San Antonio Center owners propose redevelopment | January 30, 2009 | Mountain View Voice | Mountain View Online |

Mountain View Voice

News - January 30, 2009

San Antonio Center owners propose redevelopment

by Daniel DeBolt

The City Council approved three major gatekeeper requests Tuesday, one of which could lead to a massive revamp of San Antonio shopping center, possibly even bringing the spirit of San Jose's Santana Row to Mountain View.

Behind the proposal are Thoits Brothers and San Antonio LLC, two of the four major property owners of the 57-acre shopping center at El Camino Real and San Antonio Road, whose parcels include Walmart, Trader Joe's, Mervyns and Sears.

High-density homes for the shopping center are in the proposal, along with parking garages, a new system of driveways and some open space.

Many City Council members said they were "thrilled" after pushing for redevelopment of the shopping center over a year ago. In General Plan hearings last year, local residents also expressed a desire for a redeveloped, "walkable" San Antonio shopping center with new high-density housing above shops and restaurants in a European-style streetscape.

Shopping center manager Mike Couch spoke for the two owners.

"We're really excited about the opportunity," after all these years, Couch said. "The Thoits lived on the site in the 1950s when it was an orchard. We hope to create a plan beneficial to all of us."

The shopping center has a total of 16 owners, but only four own the core 50 acres.

"We plan to engage all of the property owners in all of the future planning of the site," said planning manager Aarti Shrivastava.

Minton's gatekeeper OK'd

A proposal for 206 apartments to replace the 100-year-old Minton's Lumber and Supply came a little closer to reality on Tuesday with a gatekeeper approval.

John Moss of Prometheus Real Estate Group said the apartment complex would have "as many green features as possible" and would be "a step forward in creating a green and sustainable environment for Mountain View and the Bay Area."

Prometheus hopes that during the General Plan update, the city will allow about 60 units per acre on the 3.4-acre site, which is currently regulated at about 25 units per acre.

With an underground garage, the proposed buildings would be four stories along Evelyn Avenue and taper to two stories along Villa Street. A public paseo would run through the middle with a "significant water feature" and open space. The plan would create 21 new below market rate apartments, Moss said.

While some council members disliked the density of the project, Moss says it's justified because the site is across the street from one of only two transit stations in the Bay Area that combine light rail, bus and train service.

On the 7.6 acres that make up the eastern half of the block, owner-developer Classic Communities says it will continue to hold off on its plan to build 46 row homes and 50 condos due to the decline in the housing market.

"We're here to encourage you to approve the gatekeeper request as proposed and to leave us out of it," said Scott Ward of Classic Communities.

Writing letters of support for the Prometheus project were the League of Women Voters, Advocates for Affordable Housing and the Old Mountain View Neighborhood Association steering committee.

Pacific Press preserved

On the corner of Shoreline Boulevard and Villa Street is a 168,000-square-foot campus that once housed the Pacific Press, one of the city's first large employers. It is now home to TellMe networks, a division of Microsoft.

On Tuesday, the new owner of the $62 million property, Seattle-based Metzler North America, was given the green light to plan a high-density office building on the site that would be occupied by the Microsoft division. Metzler hopes to be allowed higher density than usual on the property to allow construction of a 90,000-square-foot building and four-story parking garage.

Despite those plans, the developer considers the Pacific Press buildings historic, and is not planning to tear them down, a fact that pleased council member Laura Macias.

Now that all three developments are through the gate, city staffers hope to use them as cases for discussion as residents assemble over the next two years to discuss the city's General Plan update.

Council says yes to bag fee

A proposal to discourage single use shopping bags gained the support of the City Council on Tuesday night, setting the stage for a county-wide debate over the issue.

After much discussion about its effectiveness and how it might hurt businesses, the council voted 5-2 in favor of supporting a 25 cent fee on single use shopping bags, both paper and plastic. Council members Tom Means and John Inks were opposed.

Means, an economics professor at San Jose State University, appeared to talk himself out of the idea after originally saying, "I'm fine supporting the resolution."

"I'm not sure this thing will ever be right," Means said. "I don't know if a quarter is too low or too high and I don't know if anyone on this [county] commission could figure it out either."

The proposal is being put forth by Santa Clara County officials — until recently, council member Ronit Bryant vice chaired the county recycling and waste reduction commission that drafted the ordinance — and so far has gained only partial support, with the cities of Los Altos and Milpitas rejecting it.

"I don't think any ordinance is ever perfect," Bryant said. "But I think we should move forward with this."

E-mail Daniel DeBolt at


Posted by Douglas H, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 29, 2009 at 4:26 pm

Remember when San Antonio shopping center was the premier shopping center for miles around? Mayfield Mall was the pride of Santa Clara Valley. The Old Mill was a wonderful shopping center disguised as a work of art. For sure, Mountain View's retail shopping area has been neglected for far too long (especially if you are a shop-aholic).

Did this article refer to "high density homes"? Hold your horses folks, a "home" is a cottage on a five acre lot... with a view! There is no such thing as a high density home, period. With poorly planned high density housing, we could end up with traffic congestion and other problems of LA.

Posted by JO JO, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 29, 2009 at 4:53 pm


Posted by shopper, a resident of The Crossings
on Jan 30, 2009 at 12:05 pm

I agree with you Douglas - I too remember when the San Antonio center had more department stores and was a great place for a family shopping trip; after visiting a few stores, we kids would beg to go to the Menu Tree. I remember shopping and enjoying the Christmas decorations at Mayfield Mall. I enjoyed shopping and having lunch in the Old Mill's lovely environment. I remember how much we liked bringing out-of-town guests there to dine. It was frustrating to see many of its spaces vacant, though - I remember how we lamented that if they only had a nice "anchor" department store attached, they probably would have had more than enough business to rent out all the shop spaces.

I agree that the idea of a walkable, "green" redevelopment of the San Antonio center has great potential, if well designed. I also am concerned, though, that crowding too much high-density housing into the San Antonio location could result in worse problems than increased traffic. And would they start charging shoppers to park in the garages?

Posted by Steve, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Feb 3, 2009 at 3:14 pm

Look at Hillsdale they kept the multi food area and had several companies occupy the area with their specialty food. I also miss the menu tree... Heck food is always in need... As well as bringing in families to shop... I think we should bring back some of San Antonio's History by bringing back "The Memu Tree" idea with stores around it...

Think about peoples needs, then grow stores to match needs. We lost out minds to the multi-stores that carry everything but the salespeople don't even know what their selling anymore... I just a job, they do.
I remember when you had to learn a product to sell it, it was hard word but we did it. Now you ask a question and no one knows how to answer it. They just sit at the cash drawer and take your money...

Also take a look at the Olsens Cherry Sopping center in Santa Clara, a great place to shop, but limited parking... Just a thought!!!

Posted by Jodi, a resident of Whisman Station
on Feb 4, 2009 at 3:17 pm

I wish we weren't re-developing with "high-density" housing... We are looking to buy a single family home, but the new high-story houses with no back yard are terrible... If the city continues to go in this direction we will seriously consider moving. The theory that high-density will provide affordable housing is bogus--more housing at 1million with no back yard!! Stop the maddness!

Posted by Steve, a resident of Blossom Valley
on Feb 4, 2009 at 7:29 pm

I am looking to move - this will make already crowded - too crowded - MV is becoming a city with all it's noise, parking, issues, etc... I would live in SF if I wanted that experience.