The Mountain View City Council will decide next month whether to approve a four-story office project next door to City Hall, a proposal that has generated significant objections from residents opposed to further office growth in the city's downtown.
The project was supposed to be up for approval at the Tuesday, April 12, City Council meeting, but was pulled from the agenda at the request of the developer, Sobrato.
Under the plan, Sobrato would demolish the commercial property at 590 Castro Street – previously home to a Wells Fargo – and replace it with 102,000 square feet of offices. Though ground-floor retail is standard for the area, Sobrato is asking for a provisional use permit to build a mix of both offices and retail space on the first floor.
Rather than ride right up against Mountain View's Civic Center Plaza to the north, Sobrato is proposing a 50-foot-wide paseo dividing the office project from the city property, creating a strip of open space leading to Pioneer Park.
Aside from the ground-floor offices and a request for a parking reduction from 312 spaces to 255, Sobrato's project meets all of the zoning requirements for the property.
Yet as the Tuesday meeting approached, numerous residents raised concerns about flooding Castro Street with even more offices, and the potential for creating long stretches of "dead zones" that deter shoppers and pedestrian foot traffic.
Several residents suggested that the project's square footage would add anywhere from 400 to 500 new jobs, up from the roughly 20 people that used to work on the property, and that doing so would only exacerbate the city's poor jobs-housing balance. Former council member Lenny Siegel said the project's proposed housing fees, about $2.5 million, can barely cover the cost of three subsidized apartments and falls well short of a counterbalance for the increased housing demand. He said the council should be wary of approving the project until the city completes its zoning update for the downtown area.
"Mountain View should move more quickly to update our Downtown Precise Plan to acknowledge that we have too many jobs here for our housing and services," Siegel wrote in a letter. "Let's start by sending this project back to the drawing board."
IdaRose Sylvester, writing on behalf of the Mountain View Coalition for Sustainable Planning, described the project as a missed opportunity to build housing in an area that is near jobs, services and public transit.
Residents also flagged concerns that the environmental impacts of the office project weren't studied – the proposal is exempt from environmental review under state law – and that the city and developer failed to solicit enough community feedback. There was one public meeting in October 2021 in which five people attended, none of whom raised concerns about the project, according to a city staff report.
Former City Council member Ronit Bryant said the public has had little chance to comment on the "basic nature" of the development, and that the October meeting sounds like it was not sufficiently publicized if only five people showed up. Siegel said few were aware it even happened.
"No one that I've asked – people who follow such proposals – was aware of that meeting, unlike public meetings Sobrato has convened for other projects. At the very least, approval of this project should be delayed until there is genuine public outreach and feedback," he said.
At the April 12 City Council meeting, Mayor Lucas Ramirez announced that the public hearing for the project would be continued to a new hearing date on Tuesday, May 24.