Mountain View planning commission considers more homes near jobs

On Wednesday evening, Mountain View’s Environmental Planning Commission will consider the next steps for its plan to evolve the East Whisman area, with aging industrial buildings, into a mixed use area with homes, offices and stores.  The proposed residential/mixed area is less than 10 minutes from Mountain View Transit Center on VTA light rail, and a few minutes on light rail in the other direction to the major Moffett Park employment center, where Sunnyvale is also considering housing near jobs.

The planning commissioners will discuss some innovative ideas about how to balance homes and jobs, questions about how best to pursue the city’s goals for affordable housing, and topics about how to retrofit a car-oriented area to be more pedestrian, bike and transit-friendly.

Jobs/housing balance

On the subject of jobs-housing balance, Mountain View is looking to innovate again.  Staff is recommending a “Jobs/Housing Linkage Strategy” that would limit the amount of office space allowed, based on whether sufficient housing is being built corresponding to office space.

Related ideas were raised in earlier Mountain View discussions about the North Bayshore and San Antonio areas, later in those planning processes.
whisman

Design for walking, bicycling, transit

The EPC meeting will review proposals for land use in different sub-areas (see image and staff report).  The residential/mixed use areas are proposed to have more walkable design, while the office area continues to expect more car-centric “campus style” designs with large blocks, and with landscaping designed for decoration and not provided as public space.

As Silicon Valley evolves, we wonder how important it will be to allow more suburban-style campus designs to attract developers and tenants, or would guidelines encouraging walking and transit draw tenants preferring such an atmosphere. Recent years have seen Apple’s gleaming, isolated, car-centric campus in Cupertino, and Google’s plans for the Diridon area which San Jose has plans to make more urban, with a focus on transit, walking, bicycling and public space.

A related concern in the plan area will be how improve pedestrian and cyclist experience at the complex intersection of Fairchild, Ellis, and VTA Light Rail, which is intersected by Highway 101 ramps.   Better safety and comfort for people walking, bicycling and using transit would help Mountain View achieve its goals to for growth in the area with less congestion.

Affordable housing goals

One important question for the city is how to set affordable housing goals, in an area with smaller properties and less concentrated land ownership than North Bayshore.

Analysis to date suggests that setting a 15% target for each and every housing development in the area might result in some developments being infeasible. The question is whether the city should explore options that would generate a higher share of affordable housing overall (such as 20%), without requiring the same share of every development.

Another constraint limiting the feasibility of affordable housing is parking requirements.  The staff report proposes to explore lower parking requirement, using shared parking with office uses, and other transportation demand management strategies, to reduce parking and lower the cost to provide housing.

Do you have thoughts on these or other topics relating to the East Whisman plan? Send them to Mountain View’s Environmental Planning Commissioners at epc@mountainview.gov, or come to the meeting starting at 7pm on Wednesday at Mountain View City Hall.