As Mountain View plans for new housing, could other cities come next?
MOUNTAIN VIEW — An ambitious new redevelopment plan in Mountain View is the stuff housing advocates dream about: turn an outdated office park and suburban neighborhood into a dense, city-like hub of nearly 10,000 homes amid vaulting new office towers and apartments.
After the Mountain View City Council early Wednesday unanimously passed a broad plan for remaking its North Bayshore community — home to overstuffed Google offices and little housing — advocates say they hope to carry the momentum to other housing-starved cities.
In a region desperate for lower-priced middle class housing, experts and advocates say the city’s plan could mark a departure from the political stagnation and NIMBY-ism that have stalled housing projects around the Bay Area.
“It’s huge for the Bay Area,” said Pilar Lorenzana, deputy director of the nonprofit SV@Home. Mountain View now has the largest housing proposal in the Bay Area, she said. “They’re the first city to step up in a real way.”
The redevelopment plan, known as the North Bayshore Precise Plan, includes Google’s headquarters and a collection of the advertising and search giant’s low-slung office buildings and sprawling parking lots.
The plan allows for development of 9,850 new homes and apartments, combined with about 3.6 million square feet of office space, and a mix of retail stores, services and entertainment spots. About 70 percent of the homes will be studios and one-bedroom apartments, with other development reserved for single family homes and multibedroom apartments. The city expects 20 percent of the housing development to be affordable, below-market units.
Planners envision a pedestrian and bike-friendly community with ample public transit. It would also feature public art, parks and green space. Specific plans for development will undergo additional public hearings and council approval.
Mark Golan, vice president of global real estate investments and development for Google, said the company looks forward to collaborating with the city “to create a complete neighborhood for the community to live, work, play and stay.”
Mountain View leaders said they hoped their action would spur progress in other cities.
“This plan is significant to our city and our region,” said Mayor Ken Rosenberg. “We look forward to sharing our successes and lessons learned with our neighbors both near and far.”
City manager Dan Rich said the process was similar to other redevelopment plans — about two dozen community meetings and a broad focus on City Council goals that eventually narrowed down into a detailed structure for future development.
The city took pains to reward developers for reducing the flow of solo drivers into the area and minimizing environmental impacts to nearby wetlands, Rich said. Most of the property is controlled by Google, and other developers are also involved.
Rich has not heard from other cities, but he expects the project to draw attention from regional and national planners. “Regionally, we all know we have a housing shortage,” Rich said. “Quite bluntly, most communities are not stepping up to address it.”
Carl Guardino, president of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, said tech companies can play a vital role by supporting city efforts to plan for housing.
The business group also hopes Mountain View serves as an example for other towns and cities.
“We believe that midsized cities, like Mountain View, will recognize their role and responsibility in helping to alleviate our housing crisis,” he said.
Lorenzana said the victory energized other groups looking to bring more affordable housing to the region. Friends on Twitter have promised to put more pressure on Oakland city leaders, and advocates feel they have a winning example to share with other cities, she said.
The organization plans to work with city councils and citizens in San Jose, Cupertino and Santa Clara, among others, on major new proposals. San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo has already set a goal of bringing 25,000 new homes to the city in five years. The city also has major plans to develop Diridon village with Google.
Cupertino leaders will soon begin redevelopment plans for the mostly vacant Vallco Mall, about a half-mile from Apple’s new spaceship campus.
Lorenzana said the Mountain View plan showed a way forward, even amid setbacks and potential cuts to federal redevelopment funds. “It’s a shot in the arm.”