Mountain View’s new apartments in a near-downtown location with an 85 walk score, across the street from Caltrain and light rail at 455 West Evelyn, include all of the parking spaces that the city required. The Madera complex sold out quickly, and tenants of the 203 apartments aren’t using all of the assigned parking spaces. Jon Moss, a Prometheus VP, told the Mountain View Voice in August that “a recent count found only 75 percent of the relatively small underground garage being used,” based on a third party study. According to Jonathan Stone of Prometheus Real Estate and Property Management, ”there are quite a few units with no cars at all.”
The developer designed the property with two secure bike storage rooms with hanging devices to store 100 bikes each, and two carshare spaces for ZipCar. The residents, including tech workers and others, are heavily using the bike parking and frequently use the carshare services; Prometheus is working on adding more carshare space, potentially repurposing a guest parking space.
Stone says that in other new developments being planned in downtown Sunnyvale on Evelyn near Caltrain, Prometheus is learning from the Mountain View developments and designing more space for bike parking and carshare. At another new development at 100 Moffett, Prometheus dedicating space for an at-grade bicycle parking room specifically to make it more convenient for tenants to easily come and go by bike.
In more recently approved developments in transit-rich areas, Mountain View is also starting to require Prometheus and other developers to include transit pass subsidies, to complement the long-traditional parking subsidies.
The Madera apartment complex includes 301 car parking spaces for 203 apartments (116 one-bedroom and 87 two bedroom), meeting the city’s requirement calling for one parking space per one-bedroom apartment and two parking spaces per two-bedroom apartment.
In Mountain View, Prometheus is not allowed to repurpose the unused resident vehicle parking spaces to accommodate how their residents prefer to get around. Other cities, including Menlo Park, allow apartments and condos in areas near transit to unbundle parking, so residents can purchase only what they need, and unused space can be repurposed.
Update: We hear from Mountain View city staff that if Prometheus wanted to convert parking spaces into carshare or bike parking, they could file for an amendment to their permit with surveys showing they have excess auto parking. Staff also confirmed that Prometheus is not required to report on underutilization of parking at Madera.
But Mountain View requires residential parking spaces to be left vacant even if they are unused.
These vacant spaces near downtown Mountain View cost at least $30,000 to build, likely more, according to this report. Developers include these costs into the rent, which was expected to start in the $2,000s monthly when the building was plans, and pushed up to a range of $3200 to $6700 in the hot Silicon Valley market.
The risk of insufficient parking was one of the neighbors concerns while the project was being reviewed. At the time that the project was being approved, City Council rejected Sierra Club’s request for unbundled parking out of concern that residents would rent fewer parking spaces and then parking on the street. When voting in the minority against approving the project, Council Member Jac Siegel called the parking “clearly inadequate.”
One concern that was raised at the time is that residents in market-rate housing will have more vehicles than average. This continues to be a concern among decision-makers in Mountain View, expressed as recently as a couple of weeks ago at a Planning Commission review of a new apartment building on El Camino near Castro. The Madera complex is pricey, but residents demonstrably don’t have more cars.
When approving the development, City Council required a parking management plan that enables public hearings to address issues caused by insufficient parking. But there are no provisions to deal with the current situation, which is that there are unused parking spaces sitting empty, which may not be used for other purposes.
As Mountain View and other Peninsula cities add more housing in walkable, transit-rich locations, will they continue to require that pricey real estate remain vacant, and require fully subsidized parking even for people who have demonstrated preferences to drive less? Or will more parking be unbundled, allowing residents to choose how much they will use, and reducing rents for residents who have fewer cars?
Will Peninsula cities start to require reporting, like Arlington Virginia does, so decision-makers and longtime residents can see data about the preferences of today’s residents, and be able to make rational decisions about the needs of today’s market?