News

Massive zoning overhaul in Mountain View would increase density, potentially adding 9,000 new homes

2310 Rock St. apartments were demolished replaced with for-sale homes, but city officials say new zoning rules could prevent more displacement. Photo by Natalia Nazarova.

The city of Mountain View is looking to revamp its residential zoning across 480 acres of land dispersed throughout the city, with an eye toward increased density that could lead to the construction of 9,000 new homes.

The undertaking is the city's effort to redesign its so-called R3 zoning, which encompasses broad swaths of multifamily residential housing that makes up close to one-third of all homes in the city. Though steeped in bureaucratic urban planning and less eye-catching than places like North Bayshore, R3 zoning changes could significantly alter the future of the city's housing growth.

It's also much closer to home: Many of the R3 zoning areas flagged for increased density are right next door to lower-density neighborhoods.

Mountain View City Council members on Tuesday dove into the proposed changes, which are meant to incentivize new development and mix up the type of housing that gets built in the city. In recent years, R3 zones have been plagued with problems in which older, rent-controlled apartments are torn down and replaced with expensive for-sale rowhouses, sometimes reducing the number of total units on the property.

The constraints in R3 zoning are partly to blame, and it falls to the council to incentivize redevelopment that improves the city, said Councilman Lucas Ramirez. He listed off numerous housing developments in which there is no affordable housing, no additional park space, no park fees and a reduction in units.

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"The status quo is actively detrimental to the community," Ramirez said. "I could not support anything that wasn't a dramatic change from what we have now."

The zoning revamp divides the city's R3 zones into four different categories, each with their own allowed density and targeted housing types. On the low end, housing would be able to reach three stories in height, and would be framed around stacked duplexes, fourplexes and "pocket" neighborhoods. On the high end would be mid-rise housing complexes between six and eight stories tall.

R3 zoning is split into four categories, each with its own level of density and housing types in mind. Graphic courtesy city of Mountain View.

The hope is that the framework will not only manage density around single-family residential areas, but also encourage developers to build diverse housing that doesn't look exactly the same.

"We tend to get a lot of the same buildings stamped out over and over again," said Councilwoman Alison Hicks. "And I'm hoping that when we do this form-based zoning that it's a way to get beyond that."

Some council members worried that the changes amount to up-zoning residential properties without a clear purpose. Councilwoman Margaret Abe-Koga said she wanted to see the development of ownership housing in the form of stacked-flat construction, yet there's little guarantee that developers won't just use the density boost to build new rental units instead. She said she is not interested in incentivizing more apartments, especially if they end up as high-cost luxury apartments.

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Abe-Koga also underscored that the R3 zoning changes are drastic, and that there hasn't been enough public outreach. The city's general plan never contemplated more housing and higher densities in some of the areas that are now poised for big changes, she said, and neighborhoods and community members need to be clued in and given a chance to respond.

"We have heard from folks, but these are frankly folks who are very interested in housing issues and they are mostly housing advocates," she said.

Another major concern is whether the zoning changes could lead to a surge in redevelopment of older, affordable apartments, causing even more displacement of longtime residents and working-class families. In 2019, city officials said Mountain View was on pace to destroy 127 of its rent-controlled apartments every year.

Proposed zoning changes affect large swaths of Mountain View, most of which includes multi-family apartments. Map courtesy city of Mountain View.

A recent state law, SB 330, stemmed the bleeding and effectively halted projects that raze older apartments in the city, but it sunsets in 2025. Councilwoman Lisa Matichak said SB 330 is not going to stay in its current form forever, and that she would prefer the city work on anti-displacement measures and halt R3 zoning changes until those protections are in place.

"I would like to focus on our own version of SB 330 to address displacement, and put this on hold and make sure we have a robust community input process before we go forward with changes to zoning," Matichak said.

Councilwoman Pat Showalter said she supported anti-displacement measures, but questioned whether changes to R3 zoning have to be put on hold in the interim. She suggested that both be worked on in tandem, with an emphasis on rolling out the city's replacement of SB 330 prior to the zoning changes going into effect.

Given the massive scope of the changes under consideration, Abe-Koga said the city might be better off updating its general plan, which would better capture community input and take into account the aggregate need for amenities created by the added housing. City officials cautioned that a general plan update would be a huge time sink that would take years and slow down the R3 rezoning timeline, and some council members pushed back at the idea of further delays.

"I'm not willing to sandbag every other single thing we could be doing for a four-year-long general plan update," said Councilwoman Sally Lieber.

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Massive zoning overhaul in Mountain View would increase density, potentially adding 9,000 new homes

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Thu, Apr 15, 2021, 12:21 pm

The city of Mountain View is looking to revamp its residential zoning across 480 acres of land dispersed throughout the city, with an eye toward increased density that could lead to the construction of 9,000 new homes.

The undertaking is the city's effort to redesign its so-called R3 zoning, which encompasses broad swaths of multifamily residential housing that makes up close to one-third of all homes in the city. Though steeped in bureaucratic urban planning and less eye-catching than places like North Bayshore, R3 zoning changes could significantly alter the future of the city's housing growth.

It's also much closer to home: Many of the R3 zoning areas flagged for increased density are right next door to lower-density neighborhoods.

Mountain View City Council members on Tuesday dove into the proposed changes, which are meant to incentivize new development and mix up the type of housing that gets built in the city. In recent years, R3 zones have been plagued with problems in which older, rent-controlled apartments are torn down and replaced with expensive for-sale rowhouses, sometimes reducing the number of total units on the property.

The constraints in R3 zoning are partly to blame, and it falls to the council to incentivize redevelopment that improves the city, said Councilman Lucas Ramirez. He listed off numerous housing developments in which there is no affordable housing, no additional park space, no park fees and a reduction in units.

"The status quo is actively detrimental to the community," Ramirez said. "I could not support anything that wasn't a dramatic change from what we have now."

The zoning revamp divides the city's R3 zones into four different categories, each with their own allowed density and targeted housing types. On the low end, housing would be able to reach three stories in height, and would be framed around stacked duplexes, fourplexes and "pocket" neighborhoods. On the high end would be mid-rise housing complexes between six and eight stories tall.

The hope is that the framework will not only manage density around single-family residential areas, but also encourage developers to build diverse housing that doesn't look exactly the same.

"We tend to get a lot of the same buildings stamped out over and over again," said Councilwoman Alison Hicks. "And I'm hoping that when we do this form-based zoning that it's a way to get beyond that."

Some council members worried that the changes amount to up-zoning residential properties without a clear purpose. Councilwoman Margaret Abe-Koga said she wanted to see the development of ownership housing in the form of stacked-flat construction, yet there's little guarantee that developers won't just use the density boost to build new rental units instead. She said she is not interested in incentivizing more apartments, especially if they end up as high-cost luxury apartments.

Abe-Koga also underscored that the R3 zoning changes are drastic, and that there hasn't been enough public outreach. The city's general plan never contemplated more housing and higher densities in some of the areas that are now poised for big changes, she said, and neighborhoods and community members need to be clued in and given a chance to respond.

"We have heard from folks, but these are frankly folks who are very interested in housing issues and they are mostly housing advocates," she said.

Another major concern is whether the zoning changes could lead to a surge in redevelopment of older, affordable apartments, causing even more displacement of longtime residents and working-class families. In 2019, city officials said Mountain View was on pace to destroy 127 of its rent-controlled apartments every year.

A recent state law, SB 330, stemmed the bleeding and effectively halted projects that raze older apartments in the city, but it sunsets in 2025. Councilwoman Lisa Matichak said SB 330 is not going to stay in its current form forever, and that she would prefer the city work on anti-displacement measures and halt R3 zoning changes until those protections are in place.

"I would like to focus on our own version of SB 330 to address displacement, and put this on hold and make sure we have a robust community input process before we go forward with changes to zoning," Matichak said.

Councilwoman Pat Showalter said she supported anti-displacement measures, but questioned whether changes to R3 zoning have to be put on hold in the interim. She suggested that both be worked on in tandem, with an emphasis on rolling out the city's replacement of SB 330 prior to the zoning changes going into effect.

Given the massive scope of the changes under consideration, Abe-Koga said the city might be better off updating its general plan, which would better capture community input and take into account the aggregate need for amenities created by the added housing. City officials cautioned that a general plan update would be a huge time sink that would take years and slow down the R3 rezoning timeline, and some council members pushed back at the idea of further delays.

"I'm not willing to sandbag every other single thing we could be doing for a four-year-long general plan update," said Councilwoman Sally Lieber.

Comments

Raymond
Registered user
Monta Loma
on Apr 15, 2021 at 6:48 pm
Raymond , Monta Loma
Registered user
on Apr 15, 2021 at 6:48 pm

Now that the city council has stood down as for maintaining residential privileges to park space owned by the MVWCD, the council is also taking orders from Sacramento & DC to provide housing for the influx of the open borders hordes? Where is the space for more schools? Have council members put their residences on the map or do they just plan to die before the impacts occur? 9000 more units here, 9000 more units there, pretty soon you are talking of doubling the city population.


Bill
Registered user
Rex Manor
on Apr 15, 2021 at 8:18 pm
Bill, Rex Manor
Registered user
on Apr 15, 2021 at 8:18 pm

I think we need to stop and think about what we want? Gridlock, no sense of space, a mini san francisco? Why does never ending growth and higher density create a better place for the rest of us?


Maria McCauley
Registered user
Old Mountain View
on Apr 15, 2021 at 9:18 pm
Maria McCauley, Old Mountain View
Registered user
on Apr 15, 2021 at 9:18 pm

I agree with council member Ramirez. The status quo is not making Mountain View affordable or even moving us in the right direction. This proposal seems like a common-sense approach to adding much-needed diverse housing for our diverse city. I think the pandemic has shown just how much our overcrowded housing conditions can hurt all of us, even those of us fortunate enough to be housing secure.

Another commenter expressed concern over schools. I think it is important to remember the high cost of housing has reduced the number of young families that can afford to live and stay in our city and if left unaddressed, it will continue to do so. If this rezoning did lead to a steep increase in the number of young families that can suddenly afford to live here (seems optimistic) that doesn't sound like a bad problem to have!


tecsi
Registered user
Monta Loma
on Apr 16, 2021 at 10:22 am
tecsi, Monta Loma
Registered user
on Apr 16, 2021 at 10:22 am

I suggest we pause for a moment, stand back, and think about what WE want our communities to be. Then consider the increasingly state-dictated, top-down rezoning of our communities. We can certainly welcome and use expert state input on options and approaches. And they might be superb. But "Mountain View must" goes way too far for me. Did we vote on this? (No.) Let’s put these mega-issues on the ballot and see what "we the people" want.
.
A few personal thoughts:
- I see lower-income housing and homelessness as our two biggest issues. Let’s squarely address those.
- I want our all-important teachers, nurses, firefighters, police, librarians, city staff to be able live in our community
- most of these bills, despite their promotion of "some" lower-income housing, are largely ruse for developers to build huge numbers of market rate apartments. Check out the rents of apartments along San Antonio
- I do not want to just add 20%-40% people just because some state official says "we need to grow". Do we? Why? And when would it stop?
- do these bills fully account for increased traffic, over-flow street parking, school capacity, infrastructure capacity? (They don’t)


Jeremy Hoffman
Registered user
Rengstorff Park
on Apr 16, 2021 at 10:42 am
Jeremy Hoffman, Rengstorff Park
Registered user
on Apr 16, 2021 at 10:42 am

Bring it on! Count me as one of neighbors for more neighbors!

Councilmember Ramirez is right: the status quo isn't working. I'm tired of housing costs going up and the majority of new units coming at the expense of tearing down a comparable number of older units.

The pandemic may have put a pause on commercial office space demand, but that demand shifted to more home space.

There is plenty of space for everyone who lives and works in Mountain View if we just use our land more efficiently.


Jeremy Hoffman
Registered user
Rengstorff Park
on Apr 16, 2021 at 10:44 am
Jeremy Hoffman, Rengstorff Park
Registered user
on Apr 16, 2021 at 10:44 am

It's not just growth for growth's sake to say that our kids should have a place to live here when they grow up if they want to, and that the people who work in Mountain View should have a place to live here if they want to.


tecsi
Registered user
Monta Loma
on Apr 16, 2021 at 10:54 am
tecsi, Monta Loma
Registered user
on Apr 16, 2021 at 10:54 am

Responding to Maria McCauley:

Hi Maria, I fully agree with you about affordable housing. This is a huge problem. And we need to face it squarely.

My concern is whether these bills/initiatives will make things better...or worse.

I view recent housing history as a useful guide to what to expect. Along San Antonio, MV has recently built a lot of high-rise apartments/condos. I know they can be rented. I don’t know if can be purchased. It someone on this thread could tell us the rough rental and purchase prices, that would be really help inform our thinking.

These recent San Antonio housing units will be out best guide to what we can expect with more units. And hopefully when we discover the prices, we will have a good idea whether these initiatives will help with affordable housing...or just bring us more high-priced units for our highest-paid residents.


BT
Registered user
Shoreline West
on Apr 16, 2021 at 11:27 am
BT, Shoreline West
Registered user
on Apr 16, 2021 at 11:27 am

Continuing to build 1000's more housing just doesn't make sense to me. Our infrastructure isn't ready for it. Look at the overcrowded roads and the condition of those roads. With the push for housing growth, I haven't seen anything about funding for more schools (elementary, middle and high schools) or transportation upgrades. Why can't we step back and really think about all the issues that the increased housing causes with all the people moving in? Make sure the infrastructure can handle it before committing to the increased housing. Look at how rapidly the look and traffic on El Camino Real is changing. I don't like any of this. I love Mountain View but I don't love how it is changing.


Tango
Registered user
Cuesta Park
on Apr 16, 2021 at 6:35 pm
Tango, Cuesta Park
Registered user
on Apr 16, 2021 at 6:35 pm

Not happy with this proposal. First the city council opposes gradual increases in density for years (relaxing rear setbacks or allowing ADUs) and now they go overboard, completely disregarding the needs of existing residents. In my very residential neighborhood where most of the R3 lots are already on the small side (meaning R2 rules apply for development) this would mean 4 story apartment buildings next to single or 2 story single family homes. Towering buildings next to small homes, complete loss of privacy in back yards and the neighborhood feel, no more sun for those living North of the monstrosities that will undoubtedly be built. It's wishful thinking that affordable housing will result. Practically all of the housing will go to affluent buyers. If we want all of the R3 zones to look like the new parts of El Camino: great (irony off). It's not what I was going for when choosing my neighborhood, though. To the city council: Please have some regard for existing residents!


tecsi
Registered user
Monta Loma
on Apr 16, 2021 at 9:35 pm
tecsi, Monta Loma
Registered user
on Apr 16, 2021 at 9:35 pm

Responding to Jeremy Hoffman;:

Jeremy, I worry that we are not validating certain assumptions. Most recent MV housing is anything but "affordable". There are no significant requirements for affordable units in these proposals. So I don’t know believe yet more market-rate housing will lower housing prices to any significant degree, if at all.

Yes, we might want our kids to be able to live in MV. But will these proposals actually achieve this? If not, they might have to live in a lower cost area.


Kevin Sawyer
Registered user
St. Francis Acres
on Apr 17, 2021 at 8:44 am
Kevin Sawyer, St. Francis Acres
Registered user
on Apr 17, 2021 at 8:44 am

Explain to me where all the additional resources / utilities are going to come from. It wasn't long ago we were asked not to water our lawns, and strictly conserve water. Our weather pattern hasn't changed for the better. Droughts are the new norm. Thousands of residents added to Mountain View means thousands of new showers, toilets, dishwashers, and sinks.


Mtn Minded
Registered user
North Whisman
on Apr 17, 2021 at 4:54 pm
Mtn Minded, North Whisman
Registered user
on Apr 17, 2021 at 4:54 pm

Tango:

I lived in Minneapolis for a decade, which never had single family zoning in most areas. The neighborhoods were very livable, a mix of single family, duplex, and 2-3 story apartments that gave a variety of housing options. I think with appropriate setbacks and keeping zoning to R3-A or B, Mountain view could double housing density while maintaining a very livable feel.


Santa Rita Mom
Registered user
The Crossings
on Apr 17, 2021 at 5:32 pm
Santa Rita Mom, The Crossings
Registered user
on Apr 17, 2021 at 5:32 pm

@Mtn Minded

I'm not sure how long you have been here, but we have ALREADY increased the housing and have done so with essentially no improvements in infrastructure. As a matter of fact, Mountain View cleverly sold some water rights to PA for a pittance - all while planning to increase the population here. So much for "city planning".

It is about time that places other than Mountain View stopped making decisions about how Mountain View is run and is also about time that the city "leaders" stopped jumping every time those people hundreds of miles from here make demands. WE are the people who should decide how the city is run - not Sacramento or DC.

Sorry, but if I wanted to live in a place like Minneapolis, I would move there - not expect the place that I moved to to become like Minneapolis. I moved here because I wanted to live HERE, not San Francisco or another nasty, crowded city with filthy streets and high crime. I don't think we need to transform any more areas into major cities. We already have a number of those available for occupancy without destroying more suburban areas.

Perhaps people could move to NYC. They have lost huge numbers of people recently. Could it be that they have created a monster they no longer wish to feed? Do we REALLY want the mess that they have created to be reproduced here? Perhaps those who think they want that lifestyle could move there and try it out rather than insisting on changing Mountain View, then leaving because they don't like the big crowded mess that results from all those changes.

This country has plenty of areas to choose from. We don't need to alter places to be more like somewhere else because that somewhere else already exists. Maybe, just maybe, the people that already live there like it the way it is.


tecsi
Registered user
Monta Loma
on Apr 17, 2021 at 8:32 pm
tecsi, Monta Loma
Registered user
on Apr 17, 2021 at 8:32 pm

I have been trying to think of ways to probe and explore our housing preferences.

One question I have found useful is to ask: given the choice, would you prefer to buy a home in a single-family zoned neighborhood, or mixed zoning neighborhood where you could have four-plexes on both sides of you and across the street from you?

This seems to do help people get clear with their preferences.


lan
Registered user
Monta Loma
on Apr 18, 2021 at 9:55 am
lan, Monta Loma
Registered user
on Apr 18, 2021 at 9:55 am

@tesci

One preference would be what buyers can afford. If homes in a single-family zoned neighborhood are out of buyers' price range, than a single-family home nested among higher density housing might be more affordable. The point is to create options for a diversity of buyers.


Steven Nelson
Registered user
Cuesta Park
on Apr 18, 2021 at 10:03 am
Steven Nelson, Cuesta Park
Registered user
on Apr 18, 2021 at 10:03 am

I would prefer to BE GIVEN a $3-4 million dollar home on a large lot! (i.e. become a Los Altan or 'live in the Hills' for another $million or two)

Then, I think reality sets in. No way I want to PAY MY WEALTH for THAT! Then I would have neighbors / Council members like Eng! WEALTH PRIVILDGE - and exclude those renters - particualrly 'apartment renters'.

My preference is: as Ramerez and Mtn Minded discussed. Mixed residential zones. As Alison Hicks knows from her profession in Urban (Suburban) planning - LIMIT IN THE ORDINANCE the density of units PER BLOCK! Once a BLOCK AREA gets to its Quota MAXIMUM- Absolutely No "variances" allowed. Move on re-developers to other BLOCK AREAs!

R1 zonning - first introduced (we now all learn) in Berkely over 100 years ago as a RESIDENTIAL SEGREGATION 'PLANNING" TECHNIQUE [ask the Vice President of the USA how that worked for her] - needs to end in MV. It needs to end IN THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA as a result of the elected legislative representatives AT THE state level. Cities ARE NOT Sovereign under our USA Federal Republic system. The California Constitution does NOT grant cities "sovereignty".


Steven Nelson
Registered user
Cuesta Park
on Apr 18, 2021 at 10:12 am
Steven Nelson, Cuesta Park
Registered user
on Apr 18, 2021 at 10:12 am

@Raymond (poster #1). Sovereignty - that is why this City, and every other City in California (and every California County) "takes orders from Sacramento".

Wikipedia for "sovereignty" does a respecable short coverage of that de jure fact in American law (political reality).


tecsi
Registered user
Monta Loma
on Apr 18, 2021 at 10:28 am
tecsi, Monta Loma
Registered user
on Apr 18, 2021 at 10:28 am

@Ian

Good point. And I would suggest we need to think specifically about what prices we think are affordable, both to purchase, and to rent. And for which categories of jobs.

For example, it a home price drops from $1.8M to $1.6M, which people will this now become more affordable for? Teachers? Nurses? A dual-career high tech couple? I guess only that latter. Which will only exacerbate our inequality problem.

And if MV rents drop from $3500 to $3200, which groups will now be able to rent in MV who weren’t able to before?

My concern is that we might be letting the alluring word "affordable" (something we would all like to see) not comport with the future reality. We need to think about specific forecasted prices and rents to know where we are likely going.

Re. the single-family home nestled amidst four-plexues? I predict that homeowner will likely sell to a developer at a great price. Or, given now the increased shortage of single-family homes with a yard, will actually be able to increase their rents.


tecsi
Registered user
Monta Loma
on Apr 18, 2021 at 10:50 am
tecsi, Monta Loma
Registered user
on Apr 18, 2021 at 10:50 am

@Steven Nelson

Thanks for introducing a new approach—block zoning—into the discussion. Hadn’t heard or thought of this.

I would pause for a moment and ask: these housing initiatives suppose we need to grow. Must we? Do we want to? And when have we reached "enough"? Apart from the pressing issue of homelessness, aren’t 99% of our residents currently housed? Yes, Apple, Google, Facebook, et.al. would love it if we built more housing, especially since they know their well-paid employees can afford market-rate rents and home prices. And the cycle repeats.

Back to block-zoning and "no variances", don’t we have no variance zoning now: namely, single-family residential zoning, with no variances? So if the residents/voters want to move from single-family zoning to block zoning, let’s do it. But let’s not have the state (actually just 40 Senators and 80 Assemblypersons), or ABAG, dictate top-down how MV "must" zone. I would prefer for we the MV people to decide this.

Given all this, wouldn’t it be useful to poll current MV residents/voters to see what their thoughts and preferences would be? I would be very curious to see it it would be 20/80, 50/50, 80/20 for/against. Any guesses?


tecsi
Registered user
Monta Loma
on Apr 18, 2021 at 11:07 am
tecsi, Monta Loma
Registered user
on Apr 18, 2021 at 11:07 am

Btw, I’m finding this an informative conversation. But now I wonder if it is just 5-10 of us who are interested, reading and commenting.

We have ~75,000 residents in MV. So we 5-10 of aren’t even a drop in the bucket. Anyone know the online distribution of MV Voice?

How can we MV residents develop an informed, engaged democracy?

Here’s a little thought experiment the 5-10 of us might want to consider

Do you think MV people:
- don’t know about these housing decisions?
- don’t care?
- care, but don’t have the bandwidth to engage?
- know, care, and support them, so need to spend more time on the topic
- would care, but don’t know?



ivg
Registered user
Rex Manor
on Apr 19, 2021 at 7:46 am
ivg, Rex Manor
Registered user
on Apr 19, 2021 at 7:46 am

We have many problems in this city. The biggest one is lack of homes for people who work here. This problem has only one solution: build more homes. All the other stuff, including traffic, we can deal with.

That's all I have the time to say right now. I agree with Jeremy Hoffman.


tecsi
Registered user
Monta Loma
on Apr 19, 2021 at 8:39 am
tecsi, Monta Loma
Registered user
on Apr 19, 2021 at 8:39 am

@ivg

Totally agree about building "homes for those who work here’, especially critical people like teachers, nurses, police, ...

And, it would be great if building more market-rate housing would provide this type of affordable housing. But will it?

Let’s just look at the MV housing built in the last 2 years. I’m most aware of the high-rises along San Antonio. Have these provided affordable housing our local critical workers can afford? Or simply provided more housing for well-paid tech people? Whatever happened in past two years is probably the best predictor of what will happen if we build more market-rate housing in the future.

Let’s get evidence-based so we can make good decisions for MV.


LongResident
Registered user
another community
on Apr 20, 2021 at 12:32 am
LongResident, another community
Registered user
on Apr 20, 2021 at 12:32 am

I don't know what the city actually intends in making these changes, but the comments on here seem to be based of sleight of hand. Apples and oranges. Land is still expensive in Mountain View. Right now it's the most expensive in areas where housing density is allowed. I don't see this changing, so it's a windfall for owners of property in the R3 areas. Their gain means there is no savings for the housing that is constructed. Construction is still expensive. In the old days the wood frame housing was cheaper but now lumber prices have skyrocketed. I see a greater cost per square foot to construct and more land used per unit. It's not going to make housing cheaper. It will only be done if the developer can make more money that way. So they'll be sold as nicer units than in the taller apartment buildings, and marketed as such.

The biggest sleight of hand are in the comments comparing Los Altos housing prices to prices in Mountain View. Los Altos hills lots generally have steep slopes and limited buildable area. Still they manage to be larger than the typical unit in Mountain View. Sizes in Los Altos and Los Altos Hills have gone up over time and the new construction is all massive houses. That's why you can talk about a $3.5 Million price tag--that's for a 3500-4500 sq foot house with tons of rooms and a huge yard. Build the same thing in Mountain View and it would be even more expensive. So you won't build the same thing. You're talking about comparing that to one 600-800 sq foot unit along with 6-10 others on the same amounts of land as a single house, or even less land, but in Mountain View. Of course it's cheaper!
But why should it be any cheaper than a unit in one of the 6-8 story apartment buildings on ECR? It's projected in areas which don't have extra transit as on El Camino Real. There will need to be cars and parking spaces of some sort. So it seems like wishful thinking to me. $400K to build plus land cost = $3500/mo rent.


ivg
Registered user
Rex Manor
on Apr 21, 2021 at 5:22 pm
ivg, Rex Manor
Registered user
on Apr 21, 2021 at 5:22 pm

@tecsi, new homes will reduce prices across the board, and the type of building doesn't matter so much. The supply of rich people is limited. Build more luxury homes, and the rich people will vacate the working-class homes that they're living in now.

Another way of looking at it is that if you picked up the entire city of Mountain View and dropped it in Texas, the value of every single property would drop by more than half, because Texas doesn't have the crazy levels of demand that we have here.


tecsi
Registered user
Monta Loma
on Apr 21, 2021 at 6:09 pm
tecsi, Monta Loma
Registered user
on Apr 21, 2021 at 6:09 pm

@ivg

Prices might drop, but maybe not. And I would guess by 5-10% max, which won’t change things much. I expect developers will target the high end with sleek, upscale units that well paid people can afford. That’s where they make their most money. And our biggest housing problem is affordability at lower incomes, which this won’t address. Developers always build to the high end of the market.

And when will we say, ok, that’s enough? When we reach the SF density? Is that what we want? I don’t.

I suspect this will only increase the traffic above pre-pandemic levels, and create the street parking overflows that SF faces. Maybe MV will require very expensive parking stickers which could lessen this.


LongResident
Registered user
another community
on Apr 21, 2021 at 11:53 pm
LongResident, another community
Registered user
on Apr 21, 2021 at 11:53 pm

No one is going to invest money to BUILD a home if he rent won't generate a significant return on that investment. The current supply system is self limiting, but that does not actually CAUSE the prices to be high. It's a result of the prices compared to the costs of construction and land (which are both higher than ever before).

With the pandemic, we see the typical new unit dropping in price from $4000-$5000 to $3000-$4000 but it won't last if demand returns. But we don't see prices falling on the older units that go for $2000-$3000 in recent times.

The solution for people with money to spend in Mountain View when buying a formerly working class home is to remodel it extensively and increase its value that way. Similarly apartment investors will remodel a complex and then try to get something close to the current price for the new luxury housing. The investors are not interested in building units designed for lower rental prices, because it's harder to be sure they will make money doing that. The cost of construction means a new unit is pricey no matter how it is encouraged or facilitated by zoning laws.

Building more units so as to reduce rental prices? That's a futile goal. Things don't work that way, unless there is special financing to add the new units at an unusually low rental price, such as an all-affordable housing complex.


tecsi
Registered user
Monta Loma
on Apr 22, 2021 at 8:21 am
tecsi, Monta Loma
Registered user
on Apr 22, 2021 at 8:21 am

@LongResident

A very thoughtfully reasoned argument. I have assumed similar results, but you offer deeper evidence-based thinking about how developers decide what to build, and what would result.

I’m curious, are you aware of the CA Senate Bill SB9 where the state overrides local control of zoning and will allow any residential single-family lot in any city to be split into two lots, and a duplex to to build on each? In max case, the same lot would increase from 1 unit to 4 units. No person or city can deny. Relaxes/suspends most CEQA/EIR requirements.

I would be interested in your thoughts about how developers might view this. They have poured huge sums into getting SB9 passed, so they must see big financial opportunities.


Tina
Registered user
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Apr 22, 2021 at 7:38 pm
Tina, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
Registered user
on Apr 22, 2021 at 7:38 pm

Look folks it's really simple you get what you vote for so stop complaining.
Not everyone can live in Beverly hills.


ivg
Registered user
Rex Manor
on Apr 22, 2021 at 10:25 pm
ivg, Rex Manor
Registered user
on Apr 22, 2021 at 10:25 pm

First of all, increasing supply to meet demand eventually works. We don't see the effect in Mountain View because we're a smallish city in a big metro area, and we only adopted a pro-growth policy recently.

Here's one article. I'm not saying we need to look like Tokyo, but it makes the point.
Web Link

Second, you're entitled to your aesthetic preference, but in California we've had decades of policymaking guided by aesthetic preference and unmoored from reality. Now the reality is that we live in a visually appealing city whose unskilled workers have to commute from the Central Valley or spend half their income for a room in a house in East Palo Alto. It's bad for them and their families, it's bad for their employers, and it's bad for the environment.

When do we stop building? We stop building when I stop losing friends to other states because they can't afford to live here anymore.


ivg
Registered user
Rex Manor
on Apr 22, 2021 at 10:37 pm
ivg, Rex Manor
Registered user
on Apr 22, 2021 at 10:37 pm

Do you realize that the city of San Mateo in 2019 put up a barracks for its police officers so they wouldn't have to commute two and a half hours each way?

Web Link

This police officer nearly died in a car crash because he was so tired from his brutal commute that he fell asleep while driving. If a Mountain View cop shoots someone with a gun instead of a Taser, I'll have a guess as to why.


ivg
Registered user
Rex Manor
on Apr 23, 2021 at 7:39 am
ivg, Rex Manor
Registered user
on Apr 23, 2021 at 7:39 am

@Tina, not every city gets to be Beverly Hills, either. And those cities that want to (which are numerous) forget that America is supposed to be the land of opportunity


Mtn Minded
Registered user
North Whisman
on Apr 23, 2021 at 1:34 pm
Mtn Minded, North Whisman
Registered user
on Apr 23, 2021 at 1:34 pm

@Santa Rita mom:

I've lived here a decade. I think that's long enough to have a voice. Look, Mountain View is going to change whether you like it or not. If we try to hold to the current zoning, only techies and retired homeowners will live here. That's not a vibrant community.

@LongResident: last I checked, 3/4 of the value of my townhouse is in the land. Similarly, the limiting factor for Los Altos lots is not the difficulty of building on steep slopes -- look at Twin Peaks -- but the single family housing zoning. Finally, I agree that new housing will command a premium, but that will drive down the cost of older housing.

@tesci: I don't know what to make of SB9. On the one hand, I hate taking away local control. On the other, we need to supply housing to meet our community's needs, and I don't want Los Altos and Palo Alto to shirk their housing needs and send it all to Mountain View.

Cheers, all. Appreciate the mostly constructive discussion.


tecsi
Registered user
Monta Loma
on Apr 23, 2021 at 3:22 pm
tecsi, Monta Loma
Registered user
on Apr 23, 2021 at 3:22 pm

@Santa Rita mom:

Good point about techie and retired homeowners, and vibrancy. There are many threads here: the initial MV Voice article, discussions about SB9, SB10, so its not always clear which specific housing issues we are discussing.

My interest is not yet more "of the same" housing, which a gift to Apple, Facebook, Google, et.al, and which will create yet more tech growth. We need to stand back and say, when have we had enough? When we become like San Francisco?

I disagree that we have a general housing crisis; we have an affordably housing crisis for critical, important members of our communities: our teachers, our nurses, our police, ... So I would like to see plans to address that. I think more general growth will simply make our traffic more congested, our drought situation worse, our overloaded schools even more crowded, ...

Re. local control vs. state control: Let's be clear: developer interests are pushing for top-down state control so that they are only responsible to their shareholders, not the communities they build in. If we want to change our zoning, great. Then let, "we the people" decide that for ourselves. But let's not have the state tell us how they want us to design our communities.


tecsi
Registered user
Monta Loma
on Apr 23, 2021 at 3:36 pm
tecsi, Monta Loma
Registered user
on Apr 23, 2021 at 3:36 pm

@ivg

Yes we could keep adding housing and become more like SF. Which btw isn't a cheap place to live. And if that is what we want (I don't, at all), then let's vote on it. But let's not let the state tell us what we must do. Instead, let's MV voters, based democratic process, decide. We may not all like the results, but isn't that the democratic process we want?

I think we have to test our assertions with evidence. Do these projects and SB9 solve the problems you correctly identified? Or do they just line the pockets of developers? Here's my take: this new market-rate housing will be at the high-end, rented/bought by well paid tech people, meanwhile increasing traffic, further stressing our drought situation, and solving none of the affordability housing issues.

And I might be totally wrong. If so, I would like someone to connect the dots for me to show how these proposals solve the affordability issue.


tecsi
Registered user
Monta Loma
on Apr 24, 2021 at 11:26 pm
tecsi, Monta Loma
Registered user
on Apr 24, 2021 at 11:26 pm

@ivg

I appreciate your points because they always spur me to think more deeply about housing. Rereading this thread, I noticed afresh your comment:
- "When do we stop building? We stop building when I stop losing friends to other states because they can't afford to live here anymore"

Would you be able to provide a home price ($250K/$500K/$750K/$1M/$1.5M) and rental price ($1500/$2000/$3000/$4000) that would enable your friends to stay here? And perhaps specify the type of home (3/2; 2/1; 1/1, Studio) you are referencing for your prices.

Thanks.


ivg
Registered user
Rex Manor
on Apr 25, 2021 at 4:36 pm
ivg, Rex Manor
Registered user
on Apr 25, 2021 at 4:36 pm

@MtnMinded has pointed out one of the main problems with local control. The state is in the position of saying, as it were, "I'm going to take away your toy because you won't let your little brother play with it." Cities have used the idea of local control to try to push people to live elsewhere, which is not a responsible policy. It's at best a prisoners' dilemma, and at worst a game of make-believe in which cities pretend that they're making decisions in a vacuum and conveniently forget about the impact on the rest of the region.

@tecsi, thank you as well for the stimulating discussion.

You listed three professions that you think are impacted by a narrowly focused affordability crisis: teachers, nurses, and police. We hear about those three professions a lot now for specific reasons: nurses because we're suddenly more afraid of dying than usual, and teachers and police because they have very strong unions. But anywhere with a sane real-estate market, those are solidly middle-class jobs. Once the affordability crisis has come for these people, many other people are working so hard to put food on the table and a roof over their heads that they don't even have time to complain: grocery store clerks, restaurant staff, janitors, housecleaners, ride-hail drivers, barbers, beauty-salon people, etc., etc. The maintenance guy at my previous apartment complex was commuting from San Juan Bautista.


ivg
Registered user
Rex Manor
on Apr 25, 2021 at 4:45 pm
ivg, Rex Manor
Registered user
on Apr 25, 2021 at 4:45 pm

Now let's talk numbers. I don't know my friends' incomes, but let's do a little exercise together. Think of how much your house cost when you bought it, and your household income at the time. Now divide those two numbers. My family came here as asylum seekers from the Soviet Union. Three years later, my parents bought a townhouse. It cost 3x our family income. How much do you think is a reasonable amount to pay to buy a home?


Now, please look at Web Link, Figure 12. In Santa Clara County, the median home price is 12x median income, compared to 9.5x for all of California and 4.4x for the whole US.


ivg
Registered user
Rex Manor
on Apr 25, 2021 at 4:52 pm
ivg, Rex Manor
Registered user
on Apr 25, 2021 at 4:52 pm

One more thing. You took issue with developers' profits. The thing is, construction is expensive. @LongResident mentioned the cost of materials, and of course there's the cost of buying a property to redevelop. But suppose I'm wrong, and developers are making a lot of money. At least they're doing it by providing a product that people want (homes). I think that's a more honorable way to make money than buying a house and watching it appreciate for 30 years. Granted, it's not money in the bank, but there are plenty of ways to cash out. You can get a reverse mortgage or build an ADU without even having to move. (SB9, the lot-split bill, would create even more ways.)


tecsi
Registered user
Monta Loma
on Apr 25, 2021 at 6:00 pm
tecsi, Monta Loma
Registered user
on Apr 25, 2021 at 6:00 pm

@ivg

Great story of your family’s “American Dream". Thanks for sharing.

I fully understand your income-to-home price ratio. Housing costs have totally changed. And it is frustrating. And it is also our current reality, so let’s address things as they are now, not as they once were.

By commiserating about what once was, does this really help us see if these current initiatives are going to improve things? That was the essence of my question. Let’s take real people, real incomes and real housing prices and assess the likely results.

I will offer my predictions about this new housing:
- these will be market-rate units
- they will be targeted for the highest income levels developers think there is a market for (e.g. dual-career high tech couples)
- this is exactly what has been built in the past five years. Look at San Antonio units. So I expect more of the same
- the new housing will not remotely be "affordable" for teachers, nurses, ...
- traffic will get worse, street-parking will overflow like SF, schools will become more crowed, CA drought will be further taxed, ...

Anyone else have another forecast on what you think will happen?


ivg
Registered user
Rex Manor
on Apr 26, 2021 at 8:56 pm
ivg, Rex Manor
Registered user
on Apr 26, 2021 at 8:56 pm

My family did live the American dream, but I object to equating the American dream with homeownership. I was taught as a kid that the American dream means that each generation is more prosperous than the one before.

Your first four bullet points make essentially the same point, but it's an important one. You note, quite correctly, that recent housing development in MV has been targeted to the upper middle class. But you fall into two common misconceptions. First, high prices are not a product of developers' greed; they're a product of restrictive government policy. I recently came across this interesting illustration (Web Link) of this principle.

Second, even luxury apartments help the overall housing market. Mountain View has 1.7 jobs per employed resident. In simpler terms, that means that for every 10 employed residents, there are only 6 homes. That means that the market sets prices to satisfy the richest 6 employees, and the other 4 employees can't afford it here and have to go somewhere else.

Of course, I've made a very simplified argument, but these data from Texas (Web Link; sorry I don't have the full reference) show that apartment vacancy rates are closely correlated with the growth rate of prices.


tecsi
Registered user
Monta Loma
on Apr 26, 2021 at 9:53 pm
tecsi, Monta Loma
Registered user
on Apr 26, 2021 at 9:53 pm

@ivg

I like this thread because new interesting points keep surfacing.

Developers are not necessarily greedy, but seek to maximize their profit. That shouldn't surprise us. We have zero evidence that developers will built "affordable" units. That's not where the highest profits are. If you expect they will, then please provide provide me one MV example where they have. I expect the vast majority of new units will come in over $1M, and certainly $750K. Hardly affordable.

We can't look at jobs and housing at the city level. Jobs and housing are regional issues. And apart from the homeless, and multiple families squeezed into one housing unit, everyone has a place to live. For lower income people, only affordable housing will address their situation. And again, name me just one developer who you think is going to build these.

I think our jobs/housing issue is primarilybecause we continue to subsidize Tech's growth. I don't think we should burden ourselves with every employee Tech wants to add. It's not good for Silicon Valley, it's not good for the country.

Worth noting that almost everyone who leaves Silicon Valley moves to a place with they can have a single-family home with a yard and privacy. So the SB9's (in particular) solution is to replace exactly what most people want.


SRB
Registered user
St. Francis Acres
on Apr 27, 2021 at 5:54 pm
SRB, St. Francis Acres
Registered user
on Apr 27, 2021 at 5:54 pm

Headline doesn't quite tell the whole story.

Indeed, the R3 upzoning might result in 9,000 *net* new housing units.... but only after demolishing 9,000 existing and naturally affordable housing units (older apartments mostly under CFSRA).

It will be critical for the City to put in place very strong policies to prevent displacement, preserve affordability.....BEFORE approving the upzoning.

I was surprised to see only moderate density increase in areas that could best support it (areas like Downtown are rich in transit and amenities) and the highest density increase near Rengstorff -which encompasses the poorest US Census tracts in Mountain View, which was not planned for change in the General Plan and is poorly served by transit-

I hope the City will rebalance the proposed densities based on access to transit and based on proximity to existing change areas/precise plans.

Hope the City will also start some planning for the Rengstorff area.


Jack Cormode
Registered user
Waverly Park
on Apr 27, 2021 at 6:35 pm
Jack Cormode, Waverly Park
Registered user
on Apr 27, 2021 at 6:35 pm

I would like to ask a question of all of those people advocating for affordable housing. What 'affordable housing' is in your immediate neighborhood? By 'immediate neighborhood' I mean that housing that was built in the same time period (e.g., mid-1950s) and that is in the common style of that neighborhood? You shouldn't be advocating for massive change of neighborhoods and lifestyle if you don't already have it yourself. We need to solve this problem but not by creating problems for other people. That is a zero-sum game. Some original thinking is needed. How about housing for sale or rent that goes to people that are already living or working in Mountain View?


ivg
Registered user
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Apr 27, 2021 at 9:30 pm
ivg, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
Registered user
on Apr 27, 2021 at 9:30 pm

@SRB, that's exactly what my organization is advocating for! Tell me if you want to know more.

@Jack, sure, let's encase Mountain View in amber like a prehistoric insect.

@tecsi, I don't have time right now to answer everything, but two quick points.

1) You're exactly right that housing is a regional issue. That's why we have RHNA and other state laws, including more coming down the pipe this year. (Since we don't actually have a regional government.)

2) We don't subsidize tech expansion. (Mountain View just instituted a new tax on employee headcount that took effect in 2019, primarily targeted at Google!) What we do is make it extremely difficult to build homes (maybe only slightly difficult in Mountain View, but don't get me started about Palo Alto).


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