After a heated four-hour debate Tuesday, the postponed a vote on resolutions regarding a redevelopment project for the .
Adjourning the meeting at 11:30 p.m., council members said they needed more time to discuss a list of changes proposed by the developer, Merlone Geier Partners, that night. The list included getting rid of solar water heating, eliminating car share spaces from the apartment complex and—most contentiously—reducing sidewalk space on El Camino Real from 10 to 5 feet.
“Given all these changes, I’m not prepared to vote tonight,” said Councilman Tom Means, who agreed with his colleagues to put the item back on the May 3 council agenda.
But the developers still urged council members to accept the plan for the shopping center, located at the corner of San Antonio Road and El Camino Real, which also serves as a shopping hub for people from neighboring communities.
“I think that in all development projects, there could always be last-minute changes,” said Michael Grehl, vice president of Merlone Geier Partners (MGP), about even more changes that the City Council wanted to see incorporated into the plans, like 15-foot sidewalks on El Camino Real. “We are 100 percent confident that we’ll reach an agreement with staff regarding the outstanding issues.”
According to the developers, the project would create more than 1,000 constructions jobs, and another 900 people would be employed in retail and restaurant opportunities after the center opened. He added that the redevelopment of the 56-acre shopping center would also generate a net increase of $1.2 million a year in property tax revenue and include 3 percent below-market-rate rental apartments.
The proposed mixed-use plan encompasses 311,000 square feet of retail space, and 350,000 square feet of residential space for an apartment complex that will house up to 350 units.
David Geiser, managing director of MGP, listed several issues he had with the council’s “conditions of approval” that stemmed from the environmental impact review (EIR) and submitted a detailed list of changes he wanted made.
“We would rather have the 2 feet of landscape than the 2 feet of concrete,” said Geiser, eliciting concerns from council members that the shortened sidewalk on El Camino Real would be unsafe for pedestrians.
After listening to the proposed changes, council members were reluctant to cast their vote before learning more. Councilman John Inks excused himself from the proceedings, as he lives within 500 feet of the area that falls within the project’s EIR.
“I’m hearing the applicant say we should accept the proposal, even though I don’t understand what they are talking about,” said Councilwoman Margaret Abe-Koga. “The worst thing is to vote on a project and not know what you are voting on.”
Randy Tsuda, director of Community Development, added that, “The changes Mr. Geiser outlined go behind what was outlined [in the proposal]. I lost track at number 28 or 29.”
The public also had mixed reactions to the project. While some felt the proposal would stimulate the local economy and give the center a needed-makeover, others felt that it wasn’t friendly enough to pedestrians and bicycles.
Forrest Linebarger, a representative with the Mountain View Coalition for Sustainable Planning, said he felt “the project has been mismanaged in the design process,” because he saw a project “designed for cars.”
Wendy Crowford, an 11-year resident on El Camino Real, agreed that the current development did not encourage the use of bikes to get to the shopping center.
“A lot of it is parking lots with no lane separations,” she said. “The green way is nice, but it doesn’t really connect to my neighborhood. I hope you ask them to make it more livable for everyone.”
Some people wanted the design to mirror the care given to downtown Mountain View, which has sidewalk cafes and a lot of foot traffic.
“The simple fact is that people attract people,” said Ellen Gibson, a homeowner in the area and a community activist. She collected a petition with 53 signatures against the development.
“I hope that you’ll bring back a plan that’s more bikeable, livable and has pedestrian friendly spaces.”
Additional reporting by Claudia Cruz