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Unlike Los Altos, which is mostly built out and single-family residential, Mountain View has no shortage of options for new housing as it prepares its housing element.

Mountain View City Council members at a study session last week refined their housing element, adding programs and adjusting potential housing sites under a state mandate to create conditions for providing 11,135 new units by 2031.

Part of the general plan, a housing element outlines housing needs and offers a strategy for meeting those needs. Plans must accommodate a diverse range of ages, incomes and abilities. The city must submit a draft plan next month to the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD), which oversees the housing element processes for all cities.

According to a memo from Ellen Yau, the city’s senior planner, Mountain View’s Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) number is among the highest in the region. However, Yau noted, “the city has sought to not only meet but exceed these high expectations.”

Potential sites

The city has been at the forefront of new housing development at all income levels through area precise plans and rezoning for higher-density units. Mountain View has an extensive inventory of potential housing sites, including the controversial inclusion of some shopping centers, such as Blossom Valley on Miramonte Avenue and the Rengstorff Avenue-Central Expressway location. The inventory also includes a “back pocket” list of sites that could be added in the event the state rejects higher-prioritized sites.

In addition, the city has a strategic work plan outside the housing element that addresses such issues as tenant displacement and updating the city’s R3 multifamily residential zoning.

Among the amendments agreed to in the June 14 study session:

  • Exploring the possibility of short-term employee housing in areas dominated by office development.
  • “Allowing “live-work” environments in areas with ground-floor retail.
  • Raising housing impact fees on office development.
  • Having employers work with the city on workforce housing programs.
  • Establishing a State Senate Bill 9 funding program that would allow for the development of accessory dwelling units.
  • Developing a Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act or Community Opportunity to Purchase Act program that also applies to mobile home parks.

Council members agreed to remove from the inventory list a property at Phyllis Avenue and El Camino Real, owned by El Camino Health. Mayor Lucas Ramirez said El Camino Health officials intend to develop the land as medical office space. Council members added properties at 57-67 E. Evelyn Ave. and 1010 Linda Vista Ave. for possible rezoning and the development of affordable housing.

The discussion drew several public speakers with concerns that included a decrease in retail options, with the inclusion of shopping center sites on the inventory list, as well as a loss of parking.

City Manager Kimbra McCarthy cautioned council members against adding an abundance of programs onto the housing element, citing limited staff bandwidth. Councilmembers Lisa Matichak and Margaret Abe-Koga agreed.

“I’m really concerned that we’re adding things to the housing element tying our hands for other projects,” Matichak said.

Vice Mayor Alison Hicks countered that she saw the additions as “strengthening programs” and that staff could determine feasibility and recommend whether or not to move forward with them.

The city is scheduled to file its first housing element draft next month with the HCD.

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