Milk Pail fights for life at San Antonio Center | November 8, 2013 | Mountain View Voice | Mountain View Online |

Mountain View Voice

Opinion - November 8, 2013

Milk Pail fights for life at San Antonio Center

The circumstances bring to mind David and Goliath, but in this case it is the humble Milk Pail Market, which has served Mountain View for nearly 40 years, up against an out-of-town developer apparently bent on wringing every possible dollar out of its plan to redevelop nearly 26 acres of the San Antonio Shopping Center.

Steve Rasmussen owns the site his tiny Milk Pail Market occupies on California Street, which has only enough space to park five cars, 17 short of what the city requires. He has survived by leasing spaces from adjoining businesses, but the deal ends in five years. And if developer Merlone Geier has its way, the Milk Pail will move off its site and into a rental space, which Rasmussen doesn't want.

Amid this nose-to-nose drama, the City Council is wrestling with the developer's final plan for the redesign of the north end of the mall at the corner of San Antonio Road and California Street. With Mayor John Inks forced to recuse himself because he owns property near the mall, the council has split into two, three-vote factions. One, composed of Chris Clark, Mike Kasperzak and Margaret Abe-Koga, is generally supportive of the company's plan, while Ronit Bryant, Jac Siegel and John McAlister would like to see changes. But at last week's study session Bryant signaled she may be ready to compromise if the developer makes better accommodations for bicyclists and pedestrians and hires a "place-making consultant" to make the center unique.

We have a better idea for Bryant and her colleagues: Tell Merlone Geier to accommodate the Milk Pail's needs if they want the council to approve their next phase plan. This should not be an unfamiliar experience for Merlone Geier, which has to make trade-offs every day to accomplish its goals. Why should the council allow the Milk Pail, or any small property owner, to be pushed out and forced to sell out to the developer, when all it would get in return is an opportunity to become one of Merlone Geier's tenants?

The Milk Pail has been a part of Mountain View culture for nearly 40 years. The council will lose no friends by taking on a developer that last year made an ill-conceived attempt to pressure Barron Park Supply and Halal Market into leaving their properties by putting up a fence to block their customers' access to the center's parking lot. The city intervened and the fence came down, a process that underlined the city's authority to oversee development issues at the center property.

At last week's study session, Council member Bryant said she wished she could lock Milk Pail owner Rasmussen and Merlone Geier in a room until they could find a workable solution, but that is not within her powers. In the end, all Vice Mayor Chris Clark could muster was a half-hearted statement of support for the Milk Pail. "We really like the Milk Pail and we'd really like them to stay," he said after the meeting.

But just as it did before, the council needs to step up and take a much more aggressive stance to end Merlone Geier's refusal to accommodate the Milk Pail. One way out, suggested by resident Bruce England, would have the council declare the Milk Pail a "community benefit" of the project, a position few residents would contest.

If the council cannot resolve the issue, some have suggested disgruntled Milk Pail supporters could mount an initiative drive that would force a settlement. Such an extreme measure seems unnecessary when four votes on the council are all it would take to end the stand-off. That would be a much better way to resolve this problem.


Posted by Garrett , a resident of another community
on Nov 8, 2013 at 8:00 am

Milk Pail Market needs parking to survive, why not make the public benefit that existed before MG purchased the land for phase 2. Why not some marketing agreements, adverts in the apartments.

Posted by Garrett , a resident of another community
on Nov 8, 2013 at 8:08 am

Shared parking as the public benefit.

Posted by Ridiculous, a resident of The Crossings
on Nov 11, 2013 at 6:04 pm

This is absolutely ridiculous. The Milk Pail only needs 17 more parking spaces to meet their requirement, which a huge shopping mall can easily afford to spare, and yet they are refusing to make a deal on parking so they can force out someone who OWNS THE LAND and force them to pay rent on a new property. Seems to me the Council could easily make this problem go away by either a) forcing the developer to allow access to their parking spaces (like Milk Pail customers aren't going to park in MG's spaces anyway?); or b) removing the parking requirement altogether. The Milk Pail is a small, popular and successful business. We're not talking about giving concessions to a business that is struggling due to a poor business model. We're talking about throwing them a lifeline because they are being forced out due to developer greed and Council antipathy. There will be MORE than enough parking spaces at the new development to accommodate anyone who needs to shop at the Milk Pail. Council need to pull their thumbs out.

Posted by BEX, a resident of Rengstorff Park
on Nov 11, 2013 at 6:21 pm

I agree! The city council needs to step up and do more to ensure the Milk Pail is accommodated in future plans. MG has proven that they are neither a member nor a supporter of our community. They proved that with the stunt with Halal Market and the plumbing supply. Accommodating the Milk Pail will in no way harm the future profits of MG. But losing the Milk Pail would be a great loss for our community.

Posted by Tmd, a resident of North Whisman
on Nov 11, 2013 at 7:16 pm

Why does one store rate better than the rest of the town? Parking rules are rules. Make them put in Handicap spaces too.

Posted by ROSEMILK PAIL, a resident of Gemello
on Nov 11, 2013 at 10:36 pm


Posted by Mimo, a resident of Rex Manor
on Nov 12, 2013 at 6:15 am

Visiting Milk Pail has always given me an excuse to visit the San Antonio Shopping Area, and that was how I found a few other favorite stores. Without Milk Pail, and with boring chain and undifferentiated stores taking up in that locale, I can see my shopping pattern shifting away from the new Merlone Geier complex. I don't like shopping in soulless places, that are the same in "any-town". Accomodating Milk Pail makes business sense for MGP.

Posted by registered user, Flava Dave, a resident of Shoreline West
on Nov 12, 2013 at 4:09 pm

The fervent comments here and on other articles show the passion for this place. As do the many times people at Milk Pail will cut in front of you when you to fit into the smallest space possible and begin rummaging through the produce you were currently looking at.

However they are not as bad as the crowd at the free book giveaways that the FotPAL do...