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Mountain View approves controversial infill apartments despite concerns over trees, air quality

Original post made on May 11, 2022

It was a tough series of trade-offs involving trees, parking and environmental health, but the Mountain View City Council voted 4-2 on Tuesday to approve hundreds of apartments in a major infill development project.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, May 11, 2022, 1:54 PM

Comments (26)

Posted by Salim
a resident of Rengstorff Park
on May 11, 2022 at 4:42 pm

Salim is a registered user.

Council's support for 555 W Middlefield will matter all the world to the 300+ families who will soon enough be able to call our city home. Big-hearted communities make space for new neighbors; this was the right call


Posted by Kristine
a resident of Willowgate
on May 11, 2022 at 4:48 pm

Kristine is a registered user.

Please correct this article: residents do not receive a “suite of perks.” We do not get upgraded/secure windows. Avalon refused to upgrade the windows/sliders despite Council asking if it was possible, and that stays true. We will only have unsealed 1960s single pane windows throughout the noise and dangerous PM2.5 air for 7 years. There is only a $350 credit to use on air filters, which not enough for a 7 year project. There are no “perks” only deficients. Please correct the article especially the misinformation that windows are being replaced- we fought hard for that but Avalon didn’t want to spend the money or time needed to help protect residents in that way before demolition/construction. Please correct. Thank you.


Posted by ivg
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on May 11, 2022 at 5:46 pm

ivg is a registered user.

It was not a "tough series of trade-offs." People in this town will always find a reason to oppose any project, including an excellent one such as this.


Posted by LongResident
a resident of another community
on May 11, 2022 at 10:47 pm

LongResident is a registered user.

Poor developer saves 5 million dollars from building fewer parking spaces. Such a burden not to spend that.


Posted by Bernie Brightman
a resident of Whisman Station
on May 12, 2022 at 10:02 am

Bernie Brightman is a registered user.

OK, then. Ramirez, Showalter, Lieber, Hicks and Kamei are the ones not to vote for next time. Someday people will ask, why were buildings allowed to go to 4 stories and then 5 and 6 and even 7 in this otherwise nice, residential area? It's because these people allowed it. You don't see them approving such things in the Cuesta Park neighborhood by the way.


Posted by Randy Guelph
a resident of Cuernavaca
on May 12, 2022 at 4:57 pm

Randy Guelph is a registered user.

Bernie, I'm confused. Isn't it still a residential area, since we're just going to add more homes?

LongResident, the nearby residents asked them to reduce the number of parking spots in order to retain more trees. Win-win-win!


Posted by ivg
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on May 12, 2022 at 8:10 pm

ivg is a registered user.

"You don't see them approving such things in the Cuesta Park neighborhood by the way."

You're absolutely right. It's long past time for some 4-story apartment buildings in Cuesta Park!


Posted by Tony
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on May 12, 2022 at 8:41 pm

Tony is a registered user.

My big objection is not about density or height, but that this does not in fact help our community. People are trapped in rent because there aren’t enough homes; the competition for homes has driven prices through the roof and only high tech workers and speculator/investors can afford to buy. If these were condos to increase the pool of homes available for young families looking to set down roots in the community, I’d have been in favor.


Posted by Randy Guelph
a resident of Cuernavaca
on May 13, 2022 at 10:27 am

Randy Guelph is a registered user.

Tony, this adds 323 new homes to our community.


Posted by Leslie Bain
a resident of Cuesta Park
on May 13, 2022 at 10:35 am

Leslie Bain is a registered user.

@Randy, Tony's complaint is about the cost of housing. Tony correctly understands that "the competition for homes has driven prices through the roof and only high tech workers and speculator/investors can afford to buy."

323 new homes is not enough to bring down the cost of rent.

In general, a strategy of primarily building expensive, market rate housing units in this area is NEVER EVER EVER going to bring down the cost of rent in any significant or meaningful way. That strategy does have the benefit of maximizing ROI for developers, though.

"Poor developer saves 5 million dollars from building fewer parking spaces. Such a burden not to spend that."

Agreed. And Randy, read the article again. Doesn't sound like most of the residents believe that this decision was a win for them.


Posted by Randy Guelph
a resident of Cuernavaca
on May 13, 2022 at 10:56 am

Randy Guelph is a registered user.

Leslie, what is your solution to the problem? How do you propose bringing down home values?

As for the parking, the meetings are public. Last time this came up a couple months ago, there was a clear request by the many residents that the developer save the trees and reduce parking. People shouldn't ask for things they don't want!


Posted by Leslie Bain
a resident of Cuesta Park
on May 14, 2022 at 11:50 am

Leslie Bain is a registered user.

Freudian slip, Randy? I thought goal was to increase the amount of affordable housing in the area, not to "bring down home values". FYI, the housing market went very soft during the financial crisis around 2008, one could root for another crisis if that's your goal.

The root cause of high housing costs is the ABUNDANCE OF HIGH PAYING JOBS. Here's how:

* Availability of jobs increases demand for housing. Certain remote places are gorgeous, but if they don't have jobs, people don't flock to live there.

* Well-paying jobs increase the cost of housing, in two ways: 1) those with $$$ compete against each other to buy homes, and perhaps even more importantly, 2) developers know that there is MARKET for expensive, market rate homes and thus an opportunity for them to obtain great ROI.

There is little incentive for developers to build "missing middle" units when there is HIGH DEMAND for much more expensive units. Think about it. How many job seekers would accept a job paying $500 a week when there were plenty of jobs that paid $1000 or $2000 a week? What would you choose? Developers usually only build "more affordable" housing when they are FORCED to do so: they make less $$$!

It is fantastical thinking to believe that developers are ever going to willingly build an oversupply of expensive housing in the Bay Area that would make the price of real estate collapse. It's not EVER EVER going to happen. But they are more than willing to accept the help of those who believe that "zoning" and "parking places" are the cause of high housing costs. SB9/10 created more opportunities for developers to build market-rate units, which was a WIN for them, lucky ducks.

In order to increase the supply of affordable housing, we need to BUILD affordable housing. Why didn't the state pass laws to do THIS, eh? BMR units require funding. As you know, I recommend Prop 15, to force wealthy corps to no longer receive property tax breaks that were never intended for them in the first place.


Posted by Randy Guelph
a resident of Cuernavaca
on May 14, 2022 at 12:45 pm

Randy Guelph is a registered user.

Leslie, it's not a "Freudian slip" it's the same thing you're arguing for. If homes are too expensive, how do you make homes affordable without bringing down the price of homes? Otherwise, you're just saying you want homes to get more expensive, but everyone should spend even more money to subsidize the ever-increasing gap between home prices and incomes.

When, as you've pointed out, you want BMR homes for more than half of the people in the city, how much would that cost?


Posted by LongResident
a resident of another community
on May 14, 2022 at 2:29 pm

LongResident is a registered user.

Keep in mind that the new apartments would already be nearly done if the city council hadn't rejected the application for the project the first time. They wanted to keep the existing rent controlled apartments then too, and do infill on the space once kept open, not just parking lots but other open area.

The city monkeyed around and delayed. They MADE the developer come back with a plan for more density and more impacts on existing residents during construction. Lucky for the city that the developer saw a rising projection for rental income from the new apartments individually and because there would be more of them. The developer is stuck with the result of the city insisting that it build more density. It was not a developer decision.


Posted by Leslie Bain
a resident of Cuesta Park
on May 14, 2022 at 3:33 pm

Leslie Bain is a registered user.

Randy, I have given my ideas on how to increase the amount of affordable housing in the area. IMHO, a goal to “bring down home values” is both unrealistic and perverse (why do you want to hurt homeowners?). The genie is out of the bottle, it's not going back in. Developers are NOT going to put their financial resources into projects that will be a net loss to them. They need to make a profit, or they will stop building, period. They will NEVER put their time and money into projects that will make real estate prices collapse in the bay area. Would you do that? Invest in a project KNOWING that you would lose money? If not, why would developers? It would be like burning $$$.

The creation of affordable housing in Silicon Valley is a tremendously non-trivial problem. Prop 13 was established in 1978, because old people were being forced out of their homes; they could no longer afford the property taxes, due to rising home prices. High housing costs have been around for over 40 years!

What's new is young job-seekers get hired by Big Tech, are lured to the Bay Area due to fabulous salaries, and then get disappointed by the high cost of housing. They have swallowed evidence-free propaganda put out to blame existing homeowners for the high costs. We are “blocking supply”! "Exclusionary" SFH zoning is the primary cause of high costs! FYI, MV has "zoning", we don't have "exlusionary zoning".

Turns out, no. SFH zoning is dead, thanks to SB9. Have prices come tumbling down? No, just the opposite. Land is even MORE VALUABLE now. Zoning can't be blamed, so now “enforcement” of the law is being blamed. ::eyeroll::

IMHO, job-seekers hired by Big Tech need to understand that they are being duped. Big Tech has problems hiring because the cost of housing here is so high. There is no reason why so many Googlers need to work at the Googleplex. If Google truly cared about it's workers, it would GROW NEW JOBS in places that are AFFORDABLE to it's workers, like Hewlett-Packard did, instead of going to war against existing residents of MV.


Posted by Randy Guelph
a resident of Cuernavaca
on May 14, 2022 at 3:43 pm

Randy Guelph is a registered user.

[Post removed due to disrespectful comment or offensive language]


Posted by Randy Guelph
a resident of Cuernavaca
on May 14, 2022 at 3:48 pm

Randy Guelph is a registered user.

Leslie, how can you both make housing affordable and keep housing prices high? You're talking out of both sides of your mouth here.


Posted by Leslie Bain
a resident of Cuesta Park
on May 15, 2022 at 11:20 am

Leslie Bain is a registered user.

Randy, I've noticed that you haven't pointed out flaws in my arguments. You insult me instead.

As I said earlier, the creation of affordable housing in Silicon Valley is a tremendously non-trivial problem. Prop 13 was established in 1978, because old people were being forced out of their homes; they could no longer afford the property taxes, due to rising home prices. High housing costs have been around for over 40 years! Trying to make housing prices collapse is like chasing after fool's gold. But developers will happily exploit those who want to try.

Apparently you don't like the idea of requiring developers to dedicate more of their projects to the construction of lower cost housing units? Why not? Did you know that in MV, 15% to 25% of new construction is supposed to be BMR, but over the past 8 year RHNA cycle the actual percentage is about 12%? Ka-ching, ka-ching, more $$$ for developers, and a lower number of affordable housing units for the community. What a deal!

Apparently you don't like the idea of wealthy corporations like Google paying property taxes on the market rate value of their holdings, instead of frozen rates that were never intended for them when Prop 13 was passed? yimbyaction.org does! Web Link

"Proposition 15 will get rid of property tax breaks for big businesses, and put billions of dollars towards schools and local services.

"Currently, thanks to 1978’s Prop 13, owners pay property taxes based on the price they originally paid for that real estate—typically a lot less than what it’s worth today. Prop 15 will roll this back for many large businesses, raising property taxes to be assessed based on the property’s current (probably much higher) market value. Prop 15 will raise approximately $6.5 to $11.5 billion — 60% for cities, counties and special districts, and 40% for schools and community colleges."

Just think about how many BMR units that $$$ could fund.


Posted by Randy Guelph
a resident of Cuernavaca
on May 15, 2022 at 11:40 am

Randy Guelph is a registered user.

It's not an insult to point out that you're advocating for two mutually exclusive goals: adding more affordable housing and maintaining high home values. If your house was a good investment, that's at the expense of the next generation. Making homes affordable necessarily means making them cheaper, that's simply the other side of the transaction.


Posted by Leslie Bain
a resident of Cuesta Park
on May 15, 2022 at 11:51 am

Leslie Bain is a registered user.

The solutions that I have provided will increase the amount of affordable housing without causing housing prices to collapse. Your claim that I am advocating for two mutually exclusive goals is simply false.

Teachers, service workers, and non-techie kids would have more ability to live in MV. Don't we all share that goal?


Posted by Randy Guelph
a resident of Cuernavaca
on May 15, 2022 at 12:04 pm

Randy Guelph is a registered user.

Can you concisely state two specific policies you're advocating? I get, and support, Prop 15 (vote out Larry Stone, he campaigned against it), but it's not on the ballot again yet. What specific other solutions are you proposing?


Posted by Tony
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on May 15, 2022 at 5:05 pm

Tony is a registered user.

Randy, you apparently (or deliberately) missed the point of my comment. Not sure what your vested interests are, but as a single father who was trapped in a never-ending cycle of increasing rents, never able to save for a down payment, earn equity, or get the benefit of tax deductions on mortgage interest, and only finally able to buy my first condo in the community after my last child graduated from high school, I know all too well what life under Avalon (and Prometheus, et al) is like. We have not solved the problem of runaway home prices for families who deserve these benefits in our community. I'm totally fine with the increased density -- but we should support developers who want to build condominiums and townhomes that not only the tech elite can afford to buy and enjoy the benefit of their homes being their nest egg investment.


Posted by Shane
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on May 16, 2022 at 7:57 am

Shane is a registered user.

The key issue was the protection of tenants nearby homeowner’s long-term health from a combination of exposures to PM2.5 for seven years of construction and exposures to toxic and carcinogenic airborne contaminants from auto and trucks on busy Highway 85 after the removal of the tree barrier system which absorbs and filters highway pollutants according scientific studies by EPA and the Forest Service. This will last for 20-30 years until an effective tall dense tree barrier system grows up and matures. AvalonBay had better alternatives to project design that they failed to seriously consider. The number one priority for any project is mitigation of significant threats to public health. The removal of the tree protective barrier is the most significant threat to public health and was avoidable and controllable. PM2.5 or dust pollution from construction activities is controllable at the source of emissions using multiple dust suppression methods. Removal of the highway vegetation barrier creating “uncontrollable” and direct exposures to highway pollutants to nearby tenants and residents. This public health threat was not even addressed in the EIR.


Posted by Randy Guelph
a resident of Cuernavaca
on May 16, 2022 at 5:13 pm

Randy Guelph is a registered user.

Tony, I agree, ownership should be affordable for anyone who wants it, but I don't think we should preclude homes for people that want to rent. Affordability across the board should be our goal, and I don't judge someone for preferring renting over owning, or vice-versa. Bringing down skyrocketing home prices will help everyone who wants to live in Mountain View, and adding these 323 new homes is a step in the right direction.


Posted by Leslie Bain
a resident of Cuesta Park
on May 17, 2022 at 1:27 pm

Leslie Bain is a registered user.

@Randy, it amazes me that after hearing @Tony share his experience as a "single father who was trapped in a never-ending cycle of increasing rents" that you would respond with comments like "I don't think we should preclude homes for people that want to rent" and "I don't judge someone for preferring renting over owning."

Won't somebody, anybody, please think of the poor corporate landlords?

Top 5 Worst Corporate Landlords (Corporate YIMBYs Win Honorable Mention)
Web Link

"As corporate landlords keep setting sky-high prices in the rental housing market, tenants are getting slammed by unfair rents, more evictions, and more homelessness. Known for their predatory business practices, corporate landlords also shell out huge amounts of campaign cash to stop tenant protections. Politicians too often fail to talk about the widespread damage caused by Big Real Estate, so we’re going to change that — with our Top 5 list of the worst corporate landlords. Corporate YIMBYs, who carry out the real estate industry’s greed-driven, trickle-down housing agenda, win a well-deserved honorable mention."

* Honorable Mention: Corporate YIMBYs

* 5. AvalonBay Communities

Lo and behold, AvalonBay is the developer for the project cited in the article at 555 W. Middlefield Road, which was just approved by the MV City Council.

Just think, @Randy, 323 new tenants to "enjoy" AvalonBay management!

* 4. Essex Property Trust

* 3. Invitation Homes

* 2. Equity Residential

* 1. Blackstone Group


Posted by Randy Guelph
a resident of Cuernavaca
on May 17, 2022 at 1:44 pm

Randy Guelph is a registered user.

I have no clue what you're even fighting for anymore; it's clear what you're against. You talk a lot about affordable homes for people, but here's a project that's going to add 323 homes, 48 BMR in perpetuity, and preserving rent-controlled homes without displacement. In the other article, you're fighting to make an affordable housing development smaller because it doesn't have enough parking spots. I've tried to ask you in good faith what policies you advocate, and you repeatedly handwave it away.


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