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Mountain View City Council reluctantly approves downtown office project next door to City Hall

Original post made on Aug 31, 2022

The Mountain View City Council voted 4-1 Tuesday night to approve a four-story downtown office building, but not without serious reservations that the project was a poor fit for the future vision of Castro Street.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, August 31, 2022, 1:39 PM

Comments (25)

Posted by Lenny Siegel2
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Aug 31, 2022 at 2:07 pm

Lenny Siegel2 is a registered user.

It's great that the City is updating the downtown precise plan, but the update will only apply to three sections, all north of California Street. This property is not part of the area being studied.


Posted by Frank Richards
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Aug 31, 2022 at 2:24 pm

Frank Richards is a registered user.

Honestly, it strikes me as really odd for the council to be upset about this. As a resident, I think it's pretty terrible (should be dense housing!), but council is responsible for setting the rules! Instead of micromanaging projects through design review and writing precise plan after precise plan that's out of date by the time they finish it, they could use the staff time to build reasonably broad plans that could be updated quickly. They started the process for updating three subareas of the Downtown Precise Plan in 2019, and it's not even done yet.

They shouldn't be wringing their hands about how they don't like a project that's compliant with the rules they set.


Posted by SRB
a resident of St. Francis Acres
on Aug 31, 2022 at 2:30 pm

SRB is a registered user.

City Council laments that their hands are tied and that current zoning forces them to approve. But the ties have been imposed by decades of planning and council decisions (including Sally Lieber during her previous terms). A little mea culpa would have been in order...

There is one area where the City could have improved the project.

The City could have decided to NOT replace the 6 surface parking spots for the Chamber of Commerce. This would have saved one heritage tree and some encroachment of Pioneer Park. This would have potentially provided more room for green space.

Alas, even without any zoning tying their hands and without having to wait for a Precise Plan update, the City Council chose surface parking for the Chamber over trees and green space.




Posted by Sherm
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Aug 31, 2022 at 2:30 pm

Sherm is a registered user.

(Formerly Old Mountain View) The irony of this is that it is the massive City Hall building itself that created the first impassable dead zone on Castro. Offices on the ground floor, no retail.


Posted by Kal Sandhu
a resident of Castro City
on Aug 31, 2022 at 2:37 pm

Kal Sandhu is a registered user.

The design of the building is definitely much better than what's on the site currently. Plus, it seems to complement the building across the street where Wells Fargo is now located.
Did anyone on the Council, City's Planning Commission, or the Community Development Department ever reach out to the powers that be at Sobrato to add apartments to this project? Nothing like reaching out personally, without violating any laws, to get things done.
By the way, is the Chamber of Commerce site ever going to be updated?


Posted by Holger
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Aug 31, 2022 at 4:09 pm

Holger is a registered user.

The drawing is incorrect about the type of windows. Unfortunately it is almost impossible today here in the area to build with clear windows due to local laws about so-called energy saving regulations. Most likely mirrored or dark-tinted windows have to be used.

I'm also wondering about the cities plans for bike traffic on the considered bike boulevard Latham St (the street to the left of the building with the white car on it). Doesn't look like there is space left for bikes.


Posted by Lenny Siegel2
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Aug 31, 2022 at 4:15 pm

Lenny Siegel2 is a registered user.

@ Kal This proposal first came to Council when I was in office, because Sobrato wanted to connect the new building to City Hall. I believe I suggested that they build housing, with no luck. I was more successful in North Bayshore, but only because Sobrato knew that LinkedIn and Google were going to win the allocation of new offices. (Google since bought out LinkedIn's development rights.)


Posted by Doug Schuck
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Aug 31, 2022 at 5:50 pm

Doug Schuck is a registered user.

Well I’m not sure who is thrilled about new office buildings going in at Church and Castro, but to exacerbate the problem, I live on Church St, and currently deal with tenants of the Wells Fargo/Sobrato bldg, parking on our street. Sobrato mentioned that if there are parking issues when the new 3 story office bldg is completed, it will be addressed. I have contacted the Sobrato office at the Wells Fargo bldg, and was told they could not legally tell tenants to use the parking structure(hundreds of underground spots available) and pasted some code, which obviously was meant to say they just did t care. I dont want more cars parking on my street, and using it to avoid El Camino. Sobrato has an obligation to keep their tenants from parking on residential streets, and to utilize the massive parking structure under the Wells Fargo bldg. Those tenants who will be occupying the new, unnecessary office bldg, should also be mandated to park in the underground parking structure at the Wells location. I also hope that the “retail space” as most us understand it to be, is actually retail, and not a Bank as was approved when Wells moved across the street. Please ensure that their tenants Do Not park on the surrounding neighborhood streets. We have enough cars speeding up and down our streets, throughout Old Mtn View.


Posted by Johnny Yuma
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Aug 31, 2022 at 8:28 pm

Johnny Yuma is a registered user.

“Serious reservations that the project was a poor fit for the future vision of Castro Street?” But the council passed it anyway? Time for a HUGE change, voters. The current crop of council members MUST GO.


Posted by bluesjr
a resident of Monta Loma
on Sep 1, 2022 at 12:34 pm

bluesjr is a registered user.

@Johnny. Great idea, vote them out, but what choice do we have? 3 incumbents are re-running, and the only two alternatives don't have a chance, they are either inexperienced or not realistic, and certainly not electable.

This council, as well as the previous few I've paid attention to are pro-development. They have allowed the industrialization of Mtn View for decades, and have been belatedly playing catch up with housing. The problem there, much of the new housing seems to be tied with increased commercial/industrial square footage. Google, et al, and the developers are much better at playing the game than the various councils have shown to be.

It feels pretty crappy to hear our elected council held those noses as they approved the latest over-sized blight on downtown, and in one of my favorite sections of downtown, immediately adjacent to Pioneer Park.


Posted by Holger
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Sep 1, 2022 at 1:25 pm

Holger is a registered user.

I have to correct my previous comment about the windows in the drawing: The windows on street level are correctly shown clear as according to Web Link at least between California St and Evelyn the city requires clear non-tinted windows there for store fronts. I don't know what the code is for further south of California, but would assume at least for store fronts it is the same.

BTW, I'm not against office buildings on Castro in general. I think it is good for the city in general to attract more people and office workers will usually go to the local restaurants for lunch and maybe even stay a while in the evening.


Posted by father of 3 sons
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Sep 1, 2022 at 4:21 pm

father of 3 sons is a registered user.

If it, the development proposal, is within the current legal limits, build it. KEEP THEM to that public use 50 ft passway (not ONE INCH less). You snooze - you loose (right to tighten up zoning plan)

Church Street commercial parking (Is there a 1 hour limit there? - is there a "Residential Sticker" program ther?). Walk around the past developer's brick wall - engage the council and Parking/Streets Dept. staff. Get the Old Mountain View Neighborhood Association fired up.


Posted by Doug Schuck
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Sep 1, 2022 at 8:03 pm

Doug Schuck is a registered user.

Father of 3. I totally agree, it will take our neighborhood to enact a permit or hourly parking in order to push Sobrato’s tenants into their parking structures. Pro development will only change the charm of downtown, and Sobrato could care less what negative impact they have on our city, as long as they get what they can. Please force them to save the heritage tree’s and build around them. I have lived on Church St for over 30 years, and had to endure two huge projects that took 2+ years to complete, and during this time I had to live through delivery trucks showing up during early morning hours, even though construction is times are 7am, and a lot of that was during the construction of the Wells Fargo/Sobrato project. Please enforce the fact that delivery trucks are part of construction, and have to abide by the 7am city code.. No weekend construction…. Period.


Posted by ivg
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Sep 2, 2022 at 7:58 am

ivg is a registered user.

Ramirez is right. If the city wants to update its zoning to require apartments in every building downtown, that would be great. But in the meantime, we must follow the rules that exist.


Posted by Seth Neumann
a resident of Waverly Park
on Sep 2, 2022 at 4:04 pm

Seth Neumann is a registered user.

changes in zoning and the plan are needed! We don't need more jobs in Mountain View and should not approve any more office space until the housing supply is in balance. Since it is very expensive and time consuming to increase supply, we need to attack demand! Less local office space should reduce housing demand.


Posted by Frank Richards
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Sep 2, 2022 at 4:20 pm

Frank Richards is a registered user.

It would only take a simple vote of council to make apartments legal, by-right, throughout the city. Why do they choose not to do such a simple thing? Is status quo bias really that strong?


Posted by KC
a resident of Waverly Park
on Sep 3, 2022 at 3:07 pm

KC is a registered user.

I saw the development sign before I saw this article and was saddened to see all the redwoods that will be taken out. We need those trees. It seems to me that there is already a lot of business space up for lease. Do we really need that many more offices? Retail would be ok if the trees are saved, but there is a lot of open retail space as well. I would definitely support retail with housing above--preferably low income housing.


Posted by Leslie Bain
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Sep 4, 2022 at 10:07 am

Leslie Bain is a registered user.

Has anyone thought about the impact this development will have on the cost of housing? It will drive costs up, won't it? More jobs = increased demand. Do you think the new jobs are going to pay low salaries or high salaries? I'm betting "high salaries"

Are SFH owners to blame in this case for the cost of housing going up? No. Did SFH owners argue before the city council that we wanted more offices here because we wanted more jobs so that the value of our homes would rise even further? No, we did not.

Then who is to blame? Isn't the answer: the "job creators"?

This office project is an instructive example. The true cause of unaffordable housing in the Bay Area is not a lack of supply, it is excessive demand. Most everyone who talks about a jobs/housing imbalance acknowledges this, perhaps unwittingly. Job availability increases demand for housing near jobs. Well-paying jobs drive up the cost of housing. Silicon Valley has been a source of well-paying jobs for decades, which is reflected in our housing costs. Those who hold well-paying jobs are actually part of the problem.

The cost of housing has been going up in CA for quite a long time. Property taxes rose with it. At one point, older people on fixed incomes were being forced out of their homes because they could no longer afford to pay their taxes. Voters were horrified, especially because the taxes were based on the value of their home only on paper. They also hated the fact that their own "cost of housing" rose every time their taxes rose.

Prop 13 was passed in 1978. How many years ago was that? 44 years.

This theory that SFH owners are somehow "blocking supply" is very new, it's only been around about 5 years or so. In earlier times, people just thought that rising home costs were simply a side effect of the booming CA economy.

SFH owners were not involved in any way with this downtown office project. Notice that it was the DEVELOPER who insisted on constructing offices instead of housing units. Developers have one goal: to maximize their profit. Do they care about what is best for MV? No.


Posted by Frank Richards
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Sep 4, 2022 at 10:17 am

Frank Richards is a registered user.

You can take a quick look at the zoning map for Mountain View and see that one can, for the most part, only build single-family homes within walking distance of Downtown Mountain View and this project. In fact, those neighborhoods have strongly opposed allowing anything but single-family homes to be built there. They're making an office project because zoning encourages it, why not harness their desire for profit into building something the city needs: more homes?


Posted by Leslie Bain
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Sep 6, 2022 at 1:19 pm

Leslie Bain is a registered user.

This office project is an instructive example in another way too. It shows the limits of blaming “zoning” for the high cost of housing

First and foremost, those who talk about problems with zoning always seem to focus on the need to change zoning to ALLOW HOUSING. Surely we also need to change zoning to PREVENT OFFICE construction until such time as the jobs/housing imbalance has been addressed. Such changes could have prevented this project, which everyone mentioned in the article seems to agree is bad for MV.

“While the proposal meets the letter of the law and complies with zoning rules, residents and council members alike voiced disappointment that another stretch of Castro Street would be devoted to offices instead of housing and other uses that promote a vibrant downtown.”

Are efforts being made so that future proposals like this one FAIL to meet the letter of the law? If not, why not? Many of us are tired at seeing city council members “regretfully” approve projects, because their “hands are tied”. Meanwhile, developers - focused on maximizing their profits, not what is best for MV - add fuel to keep the housing crisis burning.

The root cause of the housing crisis is not supply, it's DEMAND. As long as we have a jobs/housing imbalance, every time a jobs creator adds new high paying jobs to this area, the housing crisis just gets worse.


Posted by Richard
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Sep 9, 2022 at 1:16 pm

Richard is a registered user.

The project is a disaster and should have never made it to this point. That is what thoughtful and effective planning is about. I attended an online input session from the public, and as the public commented, the City Staff looked bored and unattentive. Most of the comments were about the loss of trees and open space with things other than asphalt and concrete growing.

I am wondering where the vision is in Mountain View's city government. I helped to write Palo Alto's general plan in the late 90"s, and we simply forbade new offices, in response to the back-then jobs-housing imbalance in Palo Alto. Google began on University Ave. in Palo Alto, and because of a limit on office expansion, had to move away.

This ugly and undesirable Sobrato development should never have gotten this far if the Mountain View planning process had included meaningful citizen participation. It seems $$$$ are the primary determinant of an ongoing lack of meaningful input from the people who live here and have personal interests in the ongoing quality of what could be a wonderful, balanced city.

As an architectural designer/city planner, I am extremely disappointed in Mountain View's lack of planning and vision.


Posted by MyOpinion
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Sep 9, 2022 at 2:30 pm

MyOpinion is a registered user.

Developers own Mountain View, too late to save our city. Sobrato, the big philanthropist, has no qualms at all about destroying the character of a community. You can bet his own house is many miles away from high density offices & apartments. We should never have allowed corporate offices downtown. Too late now.


Posted by bkengland
a resident of Whisman Station
on Sep 9, 2022 at 2:41 pm

bkengland is a registered user.

It's not too late (maybe it's never too late, for that matter). We in the community should advocate for a Downtown Precise Plan Phase 2 process (for between California Street and El Camino) to kick off asap for one thing. There are other properties downtown that might eventually get a 590-type approval if we don't do our part to see the gates closed on more office development that we don't need.


Posted by Doug Schuck
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Sep 9, 2022 at 7:12 pm

Doug Schuck is a registered user.

To: My Opinion. Short and sweet , but very impactful. Sobrato could care less about our city!!!!


Posted by Leslie Bain
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Sep 14, 2022 at 10:23 am

Leslie Bain is a registered user.

"But as it stands, the city must adhere to the existing zoning rules regardless of how out of sync they may be with public opinion."

This is what the CA YIMBY movement is all about. Creating a situation where city council members have no choice but to approve developments that developers want, but the general public does not. It's a win/win for developers and the politicians who serve them, and provides a great cover story ("our hands are tied!").

We URGENTLY need a moratorium on all new office construction, until such time as the jobs/housing imbalance is fixed (whatever that means).

I compared the RHNA numbers for the last 8 year cycle (2015-2023) Web Link , and the next 8 year cycle(2023-2031)(found in July 2022 HCD Draft at https://www.mvhousingelement.org)

In the table, notice how the targets handed down by the state INCREASES the percentage created for the highest wage earners (Above Moderate), from 37% of all units to 44%.

2015-2023 | 2023-2031

Household Income, RHNA Target , % of Total Allocation, RHNA Target, % of Total Allocation

Very Low 814 28% | 2773 25%

Low 492 17% | 1597 14%

Moderate 527 18% | 1885 17%

Above Moderate 1093 37% | 4880 44%

Total Allocation 2926 100% | 11,135 100%

Notice how the targets handed down by the state is to DECREASE the percentage created for all other wage earners, that is, the people who are MOST IN NEED of affordable housing.

Notice how the targets handed down by the state DECREASES the percentage created for all other wage earners, that is, the people who are MOST IN NEED of affordable housing.

But remember, those are only the TARGETS. Were the targets met over the last RHNA cycle? The answer is YES only for the highest wage earners, and boy oh boy were they met! The target was achieved by over a factor of 6!

Assuming the same success rate for each category in the next cycle, the number of units created will be:

Household RHNA % of Total | Units, % of RHNA
Income Target Allocation Created Allocation

Very Low 2773 25% | 1264 45.6%

Low 1597 14% | 1207 75.6%

Moderate 1885 17% | 905 48%

Above Moderate 4880 44% | 31,617 647.9% <-- developers LOVE to build this type of housing unit

Total Allocation 11,135 100% | 34,993


Notice how about 3000 units will be created for the neediest in the community, and 10 times as many units for the highest page wage earners.

Friends, this is gentrification on steroids. It is NOT going to lower the rent for most workers in the bottom 3 categories. This state mandate is a scheme to help developers build, baby, build, regardless of the harmful impacts on the MV community.

Building tens of thousands of expensive, market-rate units is the exact OPPOSITE of what we need: to build more AFFORDABLE housing. Those who sincerely care about teachers, service workers, and our children need to understand that only a small number of such persons will "win" the opportunity to live in the limited number of affordable units that will be created.


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