Other candidates cast doubt on the number, and a former Mountain View city manager has asked Kamei to retract her statement.
Five of nine candidates in this year's race support allowing housing in North Bayshore as a way to reduce commuter traffic, not make it worse, by accommodating more of Google's growing workforce near the corporation's offices. Kamei, Lisa Matichak, Mercedes Salem and Margaret Capriles have all stated their opposition to changing zoning to allow housing there.
Kamei, a member of the city's Environmental Planning Commission, defended the mailer in an email, saying that there is no guarantee that those who live in North Bayshore would also work there, so "one can assume there will be significant commute out of North Bayshore to jobs elsewhere." She said the mailer is based on Census data that says the average Mountain View household has 2.1 vehicles.
Others say that's an unlikely scenario for the yet-be-proposed residential neighborhood.
"Logic says that 5,000 homes will not translate into 10,000 more cars on Highway 101 per day," said candidate Pat Showalter. "That would mean that each of the housing units had at least two cars, that they all wanted to go on 101, that nobody carpooled or went directly to downtown Mountain View or worked in the North Bayshore. If people are given the opportunity to live near their work, many of them will."
Candidate Lenny Siegel, who has led the charge for more housing in North Bayshore, said it is a "useful exercise" to estimate traffic impacts, but that he came to a much different conclusion than Kamei. "Substituting 5,000 units of housing for 2.1 million of the 3.4 million net new square feet of office in the draft Precise Plan would reduce commute traffic by about 15,000 vehicles a day," he said. His calculations are based on assumptions of significant office space reductions and 75 percent of North Bayshore residents also working there. "If we reduce the number of new jobs from 17,000 to 6,500, that means 23,000 fewer commute trips (inbound plus outbound) each day," Siegel said. "Then, if 75 percent of the hypothetical 6,500 employed residents of new housing commute within North Bayshore, the number of outside commutes (inbound and outbound) falls by an additional 9,750."
Planning director Randy Tsuda said the traffic impacts of 5,000 homes in North Bayshore have never been studied by the city. In 2012, the City Council rejected a general plan option that would have added 1,140 homes in North Bayshore and several thousand around the city. Tsuda said the traffic study for that option found an increase in trips but a decrease in vehicle miles traveled because people would be living closer to their work destinations. The "increased housing" option was found to be the "environmentally superior" option because of the reduction in car commuting emissions.
A slim council majority rejected that alternative after expressing opposition to housing in North Bayshore, citing threats to Shoreline wildlife and distaste for what some members thought would be dorm-like housing.
Some hint as to how many drivers might actually live in a new North Bayshore neighborhood can be found in recently approved apartment projects. The Madera complex on Evelyn Avenue near the downtown train station, where many units have been reserved for Google employees, has 1.5 parking spaces per unit. Owners report that the garage is only 75 percent full on any given night. The 184-unit complex recently approved for 100 Moffett Boulevard has 229 parking spaces planned, a ratio of 1.24 parking spaces per unit, or one per bedroom.
10,000 more cars
In an email to the Voice, Kamei backed away from the mailer's claim of 10,000 new cars on Highway 101, referring instead to "an additional 10,000 vehicular trips on our current roadway network."
"With no amenities in North Bayshore such as grocery stores, schools, or retail, residents would need to take trips across Shoreline Boulevard to engage with those fundamental needs," Kamei writes. "With a single-occupancy vehicle rate of 61 percent currently and the average household having 1-2 vehicles, it is projected that developing housing in North Bayshore would result in an additional 10,000 vehicular trips on our current roadway network."
Former city manager Bruce Liedstrand called the mailer "a substantial distortion of the truth," and asked Kamei via email to "publicly disavow this mailer and set the record straight immediately."
"As you probably already know, a city traffic study indicates that creating a residential neighborhood in North Bayshore actually helps manage traffic congestion," he wrote.
Kamei pointed to a city study of existing North Bayshore traffic problems and of future traffic impacts from 3.4 million square feet of office space in the North Bayshore precise plan, bringing an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 new employees to the area.
Kamei said that at the Sept. 3 Environmental Planning Commission (EPC) meeting, city staff told commissioners that Highway 101's Shoreline exit is at vehicle capacity during the morning commute hours, with the San Antonio and Rengstorff exits also highly impacted. "The Shoreline Corridor Study is still underway but given the information we received through the North Bayshore Precise Plan and the associated EIR, significant traffic impacts can be deduced," she said.
Kamei added,"I do strongly support additional housing and smart growth in the city of Mountain View."
Candidate Mercedes Salem, who also opposes North Bayshore housing, said "both Lenny and Ellen's numbers are conjecture."
"The results from the 2012 general plan using 1,140 (North Bayshore) homes cannot be used as a correlation to 5,000 homes," Salem said. "With 1,140 units there is no need for a school or grocery, whereas with 5,000 units, a different analysis has to be done. I would suspect that there will be way too many car trips at 5,000 units because of lack of services, and that would most likely make it the environmentally inferior choice."
Candidate Lisa Matichak, a planning commissioner who opposes North Bayshore housing, said, "We would need to estimate the mix of housing types, as different housing type assumptions will result in different traffic impacts."
"It is reasonable to assume that traffic would decrease only for those who work in North Bayshore that move to North Bayshore. It is equally reasonable to acknowledge that traffic would increase since neighborhood-serving retail, health services, schools, etc., with a 1,000- to 5,000-home community would be available only on the south side of 101."
Matichak pointed out that such problems already exist in her own Whisman neighborhood, which lacks a school and a grocery store.
"In order for me to assess this situation it's critical that I have data provided by a reliable third-party source," said Margaret Capriles, the third planning commissioner in the council race. "In my mind, the main issue that we must address in (North Bayshore) today is traffic congestion, before considering housing."
Candidate Greg Unangst, who is in favor of North Bayshore housing, said he agreed with Siegel's calculations and said Kamei's 10,000 car estimate "makes no sense to me."
"Having people live near their jobs will reduce vehicle commutes and (vehicle miles traveled)," Unangst said. "People are moving into the mobile home park and near the bike/pedestrian bridge over 101 specifically so they can walk/bike to work. Putting housing in (North Bayshore) — whether 1,000 or 5,000 — will help meet this growing demand."
Candidates Ken Rosenberg and Jim Neal also support housing in North Bayshore. Neal did not respond to the Voice's request for comment by press deadline Wednesday.
"I am interested in examining options to address the city's and the region's housing shortage and improvements to the traffic situation and will encourage additional study of these issues in North Bayshore," Rosenberg said in an email. "Construction of up to 3.4 million more square feet of office space will add thousands of new cars going into the (North Bayshore) area daily. Adding housing to the (North Bayshore) area will reduce the square feet of available new office space and put potentially thousands of Mountain View citizens near their place of work."
Rosenberg said he believes that if voters elect candidates on Nov. 4 who support housing in North Bayshore, it will be a mandate for the City Council to act accordingly.
This story contains 1416 words.
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