While details about trees and architecture have yet to be worked out, the City Council approved a master plan for a 260-unit housing project at the site of the former Mayfield Mall Tuesday night, in what appears to be a quiet end for a once-controversial project.
"Some of us have been with this project 10 years now," said Mayor Jac Siegel at the end of an unusually quick and easy meeting, which gave developer Summit Land Partners proper zoning and parcel map for the 21-acre project at Central Expressway and San Antonio Road.
The council voted unanimously to approve the project, with council members Ronit Bryant and John Inks recused because of conflicts of interest. Bryant's husband works for Hewlett Packard, which is selling the property, and Inks owns property within 500 feet.
Council member Laura Macias remarked at how few public speakers there were Tuesday night compared to the last time, when the council approved a previous iteration of the project with 450 units. Developer Toll Brothers passed on their option to buy the property and develop that plan when the recession hit.
Only two people spoke with concerns about traffic, the loss of native trees and the safety of the pedestrian tunnel under Central Expressway to the San Antonio train station that the developer has agreed to build.
City staff reported that 30 neighbors were pleased overall with the project at a May 11 community meeting. But while the protests have subsided, neighbors are still concerned about traffic, said Monta Loma Neighborhood Association vice president Helen Wolter. She reported Tuesday that 60 percent of the neighborhood's 1,000 households remain concerned about traffic impacts. Walter said new Mayfield residents might use the neighborhood as a cut-through to Highway 101.
The council will sign off on final plans for the project in August or September after review by architects on the city's development review committee.
Though the $6 million tunnel was a leftover requirement from the previous project, Summit vice president Rhonda Neely reassured council members, "We're going full speed ahead with the tunnel."
She said Summit wanted an out-clause on the requirement if the tunnel was found infeasible because of plans to add to high-speed rail tracks to the Caltrain corridor.
Summit will soon begin a year-long demolition of the 500,000-square-foot building that was once the Mayfield Mall. The property is being sold by Hewlett Packard, which more recently used it as an office building.
Development partner William Lyon Homes will build up to 260 homes with an estimated average price of $913,000. The city expects to see an increase of $154,000 in property taxes from the $235 million project.
Instead of including 26 below-market-rate homes in the project, the city will be paid $7 million in fees to go toward subsidized below-market-rate housing elsewhere.
The plan includes two-story, single-family homes around the north and east edges of the site and the rest as three-story condominium buildings. The condos have individual garages, 39 percent of which have controversial tandem parking (cars park front to back, increasing on-street parking), the highest percentage of any development in the city.
There is space for two public parks that have yet to be designed. The total size of the parks, 3.62 acres, is more than twice the size of what would normally be required. Monta Loma neighborhood residents who have long complained of a relative lack of park space in the area.
A lot about trees
In total, 456 trees will have to be removed from the Mountain View side of the project, including 163 large heritage trees and 55 coastal redwoods. Summit proposes to add 613 trees.
The City Council received a petition from 36 people and several letters from neighbors decrying the loss of trees and lack of native and drought-tolerant trees proposed for the project, with arborist Dave Muffly noting an "almost total lack of drought tolerance among the trees selected."
Summit's Tim Unger noted that the existing redwoods are relatively thirsty. Other trees that neighbors expressed dismay about losing are not native, he said. Nevertheless, Neely said Summit has "no motivation not to work with the community of Monta Loma" in selecting proper trees for the project.
Dozens of redwood trees would be relocated on site, and an arborist hired by Summit predicted a 95-percent survival rate for the redwoods. A survey of bird's nests would be conducted to make sure that no birds are harmed as trees are removed.
About a dozen of the redwoods on the site could remain in one of the two parks, Mayfield Park, but that may require an unattractive 6-foot retaining wall on the edge of the park. Neely said Summit is hoping to remove and replace the trees lower in the ground, but the feasibility of such a plan is uncertain.