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Worried about Castro Street vacancies and eyesores, Mountain View council OKs Phase 1 of updated downtown plan

Original post made on Dec 8, 2022

Mountain View City Council took a big step toward updating the city’s Downtown Precise Plan at its Dec. 6 meeting, approving a slew of amendments to the decades-old plan.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, December 8, 2022, 1:32 PM

Comments (61)

Posted by MyOpinion
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Dec 8, 2022 at 3:12 pm

MyOpinion is a registered user.

Has council been asleep at the wheel only NOW Sally Lieber announces fast action needed? Casro was in slow decline before COVID. I recall years ago when Retail Therapy move into their current location, they had no sign, I asked why and they said they were waiting for City to approve, just a simple sign, other businesses back then had to jump through hoops for City approval on paint colors and other design elements. Fast forward to 2022, how on earth did that garish, blinding LED display at the new Smoke & Vape shop on Castro get approved? It looks like an off-strip Las Vegas adult store: so tacky! If landlords had not jacked up rent we would probably still have TAP Plastics, the Aquarium Store, Books Inc in their former prime location with a cafe upstairs. Most of the landlords have held these properties for many years, and when the next entitled generation takes over, they jack up the rent (as was the case for TAP Plastics) seems they would rather have empty buildings than cash flow. I suggest the City Council take a walk through Downtown Los Altos, they seem to have figured it out. BTW Pat Showalter's concern about blight, clearly does not include the numerous dilapidated RV's still throughout the city, also a pervasive problem, thanks in part, to her and some of her peers. Wish we bought in Los Altos rather than MV.


Posted by [email protected]
a resident of Rex Manor
on Dec 8, 2022 at 3:19 pm

[email protected] is a registered user.

From the article above... this is how I view downtown Castro Street... "mirrored windows, making them feel uninviting, and vacant storefronts with materials like raw plywood boarding up their windows.". Sadly, except for the East West Bookstore, this is why I rarely visit downtown anymore !!! :-)


Posted by catabyte
a resident of another community
on Dec 8, 2022 at 3:41 pm

catabyte is a registered user.

Agree with MyOpinion. None of the ideas mentioned in this article will fix the vacancy problem. In fact, some of them, like requiring building owners to make their buildings more "friendly" with traditional facades, could be expensive and then make the problems even worse.

IMHO, the only solution to address vacancies would be to combine the plan updates banning new ground floor office tenants and lobby uses with adding a (significant) fine for landlords who have ground-level tenancy gaps of more than a certain length of time (90 or 120 days).

Surprised the boarded up building problem can't be solved through existing code enforcement.


Posted by jordydog1
a resident of Slater
on Dec 8, 2022 at 6:06 pm

jordydog1 is a registered user.

I also agree with My Opinion. I’ve only lived here for 5 years, but in that time, I’ve seen restaurants and retailers flock to Los Altos and Palo Alto just as they ignore Mountain View. Why is it that when interesting Bay Area food businesses seek to expand, they almost invariably bypass Mountain View? Is it because rents are higher here? Are there more administrative hoops to jump through? Why is it that it took years for Ludwig’s to open, yet that tacky vape store and innumerable boba shops seem to materialize overnight. And whatever you think about the Monte Carlo nightclub, you have to admit the storefront is a thoroughgoing eyesore.

One thing I also notice is that the downtown sidewalks need a cleaning and the passageways from the parking lots to Castro Street are frequently filled with uncollected trash. This is the sort of thing that merchant associations address if not handled by the town. Does Mountain View even have a merchant’s association?

I’m only asking these questions because I truly don’t get why Mountain View, a town with a large population of well-heeled locals and workers, can’t attract vibrant businesses to fill these vacant storefronts. I was excited when I saw the title of this article, but after reading it, I don’t think I’m seeing anything in the new proposals that would encourage a new business to open up shop here.


Posted by Concerned
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 8, 2022 at 6:17 pm

Concerned is a registered user.

Why did it take so long as the blight was happening well before covid? The new Vape shop is an abomination, especially its evening lighting. I though there were design parameters for Castro Street!

Perhaps the Council could now focus on the RV street blight and enforce the rules and regulations around roadworthiness, sanitation, fire safety, trash, 72 hour etc and not put the monkey on the neighborhood residents backs. The businesses where the RV's are located do not complain, they relocate to another city upon the expiration of their lease! It's sad that the RV's take priority over residents and businesses.


Posted by MyOpinion
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Dec 8, 2022 at 6:34 pm

MyOpinion is a registered user.

When the Council approved corporate offices in downtown, that was the death knell of a vibrant downtown. Quora has the prime ground level spot at corner of Church and Castro, and the Sobrato Project at the opposite corner (Castro/Church) was meant to have retail, and restaurants ground level, the ENTIRE ground level is a Wells Fargo Bank. St Joseph Parishioners were meant to park in that garage, well if you check that out NUMEROUS spaces are marked for Wells Fargo. When was the last time you actually went inside a bank? Been many months for me, maybe a year. Now Sobrato is developing opposite the corner (Wells Fargo previous location) adjacent to City Hall, and they were lobbying for offfice space on ground floor of that project. Why not just turn the entire downtown into an office park? It is honestly too late for downtown Mountain View, the City and council do whatever Developers want. And by the way, ALL of these projects get out of providing parking by saying it's 'near' transit....seriously, give me a break.


Posted by JAFO
a resident of Castro City
on Dec 8, 2022 at 7:16 pm

JAFO is a registered user.

Just anm Observation,

I recently found research that stated we has 740,000 tech wopkers in the area in 2016, and some have reported recently it is now 400,000, about a 45% reduction in workers.

This dramatic reduction in demand for all businesses in the area is not going to get fixed. In fact I just heard that Oracle just sold a big chunk of their office campuses in the area.

Tech campuses are starting to get closed, and there is no realistic plan to reverse it, especially a small city like Mountain View.

Time to get adjusted to the fact that this area is in a significant decline of demand, and thus many businesses cannot adjust, especially the ZOMBIE ones.

The illegal labor practices that kept this area from losing the demand has been finally corrected, and thus you have the businesses having to relocate out of state.

The residents and the business owners know this is the truth. You cannot make any plan or marketing that can alter this trajectory.


Posted by Me
a resident of North Whisman
on Dec 8, 2022 at 8:28 pm

Me is a registered user.

I feel like they're focused on the window dressings, and missing the basic underlying issues ... like parking! Parking has been a problem forever in downtown Mountain View, and instead of addressing it, the people in charge do things to make it worse, like eliminating all the parking on Castro itself.


Posted by AC
a resident of Rengstorff Park
on Dec 8, 2022 at 9:47 pm

AC is a registered user.

I agree with what several others have said, but I'd like to re-phrase it:

I think more thought should be given to what Downtown should *be* before obsessing with how it looks.

I also miss the bookstores and coffee shops like Cuppa Joe's. That kind of "vibe" had its own personality, and attracted certain kinds of congregants.

It's too wide a net to just say "retail and restaurants only, no offices or lobbies". Technically that vape shop fits the bill of that description.


Posted by MyOpinion
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Dec 8, 2022 at 10:07 pm

MyOpinion is a registered user.

@AC - The Vape shop comments pertain to the garish lighting that the city permitted. It is garish and tacky, with strips of LED on every square inch. It is not a comment about their product which is an argument for another day. I am sure the vaping HS students will be their best customers, I guess the bright lights and arcade-like atmosphere is to attract kids.


Posted by MV Resident
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Dec 8, 2022 at 11:27 pm

MV Resident is a registered user.

Scrolled to the comments to see if someone was whining about the elimination of ~24 Castro street parking spaces in a downtown with multiple large garages and surface lots, was not disappointed. Agree with vacancy taxes and the sorry state of the mid-block pass through alleys. I hope they accelerate the conversion of the street to a proper pedestrian mall without hurting the wonderful vibrant evening outdoor dining that’s kept our local restaurants afloat.


Posted by Me
a resident of North Whisman
on Dec 9, 2022 at 8:25 am

Me is a registered user.

>Scrolled to the comments to see if someone was whining about the elimination of ~24 Castro street parking spaces in a downtown with multiple large garages and surface lots

It doesn't matter if downtown has lots with a *million* parking spaces! If those spaces aren't conveniently located next to the businesses people want to patronize, they're not going to park a mile away and walk ... they're going to go somewhere else with available parking.

Everyone is saying we need bookstores and other businesses like that which draw people in to revitalize the downtown ... and we do! But those businesses need *customers* to survive, and customers won't come if they can't make money (because no one is walking to their shop).


Posted by Me
a resident of North Whisman
on Dec 9, 2022 at 8:26 am

Me is a registered user.

*and those *businesses* won't come if they can't make money


Posted by Bernie Brightman
a resident of Whisman Station
on Dec 9, 2022 at 9:10 am

Bernie Brightman is a registered user.

The council are way off their charter.

Their job is not to pick winners or be economists. They have no experience in that and it's not in their charter.

Just provide the infrastructure and allow capitalism to work. Anything beyond that is just like Obama choosing Solyndra as the best solar company (shortly before it went bankrupt).


Posted by JAFO
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 9, 2022 at 10:13 am

JAFO is a registered user.

Just an Observation,

YRs the DRAMATIC drop in market activity due to the loss of 45% of the tech workers in the area is causing a major drop in demand FOR EVERYTHING.

The city Council really cannot do a thing about it. The facts are Castro was a location DEPENDNENT on 6 figure incomes from workers in the local area or with the access from VTA, Cal Tran or parking.

That 45% drop in workers is a disaster for these kinds of businesses. Castro is a luxury shopping center just like any mall, and it is becoming a ghost town.


Posted by Charles R
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Dec 9, 2022 at 11:16 am

Charles R is a registered user.

The reason there are empty storefronts is because (bring in Sam Kinison to yell this)
"THE RENTS ARE TOO HIGH!!!"
How about you publish all the landlords of the downtown and what they want for the empty storefronts?
The city council cannot fix this with wallpaper or more parking lots. There are plenty of people with plenty of money in this area.(Check your local real estate section) The landlords are the solution to their own problem.


Posted by JAFO
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 9, 2022 at 12:54 pm

JAFO is a registered user.

Just an Observation,

The landlords need to adjust to reality, most likely having to open up businesses that are useful to more people. Right now you have too many niche restaurants and very costly to boot.

That means you have less people likely to go to Castro. The chosen "marketplace" is to narrowly designed for only a limited use. The only really affordable restaurant that exists is the Mongolian barbeque. That is because it is all you can eat.

There was once a good steakhouse, reasonably priced. But they were forced to leave due to rent increases. And that location has had I think 3 businesses try and fail.

At least University Ave in Palo Alto has some regular businesses there.


Posted by jb
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 9, 2022 at 1:37 pm

jb is a registered user.

I believe Pat Showalter's comment is incorrect: “When I walk down Castro Street, I see 20, 30, maybe 40% of the storefronts are vacant,”

The Mountain View Chamber reports about 11% vacancies for retail and restaurants. It's not as gloomy a figure when offices are not included in the total.


Posted by MTV Resident
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 9, 2022 at 2:57 pm

MTV Resident is a registered user.

The high vacancy rate, and influx of expensive niche markets are due to the high asking rents. Restaurants that had been successful for years/decades were forced out by huge rent increases - many pre-covid.

At the moment landlords are encouraged to sit on vacancies until their price is met. There is more profit in a property sitting vacant for 2 years and then renting at the asking price for 10 years than renting it now for 30% less. If the city wants to prevent this a (stiff) vacancy tax is needed.


Posted by MV Resident
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Dec 9, 2022 at 3:36 pm

MV Resident is a registered user.

@Me If DTMV businesses’ livelihood hinges on the foot traffic of people who aren’t willing to park behind the business (where again, ample parking) and walk a few yards instead of on the curb out front they are in deep trouble. seems like it works great in the much-lauded DTLA! I guess the parallel parkers over there are the big spenders.


Posted by MV Resident
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Dec 9, 2022 at 3:44 pm

MV Resident is a registered user.

I continue to love the idea that people can’t park behind the business but instead must park “a mile away” as if the curbside spots aren’t long taken before the nearby lots get full. I picture them, full of rage, circling the block for an hour burning fuel waiting for their rightful VIP spot. That said, there are valid accessibility concerns and we should be making sure that parking spots closest to pedestrian passthroughs and the corners of Castro and its cross streets should be reserved for folks with placards and mobility needs.


Posted by Me
a resident of North Whisman
on Dec 9, 2022 at 5:14 pm

Me is a registered user.

Do you people actually visit downtown Mountain View? And I don't mean at like 10am on a Thursday, I'm talking about going during lunch hour, or on a weekend, or on a Friday night. *Some* businesses do have parking right behind them ... inadequate parking that is always full during busy times. Some don't even have that.

Parking has *always* been a problem, for as long as I've lived in the area. It was *not* caused by Castro shutting down to cars: that just made the already bad problem worse.

And again, I'm not trying to say "the only problem downtown MV has is parking." I'm saying that businesses are failing (frequently, as they have for years now) because they lack fundamental support. We have to support our businesses with those fundamentals if we want them to succeed ... and yes, among other things that includes ensuring their customers have enough parking to patronize them.


Posted by Me
a resident of North Whisman
on Dec 9, 2022 at 5:17 pm

Me is a registered user.

Here's a basic thought experiment: say to anyone you know who has lived in the area awhile: "Parking in downtown Mountain View is ______". Are they going to say "it's awesome, I love parking when I go downtown?" Or are they going to insert something negative in that blank?

Again, if you've lived here awhile, you should know the answer.


Posted by Polomom
a resident of Waverly Park
on Dec 9, 2022 at 7:45 pm

Polomom is a registered user.

@ME spot on. Have lived in MV 37 years. Loved to go for lunch or dinner in downtown. Stopped doing that because of parking. And don’t tell me to take my bike. I cannot use my bike anymore for health reasons. I easily find parking in our neighbor communities, so I go there!


Posted by RB
a resident of Castro City
on Dec 10, 2022 at 7:25 am

RB is a registered user.

What city council should do is ask potential business owners (who tour space) why would you not pick Castro St. to house your business. That is all you need to do to find out the answer and then go try to resolve it.

My guess is too many local rules that are cost prohibitive. Instead of adding more rules how about you take away rules?

People keep saying rents are too high but Palo Alto i bet has more expensive rent.


Posted by Concerned
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 10, 2022 at 11:08 am

Concerned is a registered user.

A friend just showed me photos of their driving trip in Mexico. Many of their downtown areas are way nicer than Castro St. Enough Said!


Posted by Non-Obvious
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Dec 10, 2022 at 1:25 pm

Non-Obvious is a registered user.

Would love if there were more coffee-shop study options that would stay open later into the evening to help build community. That's usually my social scene to meet new people regardless of age. Sweetwaters in Ann Arbor, MI; Northside Social in Arlington, VA; and Tatte Bakery in Boston, MA were my homes away from home before moving here. Red Rock is the closest thing to them here but both the menu and hours are limited. Love them, just want more!


Posted by TomR
a resident of Monta Loma
on Dec 10, 2022 at 8:39 pm

TomR is a registered user.

I was absolutely right before, to call out the disaster ghost town that has become downtown MV:

- Closing down Castro to cars was IDIOTIC. A ton of people live north of central expressway and it is very inconvenient now to visit Castro street compared to just drive to Sunnyvale or PA downtown.
- The morons who say ‘let’s make Castro feel like a European city’, have no sense of reality. The only way this would work is to dramatically add a ton of high density housing to support a lot of close residents to shop around Castro. Mountain View doesn’t have the population to support a pedestrian-only street. Without high density housing, then open up Castro to traffic again!! The downtown is dead because nobody can access it.
- The problem is NOT some silly issue about signage. Take a walk down Castro. Many restaurants have gone out of business because traffic is way down, and it’s easier now to go eat at Los Altos, Palo Alto, or Sunnyvale now.


Posted by TomR
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Dec 10, 2022 at 10:12 pm

TomR is a registered user.

Many disturbing factors here with Castro street in dire straits:

- Some are missing the big picture. Pat Showalter pointing out 40% of the stores are closed is correct but commenters here are wrong that it’s about window tints or window signage or lack of parking.
- The problem is 100% due to the closing of the street to vehicle traffic. It is inconvenient to get to Castro. Fact. Full Stop. Human visits to Castro are down because the streets got closed to vehicle traffic. FACT. While every other town has fully re-opened to vehicles and maintained a lively downtown (Los Altos, Sunnyvale, Palo Alto), MV makes bad mistake after bad mistake and ruined its own downtown by closing off roads to be able to access the stores.
- Most disturbing is Sally Lieber asking in the recent council meeting about eminent domain. This is the mind of a crazy fascist. Instead of comprehend the problem being major decline in human visits to Castro, she wants to steal/take over buildings and make the windows have prettier signs. Maybe think about WHY the buildings are vacant with windows closed off??? Because traffic is way down and nobody else wants to lease in a dead area. So much stupidity on the current MV council….


Posted by TomR
a resident of Monta Loma
on Dec 10, 2022 at 11:50 pm

TomR is a registered user.

Sally Lieber (in charge of this disaster of a project permanently closing down Castro Street vehicle traffic) needs to go the next time there is a re-election. Vote her out!!! There will be many people in town EXTREMELY motivated !!!!

the surveys were rigged to permanently close the streets down, the questions were about the 200/300 block and never had an option to select to not close the streets!!


Posted by JAFO
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 11, 2022 at 7:31 am

JAFO is a registered user.

Just an Observation,

TomR, no one individual is responsible for the current situation. The REALITY is that the previous kinds of businesses relied on the market staying the same.

The MARKET has changed, and the reality is that the average incomes have fallen in Mountain view. In fact the average rents according to Zumper are the same as it was in 2016. Given that the accumulative inflation for this period is 24%, that means that gross earnings for rents have dropped 24%.

Stop trying to find a scapegoat, face the facts, the City of Mountain View is not going to make up that difference. That it is likely it will never return to what it was in Feb 2020.

In fact Oracle and Meta are Selling their offices, which means the tech workers we are losing 340,000 since 2016 are never returning.

And no complaining will fix it, it is just the way it is.


Posted by TomR
a resident of Monta Loma
on Dec 11, 2022 at 8:01 am

TomR is a registered user.

JAFO,
I hear you. A lot of factors and some impossible to predict. But more importantly, it is what it is now, so how does it get fixed. If we look at it with a fresh pair of eyes, the current downtown is losing a lot of struggling businesses. And human visits to Castro are WAY down compared to pre-pandemic. This is NOT due to frivolous issues that this myopic council is focusing on like having pretty windows or penalizing boarded-up windows. The root problem is the town closed the streets to get to Castro!!!

Is it possible to revisit:
- the decision to permanently close artery vehicle traffic into Castro Street? It is a lot more convenient for residents to visit San Antonio now, or Palo Alto downtown, or the new Sunnyvale shopping areas. Nobody wants to make 4-5 vehicle turns, with multiple long red lights, to visit Castro. There aren’t enough bearded (and vocal) cyclists around here to make up for all the lost business to Castro.
- the decision to permanently create a pedestrian mall on Castro, when there clearly is not enough population to support this. Either add a half-dozen high-density apartments near Castro (we know this won’t fly) so there are plenty of pedestrian shoppers who don’t need cars, or undo the decision to turn Castro into a massive dead cement ghost-town.
The more this problem persists without fixing it, you can be sure there will be angry residents determined for a complete house-cleaning on the council at the next election !!!


Posted by Jeffrey Rennie
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Dec 11, 2022 at 9:58 am

Jeffrey Rennie is a registered user.

I find downtown less convenient to get to now that buses no longer run down Castro St.


Posted by JAFO
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 11, 2022 at 10:38 am

JAFO is a registered user.

Just an Observation,

Tom, you are completely wrong about "fresh eyes". The is the new reality. You are trying to use the old failed method of silicon valley "fake it til you make it".

If you want to argue that the City Council has any say in the new reality, you bear the burden of PROVING it. so far no evidence, only assumptions NOT in evidence.

Face the facts, that this was coming for years, and it had nothing to do with the City Council. In fat the City Council was trying to avoid forcing these businesses for only serving take out and delivery. Remember?

More businesses would have died if they did not do it. Most of the restaurants would have been closed for good already. They at least slowed down the their death.


Posted by CommonSense
a resident of Monta Loma
on Dec 11, 2022 at 11:57 am

CommonSense is a registered user.

JAFO,
Stop changing the subject; this is not about take-out.
It is about artery vehicle closure into Castro and a direct rapidly declining visitorship to Mountain View downtown.

“you bear the burden of PROVING it.”

Yes, so stop burying your head in the sand. It is clear to ANYONE who visits Castro that human presence and shopping at Castro is way down. Why even argue this. And it is not due to some litter on the street or because some windows are boarded up. Business is bad because it’s not easy to get to these shops.

Conduct a survey and this time not a rigged one that has zero options to choose vehicle access. Ask business owners how much sales are down and overall visits are down. Ask the many local residents who used to go to Castro and no longer do, why this is the case (me and all our neighbors).

It is not convenient to get to Castro. So maybe deal in practical reality with this problem first before spending $80M in destroying the entire downtown area. It’s sad how poorly run Mountain View is compared to neighboring towns. The dead downtown is a stark demonstration of this to the entire peninsula and south bay.


Posted by Polomom
a resident of Waverly Park
on Dec 11, 2022 at 4:06 pm

Polomom is a registered user.

I grew up in a country/continent where pedestrian only downtowns are the norm. The big difference to our issues: the city centers were planned. Parking and public transportation came first, then the actual pedestrian zone was created. The reason Palo Alto (California St) and Los Altos are doing well: the parking lots and garages are close by. We have one garage that is full most of the time. Pedestrian zones work well, if the infrastructure around them gives easy access and allows the use of cars. Council in MV for years now makes it sound like all MV residents will retire their cars and use bicycles. In your dreams. We have never had a concrete long term plan. All decisions are based on reacting to a problem. Accommodating a developer and his demands. I followed the 2 year Ludwig's Odyssee. Clearly poor planning decisions in the city hall departments. Taking cars away from Castro can work. But it needs better parking solutions. Leaving store fronts empty for years because of high rents should be addressed. And no Eminent Domain is not the solution. MV is a city in the USA. Let's not forget that.


Posted by JAFO
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 11, 2022 at 6:09 pm

JAFO is a registered user.

Just an Observation,

The real reason why you are hearing this story is that the Castro Street businesses were paying too much for rent. These properties are way overvalued by those who have conflicts of interest regarding appraisal and thus they wound up in an enormous commercial property bubble.

You should be open to watching the videos from Louis Rossman. New York is living with the same problem. Too many investors drove up the property values way higher than real values. Why, because the New York city budget is dependent on the property taxes. The same is with Mountain View.

The empty spots are because they charge too much for rent, they charge that rent because they CANNOT allow themselves to depreciate the property taxes, like a property did in Mountain View, dropping 45% of the structural property values with the Count of Santa Clara.

The facts are these properties are going to decline in values like the city has never seen in its history. But it is required because they cannot be rented by ANY business and make a reliable rate of return. On great example, the Bierhaus, where the property owner simply stated, it was worth more than the business wanted to pay rent.

You can read the story on the MV Voice here (Web Link

What happened, the owner kicked them out, and the owner failed to operate the business. And it has been vacant since 2019.

Face it, the Castro Street business area is experiencing a meltdown. Too bad that the property owners didn't do anything before the disaster. They could have been able to reduce the shock.


Posted by MV Resident
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Dec 11, 2022 at 7:28 pm

MV Resident is a registered user.

Everyone wants a scapegoat for why retail is suffering in a global pandemic and recession, and they seem more than happy to blame the pedestrian mall project and loss of a single grade crossing that likely would have been closed for caltrain electrification regardless. Not, you know, a massive traumatic event that shifted consumer purchasing to online/delivery and continues to devastate in-person retail nationwide. Glad we have another windmill tilt at!


Posted by MV Resident
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Dec 11, 2022 at 7:29 pm

MV Resident is a registered user.

“Nobody goes to downtown Mountain View anymore, the parking lots are always full”


Posted by JAFO
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 11, 2022 at 9:27 pm

JAFO is a registered user.

Just an Observation,

I have had disagreements with MV before, but I cannot argue with you on this one.

You are pointing out other factors that are very powerfully influencing the situation.

I just understand that we are reliving the 2007-8 property crisis again, but this time it is involving more commercial mortgages than the last time, because the last time we only rose Fed rates to 5.25%, this time around we are looking at surpassing that rate. In 2019 we were only at 2.4% before covid, and we dropped it to 0.08% for a year. We are currently at 3.75%

Residential Mortgage rates are already well above 7.5% for 30 yr. Commercial rates are at 5.4%. That means that all things being even, the home must appreciate 7.5% per year in order to afford the home. And for a business the business needs to grow at least 5.4% in value each year in order to break even. Both of these events WILL NOT HAPPEN.

This is the systemic problem, market demand is stalled, and earnings are not keeping up with inflation. The original "quantitative models" of our economy are useless in this time and place. But most economists will not tell anyone about it. Only the TOP corporate people, the federal reserve, and select government people know it and will not tell the people.

Again when you have a shrinking workforce, and all economics are relying on credit (debt) to support the overall economy, and the credit industry is in fact burned out because of interest rates and unstable economics, the old economic world is gone.

We overdid the buy now, pay later strategy in all areas of the economy, and we are forced to balance the books right now.


Posted by Polomom
a resident of Waverly Park
on Dec 11, 2022 at 10:40 pm

Polomom is a registered user.

@JAFO you mean this Web Link

Ludwig's opened in its place, took them only 2 years to convert a restaurant with biergarten to a restaurant with biergarten. Opened in March 2021.


Posted by JAFO
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 12, 2022 at 12:07 am

JAFO is a registered user.

Just an Observation,

Polomom, This was newer news. However it also showed a more serious problem. The news article stated:

"The City of Mountain View informed him — seven months after he took over 383 Castro St. to open Ludwig’s German Table — that the building's grease trap needed updating. Digging out the carport and sinking the 500-gallon grease trap will push the restaurant's opening back another three to four months."

Those requirements are published under the California Plumbing Code 1014.0 Grease Interceptors

1014.1 General

Where it is determined by the Authority Having Jurisdiction that waste pre-treatment is required, an approved type of grease interceptor(s) in accordance with ASME A112.14.3, ASME A112.14.4, CSA B481, PDI G-101, or PDI G-102, and sized in accordance with Section 1014.2.1 or Section 1014.3.6, shall be installed in accordance with the manufacturer's installation instructions to receive the drainage from fixtures or equipment that produce grease-laden waste located in areas of establishments where food is prepared, or other establishments where grease is introduced into the drainage or sewage system in quantities that can affect line stoppage or hinder sewage treatment or private sewage disposal systems. A combination of hydro-mechanical, gravity grease interceptors, and engineered systems shall be allowed in order to meet this code and other applicable requirements of the Authority Having Jurisdiction where space or existing physical constraints of existing buildings necessitate such installations. ."

This was not a surprise from the City, it was well known, but the owners in effect by pushing the original operators out, invoked this requirement. By being a NEW business, it probably triggered enforcement because it was grandfathered by the original restaurant. It was a severe mistake.


Posted by JAFO
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 12, 2022 at 12:19 am

JAFO is a registered user.

Just an Observation,

The google maps shows Ludwigs Beer place is boarded up, Web Link

It is for sale, however I saw a page indicating a false front here (Web Link

I did see that Ludwigs was listed online with a menu and everything, and for some reason some websites indicate it is still open. Web Link

This is VERY confusing don't you think?


Posted by Polomom
a resident of Waverly Park
on Dec 12, 2022 at 8:36 am

Polomom is a registered user.

@JAFO it is open and thriving.
We should be more concerned about our parking lots 4 and 8. These are slated for hotel/office complex construction. There will be parking in the plans, but how much is tbd. Losing those lots for years during construction will not help with foot traffic on Castro. Web Link


Posted by Another MV Resident
a resident of Willowgate
on Dec 12, 2022 at 2:17 pm

Another MV Resident is a registered user.

Packed parking lots and a survey for the town showing a huge majority of the people want the pedestrian mall and MV Voice comments section is some tired old out of touch cranks.

Don’t think I didn’t notice the absurd claim there’s only one garage when that’s definitely not the case.


Posted by Polomom
a resident of Waverly Park
on Dec 12, 2022 at 10:26 pm

Polomom is a registered user.

@another MV resident. Are you referring to the city hall garage?
We only have the Bryant one available. And it is full most of the time.
The pedestrian mall concept is great when implemented with lots of planning. Which I do not see happening. It starts with a general delivery time slot, like 5-8 am the road is open for all deliveries. After that only pedestrians. A cohesive appearance would be great, not some FD rule that had restaurants scramble. And the biggest issue is letting the office buildings off the hook when not occupying the street level. It started with Bryant Park Plaza and keeps continuing. The final move in permit should not be issued if not all conditions of the building permit are met. Developer charges too high of a rent for a coffee shop to be interested. Here is where we need to ask the developer to subsidize the tenant. He got his office complex in downtown-in return he will help a tenant to make downtown vibrant.


Posted by MV Resident
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Dec 13, 2022 at 12:47 am

MV Resident is a registered user.

@Polomom you do know there are two parking garages on Bryant, yes? Bryant and California (around the CVS), and the other is between Evelyn and Villa.

I agree that developer greed is playing a big part. Rents are too high for normal retail.


Posted by JAFO
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 13, 2022 at 11:18 am

JAFO is a registered user.

Just an Observation,

I did see that Ludwigs is open, BUT the picture on the website and the actual location look dramatically different.

I suspect that when the location was for sale in Feb 2020, no one was buying, so they had to reopen because to not be operating meant a mortgage expense on a property making no money at all.

But I also suspect they are not even breaking even, they are just cutting loses. Sooner or later it will have to be sold at a loss.

I also read that many tech workers being let go in the area are being hired by the Federal Government, most likely contractors that are given relocation reimbursement and are leaving the Bay Area. Most likely to Colorado, Virginia, and Maryland. Thus again there is a complete drop of the Tech workforce occurring.

Prices are simply going to have to correct, and it is going to be a bloodbath.


Posted by Polomom
a resident of Waverly Park
on Dec 13, 2022 at 11:43 am

Polomom is a registered user.

@JAFO Ludwig's is not the owner of the building, the Tran family is. Lots of articles in the Voice. An office building was planned. Former council member Kasperzak was their consultant.
MV survived previous campus closings: Silicon Graphics, Sun, Netscape, Adobe and lots of smaller ones.
We still need to focus on having an attractive downtown, what do we want to preserve? Who do we want to attract? We have a downtown committee. Mentioned former councilmember is the chair person. I have not studied their agenda. But might be worth it, I don't want to give up on our downtown.


Posted by JAFO
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 13, 2022 at 2:16 pm

JAFO is a registered user.

Just an Observation,

I understand that we "survived" closures in the past. BUT that was long before we had the freedom of not NEEDING to be in Silicon Valley to be a TECH business.

This time is significantly different, many people already learned they can be very comfortable in living in other places and successful. In effect Covid proved that the Valley is no longer needed for any tech business to thrive.

And as you pointed out, an OFFICE was PLANNED, but it failed I guess. Kasperzak must not have done enough quality work to succeed. He is responsible for many mistakes that Mountain View perpetuated, like the Google Bayshore fiasco.

I believe that building actually became a historical landmark, which blocks an development on it. I think the article is here (Web Link

I think that there are many more situations like this in the Castro Street area. I think it saw that a music store might have relocated to El Camino Real recently.


Posted by TomR
a resident of Monta Loma
on Dec 14, 2022 at 7:25 pm

TomR is a registered user.

JAFO keeps citing economic disaster stats but then obtusely refuses to acknowledge that a cement pedestrian mall makes no sense anymore, nor does closing down Castro vehicle traffic from Central Expressway. The entire economy and people volume have changed but clueless people are in denial that it makes ZERO sense to continue with ghost mall plans. Open up all the streets again!!!

.


Posted by JAFO
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 14, 2022 at 8:13 pm

JAFO is a registered user.

Just an Observation,

TomR, if anything I cannot disagree with you and your observation. I in fact agree with you more than you know. Many "City Downtowns" like Mountain view, Palo Alto, Sunnyvale and soo on are just "malls" with parking allowed inside them.

I do have a question, how many parking spaces do we have? How much per sqr foot is rent for commercial rentals in downtown, and what quantitative numbers are needed to sustain the Castro commercial activity?

I suspect that for many years businesses have not been able to survive, I remember that the bookstore was much larger but is less than half its original size. There was a used bookstore that is gone, the music store appears to have left.

Their survival is contingent on their credit, which in the last year the FED has increased that cost, and recently told everyone that the FED rates WILL STAY THIS HIGH for at least the end of 2023.

I strongly expect that more businesses are going to have to close up. Even if all normal traffic is restored.


Posted by Me
a resident of North Whisman
on Dec 15, 2022 at 9:52 am

Me is a registered user.

>Sally Lieber (in charge of this disaster of a project permanently closing down Castro Street vehicle traffic) needs to go the next time there is a re-election. Vote her out!!! There will be many people in town EXTREMELY motivated !!!!

Well, that should be easy: after promising to do both jobs throughout her campaign, Sally is now abandoning her council seat to go to a new job because she claims she *just* discovered a conflict of interest.

However, the council has the power to just appoint a replacement, so don't expect that we'll get a chance to elect someone new.


Posted by Me
a resident of North Whisman
on Dec 15, 2022 at 9:53 am

Me is a registered user.

See: Web Link


Posted by JAFO
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 15, 2022 at 2:27 pm

JAFO is a registered user.

Just an Observation,

Looks like a special election is in order. I do not think the City Charter allows for an appointment.

Look at the City Charter

Article IV. - The Elective Officers.

Section 400. - Enumeration.
The elective officers of the city shall consist of a city council composed of seven members.

Section 401. - Elected at large.
The council shall be elected at the general municipal election on a general ticket from the city at large.

Thus we are stuck with a new election.


Posted by Bob
a resident of Whisman Station
on Jan 24, 2023 at 3:00 pm

Bob is a registered user.

I agree with those who think permanently closing Castro to cars is idiotic.

Related: I also think it's idiotic to not build an underpass for cars to enter/exit Castro from Central Expressway. Talk about a way to constrict businesses and business opportunities.

We live in a car culture.

If I had a business in downtown MV, I would be so angry -- and if I were considering opening a business in downtown, I would look elsewhere, to cities that actually welcome car traffic.

I rarely used to visit downtown, and since the closure, I've gone maybe twice, and I'm not coming back. It's not a vehicle friendly destination -- I don't want to have to carefully study a map before my journey, then traverse a confusing and constricted maze of cross-streets just to get to where I want to go -- there are far too many other convenient, enjoyable options -- where cars and those who drive them aren't treated with so much disdain.

Unfortunately, this isn't going to change - Castro Street and the Central Expressway entrance/exit will remain permanently closed to cars because those in power just don't understand the most basic, most fundamental aspects of owning, operating, and growing a retail business.

Case in point: Pedestrian only supporters like to respond to posts like this by minimizing -- saying that this was all an issue before the bureaucratic geniuses decided to ban cars from public roadways (my words). They want to force/mandate that everyone ride bikes and walk everywhere. It is such incredibly short-sighted and stupid thinking.

Downtown MV used to be a lot of fun - before all the car-haters took over. To all the car-haters: have fun walking in an empty business district, complaining about how the problem should be addressed. Meanwhile, as for people like me, we're having fun in other towns where we're not looked down upon for actually, you know, having to nerve to drive a gas-powered vehicle.

Goodbye downtown MV. Thanks for the memories.


Posted by LongResident
a resident of another community
on Jan 24, 2023 at 3:10 pm

LongResident is a registered user.

Downtown is just like a mall. Malls don't need a street running down the middle and neither does downtown. The problem with parking may come from all the office type businesses having daily workers who park in what was once parking for retail. Just like any mall, future growth calls for parking garages, not more street parking.


Posted by Bob
a resident of Whisman Station
on Jan 24, 2023 at 6:04 pm

Bob is a registered user.

"Downtown is just like a mall. Malls don't need a street running down the middle and neither does downtown." -- Actually, downtown LITERALLY has a street running down the middle of it. -- that the car haters unilaterally decided to close, without public input.

The other problematic aspect is that closing Castro Street to cars also closes a major artery bringing people into downtown - Central Expressway at Castro.

I also agree with those who have correctly stated that, when it came to the "survey" results the city released, the city had its thumb on the scale (my words). The metrics, methods of collection of information, lack of transparency, and overall data produced didn't produce any objectively measurable conclusions of any sort.

Ask any high school student if the "survey" was objective, and provide them with the metrics and "data" (cough cough) released to the public, and they'll say no, it was not.

Of course, many in this thread dismiss nay-sayers like myself as being "cranks" when, in reality, all we are asking for is an objective analysis and transparency regarding what is best for our community.


Posted by Steven Goldstein
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 24, 2023 at 6:25 pm

Steven Goldstein is a registered user.

[Post removed due to being off-topic]


Posted by Steven Goldstein
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 25, 2023 at 11:39 am

Steven Goldstein is a registered user.

Just am Observation,

Here is unpleasant reality, the Castro area is not going to recover because there is more reductions in demand on the way. Castro Street has always been a very weird business area, having vendors that are dependent on the local tech industry (GOOGLE the most). But after Work from Home and now the new job cuts, it is very likely that the Goggle campus is on the way of being closed for good.

I just heard on CNBC TV that 1600 workers for Google are being let go in this are

a, the report is here Web Link

"The layoffs include 1,436 in Mountain View, 119 in San Bruno and 53 in Palo Alto, according to the WARN notices."

There WERE 4,000 workers for the Mountain view location, WOW that is a big drop of 35%. This is going to be a BIG hurt to the City of Mountain View. I can only imagine that if only 10% of them lived in Mountain View, that could result in 140 households leaving the City (homeowners or rentals).

This needs to be anticipated, and adjustments need to be made. This is going to mean a major correction in commercial properties in the Castro Downtown area. Time to get ready


Posted by Bob
a resident of Whisman Station
on Feb 4, 2023 at 8:36 am

Bob is a registered user.

Another observation:

Even though the city council overlords mandated a pedestrian mall (without surveying voters and businesses, in any meaningful, transparent manner)...

...why is it that the Castro Street / Central Expressway intersection remains closed to traffic entering from Central Expressway, and onto Evelyn Avenue? The overlords allow traffic traveling from downtown and onto Central, but why not from Central?

Let me guess -- COVID? lol.

When I'm driving my evil gas-powered vehicle on Central, I'm sometimes at the stoplight at Central and Castro -- and I look over at the super ugly barricades that keep the evil vehicles from traveling into downtown (talk about an eyesore, but don't worry, it'll only look that ugly for the next ten years) -- but if I were allowed to turn from Central and onto Evelyn, I might actually visit downtown sometimes.

Given that the first block of Castro is actually open to those evil gas-powered vehicles called cars, why can't we enter from Central?


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