Mountain View's largest development proposal to construct 7,000 new homes alongside 3 million square feet of offices is expected to take decades to finish, with some of the earliest phases slated to be complete by 2030 at the soonest.
Google, which is spearheading the redevelopment of 127 acres of North Bayshore is requesting a 30-year development agreement in order to manage the massive scale of the project. The current plan is to space out construction into eight phases, with close to 3,000 homes planned for the first two rounds of development.
Every aspect of the North Bayshore Master Plan is on a large scale. The 7,000 homes will include 1,400 affordable housing units -- close to doubling the number of below market rate units citywide -- and 31 acres will be turned into public parks. The project also cranks up office development by an additional 1.3 million square feet.
Though Google is subject to strict caps on parking in order to curb the use of cars in the future urban district, a proposed garage outside Shoreline Amphitheatre will have 4,330 parking spaces.
Google's proposed community benefit package is anchored exclusively in North Bayshore, committing $42 million to pay for transportation upgrades and the creation of the area's so-called "eco gem," a large conservation area to preserve natural habitat and ecology in an area that will soon be packed with high-density housing and offices.
Mountain View's Environmental Planning Commission largely supported the plans in a meeting last week, praising the project for adhering closely to the city's vision for North Bayshore as a mixed-use set of neighborhoods built in close proximity to offices. Jeff Hosea, Google's lead urban planner, said the master plan makes good on that vision, replacing what he described as a "car-centric, single-use destination" ripe for something new.
"That vision of tomorrow starts with the North Bayshore of today being predominantly single-story office buildings surrounded by a sea of parking lots that just do nothing but house cars," Hosea said.
Development will begin on the east side of Shoreline Boulevard between Charleston Road and Space Park Way, frontloaded with the demolition of existing offices and the construction of 2,912 housing units, according to a city staff report. Hosea said the "optimistic" plan is to have those first two phases done by late 2030 or 2031.
Commission member Hank Dempsey said there's a lot to like about the plans, and that he was impressed with the thoughtful layout and design of Google's vision for North Bayshore.
"It's very easy to find things to quibble with and there is always something we can change, but the most important message is that I'm really excited about this," Dempsey said. "I just wish it wasn't going to take so long."
Housing advocates and trade union representatives also gave a strong endorsement for the proposal during the Nov. 17 meeting, with Kat Wortham of the Housing Action Coalition calling these large-scale residential projects the "best way" Mountain View and the greater Bay Area can dig itself out of the housing crisis. She encouraged the city to carefully consider what kinds of fees it requires from Google to move forward, and that development should be encouraged and not hindered by high costs.
"We don't want to see nothing get built," she said.
Another eye-popping number in Google's master plan is how many trees need to be removed to make way for new buildings and new roadways that will redefine North Bayshore. A grand total of 2,586 trees will need to be removed, according to city staff, or roughly two-thirds of all the trees in the master plan area. Many of them are large, mature redwood trees covering large swaths of the tech park, including large roadway medians and surrounding single-story offices.
The trees will be removed in many small phases and replaced with more diverse plants over the coming decades, Hosea said, but the existing redwood trees simply don't fit in with much of the master plan. They are not native, some are in poor health, and they conflict with the planned roadway changes.
"When we start adding bike lanes, wider sidewalks and you want the pedestrian experience to be correct, the redwoods don't match that," he said.
In order to ease the blow of losing the large trees, Google is already planting trees in southern Santa Clara County to prepare them for transplanting into North Bayshore, giving them years to grow in order to ease the sudden loss of tree canopy.
Commission members largely agreed with Google's tree strategy, describing the mass removal of trees as a necessary consequence of the massive scale of the project and the existing conditions in North Bayshore. Commissioner Preeti Hehmeyer said the master plan goes out of its way to preserve and transplant trees when possible, but a project of this size is going to have "real implications" for the existing canopy.
"It is heartbreaking to know a lot of the existing trees that do define that area will not be where they are, but it's in service for a greater vision for the understory, for greater canopy and overall improvements to North Bayshore," she said.
The Mountain View City Council will take another look at the project proposal on Dec. 14, followed by another design review some time in Spring 2022.