Once an auto repair shop, a new three-story commercial development is going up in downtown Mountain View, despite the developer sharing only part of the project plans online.
The City Council unanimously approved the project, located at 705 West Dana St., while also expressing some concern about the transparency of the architectural drawings available for public review.
“It’s the first time, on my time being on council, where it wasn't publicly disclosed, the entire renderings, and so we'd love to ameliorate that tonight and make sure the public knows that it's all available,” Council member Ellen Kamei said at the City Council meeting on Nov. 14.
Smith Development, a Mountain View real estate development company, plans to redevelop the property – which is still owned by the Lee family of Lee’s Automotive – into a three-story, 18,800 square-foot commercial building. The development will create a restaurant on the ground floor and offices on the second level. The project also will include a small plaza and an underground garage with 13 parking spaces, that will be available for the public to use during evening, holiday and weekend hours.
But while council members commended the building’s design and shared garage use, they were concerned about the accessibility of the project’s plans.
A recent state law, SB 1214, requires that local jurisdictions obtain explicit consent from copyright owners – which typically is the architect – before making plans publicly available.
KSH Architects provided a limited package of the project drawings online. Accessing the full set of plans would require an in-person visit to City Hall, according to the council report.
When pressed about the reasons for not posting all the drawings, KSH Principal Architect Amanda Borden responded that they thought it was best to share the most relevant renderings, adding that they would have handled it differently in hindsight.
“The drawings that weren't provided, I would say were less interesting than the ones that were (provided). But we're happy to provide the full package to anybody in the public that's interested in seeing it,” she said.
The issue of transparency came up again with a discussion about how communities are notified about development projects, as well as the extent to which staff are informed about meetings between developers and neighborhood associations.
Assistant City Manager and Community Development Director Aarti Shrivastava said that the city has a formal process of notifying property owners and tenants within a 750-foot radius of developments, as well as an informal process of reaching out to neighborhood associations. Individuals also can sign up to receive notifications about projects from different city departments.
The Dana Street project did not receive public comments at city meetings held prior to the council meeting on Nov. 14. But on four other occasions, the developer met with the Old Mountain View Neighborhood Association. City staff did not know about these meetings until afterwards, and did not record the deliberations in the council report.
Another point of concern was parking during the construction process. The project will take over a portion of Lot 6, at 392 Hope St., which is one of the city’s busiest lots. Lot 6 was selected because of its proximity to the construction site and its ability to reduce vehicle impacts in surrounding neighborhoods, a staff report said.
Construction for the project is expected to begin in 2025 and will take 18 to 24 months to complete, according to the report.
Overall, the council supported the proposed development, despite concerns about the transparency of the project plans and use of Lot 6 for construction parking.
“It's all really well thought out, and I think a great example. And I hope there will be others like it downtown and in the Moffett area and other places as well,” Mayor Alison Hicks said.