Although traffic in the North Bayshore area of Mountain View is bad, putting more housing there won't fix that problem. The area has no services for residents, who would then have to drive to everything.
In a victory for Chapter activists, the Mountain View City Council voted 6-1 to prohibit additional housing in the commercial and industrial North Bayshore area. The vote came on July 10, during the closing months of the five-year process to update the city’s general plan. The North Bayshore area is the land on the bay side of the Bayshore Freeway extending from Moffett Field to the San Antonio Road border with Palo Alto. It currently contains Shoreline Park and Golf Course, the Shoreline Amphitheatre, a small amount of housing, and numerous commercial and industrial facilities. The commercial facilities have been growing rapidly as Google continues to expand. The area also houses the last remnants of wildlife habitat, particularly burrowing owl habitat, within the city limits, and it is adjacent to part of the Don Edwards Wildlife Reserve along the shore of the bay.
The controversy centered on a proposal to add worker housing—initially 1,100 units—within the commercial area in order to relieve traffic. The traffic, indeed, is genuinely bad, and the booming job growth continues to make it worse. However, the Chapter’s Sustainable Land Use, Wildlife, and Transportation Subcommittees pointed out several reasons why this housing is a bad idea:
- The current impact of human activity on the bayshore wildlife is now mostly restricted to weekdays and daylight hours. Housing in the North Bayshore environment would extend that impact to seven days a week around the clock.
- Chapter activists Gita Dev and Shani Kleinhaus point out that the traffic congestion is so bad that adding housing to the area isn’t a sufficient response. We need to build transit, and we should build the housing on the other side of the freeway and develop attractive walking and cycling routes from there.
- There is no development supportive of residents in that area and no plans for it. Although putting housing in that area would reduce driving to work, residents would then be obliged to drive to grocery stores, schools, drug stores, restaurants, and everything else.
History of Seesaw Voting
In April the City Council had voted 5-2 against housing, but the city’s Environmental Planning Commission, in a surprise 4-3 vote, subsequently disagreed and resubmitted their own alternative plan, thereby renewing the housing proposal. In a tense straw vote on July 3—following intense lobbying pressure—the council again supported Gita’s and Shani’s positions but by a narrower 4-3 margin. One week later—again after intense pressure—three council members spoke in support of housing but four again spoke against. After the discussion, two of the three housing supporters joined their four colleagues in support of a resolution opposing the housing.
The Chapter’s Conservation Committee and leadership would like to recognize not only Gita’s and Shani’s tireless efforts on behalf of a fragile remnant of habitat but also to recognize the passionate, eloquent, and steadfast support in favor of the natural environment on the part of Mountain View council members Ronit Bryant, Jac Siegel, Margaret Abe-Koga, and Laura Macias. It does take courage to defend the environment when it’s in apparent conflict with commerce, and they certainly displayed that courage.
Mike Ferreira chairs the Chapter’s Conservation Committee.