Mountain View Voice
News - April 11, 2014
City poised for explosive office growth
Development bringing as many as 42,000 new workers, little housing to Mountain View
by Daniel DeBolt
An analysis by the ==I Voice== shows that an explosion of office development is knocking on Mountain View's door, bringing as many as 42,550 new office workers who will be driving on the area's freeways and competing for the city's increasingly expensive and scarce housing.
An examination of office projects in the works finds 834,000 square feet of additional office space under construction in the city, with an additional 1.3 million square feet proposed. With this alone, the city could add 9,480 to 16,400 employees, using a range that is reportedly now typical of how employees are now squeezed into Mountain View office buildings.
The number more than doubles if you include the 3.4 million square feet of new offices (space for 15,000 to 26,150 additional jobs) being considered for the area around Google's headquarters, North Bayshore. It could soon see in a major redevelopment when a North Bayshore "precise plan" is approved by the council at the end of the year.
"It's kind of scary it's like there's a glacier headed in our direction. It's not going to hit us right away but it's almost too late to stop it," said resident Lenny Siegel of the 5.5 million additional square feet of offices in the pipeline. Siegel has been raising concerns about the city's jobs-housing balance since the 1970s and is now founder of the "Campaign for a Balanced Mountain View" which seeks to sway the City Council to allow housing development in North Bayshore to balance the city's job growth.
"Once they start hiring people in all this office space and right now they are hiring pretty fast the impact in housing, transportation and our quality of life will be enormous," Siegel said.
In a city that currently has about 34,500 homes and about 69,000 jobs, the city's zoning has historically allowed for more job space than housing, and the city's new general plan will make the trend more extreme. It zones for a maximum of about 7,000 new homes in Mountain View by 2030, largely as the El Camino Real and San Antonio Road corridors redevelop. The general plan also estimated that there would only be 82,230 jobs by 2030, a number which will clearly be surpassed in the coming years.
"What were they thinking?" Siegel asks.
It might be easy to point the finger at the City Council which has opposed housing in North Bayshore, didn't have a discussion about balanced growth over the four years (2008-2012) that the city's general plan was being developed and passed on an alternative plan that would have allowed 16,000 new households in the city instead of just 7,000.
But Siegel notes that "the council bends to public input" and on Tuesday it appeared that was happening. A majority of the council at the April 8 meeting expressed major reservations about approving a 1-million-square-foot office project at 700 East Middlefield Road which could add more than 5,000 employees from an unnamed company to Mountain View (it is being built for asset management firm Deutsche Wealth & Asset Management). It included four buildings as tall as eight stories, and a parking garage with 3,118 spaces.
"We are building something for people who don't live here, don't work here," said council member Jac Siegel of the project. "If we build enough, it's not going to be Mountain View anymore. We are basically changing the character of our city significantly."
Despite supporting the size of the project a year ago, council members eventually decided to have developer Sares Regis scale back the project by 25 percent to address the project's impacts, which apparently took Dave Hopkins of Sares Regis by surprise. He said the company had invested quite a bit of time and money on the project, including a 3-D tour of the project on a special screen wheeled into the plaza conference room Tuesday.
"You took a risk," council member Margaret Abe-Koga told Hopkins. "Things change, that's why we're here."
Council members Ronit Bryant and Abe-Koga revealed that they actually thought it would be better to build some housing on the 24-acre site at 700 East Middlefield, with Abe-Koga mentioning "all the pressure we're getting about (housing in) North Bayshore" and the fact that it may be easier to build housing East Whisman, as it is closer to schools and services.
Abe-Koga is one of three council members who opposed housing in North Bayshore who are leaving the council this year due to term limits.
"People are now just waiting for us to leave," Abe-Koga said of herself, Bryant and Jac Siegel.
Office job numbers in this story were calculated using the latest list of projects posted on the city's economic development web page, along with projects not listed: 400,000 square feet in Merlone Geier's phase two at San Antonio shopping center; 150,000 square feet of office at the city's "Moffett Gateway" site; 500,000 square feet of office at the former Mayfield Mall site. It also subtracted the square footage of older office buildings being replaced in some cases. The council's reduction to the Sares Regis project was not included. Employee numbers were calculated using a range of 130 square feet to 225 square feet of office space per employee.
The architect for the 700 East Middlefield Road project, Thomas Yee, said Tuesday that there was room for "about 3,000 employees" in the 650,000 square feet of additional office space on the site, which equals about 217 square feet per employee.
"The standard planning principle used to be 300 square feet per employee," said council member Mike Kasperzak on Tuesday. "One of the things we're seeing in North Bayshore (where Google is headquartered) now is 100 to 150 square feet per person."
==I This story has been edited to clarify the number of employees that could be housed in future office buildings==
Email Daniel DeBolt at email@example.com