Quite literally on the other side of the tracks, Moffett Boulevard has long been a neglected afterthought to downtown Mountain View. But a recent plan to overhaul the drive-through corridor could transform the area into a destination worthy of visiting in its own right.
“We did a major redo of our downtown approximately 30 years ago, and it's time to do that again and include the other half of our downtown,” said Mayor Alison Hicks, referring to Moffett Boulevard, at a City Council meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 14.
The area under consideration is about 20 acres in size and runs along both sides of Moffett Boulevard. Anchored by Castro Street, it starts at Central Expressway and stretches north past Cypress Point Drive to West Middlefield Road, omitting the Moffett Mobile Home Park and 555 W. Middlefield Road development.
While the council report referred to Moffett Boulevard as a “gateway to downtown,” Hicks challenged this designation, stating that the area needed to be more than a gateway. “It needs to be a place in and of itself,” she said, adding that this was a reason to develop a Moffett Boulevard Precise Plan.
The study session’s proposal for a precise plan – one that would lay out a comprehensive vision and guiding principles for future development along Moffett Boulevard – garnered unanimous support from the council, as well as from public commenters who lined up to express their enthusiasm for the idea.
“I think we should prioritize the resources and framework we need to create a thoughtful and intentional vision for our neighborhood,” said April Webster, a resident of the area.
“I think we need to think bigger, bolder and more holistically about what we want it to look like, what we want to prioritize in it and how we can create that, not only through our built environment but also through community programs,” she said, adding that this only could be achieved as a precise plan.
Speakers also pushed the council to extend the proposed boundaries of the precise plan, bringing it up to highway 85, which would link it with the Stevens Creek Trail and provide more opportunities for bicycle and pedestrian-friendly pathways.
The council largely supported lengthening and widening the precise plan boundaries, with the exception of Council member Lisa Matichak. Concerned about the implications of zoning changes and how this would affect property values, she expressed a preference for the more limited boundaries proposed in the council report.
With the discussion of the precise plan boundaries, the council honed in on the future of Shenandoah Square, a federally-owned 17-acre site, located at the north corner of Moffett Boulevard and Middlefield Road. Over the years, the city has been in varying conversations with the U.S. Army about developing the site for housing and other possible uses.
Those conversations have not gone anywhere so far, and are unlikely to anytime soon, said City Manager Kimbra McCarthy.
“The army doesn't move fast. If you think government is slow at the local level, it's even slower at the federal level. So, I think having some sort of framework now, given the state of affairs, would probably be helpful,” she said, in response to council’s deliberations about the precise plan boundaries.
Council member Margaret Abe-Koga supported this approach, stating that the Army’s previous proposal to build 1,000 luxury apartments at Shenandoah Square did not align with the city’s priorities or vision for the area.
“Let's look at all of the possibilities and figure out what we need as a community and just put it out there. So that, when the Army is ready to engage, they know what we are thinking, because it's not just going to be dependent on what they come up with,” Abe-Koga said.
The proposed expansion of the boundaries – to include Shenandoah Square and other adjacent neighborhoods, like 555 W. Middlefield Road – prompted questions about the timeline of the precise plan, which staff said would take about two years.
This would be a quicker turnaround than the Downtown Precise Plan update, which the council considered at a study session held on Nov. 7.
The council leaned towards creating a Moffett Boulevard Precise Plan that would be comprehensive and well-integrated, with substantial community engagement, rather than something expedited and more limited in scope. But city staff expressed an interest in a fairly quick turnaround, wrapping up by December 2025, in order to meet a rezoning timeline in the recently adopted 2023-2031 housing element.
Council member Emily Ramos said she felt the creation of a Moffett Boulevard Precise Plan is in the spirit of the housing element. It is identifying and responding to the needs of the community, she said.
Council member Lucas Ramirez also supported a holistic approach to the precise plan, which he said might take longer but would be worth it years down the road. A piecemeal or phased approach to the plan, which could better align with the housing element deadline, would not benefit the community, he added.
“If we just do the general plan area now, which is very small – 20 acres of small and shallow parcels – and then we come back later, I don't think we would be doing ourselves and our community a service. Because we would have denied everyone an opportunity to think more holistically about, ‘What does this corridor look like in 30 or 40 or 50 years?’” he said.
George Markle, a resident of the area, agreed, encouraging the council to recognize the full potential of Moffett Boulevard, and its surrounding neighborhoods, and to invest in them. He said he would like to see something similar to what already has happened with Castro Street on the other side of the tracks.
“I’d like you to please consider seriously the potential benefits to our city for not taking shortcuts as we’ve done in the past,” he said.