Sobrato Buys in Mountain View

By Sharon Simonson

The Sobrato Organization has assembled 10.4 acres in the Shoreline district of Mountain View—some of it property previously controlled by Google Inc.—and has applied to the city to develop 140,000 square feet of new offices.

Mountain View The Registry real estateThe Cupertino developer and landlord plans to build on a speculative basis, said Mike Field, Sobrato’s director of commercial real estate. “We see it as another opportunity to diversify our portfolio with land for redevelopment that is in a high visibility location,” he said.

The property is adjacent to the sprawling Shoreline buildings of the famous search engine and media company and behind a campus now occupied by Microsoft Inc.

It also is the latest in a line of acquisitions by the Sobrato company on the Peninsula and in San Francisco from a former strong focus on deep Silicon Valley, particularly Santa Clara and San Jose. In 2011, the company bought 15 acres on El Camino Real in Palo Alto, now occupied by an older Fry’s Electronics store. More recently it bought 12 acres in Menlo Park fronting U.S. 101. It also is assembling land in East Palo Alto, also fronting 101, where it hopes to build as much as 800,000 square feet of offices.

Under current development standards for the Shoreline area in Mountain View, the 140,000 square feet of new development are the maximum allowable for the Sobrato site, which is bound by Pear Avenue, La Avenida Street, a mobile home park and Inigo Way.

But under the city’s newly adopted general plan, acceptable building densities in the approximately 600-acre Shoreline area have increased nearly threefold. Now, for every foot of building there must be 3.5 feet of land; going forward the city’s master land-use document contemplates a foot of building for every foot of land.

The city is now preparing a “precise plan” for the Shoreline area to establish not only those new development standards but also the transportation commitments that developers must adopt to gain them. That could consist of helping to build a more fine-grained transportation and street grid within the Shoreline area itself or helping to finance employee shuttles to downtown Mountain View’s popular Caltrain station.

“Right now, the city is wrapping up a transportation study that is looking at high-level strategies for transportation improvements in, and to Shoreline in the long term, and what would be the cost for different improvements,” said Martin Alkire, the principal planner for the city of Mountain View. Alkire is overseeing the preparing of the precise plan.

The increased density is achieved on an average basis—meaning some sites of like size will have unequal building densities but overall the development will be one foot to one foot, or a 1.0 floor-area ratio in planner speak.

The idea is to focus density where it makes sense—near transit hubs and away from waterways, for instance, Alkire said.

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