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Guest opinion: Yes to more homes

In April, the Environmental Planning Commission approved 303 much-needed new homes at 1001 North Shoreline Blvd. The site, currently a parking lot, is close to major employers, with zero displacement and minimal impact on existing residential neighborhoods.

The site is walking distance from employers in Terra Bella and North Bayshore. For those residents who will work outside the area, it is conveniently located beside Highway 101 and future transit routes to the downtown transit center. Forty of the housing units will be below market rate, dedicated to families who desperately need them. And, since the site is currently a parking lot, the project displaces no one.

While most Mountain View residents are welcoming of newcomers, there are some vocal contradictory voices. A recent op-ed authored by Albert Jeans, an informal organizer in the nearby Stierlin Estates neighborhood, denounces the project as “housing at any cost,” an example of City Hall malfeasance. However, fair consideration shows that this is far from the case.

The op-ed accurately states that, although the city initiated a “visioning” process that would allow higher-density development — including residential — in the Terra Bella area, it abandoned the process. However, this argument is disingenuous. A principal reason for the termination of the visioning process was neighborhood opposition led by Jeans’ group. Those residents remained firmly opposed to the visioning plan even after it had been generously revised to address their concerns.

The op-ed is also correct that 1001 North Shoreline required additional approval due to zoning restrictions, but its claim that the project will “radically alter the character” of the neighborhood does not withstand scrutiny. The seven-story residential buildings will be the same height as the existing four-story office building (“Shoreline Gateway”). There are in fact no residential neighborhoods adjacent to the property — it is between an office building and a storage facility. Far from degrading neighborhood character, this project would form the focus of a revitalized Terra Bella area.

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Furthermore, the op-ed’s characterization of the developers as money-grubbing profiteers fails to mention the comprehensive and compelling benefits that they have agreed to provide. The package includes a fee for school construction, a community benefit fee, land dedications and infrastructure, and a very generous fee for developing new parks, totaling $22.6 million. And the subsidy for the 40 below-market-rate housing units is worth millions of dollars more.

Mountain View has made great strides in recent years to enable more of the people who work here to also live here. Anti-growth activists are often keen to wring their hands about new offices exacerbating the jobs-housing imbalance, but whenever an opportunity arises to right that imbalance by building homes, they invariably find reasons to reject that as well. The earlier “Housing at any cost” op-ed has not demonstrated any cost that this project will impose on the city. Its vague prognostications of “aftermath” do not convince. This is a zero-displacement project, strategically located to minimize traffic impact. Can we do anything but conclude that the logical end of such reasoning is “no housing at any cost”?

Ilya Gurin and Allen Zheng are Mountain View residents.

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Guest opinion: Yes to more homes

by / Contributor

Uploaded: Sat, Jul 4, 2020, 11:04 am

In April, the Environmental Planning Commission approved 303 much-needed new homes at 1001 North Shoreline Blvd. The site, currently a parking lot, is close to major employers, with zero displacement and minimal impact on existing residential neighborhoods.

The site is walking distance from employers in Terra Bella and North Bayshore. For those residents who will work outside the area, it is conveniently located beside Highway 101 and future transit routes to the downtown transit center. Forty of the housing units will be below market rate, dedicated to families who desperately need them. And, since the site is currently a parking lot, the project displaces no one.

While most Mountain View residents are welcoming of newcomers, there are some vocal contradictory voices. A recent op-ed authored by Albert Jeans, an informal organizer in the nearby Stierlin Estates neighborhood, denounces the project as “housing at any cost,” an example of City Hall malfeasance. However, fair consideration shows that this is far from the case.

The op-ed accurately states that, although the city initiated a “visioning” process that would allow higher-density development — including residential — in the Terra Bella area, it abandoned the process. However, this argument is disingenuous. A principal reason for the termination of the visioning process was neighborhood opposition led by Jeans’ group. Those residents remained firmly opposed to the visioning plan even after it had been generously revised to address their concerns.

The op-ed is also correct that 1001 North Shoreline required additional approval due to zoning restrictions, but its claim that the project will “radically alter the character” of the neighborhood does not withstand scrutiny. The seven-story residential buildings will be the same height as the existing four-story office building (“Shoreline Gateway”). There are in fact no residential neighborhoods adjacent to the property — it is between an office building and a storage facility. Far from degrading neighborhood character, this project would form the focus of a revitalized Terra Bella area.

Furthermore, the op-ed’s characterization of the developers as money-grubbing profiteers fails to mention the comprehensive and compelling benefits that they have agreed to provide. The package includes a fee for school construction, a community benefit fee, land dedications and infrastructure, and a very generous fee for developing new parks, totaling $22.6 million. And the subsidy for the 40 below-market-rate housing units is worth millions of dollars more.

Mountain View has made great strides in recent years to enable more of the people who work here to also live here. Anti-growth activists are often keen to wring their hands about new offices exacerbating the jobs-housing imbalance, but whenever an opportunity arises to right that imbalance by building homes, they invariably find reasons to reject that as well. The earlier “Housing at any cost” op-ed has not demonstrated any cost that this project will impose on the city. Its vague prognostications of “aftermath” do not convince. This is a zero-displacement project, strategically located to minimize traffic impact. Can we do anything but conclude that the logical end of such reasoning is “no housing at any cost”?

Ilya Gurin and Allen Zheng are Mountain View residents.

The Voice accepts guest opinions of up to 600 words and letters to the editor of up to 300 words. Send signed op-eds and letters to [email protected] by 5 p.m. Monday and noon on Tuesday, respectively.

Comments

MV Resident
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jul 4, 2020 at 1:06 pm
MV Resident, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jul 4, 2020 at 1:06 pm
4 people like this

It is inaccurate to say that the Terra Bella visioning plan was “generously revised” to address neighbors’ concerns. Multi-story homes in peoples’ backyards is hardly generous. Please don’t equate that degree of concern with what was raised regarding the 1001 North Shoreline project - they are apples and oranges, and many of the hundred-plus who showed up to City Council for the Terra Bella Vision discussion would likely agree. Council certainly seemed to think so.


@MV Resident
Shoreline West
on Jul 4, 2020 at 1:22 pm
@MV Resident, Shoreline West
on Jul 4, 2020 at 1:22 pm
7 people like this

It sounds like an accurate characterization of the position of those opposed to the Terra Bella visioning plan is that they are in favor of more housing, but Not In their BackYard?


MV Resident
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jul 4, 2020 at 1:31 pm
MV Resident, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jul 4, 2020 at 1:31 pm
4 people like this

@@:

No it’s not. Because a great many were supportive of either 1-2 fewer stories or a proper line-of-sight easement for whatever was built off their back property lines. That’s sensible growth not “not in my back yard.”


Humble observer
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jul 4, 2020 at 2:28 pm
Humble observer, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jul 4, 2020 at 2:28 pm
7 people like this

"Multi-story homes in peoples’ backyards is hardly generous."

But where does such reasoning come from? The author of the earlier Opinion piece (Albert Jeans) is identified as living on San Lucas Ave., which runs between about two-and-a-half and five blocks distant from the proposed site. The nearest existing residential areas I can spot on the map are some two blocks away from the site. This project is in no resident's "back yard!"

Moreover, the site offers several unusual advantages for residences, cited in the current Opinion piece above. Albert Jeans's essay last week (with its poorly supported warning about "overall degradation in the quality of life") is one of the weakest arguments I've read to date about a proposed housing project in town.

By the way, I'm a resident cautious about careless growth. But like many others I know (contradicting another characterization projected by the authors of this latest Opinion essay above), I have not "invariably" opposed new housing projects, including those close to me.


Janet
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jul 5, 2020 at 8:08 am
Janet, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jul 5, 2020 at 8:08 am
7 people like this

how much did the developers pay you to write this? Zero impact, what about the population impact and traffic impact. We are OVER DEVELOPING everywhere in this valley. Just because it's an "empty parking lot" doesn't mean we have to fill it with more housing and people. Anyone that is for this have absolutely no investment in the special communities that once occupied Silicon Valley, and just wants to make more money for themselves.


JustSayIn
Rengstorff Park
on Jul 5, 2020 at 10:37 am
JustSayIn, Rengstorff Park
on Jul 5, 2020 at 10:37 am
5 people like this

Please put "opinions" in their own categories and it out of the latest news.


Tech Renter
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jul 6, 2020 at 11:46 am
Tech Renter, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jul 6, 2020 at 11:46 am
1 person likes this

My wife and I moved to MV due to the high pay our current employers were offering. We quickly found out that this was a poor decision, as the cost of living was astronomical and after paying rent we now make less than what we were making before, largely due to the lack of housing supply as a result of local zoning restrictions and NIMBY pushback on high(er) density developments. Couple that with absolutely horrendous commute times, boring communities, outdated housing, sky high childcare costs, so-so public schools, and mediocre beaches, and after two years here we don't see the appeal of Mountain View or the Bay Area in general. With Covid-19 pushing employers to make WFH permanent, we, and many thousands like us, will leap at this opportunity to vote with our feet and move elsewhere. I suspect this drop in demand may correct the absurd housing prices, and that $1.7M, 800 sqft house that hasn't been updated since the 1960s will suddenly be worth substantially less. Myopic thinking on the part of current homeowners has led to this. You reap what you sow.


PauseDevelopment
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jul 6, 2020 at 2:43 pm
PauseDevelopment, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jul 6, 2020 at 2:43 pm
10 people like this

TechRenter's answer is the perfect example why we need to pause house development right now. We're going to be living with this pandemic for the next few years and even if we miraculously make it go away people now have learned that they can work remotely. So people that don't appreciate or cannot make enough to afford living here can move to other places where they'll be happier. The last thing we want is to end up with dozens of abandoned buildings that kill the character of the city to supposedly appeal to outsiders that don't actually want to live here.


Fred
Cuesta Park
on Jul 6, 2020 at 5:37 pm
Fred, Cuesta Park
on Jul 6, 2020 at 5:37 pm
1 person likes this

I wonder if the authors either work for developers, or do not live in the affected neighborhood, or both. They are certainly entitled to their opinions, but their opinions do not seem to show any concern for local residents. Their notion of "fair consideration" clearly ignores local residents in favor of something more important to them. According to them, there will no impact to the neighborhood, that they care about. To them, the considerations of local residents are insignificant. I consider this to be building at any cost, given that seven story buildings will be inserted into a two story residential area, which will clearly have a huge impact on one of the only two ways in or out of the subdivision. Only if we ignore all impacts other than the beneficial impact of more housing can anyone claim that fair consideration shows no negative impact on the neighborhood.


Young Resident
Old Mountain View
on Jul 8, 2020 at 9:05 am
Young Resident, Old Mountain View
on Jul 8, 2020 at 9:05 am
4 people like this

Why do people think being in favor of denser residential buildings must mean you are bought out by developers? The city or a nonprofit could propose building denser residential housing and I would support it.

I look at Paris and Oslo and how eco-friendly and livable their cities are (despite all the tall buildings) and wish we could correct our mistake of planning our life and built environment around cars and traffic concerns. In my opinion, people's forced dependence on cars and high rents decreases the quality of life in our city, not seven-story buildings next to new jobs.


yes it to more housing
Rex Manor
on Jul 11, 2020 at 7:11 pm
yes it to more housing, Rex Manor
on Jul 11, 2020 at 7:11 pm
2 people like this

bluntly, we need more housing just to accommodate our children. I don't see any way that my own children can live near me


robcarr
Rex Manor
on Jul 14, 2020 at 10:05 am
robcarr, Rex Manor
on Jul 14, 2020 at 10:05 am
Like this comment

I support that. I might even share your story Web Link here on my website. I hope you don't mind that.


LongResident
another community
on Jul 14, 2020 at 12:46 pm
LongResident, another community
on Jul 14, 2020 at 12:46 pm
Like this comment

I don't see why they didn't go a step further and build these things as 400 sq ft efficiency studio units. In dense urban places like Oslo, New York and San Francisco, we need the economy of having this type of unit to squeeze in as many people as possible into the new construction. Then the heights could have been just 4 or 5 stories and there would have still been many more people accommodated. Also, one has to ask the question: why all the parking spaces? This seems excessive these days given the need to cut traffic back and the idea being that these are places people can walk to jobs. So cut the parking garage down a few floors as well, saving cost and reducing prices further. You aren't going to find parking garages as part of housing projects in any of these big cities,


What's being built is NOT suitable for use in a highly developed city doing infill housing to accommodate 50,000 jobs just a short trip down the freeway overpass to the massive Googleplex with its extreme JOB density. The housing needs to match. But it doesn't have to impact on the neighbors who have been in the area as much as does what has been approved.


LongResident
another community
on Jul 14, 2020 at 12:47 pm
LongResident, another community
on Jul 14, 2020 at 12:47 pm
Like this comment

These new units as proposed are designed to rent at $4000 or $6000 per month. With some more reasonably sized unit designs, the cost could be cut to $3500. Wouldn't that be better and more on the mark?


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