The huge outcry surrounding the 2005 Rock Street project is leading many to believe it won't be the exception — instead, it could be the new normal as several similar development proposals move forward.
In the coming months, Mountain View city leaders could be seeing similar pushback as several more projects come forward that would require demolishing older apartments. The city currently has 16 development projects that are awaiting City Council approval that would require relocating tenants and razing older apartment buildings, according to city records.
Many of these projects share the same flaw that was heavily criticized in the 2005 Rock St. project — they would actually decrease the total amount of housing in the city. In the case of 2005 Rock St., 20 apartments will be replaced by 15 rowhouses. For a nearby project proposed at 2310 Rock St., 59 apartments would be razed to build 55 condominiums. At 2010 San Ramon Ave., nine apartments would be redeveloped into seven condominiums.
While a bare majority of City Council members approved the 2005 Rock St. project, they pledged to investigate some kind of future policy to prohibit projects that would result in a net loss of housing. That proposal would need to be brought up next year at the council's goal-setting session, and it would likely take several more months to draft and consider.
Despite the decision, tenant advocates are still hailing the meeting last week as a "wake-up call" for how the city considers redevelopment impacts. Previously, city officials would essentially rubber-stamp developments that complied with zoning and building rules, but now they are pledging to look more at the human impact, said Daniel Saver, an attorney with Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto.
"This has changed the nature of the debate," he said. "For the first time in like six years, the council is starting to grapple with the impact of these demolitions on tenants."
The question is whether the angry crowds that dominated last week's council meeting will dissipate, or if that energy will shift to other city projects.
Jacqueline Cashen, a resident at the 2310 Rock St. apartments, said she fully expects the same kind of resistance when the council considers the project to redevelop her neighborhood. Developers should be expected to offset the hardship on displacing residents, she said.
"People are no longer going to just leave. Now we're going to say, 'OK, what are you going to give us in return?'" Cashen said. "The important outcome is now there's a human face on all this demolition, and there's a recognition on what's happening to the character of the city."
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