By Nancy Amdur
The City of Mountain View is working to finalize a long-range development plan for the North Bayshore district with an eye on allowing more density to support commercial growth while preserving the area’s natural habitats. A lack of residential use permitted in the plan, though, is causing some residents to voice concerns about the city’s job-housing imbalance.[contextly_sidebar id=”HHTyHyWB0dSRC4JtjUZtdx4qANDwnuqF”]The North Bayshore Precise Plan allows “additional commercial development along with transportation improvements and protection of adjacent habitat areas,” said Martin Alkire, a principal planner for the city, adding that it will transform “the suburban office park district into something more compact.”
North Bayshore, which comprises about 600 acres north of highway 101, is home to many expanding high-technology companies, including Google and LinkedIn. Some of these businesses and other developers are awaiting the plan’s details before moving forward on development projects, said Phil Mahoney, an executive vice president at commercial real estate services firm Newmark Cornish and Carey in Santa Clara. Once the city has put “a wish list” together, it will be easier for those companies to move forward, he said.
“We’re seeing a lot of very strong development interest in North Bayshore for companies wanting to expand their facilities,” Alkire said.
A draft of the North Bayshore Precise Plan released last month permits approximately 3.4 million square feet of office development but no allocation for residential housing.
Omitting housing was “a decision the city made in 2012, and there are a whole lot of us who are trying to reverse it right now,” said Lenny Siegel, who earlier this year formed the Campaign for a Balanced Mountain View, a citizens group advocating for a better balance between jobs and housing. Siegel, the executive director for the Mountain View-based Center for Public Environmental Oversight, also is among nine candidates running for three city council seats that will become vacant this year.
Significant traffic on freeways and surface streets is anticipated as the area’s office sector expands, Siegel said. The city originally rejected housing in North Bayshore in part due to its lack of district services to support residences and to protect the area’s burrowing owl population, he said.
“There’s a lot of hand-wringing about the job-housing imbalance and getting housing closer to jobs,” Mahoney said.
“We’re hearing from some members of the public that they’d like to see residential there,” Alkire said. Google also had previously expressed interest in building housing in North Bayshore, where much of its Silicon Valley real estate holdings are located. But as of now, city planners are not adding a residential component to the plan.
“Our precise plan that we’re bringing forward to our planning commission council by the end of this year will not include study of any residential uses,” Alkire said.
The North Bayshore Precise Plan is part of the city’s General Plan, adopted two years ago to guide change and infrastructure investment in Mountain View through 2030. Plans call for the district to remain a high-tech employment hub while encouraging sustainable development that protects the area’s open space.
Along with containing development standards, such as setbacks and height limits, and architectural design guidelines, the precise plan draft outlines creating four distinct areas within North Bayshore, including a gateway mixed-use district at North Shoreline Boulevard and Highway 101, which would allow the highest densities and tallest buildings — up to eight stories — in North Bayshore.
Other plan details call for improving transportation connections between the district and the rest of Mountain View and Highway 101; improving open space; forming walkable blocks; and minimizing consequences of sea level rise.
Further, employers would be encouraged to promote using transit, walking and biking. Limiting the number of single-occupancy vehicle trips to the area and bettering the transportation network also are part of the plan.
It’s “unclear” what impact the precise plan will have on commercial development in the area until it is known whether it will be adopted, challenged or modified, Mahoney said. The city aims to adopt the precise plan by year-end.
“The plan is the blueprint, but the blueprint is perishable under scrutiny of citizen groups [and] special interest [groups]. There are all sorts of different factors that are weighing on what will or what won’t ultimately be approved,” Mahoney said.
“It’s a very fluid situation,” he added.