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Council postpones decisions on major housing projects amid COVID-19 concerns

Original post made on Mar 17, 2020

A pair of Mountain View housing projects up for approval Tuesday, including a controversial tear-down of over 100 apartments, have been postponed following a "shelter in place" order that prevents the public from attending the meeting.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, March 17, 2020, 11:26 AM

Comments (18)

11 people like this
Posted by Just A Thought
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Mar 17, 2020 at 9:02 pm

Council should consider reducing their meeting schedule and work load because instead of solving issues they seem to create more issues.


9 people like this
Posted by Gary
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Mar 18, 2020 at 12:53 pm

In her third 4-year term on the City Council, this year's mayor, Margaret Abe-Koga, is quoted in the article as claiming "there's really no grounds to not approve" the proposed demolition of apartments and subdivision of the property for a condo complex. The city staff report says the Council may "deny" the application outright (page 10). Who is lying? Mayor Abe-Koga or the authors of the city staff report (online with the March 17 agenda)?


11 people like this
Posted by John
a resident of Monta Loma
on Mar 18, 2020 at 4:32 pm

It’s sad to see all the evictions and apartments torn down and sent to the landfill while the spineless “city council”
wrings their hands and claims “there’s nothing we can do”.
Stand up for once!


11 people like this
Posted by Gary
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Mar 18, 2020 at 5:29 pm

The city staff report states that while the project proposed for 1555 W. Middlefield is permitted by the zoning and consistent with Council goals (and is supported by an adequate mitigated negative declaration under CEQA), the City Council may deny the application outright - because approval is not mandated by any law. Mayor Margaret Abe-Koga is quoted in the article as claiming there is no choice under the law but to approve the project. That is why I posed the question above. I could answer it myself. But let's hear from the current mayor. Maybe she will deny saying it or try to explain that she meant something else.


10 people like this
Posted by drslb
a resident of Rex Manor
on Mar 18, 2020 at 5:41 pm

We are on the verge of a recession. Time to wait and see if some of these massive projects will ever be finished or will sit empty. We need housing for non-tech people more than tech people who may continue to work from home after this crisis. That home could be anywhere. They can commute in twice a week. Just waiting for people to lose jobs and default on mortgages that are under water. We’ve been through this over and over. Keep the apartments there for our grocery workers, house cleaners, teachers, fireman and policemen. What about housing for workers for City of Mountain View?


8 people like this
Posted by Trump fired the national pandemic team
a resident of another community
on Mar 19, 2020 at 6:51 am

> We are on the verge of a recession.

Nope. We are IN a recession. The only thing we are waiting for: this month's GDP numbers to be released in April to confirm the fact.

By yesterday, claims for unemployment were 6x normal. By next week, 10x? More?

Anyone know how gig workers file/are eligible?


6 people like this
Posted by MAK Supporter
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Mar 19, 2020 at 7:12 am

Let's be clear here. The report recommends approval of the project. It also states that the project meets zoning and general plan guidelines. The report does list alternatives'

1. Approve the project with modified conditions.
2. Refer the project back to the Zoning Administrator or DRC for further review or project modifications.
3. Deny the project and/or deny the map.
4. Provide other direction.

Actions 2 and 4 will just delay approval of the project. It will also put the project under strict time limits for a decision. Failure to meet a time limit means the project is deemed approved. To deny the project the council must state clear reasons that are allowed under state law. The Housing Accountability Act prohibits cities from rejecting housing developments that comply with local planning laws unless they conclude there is a danger to public health or safety. So this is why MAK is stating that there is nothing that they can do legally.


6 people like this
Posted by SRB
a resident of St. Francis Acres
on Mar 19, 2020 at 7:31 am

@MAK Supporter

"unless they conclude there is a danger to public health or safety" Wouldn't it be the case if residents were to be displaced during that pandemic?

Also, I would think these approvals are not "essential business" given the current emergency. Courts have postponed jury trials and many other court proceedings.

Regardless, glad that common sense and fairness to residents prevailed by postponing these public hearings.


4 people like this
Posted by The Business Man
a resident of Castro City
on Mar 19, 2020 at 11:10 am

In response to MAK Supporter you said:

“Let's be clear here. The report recommends approval of the project. It also states that the project meets zoning and general plan guidelines. The report does list alternatives'

1. Approve the project with modified conditions.”

WAIT, THE PROJECT IS MODIFYING THE CONDITIONS? That means the project is not in compliance with the City regulations. Which means that the application is NOT COMPLETE under SB330. Thus the projects are subject to SB330 and must not be approved unless the replacement of the rent controlled units are substituted in the project. You said:

“2. Refer the project back to the Zoning Administrator or DRC for further review or project modifications.”

WAIT ANOTHER DECLARATION THAT THEPROJECT WAS NO COMPLETED WHEN SUBMITTED. Again SB330 only allows older submissions if they were in complete compliance of the City Zones or other regulations. Thus SB330 now applies to these project and must provide no net loss of affordable housing. You said:

“3. Deny the project and/or deny the map.”

It looks like SB330 may in fact require this project to be rejects since there are “modifications” under consideration so that the project application will fit the City regulations. It looks like there are issues where the City Council is trying to change the rules to fit the development. THAT IS NOT THE JOB OF THE CITY COUNCIL. You said:

“4. Provide other direction.”

Again it looks like this project was not properly submitted from the beginning. The Developer expected the City to change the rules to provide them with a completed application. But that means the application technically is defective and not complete. Thus SB330 still applies to the current project.

I can “cut and paste” the statute part that required that in order for the project to not be subject to SB330 it was required to be “COMPLETE” meaning no new modifications are permitted because the developer submitted a defective application. So when you said:

“So this is why MAK is stating that there is nothing that they can do legally.”

That is correct, MAK under state law must reject this project until it is in compliance with SB330.


12 people like this
Posted by drslb
a resident of Rex Manor
on Mar 19, 2020 at 11:24 am

Is adding to people living on street or in RVs a public health problem.What are the developers planning to do if recession and they can’t sell these places and current residents lose there highly mortgaged homes and we have abandoned properties everywhere. Remember 2007-2010. What we really need is affordable housing for ordinary people who do regular jobs, and artists and musicians. And plumbers and child care workers and nurses and teachers. Hold off until Covid issue solved. Then create a city plan for good of all, not just tech workers.


5 people like this
Posted by MAK SUPPORTER
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Mar 20, 2020 at 7:17 am

This project will take 1-2 years to complete. The pandemic is not expected to last 1-2 years. As the article states, several units are already empty. To suggest that this project will lead to more RV's and homeless people is speculative . The article also states that council believes they can delay the project approval and still meet the time limit deadlines. Unless the state waives the time limits and reasons for denial, council will deem their actions essential and approve the project.


7 people like this
Posted by The Business Man
a resident of Castro City
on Mar 20, 2020 at 11:23 am

In response to MAK SUPPORTER you said:

“This project will take 1-2 years to complete.”

That’s if it ever gets started, under the current indefinite statewide shutdown wwhen do you think it can start you said:

“The pandemic is not expected to last 1-2 years.”

What medical science do you have to prove this? In fact there is NO treatment for the disease if you are sick. There is NO vaccine to in effect set a date to determine when this issue will resolve itself. Either will take at least 1 to 2 years to be tested and approved for general use. The shutdown will remain because the medical services cannot satisfy the medical needs where the New England Journal of Medicine determined at least 16% of those infected will have “SERIOUS” medical problems. That means 16% of 330 Million people in the U.S. or 52.8 Million people will need to be treated. Say for example if we had say 3,000,000 beds and all other assets to treat this problem we need to stage the treatment so that it could take 20 months just to treat those people. This is simple math. You said:

“As the article states, several units are already empty.”

But all it takes is 1 person to challenge the project in court regarding SB330 and whatever the City Council does, is likely to be reversed by court order. You still haven’t explained how SB330 cannot be required to be in compliance. You said:

“To suggest that this project will lead to more RV's and homeless people is speculative.”

But the fact that rent controlled affordable housing is being removed and not replaced is NOT speculation, but fact unless a tenant will use SB330 to cease the project. You said:

“The article also states that council believes they can delay the project approval and still meet the time limit deadlines.”

The time limit deadlines are irrelevant in this case because SB330 may allow the timelines, but the removal of rent-controlled units will block it. You said:

“Unless the state waives the time limits and reasons for denial, council will deem their actions essential and approve the project.”

But the state cannot “waive” the requirements of SB330, doing so would be unconstitutional. The state must make sure that SB330 applies to ALL of the citizens of California EQUALLY for both the California and the U.S. Constitution. The state is required to uphold SB330 unless a court determines that it itself is unconstitutional. But under the current housing and none economic conditions, it is likely that the state WILL enforce SB330 if any tenant files a complaint with the state. The state can and will bring the City to court to challenge the non-compliance of SB330.


7 people like this
Posted by Gary
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Mar 20, 2020 at 12:23 pm

@ The Business Man. Just reading the intro to SB 330, it appears to be designed to ensure that certain proposed "affordable" housing projects are approved locally. The market-rate condo project (row houses) proposed for 1555 W. Middlefield Road is not even the type of project seemingly covered. And SB 330 just took effect January 1, 2020 and does not even apply to every such proposed "affordable" project already being processed. But if you think otherwise, be sure to lodge all of your objections before the project is approved by the city council - best by email to the city council well before the decisive meeting. Posting comments online at the MV Voice will not suffice. If you timely object, you might at least have standing to sue. I raised a different point (above). It is that approval of this project is not mandated by law just because approval is possible under the law (assuming it even is possible). It is precisely that cities (and counties for "unincorporated" areas not in cities) have exercised their legal discretion to reject, delay and condition housing projects that state bills, such as SB 330, have been passed and continue this legislative session to advance toward passage. People are free to argue why the proposed project is not in the community's best interests. And the city council is free to reject any and all such arguments. That is one reason it is important to get and vet candidates for city council. Councilmembers have considerable discretion in such areas as passing ordinances, proposing ballot measures, approving projects and collectively controlling (or not controlling) the city bureaucracy.


5 people like this
Posted by The Business Man
a resident of Castro City
on Mar 20, 2020 at 2:07 pm

In response to Gary you said:

“@ The Business Man. Just reading the intro to SB 330, it appears to be designed to ensure that certain proposed "affordable" housing projects are approved locally.”

That is a misleading statement because you know the “devil is in the details”. The facts are you may be right about the “intro” but if you read the rest it states:

“SEC. 3. Section 65589.5 of the Government Code is amended to read:

65589.5. (a) (1) The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:

(1) The jurisdiction has adopted a housing element pursuant to this article that has been revised in accordance with Section 65588, is in substantial compliance with this article, AND THE JURISDICTION HAS MET OR EXCEEDED ITS SHARE OF THE REGIONAL HOUSING NEED ALLOCATION PURSUANT TO SECTION 65584 FOR THE PLANNING PERIOD FOR THE INCOME CATEGORY PROPOSED FOR THE HOUSING DEVELOPMENT PROJECT, provided that any disapproval or conditional approval shall not be based on any of the reasons prohibited by Section 65008. IF THE HOUSING DEVELOPMENT PROJECT INCLUDES A MIX OF INCOME CATEGORIES, AND THE JURISDICTION HAS NOT MET OR EXCEEDED ITS SHARE OF THE REGIONAL HOUSING NEED FOR ONE OR MORE OF THOSE CATEGORIES, THEN THIS PARAGRAPH SHALL NOT BE USED TO DISAPPROVE OR CONDITIONALLY APPROVE THE HOUSING DEVELOPMENT PROJECT. The share of the regional housing need met by the jurisdiction shall be calculated consistently with the forms and definitions that may be adopted by the Department of Housing and Community Development pursuant to Section 65400. In the case of an emergency shelter, the jurisdiction shall have met or exceeded the need for emergency shelter, as identified pursuant to paragraph (7) of subdivision (a) of Section 65583. Any disapproval or conditional approval pursuant to this paragraph shall be in accordance with applicable law, rule, or standards.”

Well, we all know that Mountain View has not met the RHNA needs so this provision of the law does dictate application. The housing project does not provide the proportion of affordability that the RHNA establishes. Simply put, a set aside of as much as 20% does not provide the housing diversity that the RHNA needs have established for “very-low income” and “low income” and “moderate income” it goes on to say:

“(2) The housing development project or emergency shelter as proposed would have a specific, adverse impact upon the public health or safety, and THERE IS NO FEASIBLE METHOD TO SATISFACTORILY MITIGATE OR AVOID THE SPECIFIC ADVERSE IMPACT WITHOUT RENDERING THE DEVELOPMENT UNAFFORDABLE TO LOW- AND MODERATE-INCOME HOUSEHOLDS OR RENDERING THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE EMERGENCY SHELTER FINANCIALLY INFEASIBLE. As used in this paragraph, a “specific, adverse impact” means a significant, quantifiable, direct, and unavoidable impact, based on objective, identified written public health or safety standards, policies, or conditions as they existed on the date the application was deemed complete.”

Please note it does not establish that the project must be of only apartments, it used the term “housing development” thus it is universally applicable. It simply doesn’t matter if it is rowhouses, condos, or apartment under this law.. It goes on to say:

“(A) This paragraph CANNOT BE UTILIZED TO DISAPPROVE OR CONDITIONALLY APPROVE a housing development project if the housing development project is proposed on a site that is identified as SUITABLE OR AVAILABLE FOR VERY LOW, LOW-, OR MODERATE-INCOME HOUSEHOLDS IN THE JURISDICTION’S HOUSING ELEMENT, AND CONSISTENT WITH THE DENSITY SPECIFIED IN THE HOUSING ELEMENT, EVEN THOUGH IT IS INCONSISTENT WITH BOTH THE JURISDICTION’S ZONING ORDINANCE AND GENERAL PLAN LAND USE DESIGNATION.”

However these projects appear to not be suitable or available for the very low, low or moderate income in the proportions that are identified by the RHNA report. Thus the fact that the city cannot claim it is not suitable for these income groups. So there are no conditions the City can use to determine that all land in the city is NOT SUITABLE for this kind of affordability. Thus SB330 is capable of requiring the city to Disapprove the project. Also it goes on to say:

“(B) If the local agency has failed to identify in the inventory of land in its housing element sites that can be developed for housing within the planning period and aRE SUFFICIENT TO PROVIDE FOR THE JURISDICTION’S SHARE OF THE REGIONAL HOUSING NEED FOR ALL INCOME LEVELS PURSUANT TO SECTION 65584, then this paragraph shall not be utilized to disapprove or conditionally approve a housing development project proposed for a site designated in any element of the general plan for residential uses or designated in any element of the general plan for commercial uses if residential uses are permitted or conditionally permitted within commercial designations. IN ANY ACTION IN COURT, THE BURDEN OF PROOF SHALL BE ON THE LOCAL AGENCY TO SHOW THAT ITS HOUSING ELEMENT DOES IDENTIFY ADEQUATE SITES WITH APPROPRIATE ZONING AND DEVELOPMENT STANDARDS AND WITH SERVICES AND FACILITIES TO ACCOMMODATE THE LOCAL AGENCY’S SHARE OF THE REGIONAL HOUSING NEED FOR THE VERY LOW, LOW-, AND MODERATE-INCOME CATEGORIES.”

Thus the burden of proof is on the City to establish that it CANNOT provide the proportional housing as defined under the RHNA. And thus it makes it very easy to get a court order to halt the project. It goes on to say:

“ (g) This section shall be applicable to charter cities because the Legislature finds that the lack of housing, including emergency shelter, is a critical statewide problem.”

Thus the City of Mountain view is not exempt of the law. It goes on to say:

“(i) If any city, county, or city and county denies approval or imposes conditions, including design changes, lower density, or a reduction of the percentage of a lot that may be occupied by a building or structure under the applicable planning and zoning in force at the time the housing development project’s the application is deemed complete, THAT HAVE A SUBSTANTIAL ADVERSE EFFECT ON THE VIABILITY OR AFFORDABILITY OF A HOUSING DEVELOPMENT FOR VERY LOW, LOW-, OR MODERATE-INCOME HOUSEHOLDS, AND THE DENIAL OF THE DEVELOPMENT OR THE IMPOSITION OF CONDITIONS ON THE DEVELOPMENT IS THE SUBJECT OF A COURT ACTION WHICH CHALLENGES THE DENIAL OR THE IMPOSITION OF CONDITIONS, THEN THE BURDEN OF PROOF SHALL BE ON THE LOCAL LEGISLATIVE BODY TO SHOW THAT ITS DECISION IS CONSISTENT WITH THE FINDINGS AS DESCRIBED IN SUBDIVISION (D), AND THAT THE FINDINGS ARE SUPPORTED BY A PREPONDERANCE OF THE EVIDENCE IN THE RECORD, AND WITH THE REQUIREMENTS OF SUBDIVISION (o).”

Again the Court is instructed that the burden of proving that a project that does not provide the proportion of housing needs defined under the RHNA cannot be done otherwise falls on the City. Thus the courts are instructed to prevent projects that are not justified in not providing this proportion of housing need. Basically, it is housing discrimination via disparate impact at minimum.

I can provide even more, there are many other parts in the law, but I am trying to keep it short.


6 people like this
Posted by Gary
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Mar 20, 2020 at 3:19 pm

While I still am not under the impression that SB 330 has any application to the project proposed for 1555 W. Middlefield, feel free to make your timely objections to the approval of the project as I suggested above. It is not done by posting comments on this website.


3 people like this
Posted by Gary
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Mar 20, 2020 at 3:47 pm

By the way, while I would not expect to sue, I did lodge a legal objection to the project proposed by Summerhill for 1555 W. Middlefield before last Tuesday's meeting. In an email to the City Council, I contended that the proposed mitigated negative declaration was insufficient under CEQA because the noise and traffic impacts during demolition and construction could not be - and so were not - evaluated in the absence of a maximum period for completion. So, The Business Man and others interested, you might include that CEQA objection with any you lodge. Legal objections are not the same as objections based on what is best for the community. You may argue that what's best is to preserve the apartment complex under the dire circumstances of a pandemic, for example. Argue whatever you like.


2 people like this
Posted by Mak Supporter
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Mar 21, 2020 at 9:40 am

@ Gary

You are certainly entitled to oppose the project and file a lawsuit, but you will need financial support or maybe a pro bono lawyer to continue. It will be difficult to win. At least you recognize the silliness of trying to apply SB 330. In the meanwhile the project will likely pass and perhaps be stalled but eventually will be built. As MAK stated in the article it very difficult to deny a project when it meets all of the zoning and GP conditions.


2 people like this
Posted by The Business Man
a resident of Castro City
on Mar 21, 2020 at 9:56 am

In response to Mak Supporter you said:

“You are certainly entitled to oppose the project and file a lawsuit, but you will need financial support or maybe a pro bono lawyer to continue.”

In a previous article on the Mountain View Voice, there is at least one legal group already preparing for one. So yes there WILL be a pro bono lawyer willing to file the complaint in court. That was a poor argument to use to support the current actions being considered. You said:

“It will be difficult to win.”

The statute puts the burden of proof on the City to prove that they could not provide more affordable housing under SB330. So where did you get the evidence to claim that it is difficult to win. That is just a claim with no legal basis to back it up. You said:

“At least you recognize the silliness of trying to apply SB 330. In the meanwhile the project will likely pass and perhaps be stalled but eventually will be built. As MAK stated in the article it very difficult to deny a project when it meets all of the zoning and GP conditions.”

But they had to make exceptions to approve the plan, thus it did not satisfy the claim that it met all the zoning and GP conditions. When the application was made it did not comply completely, requiring the City to make exceptions prior to approval. Thus MAK is not telling you the truth. Just like she tried in supporting Measure D.

Thus is just an attempt to intimidate people from taking action the law allows them to take. I strongly urge residents of that property to seek legal assistance.

Let the City pay millions in legal fees to try to defend their decisions. Or the City can get their act together and follow the law.


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