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Traffic calming key concern in San Antonio development


Photo By: Town Crier File Photo
Photo Town Crier File Photo

It’s still all systems go for Phase 2 of The Village at San Antonio Center after a majority of Mountain View councilmembers offered informally that they did not need to wait for a new Precise Plan to be completed before further construction could begin.

The straw poll, taken at the council’s March 19 study session, found only two councilmen, John McAlister and Jac Siegel, willing to wait the estimated 18-24 months it would take for completion of a plan that specifically addresses the area’s traffic mitigation and public benefits. Members of the Greater San Antonio Community Association had presented a petition with more than 600 signatures asking the city to hold off.

The majority of the seven-member council, while concerned about area gridlock, felt that the city could work with Merlone Geier on traffic issues, bike lanes, sidewalks, open space and other public benefits during the Phase 2 process, while working parallel on a revised San Antonio Precise Plan.

Although Phase 2 proposes no additional housing, the new plans include an eight-screen movie theater complex and a six-story, 165-room luxury hotel.

The 20-acre development, located at the old San Antonio Shopping Center site at El Camino Real and San Antonio Road, is nearing Phase 1 completion. The initial phase of construction includes 330 apartment units, a new Safeway market and retail and office space.

Where’s the plan?

Paul Edwards, vice president of the Greater San Antonio Community Association, remained skeptical that the city had any plan to address such factors as an estimated increase of 500-900 schoolchildren and the 6,000 daily car trips generated by the area’s projected growth.

“If the city has a working Precise Plan, we would be delighted to see it,” Edwards told the council. “The silence on your part makes us only more concerned.”

Association member Carolyn Herrick suggested that the developer would also benefit from completion of a new Precise Plan.

“Traffic congestion can ruin a retail shopping destination,” she said.

Another member, Nancy Morimoto, said a Precise Plan could guard against the big development’s hurting neighboring small businesses, such The Milk Pail Market on California Street, in business for 30 years.

“The clear benefits (of the development) outweigh the delayed action,” resident Dan Smolkin countered, referring to needed housing and close access to Caltrain and other alternative transportation. “It will provide an opportunity for new businesses wanting to come here.”

Several speakers, including councilmembers, appeared most concerned about mobility – or the lack of it. Gridlock already is a problem along San Antonio Road between El Camino and Highway 101, said Los Altos resident Eric Wang.

Los Altos resident Sophia Yen observed that there was “always a backlog on California (Avenue) turning left onto San Antonio (toward El Camino).”

Trustees from the Los Altos School District board voiced support for a San Antonio area school site.

“We’re very excited about having new resident constituents,” Trustee Pablo Luther said. “However, we are bursting at the seams.”

Jim Randolph of Los Altos supported moving Phase 2 ahead, especially because it doesn’t include further housing.

“I would love a movie theater,” he said. “I’m tired of going out to Shoreline.”

Merlone Geier Vice President Mike Grehl noted that the development is “less dense than what is allowed under the (city’s) general plan.” He added the developer is willing to work with the city and “we’d also like to have The Milk Pail Market as part of the project.”

Council feedback

Councilmembers’ feedback ranged from refraining from additional conditions on the developer (Mike Kasperzak) to setting land aside for a park (Margaret Abe-Koga).

“We can ask for more for the opportunity or privilege of being a part of Mountain View,” Abe-Koga said.

Pointing out that the city is allowing the developer “huge (floor-to-area ratios) never seen before,” Siegel suggested that the council was not putting residents first.

McAlister added that a Precise Plan gives the developer a clear set of expectations.

Vice Mayor Chris Clark said he wanted to ensure that plans allow residents to access the development “efficiently and safely.”

Mountain View City Manager Dan Rich gauged the direction from the council to the staff as crafting a plan focused on improved mobility in the San Antonio area.

A Phase 2 study session with the council is tentatively scheduled for next month. Another meeting on the San Antonio Precise Plan is slated for April or May.

SV ‘birthplace’ tribute could be in offing

William Shockley wasn’t the easiest guy to get along with, and his controversial views on race and intelligence didn’t help gain fans, either. But his innovations, particularly the invention of the transistor, changed the course of history.

Some local, high-tech savvy residents want that history preserved – or at least recognized – in 391 San Antonio Road, an innocuous building where Shockley opened Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory in 1956, the same year he won the Nobel Prize in physics. The site is regarded as the true birthplace of Silicon Valley, because it was the first business involving the making of silicon semiconductor devices.

Last week’s Mountain View City Council study session on The Village at San Antonio Center project prompted some speakers to remind councilmembers of Shockley’s legacy and the need to recognize the significance of that 6,750-square-foot building.

Merlone Geier Partners, developer of The Village at San Antonio Center, has purchased the building and announced plans to demolish it as part of Phase 2 of its massive project. However, Merlone Geier officials are interested in erecting some kind of memorial structure at the site.

Dick Ahrens, representative of the local branch of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, wants the site “memorialized as the birthplace of Silicon Valley.”

“If (Shockley Labs) didn’t come, who knows where we would be today?” Ahrens asked. “It would be a shame to wipe out the area in such a way that the site disappears totally.”

A small sign at the site recognizes the building’s historical significance. Speaker Elizabeth Alexis said the building should be preserved and is protected by law.

Merlone Geier Vice President Mike Grehl said the building has little historic value.

“It was quite a different building from what it is today,” he said, noting that much of the structure has fallen into disrepair.

However, Grehl said his firm is interested in “memorializing the events that took place at that time. We’re planning on some kind of memorial at the site.”

Grehl cited the recent formation of an advisory committee, which includes two former employees of Shockley Labs and Ahrens, to offer input on the design of the memorial.

“We don’t know what it’s going to be yet,” Grehl said. “It’s not going to be just a plaque.”

– Town Crier Staff Report

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