Mon09222014

Mountain View on the Move

San Antonio area growth prompts residents to ask city to slow down


Photo By: Courtesy of Merlone Geier Partners
Photo Courtesy Of Merlone Geier Partners Plans for Phase 2 of Merlone Geier Partners’ Village at San Antonio Center development feature a six-story hotel, above, and an eight-screen movie theater complex.

Residents near the massive new development at San Antonio Road and El Camino Real are circulating a petition urging the Mountain View City Council to hold off on further construction until a better plan is in place to accommodate the growth.

The Greater San Antonio Community Association, formed last October, posted an online petition on its website, asking the council to “postpone approval of any current development proposals … for the San Antonio Change Area, until the San Antonio Precise Plan is complete. Carefully and fully completing this process first is the only way to find the creative solutions needed for traffic, open space and pedestrian safety issues and will ensure the success of this unprecedented neighborhoodwide redevelopment project.”

Members have some advice for city officials.

“Avert a traffic disaster and ensure the success of this new village center for years to come by first completing a comprehensive plan,” member Anthony Shortland wrote in a post. “You wouldn’t build a house without a detailed plan. Why build a new neighborhood without one?”

“We’re willing to possibly compromise,” said Paul Edwards, association vice president. “But judging from this and a number of other developments, it seems to us the city council wants to go full steam ahead.”

 

An influx of new residents

Association neighbors are concerned about growth of the overall San Antonio area, which allows for an estimated 4,000 new residents, with homes for 2,000 new residents either under construction or proposed. Developer Merlone Geier Partners of San Francisco recently announced Phase 2 plans, which include more retail, office space, restaurants, an eight-screen cinema complex and a six-story hotel. Phase 1, nearly complete, includes 330 housing units, retail outlets and a new Safeway market, scheduled to open next month.

“Without an adequate plan to encourage and require transit use, the local streets will be gridlocked,” association members said in a statement. “The area is also lacking adequate park space for even the current number of residents, and the local school district is already experiencing crowding. The Mountain View City Council must be accountable for finding solutions to these serious problems before approving individual development proposals.”

The petition effort comes as Mountain View City Council members prepare to hold a special meeting Tuesday to discuss “public benefits” the council could require of the developer to gain approval for its Phase 2 redevelopment project. Phase 2 covers the Ross and BevMo shopping center sites. Members said they plan to present the petition to councilmembers at the meeting, scheduled to begin 4:30 p.m. in the council chambers at city hall, 500 Castro St.

Edwards said he is concerned about “complete and utter gridlock.”

“We want them to slow down and figure out how these things are going to be mitigated,” he said.

Member Nancy Morimoto indicated that the city and developer have been responsive to neighbors’ concerns.

The council agreed to the precise plan after hearing from residents, and the developer has scaled back on some of its initial plans for Phase 2. But she said more needs to be done.

“(Residents) have major concerns about traffic impacts, blocked views, demise of current local businesses, lack of park space for new residents and other issues,” Morimoto said. “The concerns are not just for this development, but this one combined with the many more already waiting to be evaluated next.”

Morimoto said more than 250 people signed the petition as of last week, and organizers hope to get at least 1,000 signatures to bring before the council. She said Los Altos residents are signing on as well. The association supports a new school site in Mountain View to accommodate the expected rise in enrollment.

 

The consequences of delay

Mayor John Inks did not respond to an email seeking comment. But Councilman Mike Kasperzak noted that the amount of time involved in devising a precise plan for the area – which the city intends to do – would likely conflict with the developer’s schedule. Kasperzak said such a plan could take 18-24 months to enact.

“I don’t think it’s reasonable waiting two years and putting a moratorium on development,” he said.

Noting that the city has already been working with Merlone Geier representatives for the past four years, Kasperzak intimated that the city could risk losing out on desirable projects, such as Merlone Geier’s plans for the luxury hotel for Phase 2, if the developer has to wait and risk construction costs going up.

“We’ve already missed four hotel opportunities because we went too slow,” he said.

Kasperzak said the council would not rubberstamp Phase 2, either.

“They don’t get to build what they want to build,” he said, adding that the council would consider impacts and needs of nearby residents in asking the developer to make changes.

For more information on the Greater San Antonio Community Association, visit www.greater-san-antonio.org.

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