Opinion: Talking about housing? Mountain View is actually doing something

An artist’s rendering of Google’s planned Charleston East campus in the North Bayshore area of Mountain View — an area that soon will also include thousands of homes, (City of Mountain View)

Around midnight on Dec. 12, the Mountain View City Council unanimously adopted the Residential Update to the North Bayshore Precise Plan.

This visionary document is a key milestone in the transformation of one of the world’s most successful suburban office parks into a mixed-use, car-light, demographically diverse, multi-story collection of neighborhoods.

In partnership with employers including Google, developers such as Sobrato, and two school districts, Mountain View is setting a standard to which it hopes other job-rich Silicon Valley cities will aspire.

Adoption of the plan culminates a three-year process of studies, workshops and hearings that began with the 2014 election. It will take more hard work, public and private investment, and difficult decisions to turn this plan into a vibrant, sustainable community.

Mountain View voters support the plan because it will significantly increase our housing supply at a time when hundreds of employed residents have been driven to live in recreational vehicles on our streets while thousands commute daily for hours to work at our growing tech firms and supporting-service businesses.

We hope to enhance our treasured cultural mix by welcoming skilled workers from all over the world while providing opportunities for our historically diverse population of service and construction workers.

We have defined sustainability to include making it possible for people who grow up here to raise families here, too. We have minimized opposition by focusing development away from existing single-family neighborhoods.

We are planning for nearly 10,000 new homes in the 500-acre plan area north of U.S. Highway 101 as well as thousands more across the freeway. But the plan emphasizes more than quantity. It calls for building offices, housing, retail, entertainment, schools and infrastructure to give people the opportunity to live their lives less dependent upon the personal automobile.

It is built around 14 principles designed to enhance the quality of life by creating, for Mountain View, a new kind of vibrant, sustainable neighborhood.

The plan requires that 15 percent of the new housing be made affordable to low-income, and in some cases, moderate-income people who live or work in Mountain View. But we’ve set a goal and incentives to reach 20 percent.

Mountain View has long supported affordable-housing development. This plan will more than double our total of subsidized homes. So not only does building market-rate housing help level the supply-versus-demand equation, but it also directly provides for affordable homes.

As we grow, we’re trying to minimize the impact on both local and regional traffic. We require employers and residential developments to practice transportation demand management, providing incentives for using transportation other than single-occupancy vehicles: We are limiting parking.

In the short run we are planning a new freeway off-ramp and a reversible bus lane on the Shoreline overpass. We are expanding bikeways. We are hoping to build a bus-only bridge across Stevens Creek.

And we are designing a futuristic elevated “automated guideway” to connect our downtown Transit Center to North Bayshore. We may ask our voters to approve a major-employer “head” tax to pay for that guideway, a major Transit Center upgrade, and other transportation improvements throughout Mountain View.

But our most important transportation solution is to enable people to live near where they work to relieve traffic, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and allow working parents to remain near their kids.

Mountain View is doing something about the cost and shortage of housing as well as our traffic nightmare. We invite our neighbors to join us. Working out all the details isn’t easy. But it’s necessary.

Lenny Siegel is mayor of Mountain View.

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