A housing development on El Camino Real that plans to add more than 200 new units – plus demolish a few dozen existing ones – was approved enthusiastically by the Mountain View City Council at its Sept. 27 meeting.
The project, proposed by Equity Residential, has moved through the application and approval process with the city for the past three years. With the council’s stamp of approval, the developer plans to break ground in mid-2023.
Located at 870 E. El Camino Real, the project proposes two, six-story buildings that will have 233 units, of which 191 are considered net-new, as the project will be replacing 42 existing units on site. The combined count for the existing and new development will be 371 total units.
A key feature of the development is a new public access easement between Muir Drive and El Camino Real, providing a direct connection for pedestrian and bicycle travel to access retail along El Camino for both residents of the development and surrounding neighborhoods, said Phillip Brennan, senior planner with the city.
Vice Mayor Alison Hicks asked the applicant to elaborate on who can access the public easement pathway, as well as the more than 50,000 square feet of common usable open areas that the project proposes for tenants.
“Genuinely we are really trying to create spaces that are open and accessible for all,” said landscape architect James Munden on behalf of the applicant.
Munden added that the public easement pathway will be treelined, making it more inviting for the general public to use.
“I think with the horticultural wayfinding, it will allow people to naturally want to come in, and there’s no gates, per se, to stop them from doing that,” Munden said.
Considered a “tier 1” project within the El Camino Real Precise Plan, “the applicant has opted to meet the tier 1 public benefit requirement by paying the public benefit value in lieu of physical improvements,” Brennan said, which means the city will collect about $600,000 from the developer. These funds will be available for the city to use for future improvements within the precise plan area.
The project will provide 11% of the project's base density for units affordable to very low-income households, making it eligible for a 35% density bonus and up to two concessions under the state density bonus law, plus development waivers. Concessions allow developers to build higher in exchange for providing affordable units.
“The applicant is proposing to utilize one concession to request an approximately 2% reduction to the open area requirement, and five development waivers related to increased building height, reduced setbacks from property lines and in between structures to allow construction of the affordable units at the density permitted via the state density bonus,” said Brennan. “With the exception to the noted concession and waivers, the project complies with development standards.”
With respect to affordable housing, the project will provide 24 units at two income levels, per the city’s 15% local inclusionary requirement. The project will also replace the 42 existing units that will be demolished.
The council recently adopted a unit replacement policy, which requires that any demolished rent-stabilized units occupied by households earning above 80% area median income (AMI) be replaced as deed restricted units at 80% AMI or below.
As a result, this project will replace the 42 units with 33 units at 50% AMI and the remaining nine units at 80% AMI (or lower), Brennan said.
Displaced tenants are also eligible for relocation assistance based on income. The applicant voluntarily proposed to provide the cash equivalent of four and a half months of rent for eligible tenants, which is a month and a half beyond the standard requirement. Displaced tenants also have the first right of return once the development is completed.
Speaking on behalf of Green Spaces Mountain View during public comment, community member Bruce England said he was “initially going to comment on removal of trees,” given the project’s plan to chop down 39 trees in total, including 15 heritage trees, to make way for development.
But after hearing the developer’s plans to add 153 new trees, which is expected to increase the tree canopy on the site threefold once the trees reach full maturity, England said “it sounds like this has been very well thought out. … I feel confident that you’re going on the right track with this.”
The council approved the project unanimously.