Why we need taller buildings | March 21, 2014 | Mountain View Voice | Mountain View Online |

Mountain View Voice

Opinion - March 21, 2014

Why we need taller buildings

by Ania Mitros

The City Council's decisions on development baffle me. I see rents and house values sky-rocketing, with longtime residents complaining that Googlers are pricing them out of the city, and even some of my Google friends choosing to live elsewhere due to house prices.

Yet the City Council blocks the sort of high-density development that would bring the housing supply and demand into balance. Google is a fantastic employer, providing good wages and benefits to its employees. In spite of complaints that Googlers don't eat out at lunch, they do buy groceries, pay rent, go out for dinners and drinks, and support families who don't eat every lunch at Google.

Surely Google adds to the local economy. Assuming we don't want to exile Google from Mountain View, the City Council should embrace the economic boom in North Bayshore. City policies should aim to improve traffic near Highway 101, retain a green, tree-filled ambiance and improve walkability.

To reduce traffic near Hwy. 101 at Google rush hour, the simplest solution would be to encourage more Googlers to live within walking or biking distance of Google. That means permitting at least as much residential development north of 101 as commercial development. A lot of Googlers would love to live closer to work and not use cars for their commute, but that is simply not an option today. We just don't have the land to house everyone who may like to live in North Bayshore in the sort of two-story houses that the city likes to permit. Plus, that would require paving over a lot of the trees and green spaces that make the area pleasant. Simple math suggests that to retain green spaces while increasing housing you have to build up.

I'd much prefer a multi-story residential building next to a park over a dense highly-paved development of two-story condos. Yet, Mountain View seems staunchly opposed to building higher.

Higher density housing is also the key to walkability. For a restaurant to subsist on clientele who mostly walk in, the nearby housing density needs to be high. And again, high housing density without losing all our lovely trees means building up rather than filling in the city's green spaces with low buildings.

The city seems to be struggling to define what it wants to be and how to gracefully accept and integrate the economic boom within its limits, and the people most hurt by this identity crisis are those least able to pay for an individual fix. As long as the city continues to oppose vertical development in proximity to employers in North Bayshore and restaurant clusters like Castro Street, the city will continue to escalate housing prices, squeeze out its least-wealthy residents, limit walkability and retain traffic congestion.

Ania Mitros lives on Chiquita Avenue


Posted by Konrad M. Sosnow, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 23, 2014 at 3:06 pm

Our future is not with tall, high density, buildings. The future is with Self-driving Cars.

With Self-driving Cars traffic capacity will increase exponentially without building additional lanes or roadways. Research indicates that platooning of vehicles could increase highway lane capacity by up to 500 percent. It
may even be possible to convert existing vehicle infrastructure to bicycle or pedestrian uses. Autonomous transportation
infrastructure could bring an end to the congested streets and extra-wide highways of large urban areas.

Self-driving cars wouldn't necessarily need local parking as they could drive themselves home or to remote lots.

Driverless cars will allow people to live farther from their offices and that the car could become an extension of home. You could sleep in your driverless ca. Time spent in your car will essentially be very different.

Posted by Justin, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 24, 2014 at 4:24 am

Self-driving cars are great, but they still use energy and still pollute (directly for conventional cars and indirectly for electric cars). Higher density is almost always going to be more efficient.

Posted by Old Coot, a resident of Rex Manor
on Mar 24, 2014 at 8:45 am

Self-driving cars worked so well at Disneyland!
Oh wait, that was not a reality-based demo...
And they tore it out.

Posted by OMV Resident, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 26, 2014 at 7:18 am

Kudos to the author for a well-written opinion piece, succinctly summarizing why it makes sense to build in a taller and more compact way in our city. Some other advantages to taller, more compact development: it encourages walking and bicycling by bringing destinations closer together, thereby improving public health; it's generally more energy efficient than detached construction due to shared walls; and it makes more efficient use of our existing infrastructure (e.g., sewer, electric) which means a reduced per-unit or per-employee cost to the city than lower, spread-out development.

I'll also point out that building taller here in Mountain View does not have to mean "high-rises" as they exist in many other cities. Simply going to 4 or 6 stories, with an occasional 8 or perhaps 10 story building at a key location where there are no immediate residential neighbors, would achieve many of the benefits the author describes. This type of development would surely be branded "high-rise" by the many development opponents who post on this board and others. But in truth, the slow- and no-growthers who have controlled the discourse on this topic so much that they have gotten people to think of a 4-story building as a "high-rise." In just about any other city in the world, this would be considered laughable. Not only are there much taller buildings in other cities nearby (e.g., San Mateo) which are considered very desirable, there are 8 to 12 story buildings right here in our own city - on Castro Street, and near Showers Drive. And the world hasn't come to an end! Imagine that!

Posted by Linda Curtis, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 28, 2014 at 1:58 pm

If new areas are developed as all high rise, then this won't sell out the privacy of already established neighborhoods where people paid top dollar for what they had in the way of privacy of their windows and yards, nor will it jeopardize them when we have extreme seimic activity that exceeds buildings standards for earthquake tolerance, which causes fires and blockage of roadways.

Posted by Linda Curtis, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Apr 14, 2014 at 10:57 am

I don't object to any and all building North of 101 as long as it's kept green and there's a policy of "No pets allowed" to not add to problems for the wildlife living there.

But to line El Camino Real with high rise creates problems for traffic gridlock, instead of helping it, and for parking, as the amount of parking required is too low, so the cars seeking parking spread out all over.

And what of blocking the main arterial (ECR) in case of a very major seismic event when we need to evacuate before the tidal wave or escape the spreading fires? Blocked with fallen tall buildings full of those killed inside! The California Academy of Sciences warns us against this type of building, as there is no upper limit on the Geiger Scale, but there is to the buildings' limits to withstand earthquakes. The really big one is moving our way, as Chile had a 9.9 two yrs. ago & just a little north of there a 8 something just occurred. This will progress up the Pacific rim to us in time. But why listen to California scientists? The big developers want to gobble up everything for their huge profits, so our safety doesn't matter. And also, what of mobility challenged people? They cannot escape from upper floors when the elevators cease functioning in the event of fires and quakes. Tough for them as well.

It is money that matters in Mountain View. And not even the view of the mountain. Just the money for the select few. The rest of us will lose value on our properties as we will become "non-conforming" in our use of the property we had before the zoning changed to suit the big guys. Understand GENTRIFICATION raises our rents and those of small shops and stores, so they will go by the wayside, too. Then the huge (and mostly foreign) developers can stack & pack even more.

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