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Guest opinion: As apartments make way for luxury condos, Mountain View should do more to prevent displacing residents

Original post made on Dec 26, 2022

In this week's guest opinion: Hundreds of older and more affordable Mountain View apartments have been replaced by luxury townhomes, leaving working families with nowhere to go. The city needs more tools to prevent this displacement.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, December 26, 2022, 7:05 AM

Comments (21)

Posted by Jerry
a resident of another community
on Dec 26, 2022 at 8:17 am

Jerry is a registered user.

I'd have to conclude that SB330 will cause a stagnation in redevelopment of older apartment buildings. With today's construction costs, there's almost no financial incentive for developers to replace existing units of the same rents. But of course, that's the whole point of the law is to prevent them from being converted to high-end condos.

It's good in a way because the current stock of affordable housing units will remain undeveloped. But it also doesn't incentivize developers and/or landlords to upgrade or maintain properly existing units. If this law remains in place a decade from now, we could be seeing an apartment building collapse similar to the Surfside Condo in Florida.

Posted by JAFO
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 26, 2022 at 11:26 pm

JAFO is a registered user.

Just an Observation,

The really scary part is also that the ground in Mountain View is significantly unstable, proof of this can be seen in this video clip

Web Link

And in fact you can see the ground cracking streets, and sidewalks and moving foundations all over the city. The reality is that the City is NOT doing enough seismic monitoring to fix the existing homes, and VERY likely making new ones that may only survive as much as 40 years before they will be forced to come down.

The latest study Mountain View performed was in 2018 and is found here Web Link

It is out of date, and has not been followed up for ANY seismic refits.

The fact that this is not dealt with leaves many places likely ineligible to occupy legally, and the City is well aware of it.

In fact most new homes have significant defects in them. And article here shows the problem Web Link

I provided this information to the RHC and the City Inspector John Carr, as well as the City Council.


Posted by JAFO
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 27, 2022 at 12:42 pm

JAFO is a registered user.

Just an Observation,

THe PRIVATE housing system is a total failure, you cannot subsidize it enough to produce the diverse grades of housing that is DEMANDED here.

THe facts are that the PRIVATE housing industry is in the perfect storm right now. Interest rates are going to stay at least 7% or above for mortgages. And most of these PRIVATE systems still owe money to creditors. Their properties are going to go down, and they cannot get the cash flows enough to balance their books.

The idea that if you only sell 93 octane housing is going to lift others up is a total lie.

And in the end when ALL properties start to deteriorate, like the way I have documented, it won't be just apartments, bet entire neighborhoods will be to unsafe to occupy.

This is going to put the entire real estate business into terminal condition, Especially when there has been only 2/3rd the sales in the market for 2022.

Many already here are likely going to realize their homes are a loss, and many may just drop the keys and leave.

Posted by LongResident
a resident of another community
on Dec 27, 2022 at 1:32 pm

LongResident is a registered user.

In other words, there isn't any cheap construction financing any m ore, and developers can no longer afford to create new condos. SB330 isn't going to be needed, nor displacement abatement. The boom has busted construction-wise.

Posted by JAFO
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 27, 2022 at 3:16 pm

JAFO is a registered user.

Just an Observation

SB330 is CRITICAL, and must be extended for at least 15 years to recalibrate the diverse inventory of housing in CA.

In fact, MORE STRICT inclusionary requirements should be established based on the ACTUAL DEMAND of housing in the state. If that means that no more than 25% of the housing should be MARKET rate, so be it.

The only way you make businesses more efficient is by FORCING them to be more efficient. Just like underfunding governments, right?

The market MUST be CORRECTED and NEVER be allowed to bubble like it did during the last 50 years.

Posted by Dan Waylonis
a resident of Jackson Park
on Dec 27, 2022 at 4:43 pm

Dan Waylonis is a registered user.

The best thing the city can do is to promote and expedite all kinds of residential development. Renters and homeowners will choose housing that works for their budget. For some, that means going upscale. For others, it means downsizing. It's how the market works. Interference in the market always produces unexpected and undesired results.

Posted by JAFO
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 27, 2022 at 5:22 pm

JAFO is a registered user.

Just an Observation,

If there is NO CHOICES allowed for diverse housing, which has been PROMOTED and FORCED on the market for the last 50 years, you wind up with a local economy that loses. Look at all of the empty buildings and boarded up windows.

The facts are Mountain view is likely on the way down, because of the changes that may never reverse regarding the ability of workers to perform for the local corporations, WHILE NOT HERE.

Just like the old dangerous motto, FAKE IT TILL YOU MAKE IT. THe facts are that has been what the local real estate market has been doing Both residential and commercial.

When a real estate market has bubbled to record levels within 20 years, that mean the MARKET is a FAILURE. The only way to eliminate the problem is to make sure the market regulations will PREVENT it, and never let it happen again.

You should watch Margin Call, when the person said:

"Its just money; its made up. Pieces of paper with pictures on it so we don't have to kill each other just to get something to eat. It's not wrong. And it's certainly no different today than its ever been. 1637, 1797, 1819, 37, 57, 84, 1901, 07, 29, 1937, 1974, 1987-Jesus, didn't that (BLANK) up me up good-92, 97, 2000 and whatever we want to call this. IT'S ALL JUST THE SAME THING OVER AND OVER; WE CAN'T HELP OURSELVES. AND YOU AND I CAN'T CONTROL IT, OR STOP IT, OR EVEN SLOW IT. Or even ever-so-slightly alter it. We just react."

This shows that the market cannot self-correct, which in effect proves it doesn’t actually work as it was designed due to MANIPULATION by the PRIVATE sector

Posted by LongResident
a resident of another community
on Dec 28, 2022 at 3:53 pm

LongResident is a registered user.

The danger is in the zeal to meet the numbers, Mountain View has overly weighted development encouragement for any housing whatsoever, which is exacerbating the tendency of developers to go for expensive housing. It's not a true market situation. This luxury housing is consuming land that could be used for more suitable housing to match needs. Needs aren't building the market, but stereotypes and YIMBY advocates are yammering that luxury housing is just as important as less expensive housing.

The Federal tax laws were changed in ways which facilitate the high end projects. The local salaries being so high for so many elite workers concentrated on one locale causes an imbalance that disproportionately affects lower income workers. The system where Google doesn't directly employ the lower wage workers but hires them through intermediate companies causes imbalance too.

Some thought should be given to the proposition that land should be prioritized for non-elite local needs over luxury housing. These wacko talks about developing shopping centers are an example of the case of the added new housing being likely very upscale. No developer is likely to add much affordable housing onto a shopping center. It will be luxury housing of yet a new sort. It's almost an intentional exclusion of new housing truly suitable for middle class, let alone low income people.

The good news is that with high interest rates, the ability of profiteers and speculators to build their income by servicing this perverse need for new luxury housing will be curtailed in various ways. Yay for recessions!

Posted by JAFO
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 28, 2022 at 6:50 pm

JAFO is a registered user.

Just an Observation,

I have to agree with LongResident. Especially where LUXURY housing is left vacant, which allows those owners to GAME the system by intentional non-profit performance. But that only effects taxes, but INVESTOR, SHAREHOLDERS, or UNDERWRITER demand for Return On Investment are going to dump these guys. If I were an investor or shareholder or underwriter , I would DEMAND the taxes and cash flow statements of the companies

BUT, given that the housing market is predicted to continue a downward spiral till the end of 2023, sooner or later, these guys are going to have to either liquidate, or be forced to reduce prices for either ownership or rentals.

Again, if the DEMAND for real estate has crashed enough, more than 1/3rd less sales in housing, that is going to result in significant dropping of values. Especially where in 2016 we had 740,000 tech workers in the area, and recent reports indicate only 400,000 remain, AND the recession has just started. That is a 45% decrease in demand for all PREFERRED customers in this area.

The reality is that there has been a MAJOR change in the demand profile for all economics in this area, and it is still underway. And I still haven't heard anyone discuss the ground instability issue, the last report is 4 years old, long enough to be stale. That data is no longer useful. And WHAT HAPPENED TO THE SEISMIC RETROFIT MANDATES?

There are too many permits issued for the wrong DEMAND now, and a lot of these projects are going to freeze and disappear.

I think many projects under construction are vulnerable to be stopped in mid construction

Posted by JustAWorkingStiff
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Dec 28, 2022 at 11:27 pm

JustAWorkingStiff is a registered user.

I agree with Dan Waylonis.
But would like to add:
Be careful of implementing plans that don't make economic sense

I hear stories of advocating all these special development projects to result in "Affordable
Housing" or BMR (Below Market Rate) Housing". These words are usually bandied about as if some developer will easily just step up to the plate and do a low priced project in an expensive area. Like how do you make that work, other than wishful thinking. Another way to think about it, is if you were doing the work and putting up with all the regulatory compliance issues (for which they add headcount to take care of), why would you do a low profit margin project. Usually, after you cut through the hype, there are a lot of subsidies. And what ever governmental agency or NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) involved is bragging about it but doesn't explain who is paying for these subsidies. They're too busy partying and doing victory laps.

Another consideration usually left out (but getting more attention now) is the Macroeconomic Outlook and what the Federal Reserve Bank is doing to the money supply and mortgage interest rates. Net/Net: we are reversing a 40 cycle of declining interest rates (which was a factor fueling wild increases in asset prices such as housing) and heading to a regime of higher interest rates. Why is this important? Developers, with a higher cost of capital, will have to achieve a higher margins to pass their internal profitability hurdle rates. This dims the outlook for "Affordable" and BMR" housing. Sorry, this isn't what a lot of people want to hear, but it is reality. I expect a lot of projects to either never get off the ground or get cancelled because of the higher interest rates.

Posted by JAFO
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 29, 2022 at 2:19 am

JAFO is a registered user.

Just an Observation,

Again since the PRIVATE housing industry in effect CANNOT chew gum and walk at the same time., they selected only the markets they WANT to serve.

It is time to just say to this market, you either produce affordable housing or we will TAX you the money necessary to build it. Call it a Community Housing Fund that ONLY taxes the real estate and apartment markets.

Also make it illegal to subject lower incomes as a legitimate class of people to discriminate. It in fact already exists, it is called INCLUSIONARY housing MANDATES. They are a part of the Workforce Housing Opportunity Zones. 50% of all units in these projects in these WHOZ are price controlled whether they are rentals or ownership.

Lets just make it applicable to ALL Residential zoning, expand it.

The same goes for any vacant units or even single family homes that are for rent or not being listed for sale.

If you do not want to be in this business, use the Ellis Act and leave it.

Remember the Government NOR the People are responsible for making any "housing business" profitable. That is the RESPONSIBILITY of those businesses. They cannot blame ANYONE other then THEMSELVES for the problem.

As I pointed out above in less than 20 years we had RECORD real estate bubbles. They got a bailout in 2008, but they cannot get one now. Because these people didn't correct their own behavior.

Investors and Speculators paid people to inflate values WAY ABOVE the realistic market values and PREVENTED the market from understanding the amount of danger their investments were in. Especially in an unstable soil environment like CA.

In fact REAL ESTATE AGENTS continue to try to sell properties as INVESTMENTS. BUT, they are not LICENSED INVESTMENT AGENTS. This is fact is WAY outside their professional legal actions, and should have been prosecuted for it for years. Revoking their Real Estate Licenses

Posted by Wheelhog
a resident of Waverly Park
on Dec 29, 2022 at 3:04 pm

Wheelhog is a registered user.

Web Link

Seams like MTN Vw is doing plenty to create new lower income housing.

Also the comments about unstable ground in Mtn Vw are baseless. Find me uncracked asphalt and/or concrete in a commercial or residential development and I’ll buy you a beer.

Posted by LongResident
a resident of another community
on Dec 29, 2022 at 3:51 pm

LongResident is a registered user.

The officially affordable housing unit production has the advantage of not being profit motivated. Historically the results have depended on the 15-20% included in market rate projects by city requirement. That was never a sustainable model for creating enough such units. It was just a small supplement that operated without actual public funding. But the targets set in the current and next cycle RHNA quotas are only achievable with an emphasis on fully funded BMR housing, not developer loading on profit making projects. That's already true.

Now with interest rates going up and speculative funding drying up, the profit making projects will be impacted more than the all-affordable projects or variations thereof. Now is a good time to make progress on public funding for such projects and escalated creation of BMR units. That doesn't need to be curtailed entirely with the economic struggles. It's the truly important need anyway--not luxury housing for disappearing numbers of Tech workers who will be losing their jobs or relocating elsewhere, etc. Sure some will remain but there are vacancies in complated projects that are hiddne fro view and some new projects are still in the pipeline, etc.

The state laws and ABAG and related bureaucracies have never been expecting developers to self fund creating low income housing, nor even moderate income housing. Slowly but surely there has been an increase in various sources of public money to subsidize and pay for creating BMR unit projects. The momentum can sustain some progress in this type of housing unit creation.

It's also true that HCD has used unreasonable population and job estimates in fixing these RHNA quotas anyway. Now with the economy sputtering they have an eexcuse when there imagined needs are proven excessive.

Posted by JAFO
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 29, 2022 at 5:04 pm

JAFO is a registered user.

Just an Observation,

Just understand that cracking and pitting of streets and sidewalks can only occur with unstable ground. Unless the material or the construction is DEFECTIVE, isn't that so? The real problem is that you have City Inspectors and Real Estate Appraisers only using their eyes on the surface to make OPINIONS. No tools are used for non destructive scanning of material, which has been available since the beginning of 2010s . Their OPINIONS are based on JUNK SCIENCE.

The facts are the ground is unstable. The Millennium Tower is a PERFECT example. The fact that there is NO scientific devices used like Ground Penetrating Radar to detect the defects in the soil, is done INTENTIONALLY. Because the results would be REQUIRED to be posted to the public, and that would crash the land values of the state of CA.

Given that all Real Estate Agencies ARE NOT LICENSED INVESTMENT PROFESSIONALS, make all of the so-called Z-estimates, and other values totally without merit. There is no Scientific method used to quantify the value based on REAL RESEARCH of the quality of the land, nor the quality of construction, nor even having a record of all repairs done on a building.

The facts are at least with CARFAX you can get an unfiltered record of the vehicle history based on the VIN.

The purchase of a home or building is the most risky purchase you can imagine. And it is ABOUT TIME to force a CARFAX database on all real estate, which WILL permanently correct for the insanity of how REAL ESTYATE AGENTS get away with violating the PROFESSION CODE of CA.

Finally remember most affordable housing so far in Mountain view is being only available to EMPLOYEES of the City or the Schools. Thus that is NOT ADDRESSING THE PUBLIC NEED OF AFFORDABLE HOUSING.

Time for the people here to understand the disaster we are ALL in.

Posted by Leslie Bain
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jan 15, 2023 at 2:53 pm

Leslie Bain is a registered user.

@LongResident: “The danger is in the zeal to meet the numbers, [MV] has overly weighted development encouragement for any housing whatsoever, which is exacerbating the tendency of developers to go for expensive housing. It's not a true market situation … Needs aren't building the market, but stereotypes and YIMBY advocates are yammering that luxury housing is just as important as less expensive housing.”

Agreed. The MOST IMPORTANT RHNA targets are being almost completely ignored, targets that would PROTECT and actually PREVENT DISPLACEMENT of existing residents.

For 2014-2022, RHNA says that 6,225 of the 11,135 new housing units (56% of the target) are to be constructed for those NOT in the highest wage earner category. According to 2020 census data, over half the population of MV are not “highest wage earners”. IT MAKES TOTAL SENSE that OVER HALF (or 50%) of the housing units constructed need to be built that are affordable TO THEM.

FACT: almost 90% of housing units built are targeted for only the MOST AFFLUENT households. And we only get the MEASLY 10% that we do for everyone else because of FINANCIAL INCENTIVES offered by the State (such as “density bonus laws”). Most developers basically take a loss when they build it, which they don't like to do. I don't blame them for that, per se, they would rather build stuff with the biggest ROI. Capitalism!

Now consider: the primary funding for affordable housing comes from … wait for it … for-profit developers! What. Could. Possibly. Go. Wrong?

In order to PREVENT DISPLACEMENT for the majority of MV RESIDENTS - we need to be building MORE AFFORDABLE housing. 10% of all housing units is NOT ENOUGH.

The problem is not ZONING, the problem is FUNDING. If you want to grow rice in a desert, you need a lot of water. No water = no rice. If you want to create affordable housing in an area where housing costs are naturally high (Location! Location! Location!), you need a lot of FUNDING. No funding = no affordable housing.

Posted by Steven Goldstein
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 15, 2023 at 4:44 pm

Steven Goldstein is a registered user.

Just an Observation,

What is the real problem with Mountain view is what is called REDLINING and SOCIAL ENGINEERING. The so called housing providers want to DICTATE what market they want to sell to in the city. The same problem is occurring in the Auto market too

The Auto Industry is seeing a major crash in sales, and many dealerships are at high risk of failure. They simply will not cut prices on inventory that does not sell.

And example, a car is offered to be bought at $25,000 by a customer, but the dealership demands $26,000. The customer leaves with NO SALE. The Dealership goes to auction to try to off load it. And the Auctions only provide a bid of $14,000. The Dealer paid $17,500 wholesale. Again a NO SALE. In the meantime it costs $750 a month to keep it in condition to sell, and it can cost at least $1,000 a month in inventory costs. Say the car winds up in inventory for 6 months, that is a cost of $10,500 for the dealer on top of the wholesale cost. That means the car has cost the dealership in this example $38,000 on a sale of maybe $26,000, a loss of $12,000, instead of a loss of $1,000,

The same thing is happening in the housing market but worse.

Face it people, the only ones you want to build for are leaving, and not coming back, and if you dictate that only 93 octane housing will be built, you are going to wind up broke. You need to start building in parity with housing demand, you should be using the ABAG RHNA analysis to design your building plans. If you did, you would seen less risk and more stable business. But as of now you are like the Auto Industry.

Time for the MARKET to recognize that DEMAND is in control here not SUPPLY.

Posted by Leslie Bain
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jan 16, 2023 at 3:40 pm

Leslie Bain is a registered user.

@Steven, the author of this article is Emily Ann Ramos, greatly respected in many circles for her work to fight for affordable housing for working class people. Her article relates to the question, “What should MV do to prevent existing residents from being harmed by the gentrification of MV?”

“Without strong action, Mountain View could lose more longtime residents. In the last few years hundreds of older apartments that were more affordable to working families have been torn down and replaced by luxury townhomes leaving these residents with nowhere to go. As we watched the demolition of 2005 Rock Street, 1950 Montecito Avenue and other rent-controlled apartments, it became glaringly clear that we need more tools to prevent the displacement of Mountain View residents.”

Ramos is calling for a permanent displacement strategy in MV, a set of policies and programs, that would address these challenges. “Housing providers”, as you put it, would be subject to these policies.

One suggestion that I have for Ramos: there is an old saying in business, "whatever is measured improves". Most businesses have metrics programs and dashboards to help execs understand the health of their company. I would like to see the city set up metrics page(s) on our public website to track how we as a city are doing at meeting our RHNA goals for every income category. FACT: over the last 8 year cycle, the goals for every income category other than “highest wage earners” WERE NOT MET. This is our core problem – we are simply NOT BUILDING enough affordable housing for lower income categories. Let's stop ignoring this basic truth.

Every time a developer seeks approval for a new project, our progress towards RHNA targets should be reviewed. Every single time the city council approves a project where almost 90% of the units are market-rate, which is what happens MOST of the time, OVER HALF the existing residents of MV are priced out of living there. That is what DISPLACEMENT is all about.

Posted by Steven Goldstein
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 16, 2023 at 5:28 pm

Steven Goldstein is a registered user.

Just an Observation,


You should be aware that the U.S. Supreme Court stated:

Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project, Inc. (2015) In this case, the Court decided that claims of racial discrimination in housing cases should not be limited by questions of intent. The Court upheld the application of disparate impact under the Fair Housing Act. Although the Court upheld the theory, it did impose major limitations on its application in practice.

Bank of America v. City of Miami (2017) The Court ruled that cities can sue banks over Fair Housing Act violations if they target minorities.

The fact is that if the City persists in acting in ways that disparately impact any protected group, it is going to wind up in trouble, and the same goes for the housing developer or provider because:

"Finding a place to live, acquiring lodging, or purchasing a home fulfills our basic needs of shelter, but also provides a sense of comfort and security. Imagine when this security is disrupted due to housing discrimination; it can be a devastating obstacle to an essential part of your life. Housing discrimination is illegal under federal law via the Fair Housing Act of 1968 (FHA). Under the FHA, in the sale and rental of housing, property owners, landlords, and financial institutions may not take any of the following actions (or inaction) based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability/handicap:

Refuse to rent or sell housing Refuse to negotiate for housing Making housing available Deny a dwelling Set different terms, conditions, or privileges for the sale or rental of a dwelling Provide different housing services or facilities Falsely deny that housing is available for inspection, sale, or rental For profit, persuade owners to sell, or rent (blockbusting) or Deny anyone access to or membership in a facility or service

Posted by Steven Nelson
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jan 16, 2023 at 8:46 pm

Steven Nelson is a registered user.

@Leslie - sorry I didn't read this citizen posting (and comments) earlier. I really like your POST THE METRICS suggestion for the Mayor. (He is a real Mayor, even though we have a "council/manager" type of city charter). The Mayor can really 'help set the agenda' - at least - so that good housing ideas get discussed at his legislative level.

Don't you think - if enough low-moderate (under Median family income) smaller housing was built (1000 sf or less) that there would be renters/buyers interested in it? In living in Mountain View? I sure do.

Posted by Steven Goldstein
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 17, 2023 at 12:34 pm

Steven Goldstein is a registered user.

Just an Observation,

The Mountain View MAYOR has NO EXECUTIVE powers over the City Government. So the City Mayor is nothing but a person that "can make opinions" but has no executive power to do anything.

He has no staff, he has no power over any agency of the City except for holding City Council meetings and maybe passing ordinances and that is it. He has no enforcement authority over anything.

In fact it appears the City Manager has all the power over the City Council, because the manager has DIRECT power over the City Agencies.

Please understand the City Charter needs a major overhaul.

Posted by Leslie Bain
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jan 17, 2023 at 1:52 pm

Leslie Bain is a registered user.

@Steven Nelson, your comment warms my heart. I hope that others agree that the POST THE METRICS idea is a good one. BTW, you might have missed the fact that our Mayor is now a "she"? Web Link And yes, Alison Hicks will be a real Mayor too.

"Don't you think - if enough low-moderate (under Median family income) smaller housing was built (1000 sf or less) that there would be renters/buyers interested in it? In living in Mountain View? I sure do."

Yes, I do, of course I do, you and I share common ground on that. Many such persons already live here today! IMHO, we have high housing costs because we are blessed (cursed?) with "Location! Location! Location!". Back in the day, we used to joke about the "Sunshine Tax", there are so many wonderful attributes to where we live, so many people would love to live here.

What I am opposed to are policies that serve to increase the GENTRIFICATION of MV while they PRETEND to be about increasing "affordable" housing. Gentrification happens when 90% of housing units constructed are only "affordable" to the highest wage earners. Hubby and I have lived here for almost 40 years, we wanted to raise a family with the kind of racial and socio-economic diversity that MV always had in the past (before Google moved in, that is). MV has always been a progressive little city that cares about social justice issues. I want to keep it that way.

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