The City Council decided Tuesday that the proposal for 200 apartments and 6,000 square feet of retail was worthwhile for city staff to refine it for eventual council vote. It would replace seven street-front businesses at 801-819 El Camino Real and five others at 1032 to 1062 Castro Street.
Council member Jac Siegel was the only opponent of the project in a 6-1 vote, saying his "office away from home," the already crowded Peet's coffee, would be rebuilt smaller, with less parking and might be placed against El Camino Real.
"I really challenge you to find a place where people hang out and smell the exhaust on El Camino," Siegel said, criticizing efforts so far to activate the busy street's sidewalks with human activity.
Council member Mike Kasperzak noted that former city manager Kevin Duggan had spent quite a bit of time trying to encourage redevelopment of the corner, but had no luck assembling the various properties, which include a vacant lot on the corner where a dry-cleaner burned down a few years ago.
Council member Ronit Bryant noted that the project would replace local businesses, 23,000 square feet worth, including the Rose Market, of which she said she is a "faithful customer."
"They are local businesses, it's not like you can find them on every street corner," Bryant said. "The Japanese restaurant, the tailor, those are part of what makes Mountain View, Mountain View."
Addressing the issue of retaining the local businesses, Jonathan Hayes, development director for San Francisco-based developer Greystar, said, "We've been asked not to approach any of the tenants — except for Peet's — we have been asked to approach them."
In his opposition, Siegel also noted that such apartments have "50 percent turnover a year" in other projects in the city, which "doesn't exactly build community."
Part of the proposal by Greystar is the purchase of a city lot used for parking by the very busy Frankie, Johnnie and Luigi's Italian restaurant, which often fills the lot, despite it being unnecessary to meet city parking requirements. Without the lot, the project would be in "jeopardy," Hayes said
"Selling that lot without a true parking study, I cannot support," said council member John McAlister.