Mountain View Voice

News - September 6, 2013

Affordable housing complex gets high praise at opening

by Daniel DeBolt

Being picked to live in one of 51 new subsidized apartments on Evelyn Avenue and Franklin Street in downtown Mountain View was a bit like winning the lottery, residents said at a Sept. 4 grand opening.

In a development initiated by the city government to house low-income families a block from Castro Street and the downtown train station, the $23.4 million complex is now home to residents who make less than half the county's median income.

"It's a wonderful place to live," said resident Mary Kroger. "My children, husband and I feel like we won the lottery." Living there will "help us develop our retirement and send our kids off to a good future."

"It's awesome — I love it," said Jasmine Maduro, a Mission College student on government assistance who lives in a three-bedroom unit with her aunt and her daughter. The young mother was born and raised in Mountain View, and now she is a bit more committed to staying in the city, she said.

Even as she pointed to the noisy rear patio of the Tied House near her double-paned back window, Maduro said, "I feel safe."

Maduro said she pays not much more than $700 a month in rent, in a part of downtown where such a unit would normally cost $4,000 a month or more. Rents in the complex range from $563 to $1,600 for one-, two- and three-bedroom units.

In an opening ceremony on the complex's courtyard, which includes a playground, developers, investors and city officials lauded the project's high quality and ideal location.

"This place is truly amazing," said Google investment manager Kojo Ako-Asare at the opening ceremony. "I wanted to move in here because it's certainly better than the place where I live," he joked.

Google purchased $6.5 million in bonds that funded the project, an investment that provides a tax credit for the Internet giant. Google has invested similarly in 15 other projects around the U.S., including one in Sunnyvale. "It was very clear to me and my fellow Googlers that the project was a worthwhile investment," Ako-Asare said.

Council member Mike Kasperzak said Google's significant "philanthropic action" on the project was actually the donation of $81,859 for free WiFi in the building, and computers and furniture in the complex's computer room.

"If Google hadn't bought the bonds somebody else who wanted a 4 percent tax credit would have bought them," Kasperzak said.

The building won a LEED platinum rating for environmentally friendly design, with solar panels, free transit passes for residents and energy-efficient appliances. It was built on time and on budget, according to developer Robert Emami of ROEM.

"This is by far the nicest project ROEM has built," said Jonathan Emami, ROEM vice president.

Mayor John Inks called it a "spectacular piece of architecture." He credited the property-tax payers of the now defunct downtown revitalization district for funding much of the project.

Email Daniel DeBolt at ddebolt@mv-voice.com

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