Developer wants to demolish historic home


One of the first homes ever built in Mountain View's downtown area would be demolished if developer Roger Burnell's proposal for an office building is approved by the City Council next month.

Following Burnell's unsuccessful attempts to move the 140 year old Pearson House at 902 Villa St.,a draft environmental impact report has been created as a first step toward demolition. It finds the "1870s home" to be "locally significant and historic" and the demolition to be a "significant and unavoidable impact."

Zoning Administrator Peter Gilli is set to make a recommendation on Burnell's proposed project at his June 13 meeting, set for at 4 p.m. in City Hall. A City Council decision on the project is expected July 10.

Burnell proposes a 21,750-square-foot building to be called "Bryant Park Plaza" with first-floor retail and parking. The building would be four stories tall, or 61 feet high, with balconies overlooking the surrounding properties. It would be built just 5 feet from the fence line with neighboring gourmet restaurant Chez TJ. Restaurant officials say it would be overshadowed by the four-story building.

"He tried to save the house and was thinking of moving it to Cuesta Annex, but that fell through," said City Planner Scott Plambaeck.

The City Council rejected a plan to include the Pearson House as part of a city history museum, as proposed by Burnell and the Mountain View Historical Association. "He looked at private sites and couldn't find any," Plambaeck said.

Burnell is traveling in Europe and was not available for comment, said an assistant in an email.

The home is known as the Pearson House because the second known owner was Charles Pearson, who owned the house from 1892 to 1946. Pearson was an entrepreneur in early Mountain View, who owned a grocery store from 1905-1918 in a building he built at 220-230 Castro Street. Bbefore that, Pearson briefly ran the Old Haverty Corner Saloon on Castro and Villa. The saloon may have failed because the temperance movement was strong in Mountain View's early days, thanks to a large presence of Seventh Day Adventists, according to an EIR report on the home's history by Leslie Dill of Dill Design Group.

"How significant these businesses were and what role these businesses played as well as the role played by Mr. Pearson himself in the community of Mountain View, is not established ," Dill writes.

Like most of downtown, the home was built on land originally part of "Rancho pastoria de las Borregas," 8,800 acres granted to the family of Mariano Castro by the Mexican government in 1842. The Castros gave 3,300 acres to their attorney Sherman Houghton, in exchange for protecting their claim to the land in state Supreme Court. Houghton named the area "Villa lands," and laid out streets and town near a depot he established on the 1864-built train line. He sold much of Villa Lands to Doctor Bowling Bailey, a state Assemblyman, farmer and school trustee, who developed the area between 1859 and 1888, including the Pearson House.

Dill's report includes a long list of owners and tenants, none of whom appear to be historically important. In 1947, Pacific Telephone used the home as an office. The first known owners were Mathurin and Georgette LeDeit, from 1888 to 1892. Le Deit was a French-born butcher who worked in San Jose.

The now dilapidated, vacant house and two smaller buildings on the property "are not adequately distinctive in character and are not identified with significant persons or events," Dill concludes. "This property does not appear to contribute to the understanding of the broad patterns of history and cultural heritage in the development of Mountain View California or the United States."

The EIR adds that if the house had to be restored, "it is unknown whether the cost of moving and rehabilitating this home would exceed the value of the house to a private party, the Mountain View Historical Association, or the City."

Evidence of some water and pest damage is noted in the report.

The EIR, including site plans and Pearson House history, is available at


Like this comment
Posted by Litsa
a resident of St. Francis Acres
on Jun 8, 2012 at 11:26 am

I'm sure the City Council will all agree to demo the house, since it's not generating any revenue.
Forget the historical footprint. Pay the council enough money and you can build whatever you please.

Like this comment
Posted by Paul W.
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 8, 2012 at 2:06 pm

This is ridiculous. For those who haven't been following along, Roger Burnell put up an ugly fence around the house, spray painted all around it and on the ground to make it look even worse than it already did, and then boarded up the windows to ensure that there was no way anyone could renovate the house.

Like this comment
Posted by @Litsa
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 8, 2012 at 2:26 pm

Not helpful at all.

Like this comment
Posted by Lupe P
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jun 8, 2012 at 3:03 pm

how would leaving this house benefit the city?

Like this comment
Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Jun 8, 2012 at 3:04 pm

This old home has been in a sad state, been empty for a long time. One time a small shop called it home if you went you saw the poor state of the place. The city could have taken the place, picked it up and moved it to Cuesta Park annex but that turned out not a good option. The cost of fixing the place up for such a poor return on investment. You could spend public dollars on this old building or use funds on the teen center, a park or better yet fix up some classrooms

Like this comment
Posted by Tear It Down
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 8, 2012 at 3:47 pm

This useless building has been an eye sore since at least the early 90's when I first moved to the area. Over the years, many different businesses have been tried there and all have failed. The best option is to tear it down and repurpose it to more condos or more office space, both of which are needed in down town.

Like this comment
Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Whisman Station
on Jun 8, 2012 at 4:24 pm

Just another example of why I left MV and never looked back...

In Denver, WHOLE CITY BLOCKS are made into Historic Neighborhoods. One of them is the size of downtown Mtn. View!

For instance, Black Hawk & Central City became gambling towns, but part of the big carrot was to maintain the original buildings!

And maintain they did! I saw the change from dilapidated old ( some empty ) buildings that became gambling hot spots. Like in the other post, don't hand the keys to the city to a developer. Don't try to collect your 30 pieces of silver...

Keep your past...or you will probably no longer be Mtn. View, just a suburb of San-San..( SJC to SFO )

( The irony: I have a better Mountain View from my deck and front steps than when I lived there in YOUR Mtn. View twenty years ago...)

Like this comment
Posted by Monica
a resident of North Whisman
on Jun 8, 2012 at 4:42 pm

We are talking about the same house, right? The dilapidated eyesore on a blighted corner near central downtown Mountain View?

It's not particularly old, is not architecturally distinctive, and didn't play any particular role in MV history. There really is no reason to keep it for the sake of keeping it.

@ the_punnisher: Seriously? Comparing a little Silicon Valley town to the one of the biggest and most historically significant cities of the western states is just stupid beyond belief. It's like comparing apples and walnuts. Then again, you can't even spell your own user name.

Like this comment
Posted by Mark
a resident of Rex Manor
on Jun 8, 2012 at 5:10 pm

The house is so dilapidated that rebuilding it would replace nearly all of the material, leaving nothing of historical value. In that case, it would be much better to build a new house in the same style of this house (I think it is a very cute house) in a residential neighborhood, with modern building codes.

Like this comment
Posted by Steve
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jun 8, 2012 at 5:33 pm

That place is disgusting and an eyesore. Please tear it down and build something that brings more people to downtown and makes it a more vibrant place to be.

Like this comment
Posted by Daisy
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 8, 2012 at 6:13 pm

Paul W. is right, after the fence went up, the homeless moved in ensuring that the place was too far gone to be renovated, and made it look ugly so noone would fight for it. It's of historical significance to Mountain View because it shows how a small business man and his family lived. Mansions are not the only piece of historical significance in this world.

Like this comment
Posted by Rodger
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jun 8, 2012 at 7:03 pm

I think a 3 story building would be enough and not so close to the lot lines as proposed.

Like this comment
Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Jun 9, 2012 at 7:29 am

Are we going to save every bit of history to prevents changes in the present that could hinder our future.

Like this comment
Posted by Bruno
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 11, 2012 at 11:14 am

I hear there's this thing called snow in Denver. I'll just stay here, thanks.

Like this comment
Posted by Otto Maddox
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jun 11, 2012 at 2:56 pm

Anyone saying to "save" this building has not seen it lately.

And the idea that we need to save every house that a small merchant lived in is just silly.

I know real property rights died a long time ago in this city but I still feel a person can do whatever they want with their property.

If this house is so historic then someone should put up the money (not tax money) and move it someplace and preserve it.

But just like Hangar One there are a lot of complainers but no one willing to pay the bill.

Like this comment
Posted by something smells
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 13, 2012 at 6:06 pm

Something smells funny here, Roger Burnell has done everything and anything possible to marginalize this property, it wouldn't surprise me if he had his employees write in negative comments here.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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