Condos to replace rent-controlled apartments

Council approves two redevelopment projects to add ownership housing

More than a dozen rent-controlled apartments will be demolished to make way for condominiums, thanks to a series of City Council approvals.

Last week, council members approved a project at 257 Calderon Ave. to replace nine older apartments with 16 condominiums, which are expected to sell for around $1.6 million apiece, according to developer SummerHill Homes.

In a similar decision on Tuesday, the council signed off on a project by Williams Maston Architect and Associates to raze four rent-controlled apartments at 982 Bonita St. and replace them with eight for-sale condominiums. Those new homes will sell for about $1.4 million each, according to the developer.

Both redevelopments were approved in unanimous votes.

For council members, both projects help satisfy the severe lack of for-sale homes in Mountain View. For years, council members have urged developers to provide more ownership housing, not just high-priced rental units.

"I'm glad to have this project come to us," said Councilman John McAlister, discussing the Calderon project last week. "The council has many goals for housing, and one of those goals was a high priority for ownership housing."

The new projects join a rising number of redevelopment proposals that would replace older apartments with newer homes, in effect removing housing covered under the city's rent control law. Apartments built before 1995 are subject to price controls under the voter-approved law. These rules do not apply to for-sale condominiums or to newer apartments, which are exempted under the state's Costa-Hawkins Act.

Since the rent control law was enacted, more than 330 households have been displaced or are in the process of being displaced as their apartments are redeveloped, according to city planning records. When fully built out, the city anticipates this redevelopment will more than triple the amount of housing that was lost -- creating about 930 new apartments and 126 condominiums.

This new housing comes primarily from two large projects under review -- a 711-apartment project at 777 W. Middlefield Road by FortBay, and a 226-unit development at 1758 Villa St. by Prometheus Real Estate Group.

In the case of 777 W. Middlefield, the developer is promising that any displaced tenants will receive priority to rent out new apartments when they are finished, at the same rent. This benefit is not being offered by projects like 257 Calderon Ave. that are replacing rent-controlled apartments with condominiums.

Any displaced tenants could be entitled to some compensation under the city's Tenant Relocation Assistance Ordinance. Under this law, tenants earning barely more than the local median income are entitled to get at least three months of market-rate rent as compensation. So far, three households at 257 Calderon have applied for the relocation assistance, and only two of those were deemed eligible. No tenants have reportedly applied for relocation assistance at the 982 Bonita St. apartments.

Mayor Lenny Siegel offered support for Bonita Street project, although he urged developers to avoid demolishing the city's older housing stock. He recused himself from the Calderon project due to owning property nearby.

"There's plenty of room to provide housing without tearing down existing housing," he said. "I'd urge developers of projects like this to look for better places."

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