Council approves major plan for El Camino Real | News | Mountain View Online |


Council approves major plan for El Camino Real


After several years of discussion, the City Council finally approved a plan for the El Camino Real of the future on Monday night -- one that was called a good compromise by various community members.

Council members voted 4-1, with member John Inks opposed, to approve the plan. Members Chris Clark and John McAlister recused themselves because they own property near El Camino Real.

The complex plan sets out development requirements and guidelines for the corridor, such as building setbacks with residential neighbors and community benefits developers must pay. Development is concentrated on key intersections where "village centers" could see heights of up to six stories if developers provide significant public benefits, which would equal about 1 percent of the cost of development, for such things as crosswalks, open space and bike infrastructure.

"I think it's a great plan; I'm really happy with it," said council member Ronit Bryant, an opinion shared by much of the council.

"I think everyone in this room can point to something in this document and say, 'Oh, I would change that,'" said Bill Cranston of the Monta Loma Neighborhood Association. "Let's adopt this and move on."

Council members opted to require more community benefits by requiring benefits worth $20 per square foot of development instead of $15. The council also exempted ground-floor commercial from those calculations when moving from $15 to $20, but planners said the results would still mean more community benefits from most projects, including the large Greystar project proposed for the corner of El Camino Real and Castro Street where apartments would be built over retail space.

Four new crosswalks are included at the intersections with following streets: Boranda, Bonita, Mariposa or Pettis, and Crestview, city staff said.

The plan includes bike lanes on portions of El Camino Real where there is no alternative side-street route, including a stretch from Sylvan to Calderon avenues. A bike boulevard along Church and Latham streets -- where cut-through vehicle traffic would be discouraged with physical barriers -- is included as an alternative to bike lanes on the rest of El Camino Real.

The new El Camino Real bike lanes would replace street parking, and may include just a painted buffer against car traffic. Bicyclists would still have to go around stopped public buses, city staff said. Bike advocate Cherie Wolkoviak and others called for physical barriers to protect bikes from traffic that goes as fast as 40 to 50 mph. City planner Eric Andersen explained that "there are too many curb cuts (driveways) on El Camino Real in many places to have barriers. There may be some places where you could have barriers where there are long distances between curb cuts."

"This plan has come a long way -- I'm really pleased," said Wolkoviak. She added that bike lanes shown in the plan for a stretch of El Camino Real between Escuela Avenue and El Monte Road "will be a great connection."

If significant public benefits are negotiated, a "village center floating district" zoning is triggered in the plan, which allows a developer to go to six stories and a 2.2 floor-area ratio at major intersections -- a density not shown on the new zoning map.

The plan includes two other basic tiers of development heights and densities. The lowest is meant for the shallow lots on the street that have been a problem for the city in attracting redevelopment. Height limits for those lots are three stories, but with a 45-foot height limit to encourage ground-floor commercial space under two stories of residential. No public benefits are required, and allowed floor-area ratio would be 1.35, which would mean a 58,000-square-foot building allowed on a lot with 1 acre of buildable area. A second tier is meant for much of the street and allows up to four stories and a maximum 1.85 floor-area ratio, and would require the standard public benefit cost of $20 per square foot (with ground-floor commercial space exempted from the calculation).

Council members declined to raise affordable housing requirements in the plan from 10 percent to 25 percent, as advocated by the Greenbelt Alliance and Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition.

Concern was expressed that the plan lacked integration with a bus rapid transit system, despite VTA's continuing study of dedicated bus rapid transit (BRT) lanes on El Camino Real as a sort of alternative to light rail down the middle of the street.

"This BRT thing seems to be happening; we should have some thoughts on how it's going to be integrated into this plan," said council member-elect Lenny Siegel. He suggested park-and-ride garages be integrated into development on the street to encourage use of the new bus infrastructure.

Council member Jac Siegel continued to object to bike lanes on the street without barriers and allowing buildings as high as six stories. Member John Inks expressed his disapproval in vague terms, saying, "I predict problems." He had previously said the plan restricted development too much to prevent development impacts elsewhere in the city.

What is it worth to you?


14 people like this
Posted by Jim Neal
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Nov 20, 2014 at 2:40 pm

Jim Neal is a registered user.

I predict problems too! Most residents of Mountain View do not want BRT lanes! We need to fight back against this. I wonder where we can find a community organizer that is good at leading protests, gathering signatures, and whose statements the Voice will actually publish?

Jim Neal
Old Mountain View

5 people like this
Posted by Maher
a resident of Martens-Carmelita
on Nov 20, 2014 at 3:44 pm

OH oh... this plan sounds like one of those driven by good intentions and likely causing disastrous results i.e. bicyclist deaths. I live on ECR and I note how crazy driving habits are on that road. Auto drivers change lanes without signals all the time and tail-gating is a norm. i'm a bit naseous as I write these words.

5 people like this
Posted by Progress is good
a resident of Rex Manor
on Nov 20, 2014 at 4:09 pm

We are happy to hear that Mountain View is becoming a real city. We need people to live close to work, and we need transportation alternative to get people out of cars.

6 people like this
Posted by Sparty
a resident of another community
on Nov 20, 2014 at 4:19 pm

Sparty is a registered user.

>We are happy to hear that Mountain View is becoming a real city. We need people to live close to work,

yes look at all those fake cities like San Francisco where tens of thousands commute in every day.

Hopefully the council will make more specific requirements public benefits, or MV will end up like Menlo Park with $3,000 park benches squeezed in. But granted no tall the details are here on that aspect

9 people like this
Posted by Konrad M Sosnow
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Nov 20, 2014 at 4:22 pm

I would like to see a referendum on BRT. The residents of the affected communities should have their say. That is the democratic process. Instead, VTA intends to shove it down our throats!

8 people like this
Posted by Mountain View Mom
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Nov 20, 2014 at 5:33 pm


If you want a real city with nothing but cement and sky scrapers go to SF. This is called Mountain View for a reason. If it were up to you, it would be called Building View because that is all we would see in the future. Is that really what you would rather look at than mountains.

6 people like this
Posted by Linda Curtis
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Nov 20, 2014 at 7:19 pm

We do need to stand up for having our say in our communities, in which we have invested our lives to perfect something right for us that is the way we want to live.

Bikes do not need lanes directly on ECR. It could be much better for them, and for everyone trying to use ECR, if Latham would be used for bikes instead. The major bike route would then proceed to Church Street, with an overpass just for bikes over 237 and another over 85. Better safety, better air, and better quiet for them, and less death for them and fear of manslaughter for drivers of vehicles on ECR. These overpasses could be built with funds from public benefits required by the new builders stacking 'n packing our little city into "building view.".

And we repeatedly reject BRT and any dedicated lanes for VTA, but again and again they return to try to force it on us. No way! We must step up and form the resistance. No stupid, noisy, slow light rail down the center of ECR, either. The trees that live along the center median deserve to continue to live and clean our air, plus continue to serve their important function of shielding drivers' eyes from the late day sun. This is for safety! How much is a life worth?

8 people like this
Posted by psr
a resident of The Crossings
on Nov 20, 2014 at 7:55 pm

It is disappointing that, no matter how many times we tell the council we, the citizens, DO NOT WANT BTRs, they continue to persist in their foisting them on us. I am fed up with their brand of social engineering with our tax dollars. This is ABSOLUTELY the sort of thing that should be voted on by the people and their decision must be part of the plan.

Many of us chose to live here because we DON'T want to live in a big city festered with high-rise buildings and high-density construction. We don't want to have our ability to drive our cars to work (so we can pay the high taxes we pay in order to live here) impeded so that we can watch empty buses whizz past us as we sit in gridlock on El Camino. We don't want our favorite markets and local hangouts forced out to make room for concrete and glass fishbowls containing boutique shops that will attract little business and go under in a year or two.

It is appalling that the city council feels free to push these things on us without our consent. Too bad the next election is so far off.

3 people like this
Posted by Just More Politicians
a resident of Gemello
on Nov 20, 2014 at 11:08 pm

If the 3 persons just elected to the Mountain View City Council organized council members in North County against dedicated bus lanes on El Camino, the VTA Board (mostly San Jose politicians) might balk, but I predict these three will just stay in the playpens given to them.

3 people like this
Posted by Sparty
a resident of another community
on Nov 20, 2014 at 11:38 pm

Sparty is a registered user.

None of the cities affected control El Camino Real.

Maybe they can offer to pay for it's upkeep, then they can decide how it's run.

4 people like this
Posted by SpartyResponder
a resident of another community
on Nov 21, 2014 at 12:07 am

Regarding "None of the cities affected control El Camino Real", then it seems you favor prohibiting each city's police departments from patrolling El Camino and then, given it's a state highway, we'll let Caltrans respond to vehicle code violations, accidents, fires, etc. I'm sure that will work well.

Regarding "Maybe they can offer to pay for it's (sic) upkeep, then they can decide how it's run". Caltrans is funded by tax-paying voters so the voters legally have a say-so in how things are run though, sadly, too few people vote and the outcome of that is very obvious nowadays,

5 people like this
Posted by SpartyResponder
a resident of another community
on Nov 21, 2014 at 12:39 am

Following is my vision of what should be begun immediately.

Mountain View city officials should consider asset seizure and property forfeiture as Abe-Koga's payback for the damage done to Mountain View by her during her two-term city council tenure.

Quickly tear down the San Antonio Merlone Geier project with the land restored to farm, park and recreational uses.

Widen El Camino Real to 10 lanes, five in each direction, facilitating the inevitable increased traffic as the population increases and personal transportation needs [NOT 'wants'] (e.g., cars) also increases.

For personal safety given the hazards of El Camino Real, redirect bicyclists into residential areas and redirect buses -- given their low ridership (I often see buses with no passengers clogging traffic on El Camino) -- also into the residential areas preventing their interference [e.g., slow speed and incessant lane changes] with vehicular traffic on the state highway.

Prohibit parking along El Camino Real so all five lanes in each direction will be fully utilized with most traffic signals removed conforming to no more than one signal light every mile and with the speed limit being raised to 55MPH (or even higher since it is a state highway). Any need to cross El Camino Real can be achieved with over-/under-passes for both pedestrian and vehicular traffic.

VTA needs to open their eyes to reality.

We can dream! :-)

4 people like this
Posted by SpartyResponder
a resident of another community
on Nov 21, 2014 at 1:09 am

For those who think we don't need a 10-lane El Camino Real, look at the data, information, and picture at Gary Richards' latest ROAD KILL, er, SHOW article dated 11/21/2014 12:01:00 AM PST and available here it's a real eye-opener:

Web Link

4 people like this
Posted by Sparty
a resident of another community
on Nov 21, 2014 at 4:21 am

Sparty is a registered user.

"Caltrans is funded by tax-paying voters so the voters legally have a say-so in how things are run though, sadly, too few people vote and the outcome of that is very obvious nowadays,(sic)"

Good idea. Police departments are funded by taxes, so likewise people should be able to decide if they get tickets or not.

3 people like this
Posted by rainbow38
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Nov 21, 2014 at 8:43 am

I've already posted this but don't know if the decision-makers have seen it. Most of the proposed "improvements" or "enhancements" create more problems than they're designed to solve.

Issues regarding dedicated lanes next to the medians:
1. Would require that the medians be widened significantly for the BRT stations and to meet the needs of people using wheelchairs, strollers and shopping carts;
2. May require the removal of greenery and trees which is not desirable;
3. Would probably require there be no parking on El Camino Real which would impact businesses that have little or no parking;
4. Traffic going by on both sides of the median would create a safety issue, especially for someone traveling with several children;
5. Since the doors to enter/exit buses are on the right side of the bus, it seems new buses with doors on the left side would be needed;
6. Making left hand turns may be problematic unless drivers can use the dedicated lane for turns;
7. Some cities will elect not to have dedicated lanes which will increase the number of lane changes needed to navigate El Camino Real and increase the risk of accidents.

More issues to consider:
The current gridlock on El Camino Real, especially at Rengstorff Ave., Castro St. and the Grant Rd./237 intersections, and at the entrances/exits of the 85 freeway,
The lack of streets parallel to El Camino Real, particularly on the west side of Mountain View,
The location of the north and south entries and exits for the 85 freeway,
The new law mandating a 3 foot distance between cars and bicycles,
The number of housing and business projects planned along El Camino Real, and
The location of El Camino Hospital and the Fire Station on Grant Rd.

If the aim is to improve traffic flow by increasing bus use and reducing car use, it's important to recognize that this isn't workable when:
People need to get to multiple locations at specific times or within a given amount of time,
People need to get to or live at locations that are not near the bus line,
People need their cars for use at work, and
The bus doesn't run on a schedule that's compatible with people's schedules.

Based on all of the above, there should be NO reduction in the number of lanes, narrowing of lanes, bulb-outs for bus stops, or any other change that would increase the number of lane changes needed and further impede the flow of traffic, including emergency vehicles, on Mountain View's approximately four miles of El Camino Real.

El Camino is a main traffic artery that should not become an obstacle course.

BRT, if implemented, should operate only in mixed-flow lanes with enhanced bus stations. This should be put to a vote so those most affected are heard.

NB: I recently used the bus on a Tuesday at 1 pm to travel 1 1/2 miles. The wait was more than 10 minutes and there were only six people on the bus. The evident lack of use would make implementation of the proposed BRT questionable at best.

3 people like this
Posted by Steven Nelson
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Nov 21, 2014 at 10:41 am

Thanks Council. Thanks for the continued reporting on this Voice/Daniel. We knew this was coming. I'm glad to see Ronit's strong influence (our 'rational' version of Residentialist?) and will really miss that Lisa is not 'replacing' her on Council. Jac is a biker? - good. He might be a great BPAC member - if he is interested "post-retirement".
I guess I'm a 'Ungust urbanist.' If we get the tranportation right (first) then we can develop for those who want to live here (near jobs/high density/resturants - whatever). Siegal, McAllister, Bryant, Abe-Kona [VTA BRT] and the changing guard will not infringe on the R1, low density areas [IMO] Residentialist sentiment is too high - but hopefully we are all more Ronit-Jac-John-Margaret-Pat- Ken-Lenny like in our rationality.

Thanks again Council. MV will be a much more interesting and vibrant/desirable place in the future because of you.
SN owns a ranch house and appreciates that Zillow says + $1/2M - since May '06, May '10

4 people like this
Posted by DC
a resident of Stierlin Estates
on Nov 21, 2014 at 6:33 pm

Funny, I ride the bus and drive on ECR and it is not the driving from stops to stops that take all the time. The bus drivers moves quite well in traffic 30- 45 mph. The bus has to stop and it is the people getting and finding a seat that seem to slow the bus. DO we want buses raveling 55 mph next to the sidewalks? I have a suggestion instead of making a separate lane how about adding Red or Green open lane lighting on the road. When a bus is detected "near" the lane goes from green to red and cars are directed to leave the lane. For the 80% of the time they are not there the lanes can be used for autos.

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