One unintended byproduct of the city's four-year campaign to build housing in North Bayshore has been an explosion in property values as Google and other companies have gobbled up real estate. In turn, the city fees that are tied to real estate values have also ascended into the stratosphere.
Last week, the City Council deliberated on whether some fees needed to be tweaked in order to help a series of North Bayshore housing developments make financial sense. The idea generated a heated discussion as nearly half the city's elected leaders balked at what they described as caving on public amenities to help private developers build their projects.
Councilman John McAlister argued that the developers could be trying to pull a fast one by acting cash-strapped in hopes of wiggling out of long-established fees.
"It's not our job to pencil out their projects," he protested. "This is a game to see if they can squeeze us, or if we're going to stick to our guns."
After much debate, the Mountain View City Council agreed to give developers credit for building their own parks, even if that open space remains privately owned and off-limits to the public. The City Council agreed to the new parks fees in a 6-1 vote, with McAlister opposed.
The new parks fees would be exclusive to North Bayshore and would provide a 50 percent credit for housing developments that provide private open space. If those privately owned parks are open to the public, then the credit will jump to 75 percent.
It was a "fair compromise" said Councilman Chris Clark, who pointed out that North Bayshore already had an abundance of parkland, including Shoreline Park and the nearby Stevens Creek Trail.
"In North Bayshore, we're looking for ways to make housing feasible, and this is one of the easier ways," he said.
The first major beneficiary of the new parks discount will be the Sobrato Organization, which is planning a 635-unit housing project on Pear Avenue. Late last year, the developer warned the City Council that skyrocketing fees were making the housing too expensive to build. Under the new fee structure, Sobrato is expected to apply for a fee discount by dedicating a new private park on a 1-acre parcel on its property.
Other council members thought the discount was too generous. Councilwoman Margaret Abe-Koga pointed out that developers were also wavering on how much they would commit toward the estimated $109 million price for building a new North Bayshore public school.
"My assumption is that if they're not paying our park fees they should at least be paying the school fees, but that's not happening so far," she said. "I'm worried that the school district will be shorted."
Abe-Koga tried to pitch an alternate plan to give a maximum 50 percent credit for all forms of private open space. That motion was voted down in 2-5, with only Abe-Koga and Mayor Lisa Matichak supporting it. After the motion was defeated, Abe-Koba and Matichak joined the council majority in supporting the staff recommendation.
This story contains 569 words.
Stories older than 90 days are available only to subscribing members. Please help sustain quality local journalism by becoming a subscribing member today.
If you are already a subscriber, please log in so you can continue to enjoy unlimited access to stories and archives. Subscriptions start at $5 per month and may be cancelled at any time.