Fri10242014

News

MV Council: Castro St. plan needs a debulking


City of Mountain View staff report
Plans for 801 W. El Camino Real include 162 apartment units and 10,800 square feet of retail space. This view is from Castro Street with El Camino at right.

The Mountain View City Council last week scrutinized plans for a large apartment and commercial complex at one of the more high-profile locations in the city.

Parking and bulk were the chief concerns of the project, proposed by the Greystar real estate company of San Francisco. Plans call for 164 apartment units in three- and four-story buildings, as well as 10,800 square feet of commercial space, all on a 2.38-acre site at the southwest corner of Castro Street and El Camino Real.

Members of the council and the Environmental Planning Commission shared the same concerns last September at project study sessions. Greystar architects have since scaled back the 801 W. El Camino Real plans – for example, the developers decreased the number of units from 175 to 164. But feedback at the Jan. 21 council study session indicated that the structures are still too big for council approval.

Councilmembers agreed with staff recommendations that called for further scaling back on bulk, with staff suggesting architectural changes to the second and third floors.

Although current plans call for 204 parking spaces for apartments and 78 additional commercial parking stalls, residents continue to worry about overflow parking onto nearby streets.

Responding to a suggestion that the city issue parking permits for surrounding streets, resident Denise Pinto noted, “The burden has been thrust onto us as residents. It’s not up to residents to pay for parking around our homes.”

Neighborhood resident Mary Hodder foresaw traffic issues for the alley running through the project to a city-owned parking lot – a lot the developer proposes to purchase for project use.

“You need metrics and accountability for this particular project,” she said. “I would propose that the developer pay for any permit program.”

Most of the current businesses on the site of the proposed development would be retained as part of the new project, according to the developer. Greystar has provided long-term leases to Rose’s International Market, Tanya’s Hair Design, Le’s Alterations, Peet’s Coffee & Tea and Sufi Coffee Shop and Cultural Center. However, tenants would have to wait out two years of construction if plans are approved.

Some residents saw the project as a big improvement and liked it as currently constituted.

“When I compare the mixed-use project with what’s there, this looks like a huge step forward to me,” said Bruce Karney.

Councilmembers concerns ranged from impact on the surrounding neighborhood to reduction in retail space and a shortage of parking.

“I would like to see the fourth floor removed,” said Councilman Jac Siegel. “I think it’s too much for the neighborhood.”

Councilwoman Margaret Abe-Koga noted significant reductions in space and parking for retail businesses.

“We’re taking away good businesses that are doing well to add housing. That’s troublesome for me,” she said. “Why aren’t we asking for more retail space?”

Vice mayor John McAlister voiced concerns over traffic and restraints on future development in the surrounding area.

While four councilmembers agreed that more retail space would be nice, the council did not require the developer to add any.

Next steps include the start of a design review process next month, followed by an Environmental Impact Report and a return to the planning commission and City Council.

City officials anticipated bringing a final plan before the council by November.

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