San Antonio plan adds 3,000 jobs and 1,200 homes
On Tuesday night the City Council decided it was prudent to add office space for 1,000 employees to the precise plan for the San Antonio shopping center and surrounding area, for a total 3,000 new jobs in an area slated for 1,245 new homes.
The move was a change in course after members of the Campaign for a Balanced Mountain View called on the council to prioritize housing in the plan, which council members supported in July, to reduce the city’s worsening housing shortage and traffic.
In response, city staff proposed capping office development at 400,000 square feet, but requiring that 620 housing units be constructed after the first 200,000 square feet of office development, and 625 units after an additional 200,000 square feet of office are built. That would be enough for 2,000 office jobs in the plan at 200 square feet per job — and would allow 1,620 employed residents to live in the plan area in 1,245 homes.
Council members didn’t like the staff’s plan, voting at the Oct. 7 meeting to get rid of the phasing and to raise the office cap to 600,000 square feet, adding space for another 1,000 employees. Council members Ronit Bryant and John McAlister were opposed to the move and member John Inks recused himself because he owns property nearby.
“Of all of the places in Mountain View to have office, this is the best situated near mass transit and housing,” said council member Mike Kasperzak, who proposed ditching the phasing and raising the cap to 600,000 square feet. He said office development could be reduced elsewhere in the city to compensate.
“For me I’d rather have 400,000 square feet here and reduce (office space by) 400,000 (square feet) in North Bayshore,” Kasperzak said.
Council member Bryant raised concerns that the city would see too much focus on office growth without the phasing, but member Jac Siegel and others said the phasing could mean one office developer would have to depend on what another housing developer does.
“What I heard from residents is there’s way too many offices in the plan,” Bryant said. “I heard, ‘Stop building offices.’ North Bayshore is not the place for housing, San Antonio is the place for housing. The cap and the phasing is difficult to take, but staff has given us what we asked for.”
City staff said they had selected the 400,000 square foot cap “because this amount of office development would create approximately the same number of jobs as there would be working residents in the Plan Area’s projected housing units.”
While a large number of residents called for making housing a priority in the plan in June and July, council candidate Lenny Siegel was the only resident at Tuesday’s meeting expressing concern about the lack of housing. “Mountain View cannot afford to add twice as many jobs as employed residents in the San Antonio area,” he said after the meeting.
During the meeting, Planning Director Randy Tsuda said he wasn’t sure when developer Merlone Geier would move forward with its phase two project — complete with hotel, movie theater, offices, retail shops and courtyard. Earlier this year, Merlone Geier was told by the council to remove one of the project’s two, 200,000-square-foot office buildings and replace it with housing, a direction Merlone Geier had protested at the time. Rumors that Merlone Geier was pulling out from that project fueled speculation about the council’s new interest in office development for the San Antonio plan.
Council members also decided to not address priorities for community benefits in detail in the plan. Community benefits are required for developments at maximum density, which is up to eight stories high in some places. Instead, the council opted to review their community benefit priorities periodically and on a case-by-case basis as projects are proposed in the area. The draft had made affordable housing a priority, but that was removed by members. Bike and pedestrian mobility was also a priority in the draft. Council members and residents expressed concern that other possible community benefits, such as a school, a park or shared parking, would never be built unless called out in more detail in the plan.
Residents and Los Altos School District parents and officials want a new school site in the plan to accommodate growing enrollment and the hundreds of children in the area who cross El Camino Real to get to school. It’s is unclear how many new news students would live in new housing, especially if it consists primarily of smaller apartments. Merlone Geier representatives have told the city that only two children live in the 330 apartments at the new Carmel at the Village development at San Antonio shopping center, said planning director Tsuda, adding that the number of students in new apartments could go up over time.
Council members did not discuss calls from cyclists for a better connection through the plan area from the bike boulevard on Latham Street, but member Bryant expressed concern about the the city delaying construction of the Latham and Church street bike boulevard until 2017. She also raised the issue of having 22-foot-wide lanes for cars around the Hetch-Hetchy greenway that bisects shopping center, nearly wide enough for two car lanes. “That seems to be inviting cars to go fast — I have some concerns about that,” Bryant said, noting research showing significantly fewer accidents on relatively narrow lanes. City staff said the wide lanes would help with emergency vehicle access.
The council’s discussion is expected to be the last one before the council votes to approve the final San Antonio precise plan on Dec. 2. An Environmental Planning Commission review of the plan is set for a Nov. 17 meeting.