Council may kill Google housing in General Plan vote Tuesday


The city's roadmap for development through 2030 is finally ready for a City Council vote after four years of work, and council members say they will vote against an option for 1,100 apartments that Google wants near its headquarters.

Council members split 4-3 in a July 3 straw vote over whether to zone for apartments north of Highway 101, putting the city in disagreement with Google, local environmentalists, a majority of the Environmental Planning Commission and the Chamber of Commerce, which has gone as far as to post a Youtube video asking the council to leave housing as an option for North Bayshore.

"For hiring talent we turn over every rock in the world," said Google real estate chief David Radcliffe during the July 3 study session. "What we hear from people is they want to live near where they work. We fully support housing" in North Bayshore.

Council members cited impacts to the rare burrowing owl at Shoreline Park among the reasons for their opposition to new North Bayshore housing, noting feral cats and loose dogs already pose a major threat. They also cited the lack of a plan to control traffic, though supporters say housing there would decrease trips to and from jobs in the area.

"I have seen traffic backed up from El Camino Real all the way over the overpass to North Bayshore," said resident Joan McDonald. "That is absolutely unacceptable. If there isn't residential there it's just going to get worse."

"I really hope we don't rule out housing at a general plan level," said planning commissioner Chris Clark. "I think we can create a model community. We can say 'no pets' and 'you must have an office in the North Bayshore Area.'"

The Audubon Society and the Sierra Club also opposed new housing in North Bayshore on Tuesday. Audubon's Shani Kleinhaus said it was a fallacy that 5,000 homes in North Bayshore would have no significant environmental impact. She said such development would mean the burrowing owls "would be gone forever."

"We feel this is really a line in the sand for the birds," Kleinhaus said.

To ease the impact on the edges of North Bayshore, where wildlife exists in Shoreline Park and Stevens Creek, Google wants to transfer development rights from the edge of North Bayshore to allow more intense development in the center, Radcliffe said.

"The transfer of development rights is critical," he said. "We think we can bring people from the edges and bring them to the middle" of North Bayshore.

Council members had little to say about the North Bayshore housing issue on July 3. Council member Laura Macias explained her opposition in an email.

"North Bayshore and Shoreline Park, which is essential wildlife refuge, is all the wild lands that we have left in Mountain View," Macias said. "There is no more. (Highway) 101 and very little housing in North Bayshore have provided a helpful barrier to protect the wildlife. Although presently, feral cats fed by corporate employees and dogs off leash near Vista Slope are endangering the twenty-plus species that live in the North Bayshore area that are already endangered.

"So this is about balance. Having housing for people is important. And we also need to provide housing for the wildlife that lives in North Bayshore and Shoreline Park."

Council member Ronit Bryant also explained her opposition in an email.

"Initially the thought of including housing in the mix sounded intriguing and I was in favor of investigating it," Bryant wrote. "But the contemplated 1,550 units are not enough to create a real place, a neighborhood with services, retail, schools -- the kind of place our residents have told us they want. I am not interested in creating an enclave of dense apartment blocks isolated from the rest of Mountain View -- nor am I interested in inventing a whole new city along the bay, just a short walk away (takes me 20 minutes) from our vibrant downtown.

"And then there's the nature of North Bayshore. I envision it as an outstanding place along the bay where wildlife and cutting-edge technologies coexist. We've done well so far. We will do even better in the future. Housing is no more than a short walk away on the other side of 101. Several new apartment projects have recently been approved in Mountain View -- but there is no way we can single-handedly, in our 12-square mile city, solve the Bay Area's housing difficulties."

While council member Macias wondered aloud Tuesday why North Bayshore housing wasn't yet off the table, planning director Randy Tsuda said because of the environmental planning commission's support there would be an alternate general plan ready to go in case the council votes for North Bayshore housing Tuesday.

The council had taken a straw vote on North Bayshore housing during an April workshop with similar results -- 5-2 with members John Inks and Mayor Mike Kasperzak in support. On Tuesday member Tom Means joined them in a 4-3 straw vote.

Several Google employees spoke in support of housing, including one Google employee who said he'd be first in line for a studio near Google headquarters. He said he had slept in his van in the Google parking lot to avoid the environmental impact of commuting to work.

"I personally believe anybody aware of global issues, everything from traffic congestion to ocean acidification, would not drive a car to work," he said.

Google employees who live in other cities are more likely to commute by transit or bike than those who live in Mountain View, said Google employee David Fork. "The hardest nut to crack are people who live close to Google," Fork said. "We know that from data."

The draft general plan allows more intense development in key areas of the city, including Moffett Boulevard, the East Whisman area, the San Antonio Shopping Center area, El Camino Real and North Bayshore.

According to the draft plan, most new development in the city will occur in North Bayshore, including 3.9 million square feet of new office space by 2030 and as many as 293 hotel rooms. East Whisman will see similar intensification of office use to North Bayshore, with allowed maximum densities more than doubling.

On Tuesday Bryant also opposed much more development in North Bayshore without serious traffic mitigation measures.

"Nothing is well connected in North Bayshore," Bryant said. "I don't want to move forward with intensification until we resolve traffic issues, something like Stanford's no net increases in car travel. If problems can't be resolved, they can't be resolved and we can't intensify."

City-wide, new zoning may allow as many as 6,539 new housing units, mostly on El Camino Real and the San Antonio area, 498 of which are single-family homes, while the rest are multi-family. The city's population could grow from 73,860 to 88,570.

The plan also anticipates the addition of 31 acres of new park space in Mountain View, including a new 20-acre regional park, two new three-acre neighborhood parks, and four new mini-parks totaling five acres. All of the parks are expected to be built in areas deficient in park space near Highway 101.

Google is eager to move ahead with its development plans in North Bayshore, which it owns much of but has yet to build on. North Bayshore housing or not, Radcliffe said he hopes "we make a decision and we move forward with the general plan. Our business has been waiting eagerly for three to four years now."


Like this comment
Posted by John
a resident of Whisman Station
on Jul 7, 2012 at 3:28 pm

Do no evil!

Like this comment
Posted by john doe
a resident of The Crossings
on Jul 8, 2012 at 11:55 am

I want to correct an error in the reporting above. By no means did the "entire Environmental Planning Commission" vote to include housing. It was a 5 to 2 vote.
It is a disservice to alter the facts. This should be corrected.


Like this comment
Posted by Gwen
a resident of The Crossings
on Jul 9, 2012 at 7:15 am

Are there plans to build another school for this increase in population? I keep reading about new housing, but never about how this will impact education in the city.

Like this comment
Posted by Rebecca
a resident of North Whisman
on Jul 9, 2012 at 11:13 am

Thank to those council members that voted no. The North Bayshore area is an environmental treasure that will become increasingly important as the city grows and more and more people rely on this area for respite from urbanization. We in Silicon Valley are the best and the brightest, we can plan for population expansion and maintain what natural areas we have. Otherwise, what will seperate Mt. View from all the other development parks in the region? I love Google and want to see them maintain the low profile, open air feel that is there now. What a tresure.

Like this comment
Posted by gitadev
a resident of another community
on Jul 9, 2012 at 12:41 pm

John Doe (above) is right on - The final vote was 5-2
NOT 7-0 as the Mr DeBolt erroneously reports.
The Planing Commission had three members who spoke on why they were concerned about inserting 1,100 units of housing in North Bayshore.

But reporting is getting sloppy..

Like this comment
Posted by Eric Rosenberg
a resident of another community
on Jul 9, 2012 at 1:02 pm

I drive in this area a lot, the weekday traffic is already unbearable, adding that much more traffic for residences in the area, said residents taking kids to and from schools, all of which are the other side of Hwy 101, etc. would make the area even worse than it is now.

I am also concerned that this type of development would start eliminating what open space is left for wildlife. Not all the birds and animals in the shoreline area live on the bay, a large number of them rely on the open fields for food and nesting habbitat.

Like this comment
Posted by Questions
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jul 9, 2012 at 2:27 pm

I think that Google already offers some service to pick up and take home some of their employees, right?
They also give some sort of incentive for their employees to ride bikes to and from work, right?
Why don't the employees use this service more? If necessary Google should offer more of transportation for their employees.

Just asking...

Like this comment
Posted by Tina
a resident of Jackson Park
on Jul 9, 2012 at 2:28 pm

What about Moffett Field? There's already housing there... Wouldn't the gov't be anxious for someone to take if off their hands? Roads, retail & everything is all set up. Google could come in & beautify it (which it desperately needs) and together they could get the groundwater problem dealt with. That way, the blight of Moffett Field could be dealt with and North Bayshore could be preserved. Much easier to build connecting roads & bike paths from Moffett to Google than having to cross 101, too... And it would ease congestion for the west-of-101 traffic.

Like this comment
Posted by Yuki
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 9, 2012 at 2:50 pm

Maybe "Mountain View" should vote a name change to "Google View"?

Like this comment
Posted by Steve
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jul 9, 2012 at 3:39 pm

Tina: Sheer genius! Everyone wins. Sadly, it's too practical to stand a chance around here.

Like this comment
Posted by gitadev
a resident of another community
on Jul 9, 2012 at 3:45 pm

Council members Macias, Siegal, Bryant and Abe-Koga all deserve kudos for their courage in looking out for the long-term health of the city and its economic future.

I would also like to point out that the real issue- which the housing hysteria is carefully distracting from - is that the North Bayshore area is densifying a lot. Google and the Chamber would prefer this issue not be focused on by the public or the Council. Given that 101, Shoreline and Rengstroff are all at capacity, the conversation would normally have been about whether this density is feasible at this time.

Like this comment
Posted by Andrew
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jul 9, 2012 at 4:05 pm

How building of new apartments can help to ease the traffic? People living there will have to drive there children to schools anyway. Then they will drive to work on the same streets that are already congested.

Like this comment
Posted by Samantha
a resident of Whisman Station
on Jul 9, 2012 at 4:24 pm

I applaud the council members who voted no to Google providing residential units for an "ELITE" group of their employees, will everyone else be excluded from living in this area, this is terrible, and shame on the council memebers who want to turn this area into a Google controlled facility. This area should be used by all in Mountain View not just employees of Google

Like this comment
Posted by Jarrett
a resident of Castro City
on Jul 9, 2012 at 4:37 pm

@ Rebecca–

Under the proposal that was being crafted for North Bayshore, development would actually be concentrated along North Shoreline Boulevard and the edges would be repurposed from parking lots to open space. This would make transit service more effective since Shoreline is a natural spine that links the area to the rest of the city. Even if housing wasn't allowed, there will still be substantial job growth in the area. The General Plan allows up to 30K jobs in North Bayshore, up from about 18K today.

By adding housing to the mix, you can give people a choice to live near their job and not compound to the traffic problem. Obviously not everyone wants to live close to their job, but why are we forcing the people who do want to live close to commute?

@Andrew– There are interventions to discourage driving which will need be explored whether or not housing is allowed. For example, Stanford has an extensive Transportation Demand Management program that was developed in response to a policy that allowed near infinite university expansion, as long as they didn't exceed year 2000 car trip counts. They've achieved the goal thus far despite big medical center and research building expansions.

Housing is an important part of the strategy because it gets people off the road who really, really don't want to be there in the first place. The area would likely have multifamily development which would limit school-age children as enrollment data from Los Altos Unified School District has shown for developments such as Avalon Towers. At the end of the day people will still be driving, but they'll be driving much less than if it remained single use office.

Like this comment
Posted by GSarducci
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jul 9, 2012 at 4:58 pm

Tying housing to jobs is feasible in remote mining town, and highly undesirable here. In a fantasy world all the residents of these new units would work a bike ride away at Google. Reality shatters that. A couple lives there and only one works at Google. Someone quits but keeps their apartment. We have to assume it's generic housing, not housing for employees living nearby. Then we ask, is this the best place for housing: climate, soil, schools and shopping? I'd say, no.

Like this comment
Posted by Doug Pearson
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jul 9, 2012 at 9:25 pm

I'm with Jarrett; I think housing is needed in North of Bayshore, along with the planned expansion of offices and retail. The existing retail businesses in North of Bayshore are already crying for residents (customers).

Like this comment
Posted by Cindy
a resident of Whisman Station
on Jul 9, 2012 at 10:36 pm

Can someone explain exactly where "North of Bayshore" boundaries are?

Like this comment
Posted by Henry
a resident of North Whisman
on Jul 9, 2012 at 11:09 pm

Thanks Cindy~ I'd like to know the boundaries as well.

Like this comment
Posted by susan johnson
a resident of North Whisman
on Jul 9, 2012 at 11:39 pm

North Bayshore is area between 101 and Shoreline, between Stevens Creek and San Antonio. It is a small area - less than a square mile. There are no schools, no stores, no services. Housing belongs near services, not in Shoreline.
The City just celebrated the opening of a bike bridge over 101, and its only minutes from residential areas to North Bayshore by foot or by bike. Council members Abe Koga, Bryant, Macias and Siegel are sincere in their concern for the many negative "side effects" of housing in that area - and should be applauded for their support for true smart growth

Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Shoreline West
on Jul 9, 2012 at 11:44 pm

seems ironic the environment planning commission votes against a project that would reduce emissions and create an environmentally friendly community

Like this comment
Posted by caryl
a resident of another community
on Jul 10, 2012 at 8:12 am

Humans need nature and wildlife to maintain balance in their lives - especially people who spend their working hours in front of a computer screen. It is soul restoring to go and walk in Shoreline Park. It is made more wonderful that the few remaining burrowing owls are being protected in the park - maintaining the balance.

Like this comment
Posted by Dave
a resident of another community
on Jul 10, 2012 at 10:56 am

Why is it that Google's motto of do no harm extends to other places and not it's own backyard? There are other ways to ameliorate housing and traffic issues in this area other than putting more pressure on a sensitive wildlife area.
Shame on you, Google!

Like this comment
Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Jul 10, 2012 at 11:12 am

Ideas here. Starting at ECR and North Shoreline, build low density homes, mostly townhouses, flats, single family homes with a unit, some small rowhouses. We have a big old wide street, we can add light rail, put the street on a diet and build a big old park down the middle. Between Central to 101, build more med density, more flats, rowhomes, condos and apts, close to 101 the taller the buildings. Build short term units close to Google for those who will be at Home Office for periods less then a year or more then a month. You could allow for blends of office building and residents, retail can fit under both.
Open space can be created between the buildings

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

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