By Kate Snyder
A master plan for a massive mixed-use development that has been in the works for years has received approval from the Mountain View City Council to move forward. The Middlefield Park Master Plan is a nearly 40-acre project that includes plans for up to 1,900 residential units, approximately 12 acres of parks and open spaces, up to 1.3 million square feet of office space and up to 50,000 square feet of retail, food and beverage uses, community spaces and other uses.
The Middlefield Park Master Plan was submitted by Google and the company’s project partner Lendlease, a development and construction company based in New York.
At a meeting on Nov. 15, members of the city council and the public alike were supportive of and excited by the prospect of the Middlefield Park Master Plan getting off the ground. Council members spoke about the need for affordable housing in the city – 20 percent of the master plan’s total planned residential units are slated to be offered at below market rates – and shared concerns about the impacts to the environment related to the construction. Ultimately, though, council members believed the project would be a great benefit to Mountain View’s East Whisman neighborhood, where it will be located, as well as the city as a whole.
“It’s been a long time coming, and overall I’m pleased with the outcome,” said Councilmember Margaret Abe-Koga. “Originally, we didn’t have that much housing in the precise plan, and it was later when council at that time, after deliberation and after seeing the increasing need for housing, felt that this was actually the ideal place for more housing. This even goes back before my time. I remember hearing councilmembers say that East Whisman is really the area where you could have an ideal work-life environment. I’m pleased that we’re seeing the start of that with this Google project.”
Middlefield Park is a 40-acre area within the East Whisman neighborhood of Mountain View, according to the project plans. It is bounded by Highways 101, 237 and 85 and sits within a short bike or transit ride to both Mountain View’s and Sunnyvale’s downtowns and Caltrain stations. The area connects to the Stevens Creek Trail and the San Francisco Bay Trail and is the heart of the City’s East Whisman Precise Plan. In late 2019, according to The Registry’s previous reporting, the City Council adopted the East Whisman Precise Plan as part of the 2030 General Plan goals and policies for the area, which would allow new residential land uses, expanded commercial land uses, open spaces and multi-modal connectivity.
The key tenants of the Middlefield Park Master Plan revolve around housing, nature, sustainability, community and mobility, according to the proposal. Specific features include housing that is centered around transit and public spaces with a mix of studios, one-, two- and three-bedroom units and about seven acres of Google-owned land permanently dedicated to the city for public parks and recreation. Other community amenities highlighted in the plan are bike-pedestrian paths linked to Stevens Creek Trail and Bay Trail as well as Mountain View and Sunnyvale downtowns, LEED Platinum standard for all office buildings and GreenPoint rated 120+ standard for all residential buildings and all-electric energy in housing and offices.
During the meeting, several members of the council discussed the effect of construction on the environment, in particular the air quality. Councilmember Pat Showalter said she hoped that there would be clear communication from the applicant related to any air quality issues. However, Showalter also noted that she is very much in favor of the project as a whole.
“A lot of times in environmental parlance, the term ‘best management practicable’ is used, and practicable encompasses what’s practical and what is feasible,” she said. “I think that’s the spirit of what we’re interested in here, is the best method that’s practicable, because we don’t want to stop this. We want it to go forward, but we want the safeguards to be as strong as they can reasonably be.”
The Middlefield Park project has been in the works for several years, according to previous reporting from The Registry. In November 2019, the Mountain View City Council adopted the East Whisman Precise Plan, which called for the development of up to 5,000 new housing units. In September 2020, Google and LendLease submitted an application to the city of Mountain View for a Master Plan to remove the fourteen existing industrial and office buildings on the site and begin the community engagement and city review process. Throughout 2022, Google and Lendlease continued working with the City and community on review and approvals.
According to project information from Google, after the master plan is approved by City Council, subsequent City approvals are required for each phase of the project, via a Mountain View process called “Planned Community Permits.” If the Phase One PCP is approved in a timely manner, construction could commence as early as 2024. The project is expected to be built in four phases across the next 15-20 years.