City moves to 9,850 homes for North Bayshore

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MOUNTAIN VIEW — City council late Tuesday night voted to include nearly 10,000 housing units in the final plan for the North Bayshore development where Google is already constructing its futuristic “Charleston East” campus.

The decision to pursue 9,850 homes — subject to a final vote in November — followed mixed signals from city hall that ramped up the jobs-versus-housing controversy that sees Mountain View and other Peninsula cities blamed for abetting the Bay Area’s housing crisis by encouraging business expansion while blocking development of new homes.

In October, Mountain View officials released a draft plan for the North Bayshore area that called for creation of three new neighborhoods totaling 154 acres with 9,850 housing units, 20 percent of them classed as “affordable.” For residents of a region afflicted by a massive housing shortage and sky-high costs, this was exciting news.

Silicon Valley housing-advocacy group SV@Home had called on city officials to approve the 9,850 units.

“Santa Clara County faces a serious housing shortage,” the organization had said in a June 21 letter to the city’s Environmental Planning Commission. “With monthly 2-bedroom rents averaging more than $3,700 (in Mountain View), even households earning 120 percent of
area median income experience housing affordability challenges. Clearly, we need more housing now.”

Mountain View has 2.7 workers for every housing unit, the second-worst ratio in Santa Clara County behind Palo Alto’s 3.8 workers per unit, according to SV@Home.

But then in June, the city released a staff memo that said a review of the project by City Council members and the city’s Environmental Planning Commission concluded that even with transportation improvements including a new Highway 101 offramp, the development could only support 1,500 to 3,000 housing units.

The memo noted that the proposal to slash proposed housing numbers would not prevent the City Council from approving the previous plan for nearly 10,000 units.

Google wrote City Hall in opposition to the reduced-housing proposal, arguing for the full 9,850 units.

City councillor Margaret Abe-Koga had supported a reduction in number of North Bayshore homes, citing likely traffic woes.

“We have to be mindful of the existing residents and if adding more housing just means it’s going to take twice as long for me to get to where I’m trying to go or for my neighbor to get where they’re trying to go, then it really isn’t helping improve quality of life,” Abe-Koga said in June.

Google has talked about building 2,500 to 3,000 housing units in association with the North Bayshore project, Abe-Koga said.

“There’s no indication they would do the 10,000,” she said.

Google’s spot in the North Bayshore development was confirmed in March, when City Council members unanimously approved the tech giant’s plan for the Charleston East campus.

The campus is to feature a massive, two-level, 595,000-square-foot main structure, with a solar-paneled, scalloped canopy roof, all sitting on top of a basement utility plant. On ground level, Google plans public areas, including a park, plaza, pavilions, cafes and shops. Google broke ground in June.

The search giant’s expansion plans for Silicon Valley also include several new office buildings at Moffett Field, for which it’s reportedly going to add 300 pre-fabricated apartments as temporary worker accommodations. The firm is also working with San Jose on a huge new village in the Diridon Station area, where 20,000 employees could work.

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