News

Proposed development on San Antonio Road gains commission's support, but questions remain about affordable units

A rendering of the proposed project at 334 San Antonio Road. Rendering courtesy Robert Becker for SDG Architects.

A proposed mixed-use development on San Antonio Road in Mountain View, which would replace a gas station with 62 residential units and a commercial space, gained the support of the Environmental Planning Commission at a Sept. 21 meeting. But the commission remained undecided on how to handle the project’s affordable units after a last-minute alternative option was thrown into the mix.

The project, located on the corner of San Antonio and California Street at 334 San Antonio Road, would replace the existing Valero gas station with a five-story building of flat-stacked, ownership condos, accompanied by 2,000 square feet of ground floor commercial space.

“Our goal and strategy from day one was (for) this project to transform a gas station into an attractive destination,” said Mircea Voskerician, representing the project applicant, at the meeting.

Though the city’s development standards only allow for up to four stories, the proposed fifth floor is allowed under the state’s density bonus law, which lets developers build higher in exchange for making some of the units affordable.

The applicant’s initial proposal offered to build 13 below market rate (BMR), affordable units – enough to qualify for the state density bonus.

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In addition to allowing developers to build higher, the state density bonus law also gives housing developments with below market rate units the right to waive more local standards in order to make the development financially feasible. The developer’s initial proposal asked for three such concessions, which quickly became the center of debate at the Sept. 21 project hearing.

First, the applicant requested that the city waive its requirements for subsidized units to have a similar number of bedrooms relative to market-rate units. The breakdown of the applicant’s 13 BMR units was 11 one-bedroom units and two two-bedroom units, which is out of sync with the overall mix of units proposed (17 one-bedroom units and 45 two-bedroom units).

Second, the city’s BMR Ordinance requires ownership developments like this one to include BMR units that are affordable to households earning between 80% and 120% of the average median income (AMI), with a weighted average of 100% AMI. The applicant's weighted average came in at just under 100% AMI, leading to another requested concession.

Finally, the BMR Ordinance requires affordable units to be equitably dispersed within a development, to ensure that lower income households aren’t all clustered together in one area of the development. The project proposal didn't quite meet this requirement, so the developer’s initial proposal sought a concession to keep the current configuration.

A few days before the commission was set to discuss the project, a Sept. 18 letter from the League of Women Voters of Los Altos and Mountain View raised concerns about some of the concessions: particularly the BMR units "not being equitably distributed and not proportional to the overall bedroom mixes," the letter stated.

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In response to the letter, Voskerician offered an alternative approach to the BMR units in a Sept. 20 letter, a day before the scheduled hearing. This new option proposed only 10 BMR units instead of the originally proposed 13 units, but the new option offered a better mix of unit types, with five one-bedroom units and five two-bedroom units.

Rebecca Shapiro, the city’s deputy zoning administrator, said that, though staff hadn’t had much of a chance to review the alternative option given how last minute it was added, “our initial assessment is that either of the two options could be carried forward as an acceptable density bonus request from the applicant.”

Commissioners were generally supportive of the project, at least conceptually.

“Let's not gloss over the fact that what we have proposed here (are) stacked flat condos, which we’ve been hoping to get more and more of over the last several years in the city,” said Commissioner Chris Clark. “We’re not displacing any residents, we’re replacing a gas station ... Plus we’re getting inclusionary units, which we haven’t had a lot of on the ownership side in Mountain View.”

But what gave Clark and other commissioners pause were the various concessions the applicant sought for the affordable units. Clark spoke of his own experience of living in a condo complex that was one of the first in the city to have inclusionary BMR units.

“I’ve seen first hand how the community within that building has benefitted from those folks being there, from the units being a mix of different bedroom counts, and in different parts of the building, and really no one there knows which units those are,” Clark said. “Everyone feels like they’re part of that small community that we’ve built there in that small condo complex.”

Kevin Ma, co-head of the local League of Women Voters' housing committee, told the Voice after watching the Sept. 21 meeting that he found the alternative option offered by Voskerician still concerning.

“(The applicant) tried to argue that that is now a proportionate bedroom mix, but that’s not quite right,” Ma said. “The overall bedroom mix of the building is 3-to-1 of two-bedrooms to one-bedrooms. He’s proposing, for the BMRs, a fifty-fifty (split).”

Clark said he would be willing to go with the alternative option – trading three BMR units for an improved, though still not proportionate, unit mix. But he requested that when staff and the applicant sit down to flesh out the alternative option that more attention is given to spreading the affordable units throughout the building. Commissioner Hank Dempsey agreed.

“When I read this I wasn’t thrilled to see that the unit mix wasn’t proportional and that the project was not evenly distributed throughout the entire project site,” Dempsey said. “There may be some justifications for that, but I feel like they weren’t really well explained … The BMR part of this was not well framed.”

Most of the commissioners leaned toward the newer alternative, but expressed that there wasn’t enough information presented to definitively recommend one of the options to the city council. The commission ultimately supported moving the project forward to the next stage of the approval process – allowing it to go before council – but requested that the council decide which of the two BMR options to pursue.

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Malea Martin
Malea Martin covers the city hall beat in Mountain View. Before joining the Mountain View Voice in 2022, she covered local politics and education for New Times San Luis Obispo, a weekly newspaper on the Central Coast of California. Read more >>

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Proposed development on San Antonio Road gains commission's support, but questions remain about affordable units

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Fri, Sep 23, 2022, 12:28 pm

A proposed mixed-use development on San Antonio Road in Mountain View, which would replace a gas station with 62 residential units and a commercial space, gained the support of the Environmental Planning Commission at a Sept. 21 meeting. But the commission remained undecided on how to handle the project’s affordable units after a last-minute alternative option was thrown into the mix.

The project, located on the corner of San Antonio and California Street at 334 San Antonio Road, would replace the existing Valero gas station with a five-story building of flat-stacked, ownership condos, accompanied by 2,000 square feet of ground floor commercial space.

“Our goal and strategy from day one was (for) this project to transform a gas station into an attractive destination,” said Mircea Voskerician, representing the project applicant, at the meeting.

Though the city’s development standards only allow for up to four stories, the proposed fifth floor is allowed under the state’s density bonus law, which lets developers build higher in exchange for making some of the units affordable.

The applicant’s initial proposal offered to build 13 below market rate (BMR), affordable units – enough to qualify for the state density bonus.

In addition to allowing developers to build higher, the state density bonus law also gives housing developments with below market rate units the right to waive more local standards in order to make the development financially feasible. The developer’s initial proposal asked for three such concessions, which quickly became the center of debate at the Sept. 21 project hearing.

First, the applicant requested that the city waive its requirements for subsidized units to have a similar number of bedrooms relative to market-rate units. The breakdown of the applicant’s 13 BMR units was 11 one-bedroom units and two two-bedroom units, which is out of sync with the overall mix of units proposed (17 one-bedroom units and 45 two-bedroom units).

Second, the city’s BMR Ordinance requires ownership developments like this one to include BMR units that are affordable to households earning between 80% and 120% of the average median income (AMI), with a weighted average of 100% AMI. The applicant's weighted average came in at just under 100% AMI, leading to another requested concession.

Finally, the BMR Ordinance requires affordable units to be equitably dispersed within a development, to ensure that lower income households aren’t all clustered together in one area of the development. The project proposal didn't quite meet this requirement, so the developer’s initial proposal sought a concession to keep the current configuration.

A few days before the commission was set to discuss the project, a Sept. 18 letter from the League of Women Voters of Los Altos and Mountain View raised concerns about some of the concessions: particularly the BMR units "not being equitably distributed and not proportional to the overall bedroom mixes," the letter stated.

In response to the letter, Voskerician offered an alternative approach to the BMR units in a Sept. 20 letter, a day before the scheduled hearing. This new option proposed only 10 BMR units instead of the originally proposed 13 units, but the new option offered a better mix of unit types, with five one-bedroom units and five two-bedroom units.

Rebecca Shapiro, the city’s deputy zoning administrator, said that, though staff hadn’t had much of a chance to review the alternative option given how last minute it was added, “our initial assessment is that either of the two options could be carried forward as an acceptable density bonus request from the applicant.”

Commissioners were generally supportive of the project, at least conceptually.

“Let's not gloss over the fact that what we have proposed here (are) stacked flat condos, which we’ve been hoping to get more and more of over the last several years in the city,” said Commissioner Chris Clark. “We’re not displacing any residents, we’re replacing a gas station ... Plus we’re getting inclusionary units, which we haven’t had a lot of on the ownership side in Mountain View.”

But what gave Clark and other commissioners pause were the various concessions the applicant sought for the affordable units. Clark spoke of his own experience of living in a condo complex that was one of the first in the city to have inclusionary BMR units.

“I’ve seen first hand how the community within that building has benefitted from those folks being there, from the units being a mix of different bedroom counts, and in different parts of the building, and really no one there knows which units those are,” Clark said. “Everyone feels like they’re part of that small community that we’ve built there in that small condo complex.”

Kevin Ma, co-head of the local League of Women Voters' housing committee, told the Voice after watching the Sept. 21 meeting that he found the alternative option offered by Voskerician still concerning.

“(The applicant) tried to argue that that is now a proportionate bedroom mix, but that’s not quite right,” Ma said. “The overall bedroom mix of the building is 3-to-1 of two-bedrooms to one-bedrooms. He’s proposing, for the BMRs, a fifty-fifty (split).”

Clark said he would be willing to go with the alternative option – trading three BMR units for an improved, though still not proportionate, unit mix. But he requested that when staff and the applicant sit down to flesh out the alternative option that more attention is given to spreading the affordable units throughout the building. Commissioner Hank Dempsey agreed.

“When I read this I wasn’t thrilled to see that the unit mix wasn’t proportional and that the project was not evenly distributed throughout the entire project site,” Dempsey said. “There may be some justifications for that, but I feel like they weren’t really well explained … The BMR part of this was not well framed.”

Most of the commissioners leaned toward the newer alternative, but expressed that there wasn’t enough information presented to definitively recommend one of the options to the city council. The commission ultimately supported moving the project forward to the next stage of the approval process – allowing it to go before council – but requested that the council decide which of the two BMR options to pursue.

Comments

Dan Waylonis
Registered user
Jackson Park
on Sep 23, 2022 at 3:37 pm
Dan Waylonis, Jackson Park
Registered user
on Sep 23, 2022 at 3:37 pm

The city needs more housing. It doesn't need a special class of housing. Renters will find the housing that they can afford if there are more choices to be had.


Juan
Registered user
another community
on Sep 23, 2022 at 5:58 pm
Juan, another community
Registered user
on Sep 23, 2022 at 5:58 pm

Mountain View needs affordable housing for residents, not unaffordable housing for tech bros. The "trickle down" theory of housing does not work. Adding unaffordable housing does not decrease housing prices for everyone, it only increases gentrification and raises housing prices as more residents are priced out of their neighborhoods by Google employees.

AFFORDABLE housing is the only solution.


Frank Richards
Registered user
Cuesta Park
on Sep 23, 2022 at 6:08 pm
Frank Richards, Cuesta Park
Registered user
on Sep 23, 2022 at 6:08 pm

Juan, mechanically, how would that work? If you don't build enough for local employees of all types, won't the wealthier ones just outbid the rest? Do you envision a city of only subsidized homes and income verification for every property?


Leslie Bain
Registered user
Cuesta Park
on Sep 23, 2022 at 7:23 pm
Leslie Bain, Cuesta Park
Registered user
on Sep 23, 2022 at 7:23 pm

Juan is absolutely correct:

"Mountain View needs affordable housing for residents, not unaffordable housing for tech bros. The "trickle down" theory of housing does not work. Adding unaffordable housing does not decrease housing prices for everyone, it only increases gentrification and raises housing prices as more residents are priced out of their neighborhoods by Google employees."

Statement: "If you don't build enough for local employees of all types, won't the wealthier ones just outbid the rest?"

The point is, there are ABSOLUTELY NO PLANS going forward to "build enough for local employees of all types". Over the last 8-year RHNA cycle, 88% of the housing units were expensive, market-rate units for the highest wage earners, and only 12% were for everyone else. No legislation has been passed to change this ratio going forward.

Many people call it a "housing crisis" because they cannot afford to pay the astronomical rents that are being charged. Building tons and tons more expensive market-rate units is NOT going to lower the rent for the vast majority of low-income and average workers.

The "solutions" being handed to us by state Democrats are NOT solutions that are going to help the vast majority of low-income and average workers. No, they are "solutions" that benefit developers, Google, and wealthy investors who want to own a piece of Mountain View. The pain of so many people is simply being exploited by those who have figured out how to make a buck by doing so.

How many of our kids can afford to live in a market-rate unit? How many teachers can do the same? If we want our kids and teachers to be able to live in MV, we need to change the ratio: we need to build fewer market-rate units, and build more affordable units. But that is a much more difficult problem than simply allowing developers to build, baby, build. Most developers want to build market-rate units, not affordable ones, because they make more $$$ that way.


Frank Richards
Registered user
Cuesta Park
on Sep 23, 2022 at 10:05 pm
Frank Richards, Cuesta Park
Registered user
on Sep 23, 2022 at 10:05 pm

Maybe either Juan or Leslie can elaborate on this, how do you practically implement your suggestion? When you say that developers should build "affordable housing", what are you specifically suggesting they do that's different from building a "market-rate" home?


SRB
Registered user
St. Francis Acres
on Sep 23, 2022 at 11:36 pm
SRB, St. Francis Acres
Registered user
on Sep 23, 2022 at 11:36 pm

Sounds like a good project, trading a gas station for housing where City has a fairly recent Precise Plan (San Antonio Precise Plan). It's close to transit, retail (2-3 supermarkets within walking distance) and upcoming parks and school nearby.

Agree with reservations about waiving some of the inclusionary zoning requirements.

If mandated by law, the second option (more large units for lower income levels) seems preferable.

Still, a bit of a slippery slope; could the next developer demand all affordable units to be in the basement, near a noisy elevator shaft, with a a separate entrance, without access to common areas (pool, rooftop deck....)?


Johnny Yuma
Registered user
Blossom Valley
on Sep 24, 2022 at 8:38 am
Johnny Yuma, Blossom Valley
Registered user
on Sep 24, 2022 at 8:38 am

If I ever hear the term “affordable housing” again for the rest my life, it will be too soon. Want affordability? Move to Arkansas.


father of 3 sons
Registered user
Cuesta Park
on Sep 24, 2022 at 9:52 am
father of 3 sons, Cuesta Park
Registered user
on Sep 24, 2022 at 9:52 am

"more modest housing". :). It was interesting to read the comments of former Councilman Clark, who I know has lived through the Market Rate condo housing route.

"More modest housing" would be more 1 bedroom units, than the Market Rate mix. But these smaller units should not come at the expense (also) of less numbers of units (that the codes for BMR). The developer is obviously 'gaming' the Commission. The developer obviouly wants Less Total Sq Ft of BMR housing than required to get concessions.

JUST SAY NO. At least for 'the numbers of units'. It is possible, with good layout design, to have a 3 person small family live comfortably in a one bedroom condo. Integrated with the rest of the building units (not Segregated). IMO


Leslie Bain
Registered user
Cuesta Park
on Sep 24, 2022 at 3:15 pm
Leslie Bain, Cuesta Park
Registered user
on Sep 24, 2022 at 3:15 pm

@SRB wrote: "Still, a bit of a slippery slope; could the next developer demand all affordable units to be in the basement, near a noisy elevator shaft, with a a separate entrance, without access to common areas (pool, rooftop deck....)?"

Did you see the following bit in the article? THIS DEVELOPER was proposing something along those lines.

"Finally, the BMR Ordinance requires affordable units to be equitably dispersed within a development, to ensure that lower income households aren’t all clustered together in one area of the development. The project proposal didn't quite meet this requirement, so the developer’s initial proposal sought a concession to keep the current configuration."

EPC Commissioner Chris Clark made interesting comments on this topic. When BMR units are distributed, it is better because "really no one [in the community] knows which units those are.” So the goal of the BMR ordinance is not just to prevent BMR residents from being given the crappiest units, it's also to prevent them from being stigmatized by other residents. I like that.

On a different topic, I think it's important to track how many BMR units are being built for each income level category. Alert readers recall that the last cycle of RHNA resulted in the following distribution of housing units:

Income Level : Number of Housing Units

Very Low (<=50% AMI): 371 (4.6%)
Low (51%-80% AMI): 372 (4.6%)
Moderate (81%-120% AMI): 253 (3.1%)
Above Moderate (>120% AMI): 7,082 units (87.7%)
Total: 8,078 (100%)

This developer wanted the density bonus, which limits units in the highest category to 80%. Based on 9/18 letter, it looks like they proposed two different options:

Income Level : Number of Housing Units

Option 1 (13 units, "give most of the 1/1's to the poors")

Very Low (<=50% AMI):
Low (51%-80% AMI): 10 1/1's (16.1%)
Moderate (81%-120% AMI): 3 (1 1/1, 2 2/2's) (4.8%)
Above Moderate (>120% AMI): 49 (6 1/1, 43 2/2's) (79.0%)
Total: 62 (100%)

Option 2: (10 units, “better but fewer”)

Very Low (<=50% AMI):
Low (51%-80% AMI): 10 (5 1/1's, 5 2/2's) (16.1%)
Moderate (81%-120% AMI):
Above Moderate (>120% AMI): 52 (12 1/1's, 40 2/2's) (83.9%)
Total: 62 (100%)

I think it's sad that the city is being forced to choose between two options where such a small number of BMR units are proposed. And that the city is being given a Sophie's choice: either accept a larger number of BMR units that are inequitably distributed, or a smaller number of units so that BMR residents are not given the crappiest ones and/or aren't stigmatized.

Can't you just feel rents starting to drop around town as a result?

Reminds me of an old joke where a manufacturer lost money on every unit sold, but was looking to make a profit based on volume, lol.


SRB
Registered user
St. Francis Acres
on Sep 24, 2022 at 3:54 pm
SRB, St. Francis Acres
Registered user
on Sep 24, 2022 at 3:54 pm

@leslie bain- IMO the state laws and RHNA are too simplistic; they just put BMR numbers and percentages for a development or RHNA to meet; without looking at type of units, quality of the units, location/distribution of the units .... Mountain View's inclusionary ordinance is far better. Alas, state law often takes precedence, hence the types of inclusionary zoning concessions asked by this developer (and yes it's a slippery slope as the next developer might demand even more/worse concessions).

That said, that's what the State has passed and it looks like the City can't do anything but choose between the 2 optiones.

Personally, option 2 is more appealing as it also provides more 2 Bedrooms which are preferable for families who would get the chance to send their kids to the Los Altos School District (which covers the San Antonio Precise Plan area).


Frank Richards
Registered user
Cuesta Park
on Sep 24, 2022 at 3:54 pm
Frank Richards, Cuesta Park
Registered user
on Sep 24, 2022 at 3:54 pm

Leslie, what would you differently? It's a legal, zoning compliant project that's adding 10+ low income homes at 0 cost to the city. If it doesn't get built, we get 0 low-income homes. Aren't either of the options strictly better? How do you propose getting more low income homes built?


Juan
Registered user
another community
on Sep 24, 2022 at 10:41 pm
Juan, another community
Registered user
on Sep 24, 2022 at 10:41 pm

The solution is simple and that is to COMPLETELY END the policy of demolishing affordable housing and replacing it with tech bro unaffordable housing. It is the worst possible policy for residents, it has the effect of evicting long-time residents and replacing them with tech bros who didn't live here yesterday and won't live here five years from now. It doesn't matter whether you demolish one affordable apartment complex to build 1, 10, 100, or even 1000 unaffordable tech bro apartments, it is BAD POLICY in any case. Residents cannot pay the rent and get forcefully kicked out of the city, should they feel happy that 1000 tech bros now wine and dine over the ashes of their previous apartment?


Frank Richards
Registered user
Cuesta Park
on Sep 24, 2022 at 11:45 pm
Frank Richards, Cuesta Park
Registered user
on Sep 24, 2022 at 11:45 pm

This project is replacing a gas station, so no one is being displaced. More broadly than this project, state law now prevents net loss of affordable units and guarantees a right of return at the previous rent to existing tenants. I'd have loved to see council act before the state did on that (I was out there trying to get them to save the Rock Street apartments), but thankfully we have those protections now. Is that along the lines of what you want to see?


Ok
Registered user
Sylvan Park
on Sep 25, 2022 at 8:53 am
Ok, Sylvan Park
Registered user
on Sep 25, 2022 at 8:53 am

Juan, what policy you are mumbling about? “Tech bros” have the same rights to live in this city as any other “bros”.


Leslie Bain
Registered user
Cuesta Park
on Sep 25, 2022 at 6:05 pm
Leslie Bain, Cuesta Park
Registered user
on Sep 25, 2022 at 6:05 pm

@SRB – I mostly agree w/you. I think kabuke theater is being performed in order to pressure town council members to give poor developers exactly what they want. Council members must feel enormous pressure to approve raw-deal housing projects because many in the public are screaming for “more housing”. They have been led to believe that “every bit of housing helps” and “more housing of any kind” will help bring rents down. If council has the courage to say no to a RAW-DEAL housing project, they face pushback in at least two ways:

1st, YIMBYs would brutalize them on social media (A MV YIMBY leader might say something like, “[This is further evidence] that Mountain View is a really hard place to do business. They don’t make it easy to build new homes.”) The comments will conveniently leave out the fact that the “hurdles” which need to be overcome were requirements to ensure that BMR units are not the crappiest ones in the project and/or so the BMR residents were not stigmatized. Uninformed public gets the impression that council members are big stupid meanies, when the truth is that they were only given SERIOUSLY CRAP OPTIONS from the developer. CRITICAL QUESTION: Are MV YIMBY leaders fighting for developers or the folks in need of BMR housing?

2nd, who knows what consequence will be meted out by state Dems. Council members with dreams to advance into state politics know that causing trouble for state Dems is probably not the best way to achieve those dreams. And so “reluctant” approval after “reluctant” approval gets made.

TLDR SUMMARY: The RHNA targets for MV are a joke, there is no way that targets for lower-income levels will be met without additional funding. I think state Democrats know this, it peeves me off. The targets are DESIGNED for MV to fail, as part of a cynical political strategy. How much housing would need to be built -if we rely on developer funding alone- in order to achieve newest RHNA target for BMR units? 31,275 total units.

80% of 31,275 is 25,020 market rate units ←The RHNA target is 4,880 <- more than 5x smaller
20% of 31,275 is 6,225 BMR units

37,295 was total number of housing units in 2020, the time of the last census! - Web Link

In order to meet the RHNA targets for BMR housing, we would need to ALMOST DOUBLE THE HOUSING UNITS that exists here today!

I think that state Democrats realize that this is a ridiculous burden to put on any city, and so they invented a much smaller target number to fool the voters and minimize the screams. We get so much better transparency from Dems than from Republicans, lol. J/k, no we don't.

GORY DETAILS:

It gave me chills when I realized that the example of San Antonio Road is a BEST CASE SCENARIO! As awful as it is, this is what “great” looks like according to our wise leaders.

Most developers will AT BEST provide housing units in a ratio of 80% market rate and 20% affordable (which is “required” if a bonus floor is desired). Developers are also “required” to meet other rules. But the requirements are more like “guidelines”, the applicants are allowed to request that those be waived! And that is how the number of BMR units at San Antonio magically dropped from a 20% requirement to a 16% reality (if the preferred option is adopted).

Anyway, back to the RHNA targets for 2023-2031. They are:

Income Level : Number of Housing Units

Very Low (<=50% AMI): 2773 (24.9%)
Low (51%-80% AMI): 1597 (14.3%)
Moderate (81%-120% AMI): 1885 (16.9%)
Above Moderate (>120% AMI): 4880 units (43.8%)
Total: 11,135 (100%)

State Democrats have set an RHNA target of 2773 + 1597 + 1885 = 6,225 BMR units

Let's do some math. Under the BEST CASE SCENARIO, we need to find a number such that 80% of that number is 4,880 (the target for the highest wage earners). Turns out that number is 6,100.

80% of 6,100 is 4880 market rate units, check.
20% of 6,100 is 1220 BMR units.

Note that 1220 is the number of BMR units that will be built in the very BEST CASE SCENARIO (all developers want to build a bonus floor on their targets) when 4880 market rate units are created.

But 6225 is the RHNA target number.

Compare the two numbers. Please. I beg you. Note that the number of BMR units that will be built in the very best case scenario is less than the RHNA target that state Democrats have set for BMR units in MV. Under the BEST CASE SCENARIO, the targets for low-income housing will not be achieved.

Let's get back to the Kabuke theater part. When the RHNA targets for low-income housing are not met, who will be blamed? The MV City Council. Is this fair or right? No? The TARGETS don't match the REALITY of how much BMR housing developers are willing to build under the very best case. In order to build the target number of 6,225, somebody needs to come up with funding for the additional 5000+ that state Democrats are demanding (but not funding).

What will happen next? Screams will come from the CA YIMBY movement in order to put even more pressure on MV to build MORE HOUSING. It's kind of a breathtaking scheme, in a nefarious way.


Frank Richards
Registered user
Cuesta Park
on Sep 26, 2022 at 9:50 am
Frank Richards, Cuesta Park
Registered user
on Sep 26, 2022 at 9:50 am

Is your suggestion that the goal for our city's housing policy should be that everyone who makes less than ~$180K (120% of the area median income) will live in subsidized housing? Why do you believe that the market price for homes cannot come down?


Leslie Bain
Registered user
Cuesta Park
on Sep 26, 2022 at 2:06 pm
Leslie Bain, Cuesta Park
Registered user
on Sep 26, 2022 at 2:06 pm

OBSERVATIONS

1) The RHNA targets for MV are a joke, there is no way that targets for lower-income levels will be met without significant additional funding. I think state Dems know this, they are simply playing political games in order to manipulate public opinion. Shame on them.

2) Our current housing policy relies primarily on developers to fund BMR units. Over the last RHNA cycle, housing units were created at a ratio of 12 BMR units for every 88 market-rate units. Delivering housing at that rate results in GENTRIFICATION: "The restoration and upgrading of deteriorated urban property by middle-class or affluent people, often resulting in displacement of lower-income people."

Promises are being made by some to "drive policy change to increase the supply of housing at all levels and bring down the cost of living in our thriving city." But they can't explain how building housing at a rate of 12 BMR units for every 88 market-rate units will bring down most rents in MV. Why not?

3) The CA YIMBY movement has influenced state Dems to create a process that "ties the hands" of local city councils to give developers exactly what they want. State Dems are doing what is best for their wealthy donors, regardless of the harm that will be caused to "we the people".

"Why Is California YIMBY Hiding the Names of Big-Money Contributors?" Web Link

"California Apartment Association and Big Real Estate Influence Political Races Throughout California" Web Link

4) City Councils feel enormous pressure to approve raw-deal housing projects because of the demands passed down to them by the state, and also because many in the public are screaming for “more housing of any kind”, based on the propaganda put out by the CA YIMBY movement.

Lately I've been feeling like the kid in the story about the emperor who had no clothes. Nobody was willing to speak truth to power, even though they knew that something was rotten in Denmark. I've been trying to provide evidence to show that a process that emphasizes MORE housing instead of more AFFORDABLE housing is not going to lower the average rents around here. It is a con job to help developers. Furthermore, a process that essentially ignores the additional burdens on existing infrastructure is just playing "kick the can" with the problems caused by density, the most serious of which is putting our public schoolchildren at risk.

SUGGESTIONS

1) If we really have a housing CRISIS, the City Council should pass emergency legislation to ban all new office construction until the crisis is resolved. If the jobs/housing imbalance is the issue, let's put a stop to new job creation here. Adding more highly paid workers to the area changes the jobs/housing imbalance in the wrong way.

2) Those who want to increase the amount of affordable housing in MV should be fighting to obtain additional funding, and not simply rely on the current funding model that relies entirely on developers. Under the very best scenario, the maximum ratio that developers will theoretically ever deliver is 20 BMR units for every 80 market-rate units. Is that enough to make rents fall across MV? I think not.

For example, we need Prop 15, which fixes the biggest problem with Prop 13: it ends the loopholes which give rich and powerful corporations like Google preferential tax treatment that voters approved so that seniors living on fixed incomes would not be forced out of their homes.


MMW
Registered user
Old Mountain View
on Sep 27, 2022 at 9:39 am
MMW, Old Mountain View
Registered user
on Sep 27, 2022 at 9:39 am

@Frank Richards, thank you for continuing the conversation with respectful questions along with your point of view. I respect your actions to stand up for the Rock Street apartments.

To respond to your question, "Why do you believe that the market price for homes cannot come down?", I agree with @Leslie Bain - I don't think we can build our way to affordability. The demand and the wealth driving it are so high that it is practically impossible to bring supply into enough balance to bring prices down to a reasonable level.

I value the economic diversity of Mountain View residents, and at the same time, I hear what you're saying about the challenges of looking to subsidized housing to provide the answers. I, too, am glad that there are now protections to prevent net loss of affordable units and guarantee a right of return at the previous rent to existing tenants. And I'm glad that the MV-Whisman district is building teacher housing. I know these steps alone aren't enough to solve the problem.

I'm also concerned that the pace of dense development will have irreparable impacts on quality of life. And, though I made the choice to live in small home for a short commute, I know many others who will pass on dense condos to live further away in a larger house but still commute here for their jobs.

I advocate for slower growth, and it pains me to see people equate that perspective as NIMBY and anti-affordability. I am pro-affordability, but I don't think rapid dense growth of market rate housing will get us there.


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