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Facing a requirement to allow 11K new homes, Mountain View looks to update its housing plans

Mountain View is being required to zone for 11,000 new housing units in the coming decade. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

State housing mandates are forcing Mountain View to grow quickly, with new zoning requirements that would increase its housing stock by 32% over the next eight years. Now city planners have to figure out where to put it all.

The Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG), charged with predicting the region's future housing needs, tasked Mountain View earlier this year with zoning for 11,135 new housing units between 2023 and 2031. It's a huge spike over the 2,926 units required over the last eight-year cycle, and is much higher than what neighboring cities have been asked to accommodate.

To prove to state housing officials that Mountain View can accommodate that magnitude of growth, the city must update its so-called housing element, a document spelling out how the city plans to rezone areas to allow for new housing and streamline processes to make it easier to build. That process is beginning in earnest in the coming months, with pop-up booths and community meetings starting this week.

Housing requirements are determined in eight-year cycles through what's called the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) process, and Mountain View has pretty good track record for building its fair share. Over the 2015-2023 cycle, Mountain View has already issued building permits for 4,219 homes and has 3,859 more units in the pipeline, putting the city on pace to trounce its housing requirements before the cycle is over.

The only caveat is that the vast majority of those units are market-rate housing, in line with a regional failure to meet the Bay Area's affordable housing needs.

Housing units, built and planned, for 2015 through 2023 in Mountain View. Courtesy city of Mountain View.

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What's new this year is the scale of housing which cities are expected to accommodate. Santa Clara County's last RHNA allocation was 58,836 units, but this time it's more than doubled to 129,577 units -- a tall order that's unevenly distributed among its cities.

Despite being a smaller suburban city, Mountain View is expected to build nearly the same amount of housing as Sunnyvale and Santa Clara, while other North County cities are being asked to build much less. Palo Alto's housing allocation is much lower at 6,086 units, while Los Altos is being asked to build 1,958 units.

It may not take much to revise Mountain View's housing plans to meet the new state requirements. The city is already on a fast-growth trajectory over the next five years, with plans to build 7,000 homes in North Bayshore and up to 5,000 homes in East Whisman. Many of the city's pending housing plans can plug into the housing element update and satisfy state mandates, said Wayne Chen, the city's assistant community development director.

One of the overarching goals of the RHNA process is to put jobs near housing, which is exactly what Mountain View is doing.

"We're doing a lot of work in our precise plans to add housing in our employment-rich areas, and we want to participate and contribute to the regional housing efforts," Chen said.

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Also playing into the housing element update are the city's plans to completely revamp R3 zoning, which governs most of Mountain View's multifamily housing.

The City Council is looking to revise the R3 rules to spur increased density and more diverse housing types through a new set of building standards that would affect 480 acres of the city and could allow for the construction of 9,000 new homes.

Cities have until January 2023 to update their housing elements, and Mountain View planning officials have already started working on components of the plan, Chen said. The next step is to solicit public feedback and ensure residents feel comfortable about where and how the city can accommodate thousands of new homes. The city is hosting pop-up booths at the Mountain View Farmers Market on Aug. 19 and Sept. 2, and will hold a community workshop on Sept. 23.

"This a great opportunity for residents and community members, including the business community, to provide input for things that the city should be looking at for its housing needs," Chen said.

Many cities have protested against their housing allocation this year, insisting that the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) is mandating too much housing growth. A total of 28 cities filed appeals seeking to adjust their allocation, including Palo Alto, Los Altos and Los Altos Hills. Mountain View did not file an appeal, but did send a letter with concerns about the high amount of growth being asked of the city.

The letter notes that Mountain View is being asked to build the most housing, as a percentage of existing households, in the region among cities with more than 5,000 residents, and that it's unclear how ABAG arrived at some of its numbers. Modeling used by ABAG sets housing forecasts that make sense at a regional level but can seem arbitrary at the local level, with assumptions that simply don't make sense.

"An area near downtown Sunnyvale was projected to add only 195 units to the year 2050, despite having approximately 30 acres of underutilized office near their baby-bullet Caltrain station, while an area near downtown Mountain View was projected to add almost 3,000 units, with (a) similar amount or even less area of underutilized land," according to the letter.

During the last RHNA cycle, Mountain View unsuccessfully appealed its housing allocation because housing in North Bayshore was built into the assumptions. At that time, the City Council had sought to remove housing as an allowed use in the area, and wanted ABAG to consider that a "significant and unforeseen change in circumstances." ABAG disagreed, and the appeal was unanimously denied.

A new key component in Mountain View's housing element is a renewed focus on fair housing, Chen said. While the city has followed state and federal fair housing requirements against discrimination, there's an effort underway to expand the scope to include so-called Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing. The new approach takes into account things like displacement, regional equity and a focus on improving neighborhoods where there are racially concentrated areas of poverty.

More information on the city's housing element update can be found online.

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Facing a requirement to allow 11K new homes, Mountain View looks to update its housing plans

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Mon, Aug 16, 2021, 1:43 pm

State housing mandates are forcing Mountain View to grow quickly, with new zoning requirements that would increase its housing stock by 32% over the next eight years. Now city planners have to figure out where to put it all.

The Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG), charged with predicting the region's future housing needs, tasked Mountain View earlier this year with zoning for 11,135 new housing units between 2023 and 2031. It's a huge spike over the 2,926 units required over the last eight-year cycle, and is much higher than what neighboring cities have been asked to accommodate.

To prove to state housing officials that Mountain View can accommodate that magnitude of growth, the city must update its so-called housing element, a document spelling out how the city plans to rezone areas to allow for new housing and streamline processes to make it easier to build. That process is beginning in earnest in the coming months, with pop-up booths and community meetings starting this week.

Housing requirements are determined in eight-year cycles through what's called the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) process, and Mountain View has pretty good track record for building its fair share. Over the 2015-2023 cycle, Mountain View has already issued building permits for 4,219 homes and has 3,859 more units in the pipeline, putting the city on pace to trounce its housing requirements before the cycle is over.

The only caveat is that the vast majority of those units are market-rate housing, in line with a regional failure to meet the Bay Area's affordable housing needs.

What's new this year is the scale of housing which cities are expected to accommodate. Santa Clara County's last RHNA allocation was 58,836 units, but this time it's more than doubled to 129,577 units -- a tall order that's unevenly distributed among its cities.

Despite being a smaller suburban city, Mountain View is expected to build nearly the same amount of housing as Sunnyvale and Santa Clara, while other North County cities are being asked to build much less. Palo Alto's housing allocation is much lower at 6,086 units, while Los Altos is being asked to build 1,958 units.

It may not take much to revise Mountain View's housing plans to meet the new state requirements. The city is already on a fast-growth trajectory over the next five years, with plans to build 7,000 homes in North Bayshore and up to 5,000 homes in East Whisman. Many of the city's pending housing plans can plug into the housing element update and satisfy state mandates, said Wayne Chen, the city's assistant community development director.

One of the overarching goals of the RHNA process is to put jobs near housing, which is exactly what Mountain View is doing.

"We're doing a lot of work in our precise plans to add housing in our employment-rich areas, and we want to participate and contribute to the regional housing efforts," Chen said.

Also playing into the housing element update are the city's plans to completely revamp R3 zoning, which governs most of Mountain View's multifamily housing.

The City Council is looking to revise the R3 rules to spur increased density and more diverse housing types through a new set of building standards that would affect 480 acres of the city and could allow for the construction of 9,000 new homes.

Cities have until January 2023 to update their housing elements, and Mountain View planning officials have already started working on components of the plan, Chen said. The next step is to solicit public feedback and ensure residents feel comfortable about where and how the city can accommodate thousands of new homes. The city is hosting pop-up booths at the Mountain View Farmers Market on Aug. 19 and Sept. 2, and will hold a community workshop on Sept. 23.

"This a great opportunity for residents and community members, including the business community, to provide input for things that the city should be looking at for its housing needs," Chen said.

Many cities have protested against their housing allocation this year, insisting that the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) is mandating too much housing growth. A total of 28 cities filed appeals seeking to adjust their allocation, including Palo Alto, Los Altos and Los Altos Hills. Mountain View did not file an appeal, but did send a letter with concerns about the high amount of growth being asked of the city.

The letter notes that Mountain View is being asked to build the most housing, as a percentage of existing households, in the region among cities with more than 5,000 residents, and that it's unclear how ABAG arrived at some of its numbers. Modeling used by ABAG sets housing forecasts that make sense at a regional level but can seem arbitrary at the local level, with assumptions that simply don't make sense.

"An area near downtown Sunnyvale was projected to add only 195 units to the year 2050, despite having approximately 30 acres of underutilized office near their baby-bullet Caltrain station, while an area near downtown Mountain View was projected to add almost 3,000 units, with (a) similar amount or even less area of underutilized land," according to the letter.

During the last RHNA cycle, Mountain View unsuccessfully appealed its housing allocation because housing in North Bayshore was built into the assumptions. At that time, the City Council had sought to remove housing as an allowed use in the area, and wanted ABAG to consider that a "significant and unforeseen change in circumstances." ABAG disagreed, and the appeal was unanimously denied.

A new key component in Mountain View's housing element is a renewed focus on fair housing, Chen said. While the city has followed state and federal fair housing requirements against discrimination, there's an effort underway to expand the scope to include so-called Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing. The new approach takes into account things like displacement, regional equity and a focus on improving neighborhoods where there are racially concentrated areas of poverty.

More information on the city's housing element update can be found online.

Comments

DEWT
Registered user
Waverly Park
on Aug 16, 2021 at 5:14 pm
DEWT, Waverly Park
Registered user
on Aug 16, 2021 at 5:14 pm

I've never understood how ABAG could penalize a city for not meeting its mandated housing goals. I would appreciate it if someone could clearly and concisely clarify ABAG's power and what penalties it could enact on Mountain View if the mandated housing goal is not met. And how would those penalties be enforced?


Waldo
Registered user
Waverly Park
on Aug 16, 2021 at 7:01 pm
Waldo, Waverly Park
Registered user
on Aug 16, 2021 at 7:01 pm

Expanding upon DEWT's thread, can ABAG send us the additional water these folks are going to consume?


Raymond
Registered user
Monta Loma
on Aug 16, 2021 at 10:19 pm
Raymond , Monta Loma
Registered user
on Aug 16, 2021 at 10:19 pm

The density of Mountain View being 6829/sq mile (Palo Alto is 2665), it is abusively absurd to try to tell us to accept so much greater density, traffic, need for schools & parks, etc. To the extent that ABAG has any coercive power, it should be curbed. Since the governor has done nothing to protect local zoning, his replacement might be a helpful move.


ivg
Registered user
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Aug 17, 2021 at 6:24 am
ivg, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
Registered user
on Aug 17, 2021 at 6:24 am

Correction: Palo Alto's target growth rate is even higher than ours. And @Raymond, when you calculate Palo Alto's density, make sure to exclude Foothills Park and all the other natural areas. Palo Alto's city limits go all the way up to Skyline Blvd.


ivg
Registered user
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Aug 17, 2021 at 6:27 am
ivg, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
Registered user
on Aug 17, 2021 at 6:27 am

We can get the water from Tracy or Stockton, where these people would have to live otherwise. Also, I hope that no one commenting here about water has a lawn.


Yonatan
Registered user
Old Mountain View
on Aug 17, 2021 at 3:58 pm
Yonatan, Old Mountain View
Registered user
on Aug 17, 2021 at 3:58 pm

I grew up in Mountain View.
I would love to be able to raise a family here.
But housing prices are stupid here. No one who is not fabulously wealthy has the $200,000.00 in cash needed for the down-payment on even a small cottage.
Build more housing!
As supply goes up, prices will go down!


Jeremy Hoffman
Registered user
Rengstorff Park
on Aug 17, 2021 at 9:34 pm
Jeremy Hoffman, Rengstorff Park
Registered user
on Aug 17, 2021 at 9:34 pm

We've been trying this experiment where we let each city in California decide whether or not to let enough homes be built to support their growing populations. The results speak for themselves. The cost of housing has skyrocketed. If you've been insulated from the housing market for a while, you might not realize how devastating it is.

I'm incredibly relieved that we're gonna try a new approach for once. Cities can decide how to grow sustainably, but they can't decide to slam the door in the face of the next generation and the workers who serve them who have to commute from an hour away, adding traffic and greenhouse gas pollution.

Fortunately, Mountain View was already turning the corner and leading the pack on reducing jobs-housing imbalance. Let's keep up the good work and show California how to build a sustainable future.


Seth Neumann
Registered user
Waverly Park
on Aug 17, 2021 at 10:24 pm
Seth Neumann, Waverly Park
Registered user
on Aug 17, 2021 at 10:24 pm

Let’s work on demand: no more new office space and encourage companies to build and hire elsewhere until demand meets supply for housing. It is absurd to think that this number of units is going to get built as it costs close to 1M to build a single units including fees and offsets in Mountain View. And that’s market rate housing, forget it for affordable! And how about land for schools?

Growth for its own sake is the philosophy of a cancer cell!


sfcanative
Registered user
Whisman Station
on Aug 18, 2021 at 11:17 am
sfcanative, Whisman Station
Registered user
on Aug 18, 2021 at 11:17 am

Mountain View has made its bed, now it gets to lie in it. Mountain View has led the effort to build more housing? What a joke. Mountain View has led the effort to approve, without restriction, the addition of tens of thousands of jobs in the city without any regard to the consequences. Neighboring communities have become unwilling participants in this chaos with clogged roadways, higher housing costs, infrastructure challenges and now a growing water crisis.

More housing is NOT the answer. Locating additional employment elsewhere is the answer. We don't need more people here. We don't need more employment here. We don't need more housing here. Enough with the insanity perpetrated by overzealous city councils, self-servicing planning departments and developers/multinational corporations having no problem paying $10 million for an acre of land.


Randy Guelph
Registered user
Cuernavaca
on Aug 18, 2021 at 3:10 pm
Randy Guelph, Cuernavaca
Registered user
on Aug 18, 2021 at 3:10 pm

sfcanative, perhaps you should return to SF because you certainly don't represent the spirit of Mountain View that I, and many others here, love. We're a community that loves new neighbors and welcomes them with open arms! The more, the merrier!


ivg
Registered user
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Aug 19, 2021 at 6:23 am
ivg, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
Registered user
on Aug 19, 2021 at 6:23 am

I was wrong. Palo Alto does have a smaller allocation than MV (although it's starting from a somewhat smaller population as of today). I must have been thinking of an earlier draft.

That's unfortunate. They should be building just as many homes as we are!


Nora S.
Registered user
Rex Manor
on Aug 19, 2021 at 9:10 am
Nora S., Rex Manor
Registered user
on Aug 19, 2021 at 9:10 am

This article states that "state housing mandates are forcing Mountain View to grow quickly," but no mention is made of how the mandates are enforced. Also, most of the article seems to be about ABAG's "requirements" for housing units. ABAG is not an arm of the state, it is a regional planning organization with limited statutory authority. ABAG is not able to enforce its goals by any means other than frowning and shaking fingers. Towns such as Los Altos Hills have flouted ABAG for decades with no repercussions. So... can we please see a more thorough and clear discussion of these issues in a future article? State mandates + enforcement. ABAG mandates + enforcement. City Council decisions + repercussions. Thank you.


SRB
Registered user
St. Francis Acres
on Aug 19, 2021 at 10:45 am
SRB, St. Francis Acres
Registered user
on Aug 19, 2021 at 10:45 am

I agree with the previous post and the call to demystify ABAG. Indeed, it's not a State Agency but rather a regional planning organization with a general assembly composed of the very cities/council members who are decrying the housing allocations.
see current GA roster: Web Link


Tech
Registered user
Rex Manor
on Aug 19, 2021 at 12:27 pm
Tech, Rex Manor
Registered user
on Aug 19, 2021 at 12:27 pm

Let's not forget how we got here. I see some people get it and some don't.

The Bay has a long history of adding new office development and new jobs without adequate housing. Mountain View wanted to add 3.5m new square feet of office in NBS without any housing element. This is what swept in the first wave of pro-housing candidates some years ago, and the NBPP was amended with a housing element. We later tried to reneg on that.

If you are concerned about where the new residents will get water (really?), it's worth noting the offices and jobs are already approved and being built. The workers will just commute from farther away, or displace lower income workers. They will consume the same resources, they will commute farther and be less likely to be able to use transit. The existing homeowners will find more ways to buy their way out of the problems like prop 13 and HOT lanes.

If you are concerned about growth, start saying no to big tech. But that will only stop the imbalance from getting worse, not pay down the debt we already have.


Raymond
Registered user
Monta Loma
on Aug 19, 2021 at 3:06 pm
Raymond , Monta Loma
Registered user
on Aug 19, 2021 at 3:06 pm

Fortunately one need not exclude Mtn View's open space (from density calcs), cuz there isn't much.
Building more housing will not reduce prices.
An economic depression or closing borders might temporarily reduce prices.
The number of people world-wide rich enough (~capitalism) to impact our little patch of Eden has become far too large (& growing) for our housing prices to ever drop much.
While we have allowed crowds of people wanting better jobs, better policing, & less corruption fill up CA, recent events suggest that there are crowds of people wanting to live under conditions here rather than being at least partial slaves in Hong Kong, Cuba, Venezuela, or Afghanistan (where death might occur early).
Sustainable growth is an oxymoron.
Concern about climate change mandates leaving people in low-carbon economies where they now are.


Randy Guelph
Registered user
Cuernavaca
on Aug 19, 2021 at 4:28 pm
Randy Guelph, Cuernavaca
Registered user
on Aug 19, 2021 at 4:28 pm

Raymond,

Are there any other goods you know about that are impervious to the laws of supply and demand?


Tech
Registered user
Rex Manor
on Aug 19, 2021 at 5:42 pm
Tech, Rex Manor
Registered user
on Aug 19, 2021 at 5:42 pm

The evidence is clear that the demand is largely manufactured, not innate. Why do people move here? Tech jobs. How can they bid $2.5m on a SFH? Tech income. The vast majority are not people who made their fortunes elsewhere and moved here for the weather. California, and the Bay Area specifically, have net outbound domestic migration. Tech relies heavily on H-1B.


Randy Guelph
Registered user
Cuernavaca
on Aug 19, 2021 at 6:03 pm
Randy Guelph, Cuernavaca
Registered user
on Aug 19, 2021 at 6:03 pm

Tech,

That seems like a distinction without a difference. Throughout history, people have almost uniformly moved for economic opportunity. Today is no different, we've just refused to allow enough homes to be built, leading to skyrocketing property values.

What Raymond was contending, however, was that homes do not obey the laws of supply and demand, so I'm curious if he knows about any other goods like that.


Tech
Registered user
Rex Manor
on Aug 19, 2021 at 6:50 pm
Tech, Rex Manor
Registered user
on Aug 19, 2021 at 6:50 pm

Thanks for your reply Randy.

My point is more that economic opportunity is not a law of nature we have no control over. We could ask big tech to do more to locate jobs in other areas or allow remote workers. And if they run out of office space, we have to first permit them to build more, before they can open more jobs, before people can move for the jobs and add to housing demand.

I think Raymond is not necessarily saying that supply and demand don't apply, so much as there is so much latent demand it is impossible to drain it. But he thinks this latent demand is rich people worldwide who want to move to a better climate, or Venezuelan refugees who specifically want to live in the most expensive market in the US and not simply in the US. As opposed to people already working here, who simply want an ownership opportunity or a shorter commute or both. (Even if there is demand from both techies and investors, the former drives the latter and not the other way around.)

He is right about one thing - the latent demand is massive. But throwing in the towel hardly seems appealing or defensible.


Randy Guelph
Registered user
Cuernavaca
on Aug 19, 2021 at 7:25 pm
Randy Guelph, Cuernavaca
Registered user
on Aug 19, 2021 at 7:25 pm

People wanting to move anywhere for *any* reason is not a "law of nature," so again, that's a distinction without a difference. The fact of the matter is that people want to live here, and enough people with deep pockets want to live here that home values have skyrocketed. Like every time in America's history before the 1970s, we should let people build homes where they want to live and not simply strangle our economy and our childrens' futures to serve the aesthetic preferences of a minority of wealthy homeowners.


Teco
Registered user
Old Mountain View
on Aug 20, 2021 at 5:16 pm
Teco, Old Mountain View
Registered user
on Aug 20, 2021 at 5:16 pm

No Randy, your reasoning is specious and not the way it works. There is always a limited resource. Building more house WILL NOT lower prices. If you build and build and build until demand is overdone, the city would collapse. The increases of density, crime, pollution, traffic, lowered quality of life as the city government raises taxes and fees to try to support all this new demand. Then there is a tipping point as people flee for a better like, tired of the city destroying want was previous an eden. The answer is simply to establish new edens elsewhere. Lots of places on the plant to create new cities. Otherwise what's the point in going from a high density traffic pollution megacity only to come to a smaller one.

This is why people come to the smaller cities, to get away from all of that. And NO it WILL not decrease the carbon footprint. People will still drive, people will still commute everywhere as folks only keep their jobs an average of 3-5 years before going to a new one somewhere else.

The theory of 'keep building' to lower pricing only works on an infinite continuum. There are too many other limiting factors.

Unfortunately, it is reality, not everyone can afford to live anywhere they want in the world. That one of the realities of capitalism. Population will always be the key to all problems, so either build UP, which is what we dont want and why we live here or build out, i.e. establish new cities elsewhere. Better.....


Randy Guelph
Registered user
Cuernavaca
on Aug 20, 2021 at 6:33 pm
Randy Guelph, Cuernavaca
Registered user
on Aug 20, 2021 at 6:33 pm

Teco,

I appreciate your honesty in opposing the sentiment of my concluding sentence. It's not often people will explicitly come out and say that we *should* strangle our economy and our childrens' future to serve the aesthetic preferences of wealthy homeowners. I definitely disagree with you on that, but I have to respect your honesty.

As a follow up, maybe you have an answer where Raymond did not: what other goods do you know of that do not obey the laws of supply and demand?


Nora S.
Registered user
Rex Manor
on Aug 23, 2021 at 9:45 am
Nora S., Rex Manor
Registered user
on Aug 23, 2021 at 9:45 am

Hey Randy,

Anyone who has spent much time studying the dismal science will realize that the laws of supply and demand are complex, and have many exceptions. First, let's summarize the "laws":

The law of demand = the higher the price, the lower the demand.
The law of supply = the higher the price, the higher the supply.

There are several classes of exceptions to these "laws," including Giffen goods and Veblen goods, in which demand rises in response to rising prices. Housing and health care are two other well-known exceptions, for other reasons. In both cases, there is a very long lag time for supply to increase, and in the case of housing, many other factors come into play--job changes, macroeconomic shifts, lifestyle and family factors. As a result, As a result, prices of both housing and health care tend rise quickly when demand picks up, but unfortunately they tend to remain high even after supplies eventually expand.


HAB
Registered user
Willowgate
on Aug 23, 2021 at 4:55 pm
HAB, Willowgate
Registered user
on Aug 23, 2021 at 4:55 pm

More affordable housing in city areas is good environmental policy. The wildfires and the smoke they produce every year in California is very much because of the housing shortage where the jobs are. The Wildfire Urban Interface (WUI) has grown as people have pushed into areas that cannot sustain development safely. The fuels that new homes in the WUI contribute to more toxic emissions and often provide far more fuel than a healthy forest would during wildfire season. Smart, sustainable solutions require us all to welcome more affordable housing for workers to live in so that they (a) decrease commute times and emissions, (b) decrease the need to build in the WUI, and (c) make mass transit viable in our cities. Affordable housing is a climate solution.


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