The North County Social Services Agency is settling in nicely to its new digs, according to the organization's director.
However, the agency, which had to move from its former location at 100 Moffett Blvd., to its new offices at 1330 W. Middlefield Road, almost had to pack up everything and move back to the county seat in San Jose -- which would have been a serious loss for the less-fortunate north county locals, according to Mountain View's representative on the county Board of Supervisors.
The county agency charged with helping low-income mid-Peninsula residents find work, feed themselves and their families, and get access to financial assistance, fell on hard times toward the end of 2013.
In December, the North County Social Services Agency got word that it would have to find a new home. The agency's landlord, Prometheus Real Estate Group, planned to knock down the building that housed the agency and replace it with a 184-unit luxury apartment complex of one- and two-bedroom units that would be rented for as much as $8,000 a month.
"These things happen in real estate," said Bruce Wagstaff, director of the Santa Clara County Social Services Agency, which runs offices in Mountain View, San Jose and Gilroy.
It was a particularly challenging time to cut loose from a lease -- even for an organization backed by the county. Wagstaff said "it wasn't easy" to find a location in the Mountain View. "It's a competitive environment."
At the time, Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian said he was concerned that the agency would have to relocate to San Jose -- effectively leaving the northern portion of the county without access to a local social services office. There was a precedent for it, after all. The same thing almost happened in the late 1990s, during his first tenure as supervisor of the fifth district, which includes Mountain View and Palo Alto, and runs all the way down to Saratoga.
Both times Simitian advocated to keep a location in Mountain View. "The folks in Mountain View and the greater north county area need this help," Simitian told the Voice.
"People think that because it's a prosperous area, there is no need for social services," he said. In fact, the opposite is true in his view. The cost of real estate, food and transportation is high in Silicon Valley. "All of those things combine to make it very tough on people of modest means in north county."
If the agency pulled out of Mountain View, that would have meant locals in need of its services would have to get down to San Jose -- a difficult task for those who don't have a car.
Simitian said he is happy that the agency was able to stay in Mountain View. The new building on West Middlefield Road has more space and is easily accessible to public transit. "A lot of folks need help, and I'm glad the help is where it's needed right there in the heart of (Mountain View)," he said.
Keeping the agency in Mountain Vie means that a more diverse population can continue to carve out a life in the heart of Silicon Valley. To Simitian, "diversity" doesn't just mean a variety of different races and ethnic backgrounds. "When we talk about a diverse community, we ought to be talking about economic diversity, (too)," he said.