Mountain View City Council agreed to move forward with plans for housing in North Bayshore where Google is, overturning the policy of the previous Council. The change in policy followed a November election where the jobs/housing balance was a major issue, and the newly elected candidates all supported housing in North Bayshore.
It was a study session, so no official decisions were made, but City Council gave direction to move forward with allowing 1100 units of housing that were allowed under the General Plan (but not allowed under the last version of the Precise Plan), as well as a process to study a greater amount of housing, and the services, transportation, and other amenities needed to turn North Bayshore into a “complete neighborhood.” After working on North Bayshore, Council agreed that the Whisman area, which is in the queue for planning, will also be considered for more housing.
Most of the public comments supported the concept of housing in North Bayshore, and the idea of creating a neighborhood, not only projects. Commenters including people who live and work in Mountain View, want places to stay, and have been affected by the rise in housing prices triggered by a huge influx of new workers. In the last year, Mountain View has brought in 13,000 or more jobs, and added only about 1100 housing units, according to q&a between newly elected Council member Lenny Siegel and Mountain View staff.
One current resident said that he had left Russia, looking for career opportunity and freedom from persecution of gay and transgender people. He attends graduate school at Carnegie Mellon, and needed to stay in his advisor’s RV because no housing was available on his grad student salary. He is moving to Carnegie Mellon’s Pittsburgh Campus in order to find housing, but hopes to come back to Mountain View.
Council members did not impose a moratorium on new office buildings while the planning for housing moves forward, raising a risk in theory that the land for housing would be used up by office developments before housing can be planned and built. However, Google, the largest employer and landowner in the area, reiterated that they are interested in seeing housing in the area, reducing the risk. Also, developers of office projects about to enter the queue are expected to request zoning bonuses which require Council approval, so council has the ability to reject or delay projects if they seem to conflict with housing plans in the works.
Housing plans are moving forward for North Bayshore. Now the challenge for community members, staff, and developers will be to create plans and projects that can turn an office park into a neighborhood. Beyond that, the challenge for Mountain View and the region will be taking further steps, not only to allow some housing, but to help the region’s jobs/housing imbalance get better rather than worse. According to housing advocate Pilar LorenzanaCampo, the Bay Area added 114,000 jobs last year and added only around 8,000 new homes, on top of decades of a growing housing deficit. Can the region’s residents and decision-makers take action to reverse the trend, agree to the added population, and change transportation practices – there is room for more people, but not at the current rates of driving.