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Ellie Casson

Mountain View adopts a flexible, neighborhood-oriented General Plan

At long last!

On July 10, the Mountain View City Council voted 6-1 (Means opposed) to adopt the 2030 General Plan! The update of the 1992 General Plan was a four-year long process (maybe more depending on when you start counting). Now the celebrating – and the implementation – begins.

The missed opportunity

Having  been a part of many Bay Area cities’ general plan updates, we have to say that Mountain View’s final meeting was more of a nail biter than is typical.

Right up until the final vote there was some question about whether Council would approve a draft of the plan that allowed housing to be built in North Bayshore — a lightning rod issue that had become more divisive in the past few months. This conundrum divided stakeholders into two camps and pit typical allies on opposing sides: one that supported the idea of allowing housing in North Bayshore (under certain conditions and pending further study), and those who were staunchly opposed to any residential development in North Bayshore (primarily) due to potential impacts on bird habitat.

The camp that supported the possibility of housing included heavy hitters like Google, Intuit, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, the Mountain View Chamber of Commerce, (yours truly) Greenbelt Alliance and the local sustainability group the Mountain View Coalition for Sustainable Planning. The opposition was primarily led by the Audubon Society and Loma Prieta Chapter of the Sierra Club. While Greenbelt Alliance found wildlife concerns to be substantiated, we felt that there were too many unanswered questions to rule out the possibility of creating a mixed use neighborhood in North Bayshore — thereby redefining the modern office park in a revolutionary, sustainable way — at this point in the planning process.

At the end of the day, officials decided that the potential threats to wildlife in North Bayshore and the challenges to creating a “true” community outweighed the possible environmental and economic gains that would come from putting homes near jobs. In a 4-3 vote, Council opted to use the version of the General Plan that did not include housing in North Bayshore. (Kasperzak, Inks, Means in favor of housing, Siegel, Macias, Bryant, Ronit opposed.) Down the road maybe this discussion will be revived. For now, Greenbelt Alliance looks forward to working with the approved plan and creating the best possible neighborhood in North Bayshore for Mountain View and the environment.

Village centers

The General Plan identifies nine focus areas that will accommodate the majority of the job and housing growth planned for Mountain View over the next 18 years. As the vision of the General Plan is realized these focus areas will blossom into bustling little village centers with varying levels of transit, jobs, homes and services. Precise plan updates for four of these focus areas (the San Antonio neighborhood, the El Camino Real Corridor, the North Bayshore neighborhood and the East Whisman neighborhood) will be launched shortly, bringing zoning codes into compliance with the fresh visions in the General Plan. Greenbelt Alliance is looking forward to working with MVCSP and other community members to ensure that the forthcoming precise plans are just as strong as the General Plan, if not stronger!

Flexibility for community benefits

In a stroke of brilliance that responded to the community’s calls for increased flexibility in the General Plan, Council added a policy that will allow developers to bump up the heights and densities of projects built along El Camino Real if the developers provide community benefits. What exactly qualifies as a community benefit? We don’t know yet, but we look forward to helping the City figure that out. Some likely candidates for community benefits might include affordable housing or park space.

More housing overall

Way back in 2009 when Greenbelt Alliance first got involved in the Mountain View General Plan, the City was considering adding as few as 5,525 new units of housing. By working with the members of MVCSP, Greenbelt Alliance was able to convince decision-makers to study and eventually adopt an alternative that allows for nearly 8,000 units of housing. This is a huge improvement in a city that is already has quite a lot of jobs and plans to add even more. The closer we can get all Bay Area cities to have an even balance of jobs and homes, the better.

Onward and upward!

This has been a long haul for both the City and for advocates; Greenbelt Alliance and the local land-use advocacy group, the Mountain View Coalition for Sustainable Planning, spent hundreds of hours and turned out hundreds of people to meetings on the General Plan. We’re proud of the document that has emerged from everyone’s hard work

Read Greenbelt Alliance’s official comment letter on the 2030 update to the General Plan.

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