A site off of San Antonio Road that appeared destined for a new school campus will instead be rebuilt as a massive commercial and housing project.
On June 26, the Mountain View City Council gave final approvals for a 632-unit apartment project by development firm Greystar. The site encompasses 8.6 acres nestled at the corner of San Antonio Road and California Street, which used to host a Safeway and is still occupied by the North County's only Planned Parenthood clinic.
The newly approved plans call for four new buildings ranging from three to five stories tall. The project would also add 20,000 square feet of commercial space on the ground floor. Two new streets, as yet unnamed, will need to be built to serve the new buildings, along with a new traffic signal on California Street.
The fact that the Greystar development is moving forward at all is quite a turnaround. Just days earlier, the project appeared in jeopardy due to the Los Altos School District's plans to force the purchase of the site for a 10th school campus. Greystar and the property owners had fiercely resisted the school proposal, but the district and city officials were poised to use eminent domain to take the property.
But last month, LASD officials made a surprise announcement abandoning that plan, saying they would instead buy about 9.6 acres along the northeastern section of the San Antonio Shopping Center. The property owner, Federal Realty, was reportedly in friendly negotiations on a sale price.
For all parties involved, this turn of events seemed to be a peaceful resolution for a conflict that appeared headed for a protracted lawsuit.
In the late hours of last week's council meeting, Dan Deibel of Greystar made efforts to show his development would still be a welcome addition to the community. The project would provide more than 4 acres of new park space, as well as 32 subsidized homes and $4 million in rental housing fees to the city.
"We all came together to find a true solution that would be a win-win for Mountain View, LASD and Greystar," he said.
The Greystar project will be required to provide $4.1 million in public benefits, and city officials say they aren't quite sure what to spend it on. Previously, council members mulled putting that money toward a pedestrian and bicycle crossing under Central Expressway near the Caltrain station.
Less appealing to the council was what would need to be sacrificed for the development. Nearly 220 trees would need to be cleared away, including 78 heritage trees. City staffers pointed out they were adding various incentives to encourage Greystar to find ways to preserve more trees.
City leaders also pressured Greystar to look into reserving some of the ground-floor commercial space for some of the businesses that would be displaced from the San Antonio Shopping Center to build a new school. Alex Chung, the owner of Sushi 88 and the Pearl Cafe, pointed out that both his businesses would need to close to make way for the new school campus. He has about two years left on his lease, he said.
After some prodding from council members, Greystar officials later approached Chung and offered to let him know about any future opportunities. In past developments, Greystar has earned praise for helping provide temporary accommodations for displaced businesses.
"They said they'd keep us in contact, but that's the best they can offer at this time," Chung told the Voice. "I'm uneasy, but I think the City Council is on our side."
The Greystar project is expected to break ground in summer 2019, with an estimated completion date in 2022.