Residents of the Monta Loma-Farley-Rock Street neighborhood had a chance to tell city staff what improvements they’d like to see prioritized in their corner of Mountain View and hear updates on long-needed improvements – including a potential new park – at an Oct. 27 meeting held by the Council Neighborhoods Committee.
The Council Neighborhoods Committee, currently made up of Mountain View Mayor Lucas Ramirez, Vice Mayor Alison Hicks and council member Pat Showalter, hosts a handful of neighborhood meetings each year to hear from residents about the specific needs of their community.
For residents in the Monta Loma neighborhood, one of the biggest concerns in the past few years has been the severe lack of parks and open space in the area. City staff kicked off the meeting by announcing that the city is currently in negotiations to purchase two properties at 538 and 544 Thompson Avenue for a future park. The city council discussed these negotiations in closed session at its Oct. 25 meeting, according to City Manager Kimbra McCarthy.
“There’s confidential negotiations underway right now, but we are very excited that we are looking into that and we know that this has been something that has been top of mind for the neighborhood for many years,” McCarthy told residents at the Oct. 27 neighborhood meeting. “... This is something that has been very important for our city council and our city to expand our parks and open space in the city, so I did want to confirm that for everyone.”
Staff also fielded questions from Monta Loma neighborhood residents and provided updates where possible. Here are the highlights.
Rengstorff Avenue grade separation project
This project proposes to lower the intersection of Rengstorff Avenue and Central Expressway to run underneath the train crossing in order to improve safety, traffic flow and traffic movement along adjacent streets and intersections, according to the city’s webpage about the project. A resident asked for an update on the estimated timeline for the project.
“This is a very timely question because we’re very excited to announce that we have just completed the preliminary design and environmental clearance base for this project,” said Dawn Cameron, the city’s public works director.
Cameron added that the city is currently finalizing details with both Caltrain, which will be the project manager and lead on final design and construction, and the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA), which will be providing Measure B sales tax funding toward the final design and construction of the project.
Once the city enters into an agreement with both agencies, the project will move on to its next phase: final design and right of way acquisition. The city expects that phase to begin in January and take about two years to complete. If construction funding comes together in time, Cameron said, the city expects construction to begin by July 2025, which will take about two years, putting estimated completion at mid-2027.
Another resident asked about the impacts this lengthy construction period will have on Monta Loma, particularly with drivers cutting through the neighborhood to avoid traffic.
Cameron said during the final design phase, the city will look at different ways to phase and stage the construction to minimize lane closures, road closures and “see how much we can keep the traffic flowing on Central and Rengstorff.”
But, she added, there will be periods of time where these streets have to close. Cameron said the city will set up detour routes that mostly use other major parallel roads in the area rather than cutting through the surrounding neighborhood.
“I don't want to sugarcoat it,” she said. “It is a major construction project, and there will be periods of time where it’s going to be difficult to navigate through the area.”
Cameron added that once the project is completed, the neighborhood will experience benefits, like no longer being affected by waiting for train crossing gates at Rengstorff Avenue, which she said will only get worse, as Caltrain is planning to add more trains. Additionally, once the project is completed, train horns won’t need to sound when they cross, so residents will benefit from reduced train noise.
Sports fields and community open space use
One resident asked why priority is given to professional sports teams on athletic fields, and whether the city could allow more space and time for non-professional use.
“The city does have an athletic field use policy which governs the use and reservations of our athletic fields,” said Kristine Crosby, recreation manager for the city. “The policy does outline which sports receive priority reservation by season, and within that, what groups receive priority.”
However, Crosby continued, the upcoming Parks and Recreation Strategic Plan process will look at this policy, as well as more generally how parks across the city are used.
“A consultant may provide the city with recommendations related to this policy and in general use of parks through the review of best practices and based on the feedback they receive through the community outreach process,” Crosby said.
In the meantime, she added, the Parks and Recreation Division has paused athletic field use permits on Sundays for the soccer field at Monta Loma Park, which provides additional time for unstructured play on the open grass space.
Another resident asked whether the city can stop scheduling multiple sports for simultaneous use in Monta Loma Park, as it leaves no space for other community members to recreate. Staff said they will try to see if this is possible to adjust prior to the Parks and Recreation Strategic Plan Update.
High density development on San Antonio Road
Another resident asked about high-density developments along the San Antonio Road and California Street area, and how the city plans to provide commensurate infrastructure improvements as growth occurs.
“As new development comes in and is proposed, the city does do some analysis to determine what kind of impacts that development may have on our existing utility infrastructure, our existing roadways,” said Lindsay Hagan, assistant community development director. “We also are big supporters of trying to implement different alternative modes of transportation that sort of encourage folks to get out of their cars and use bikes and other modes of transit.”
Hagan added it can be challenging to address traffic on major thoroughfares because these regional connectors often travel through multiple cities, so it’s hard to control the traffic. Similarly, she said infrastructure improvements are often too big a financial burden to be carried by one project.
“So it may take sort of multiple projects to contribute towards an improvement, so sometimes that’s why you don’t always see new development necessarily improving everything all at once,” Hagan said. “It may come through a public works capital project that’s coordinated for that area based on funding that comes from multiple projects.”
Development at 831 Independence Ave.
A resident asked for an update on what’s going in on property at 831 Independence Ave. Hagan said this is the last property to be developed within the industrial zone in this area.
“I know it’s right next to residential, but it’s actually an industrial property, so unfortunately it’s not a new home that’s under development there, but it is a new 1,000 square foot commercial office building for a pool service company that is being constructed there, as well as, I think, a small storage shed,” Hagan said.
The resident who asked the question also noted that there is some visible trash on the property. Hagan said she’ll have a building inspector go out and visit the site and see if that needs to be addressed.
RVs parked on neighborhood streets
One resident asked about RVs parked on the streets like Leghorn Street and Independence Avenue, and what the city is doing to address the situation.
“The city is taking a multi-prong strategy to address the folks living in vehicles and who are unsheltered, including a safe parking program, facilitating the development of interim housing, developing permanent and affordable housing, and also partnering with agencies around the city and the county for other shelter outreach services,” said Wayne Chen with the city's community development department.
Chen added that the city’s most recent point-in-time homeless population count for 2022 will be coming out shortly, and the city hopes to see some positive progress when those numbers are released.
Shopping center redevelopment
A resident asked whether the shopping center at Central and Rengstorff avenues will be redeveloped in the near future.
“It definitely is one of our older shopping centers,” answered Hagan. “… I will say we don’t currently have any proposals for redevelopment at this time for that site.”
Another resident asked what’s happening with the former BestBuy site on Charleston Road.
Hagan said the city has received an application to renovate a portion of that shopping center, three total storefronts, formerly occupied by stores like REI and BestBuy.
“They are proposing to convert just those three buildings that are together right there into an office use,” Hagan said. “The rest of the shopping center where PetSmart is and the cluster of restaurants right at Charleston, those would remain, so it would still have retail and restaurants available for the public.”
That application is currently under review by the city, she said.
Safer biking routes
A resident asked what’s happening to make biking safer in the Monta Loma area and throughout the city. Robert Gonzales, public works principal civil engineer, gave an update on the California Street bicycle and pedestrian improvement pilot project.
“The scope of that project will be from Showers Drive to Shoreline Boulevard, and we are putting in bike and pedestrian facilities along that corridor as a pilot,” Gonzales said. “What we want to do is we want to put in temporary facilities and do a road diet in parts of that alignment. We’re going to put in parking protected bikeways on both sides of the street.”
This project is currently in the design phase, with construction anticipated to commence in the second half of 2023. Since it’s a pilot, these improvements will be temporary so the city can get feedback from users and evaluate how it performs, Gonzales said. Then the city can implement permanent solutions once the pilot is over.