictions, which could lead to the development of 9,000 additional housing units, according to previous estimates by city staff.

In looking at a property like 570 S. Rengstorff, Ramirez said, if there hadn't been so many barriers in the city's zoning for building dense R3 housing, perhaps the originally proposed project for more affordable, multifamily condos could have been the outcome instead.

"I think we can all agree that 570 S. Rengstorff is an appropriate place for high density housing. It's already zoned R3, we're building 85 houses there right now," Ramirez said. "If that's the case, could we accommodate greater density to allow for more accessible, entry-level ownership housing? Would it have been appropriate to work with the developer to get dedication of land for a new park? Wouldn't it have been nice to have inclusionary housing? I think those are the kinds of questions that the community should be asking."

Starting tonight, July 19, the community will have a chance to ask those questions and more. The city is holding a series of community meetings to seek input on what residents would like future growth in R3 zoned areas to look like in their neighborhoods.

"What we're going to be presenting to the community tonight and over the coming weeks is really some alternative ways to look at how we can modify the R3 district with the potential for a range of possible growth scenarios," said Eric Anderson, advance planning manager for the city. "Just because we presented in 2021 a possible 9,000 unit growth scenario doesn't mean that that's set in stone."

The R3 zoning changes could also create more opportunities to build different housing types, such as stacked-flat condos and more ownership units. The revamped standards could lead to more community benefits including parks and open space.

All meetings will be held on Zoom from 7 to 9 p.m. Here's the meeting schedule:

July 19: Monta Loma/Farley/Rock

•Monday, July 25: Moffett/Whisman

•Tuesday, Aug. 2: San Antonio/Rengstorff/Del Medio

•Tuesday, Aug. 9: Central Neighborhoods

•Thursday, Aug. 11: Springer/Cuesta/Phyllis

•Tuesday, Aug. 16: Grant/Sylvan Park

The meetings will give residents a chance to not only reimagine what multifamily housing could look like in Mountain View, but also express concerns and questions about what that growth means for the city.

"We're really going out to the community to get the pulse of the community on this question of growth," Anderson said. "There is a state law that says we can't down-zone, we can't reduce the overall capacity of the R3 zone, so we have to be at least growth neutral. But any amount of growth is still on the table."

Comments

ivg
Registered user
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jul 19, 2022 at 6:41 pm
ivg, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
Registered user
on Jul 19, 2022 at 6:41 pm

It's also worth noting the Gamel Way project. Because it triples the number of units, all existing tenants can be rehoused. The huge increase in unit count was only possible because of some unique circumstances, but increasing height and density limits would make it possible in more places!


Seth Neumann
Registered user
Waverly Park
on Jul 20, 2022 at 12:06 pm
Seth Neumann, Waverly Park
Registered user
on Jul 20, 2022 at 12:06 pm

why do we need more growth? At this rate the place is going to look like Queens: miles of ugly low rise housing, not dense enough to really support transit, quality of life going down, down, down. Can we get some of these people who want to move in to go to Texas instead?


BT
Registered user
Shoreline West
on Jul 20, 2022 at 12:31 pm
BT, Shoreline West
Registered user
on Jul 20, 2022 at 12:31 pm

I agree with Seth Neumann although I am happy for people to live here. I know this is a great place to live but we are ruining what makes this a great place to live. Traffic is terrible, the roads need work due to the big construction trucks driving on them all the time to support the new building work. Maybe I am blind, but I don't see other local cities stepping up to build all this housing. I don't think the infrastructure is keeping up. Can't we slow things down a bit?


Bruce Karney
Registered user
Old Mountain View
on Jul 20, 2022 at 4:02 pm
Bruce Karney, Old Mountain View
Registered user
on Jul 20, 2022 at 4:02 pm

Kudos to the City for trying to solve this challenging problem (way more jobs than housing) and for reaching out to the community for ideas. I plan to attend the virtual meeting for my neighborhood. While many communities have resisted and are resisting doing their part to address the regional housing supply issue, MV is far from alone in taking action. Redwood City, Sunnyvale, Santa Clara and San Jose are all doing quite a bit too, maybe even more than MV.


ivg
Registered user
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jul 21, 2022 at 8:26 am
ivg, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
Registered user
on Jul 21, 2022 at 8:26 am

Texas called. They don't want our housing crisis.


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