The Mountain View City Council unanimously approved the Middlefield Park Master Plan, Google’s massive mixed-use development in East Whisman that will add 1,900 residential units, at a Nov. 15 meeting. That count includes roughly 380 affordable units that the city is responsible for building on land that the developers will deed to the city.
Project applicants Google and LendLease first submitted an application for the development in September 2020. In addition to the 1,900 high-density residential units, the now-approved project will build 1.3 million square feet of office space, 50,000 square feet of ground floor commercial space (including 20,000 square feet reserved for underserved small businesses) and multiple public parks.
The proposed 1,900 housing units include 1,520 market rate units and 380 affordable units. The applicants say it's financially infeasible for them to integrate affordable units into their proposed market rate complexes, as is required by the city’s inclusionary housing policy. So they proposed an alternative plan: Rather than adding affordable units themselves, Google and LendLease will deed Mountain View 2.4 acres of land. The city would then partner with an affordable housing developer, and find the funding, to build the units.
“Ultimately, the city requires an alternative mitigation (that) must exceed the inclusionary requirement and advance other city affordable housing goals and objectives, and it’s ultimately at the discretion of council to approve,” Mountain View Senior Planner Lindsay Hagan said at the Nov. 15 meeting.
City staff evaluated the applicants’ proposed alternative and concluded that there’s sufficient land to accommodate the city’s requirements (the number of affordable units must be at least 15% of the total unit count), and that the proposal “overall is greater than the on site inclusionary units,” Hagan said.
“Council does not need to decide today on the affordable housing type or funding allocation for these sites, as those decisions can be made at a later date if the Master Plan is approved and land is available to the city,” Hagan added.
While the Environmental Planning Commission unanimously supported the Master Plan at its Oct. 19 meeting, at the time, commissioners brought up concerns about whether it would be financially feasible for the city to deliver the affordable units, given the scarcity of affordable housing funding. Mayor Lucas Ramirez echoed these concerns at the Nov. 15 council meeting, asking staff whether the city can manage building the units in Middlefield Park on top of all the affordable housing projects that are already in the pipeline.
“It’s staff’s intention to try to deliver all of the affordable housing,” said city Housing and Neighborhood Services Manager Micaela Hellman-Tincher, adding that staff outlined some strategies to increase the city’s funding availability in an August study session.
Also under consideration at the Nov. 15 council meeting was the project’s supplemental environmental impact report, which found that the development will cause significant and unavoidable air quality impacts, namely from construction.
“The air quality impacts are tied specifically to the scale of this project, the overlapping construction and operational periods over multiple years, and the proximity of the approved, yet to be constructed, 400 Logue Avenue residential project,” Hagan explained.
Staff said project applicants have implemented all feasible mitigation measures to the greatest extent possible to reduce the negative impacts, but the project “still results in a significant, unavoidable air quality impact,” Hagan said.
As a result, the council was required to adopt a statement of overriding consideration in addition to approving the environmental impact report to allow the project to go forward despite its air quality impacts. The statement explains why the benefits of the proposed project outweigh the unavoidable environmental impacts it will cause, and why the city is willing to accept those impacts.
To further mitigate these negative environmental impacts, councilmember Margaret Abe-Koga suggested that the developers, to the extent commercially available and feasible, use zero-emission heavy-duty trucks during construction or meet the current, most stringent emissions standards. The council agreed to add this language to the motion to approve the project.
Mayor Ramirez supported the motion, but said he hopes that future developments prioritize inclusionary affordable units, meaning developers integrate the required number of affordable units with their market rate units. Dispersing inclusionary units throughout a development creates more inclusive communities, Ramirez said. Under the Middlefield Park Master Plan’s alternative approach, the affordable units will be separate from the rest of the community.
“There’s a level of discomfort with having a building where affluent people live, and the building where the low income people live,” Ramirez said. “... So I do hope that we continue to look for opportunities to provide for socioeconomically integrated communities.”
The motion to approve the Middlefield Park Master Plan carried unanimously.