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R3 Zoning District Update

Dear Mayor Kamei and Members of the City Council,

Mountain View YIMBY would like to provide some comments for Item 3.1 R3 Zoning District Update.

To begin, we’d like to thank the city for hiring Opticos to carefully analyze the feasibility of multi-family development in Mountain View and applaud the city’s form-based approach. We believe that infill multi-family housing is necessary to achieve the city’s missing middle housing goals.

It is important to aim for a significant increase in new housing capacity because:

  • Considering the length of the process involved in modifying the R3 code, and the fact that it was last modified about 30 years ago, and in light of Mountain View’s 2031 RHNA allocation being ~11,000 households, we urge the council to think long term as the changes currently proposed won’t cover our housing needs for even the next decade. We need to prepare for two to three times that amount.
  • In order to avoid displacement, policies like SB 330 that require replacement of naturally affordable and rent-controlled units are crucial. We’re pleased to see that the city is working on implementing our own permanent displacement ordinance. For reasons of economic feasibility, the more density we add, the more we can require developers to replace naturally affordable units. This is why we think a major increase in density should be employed in as many R3 areas as possible.
  • Adding homes near the abundance of jobs in Mountain View will reduce overall regional vehicle miles travelled and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, a core goal for Mountain View.
  • We applaud Council’s continued commitment, since 2015, to adding thousands of homes in North Bayshore and East Whisman. However, because these homes are coupled with large expansions of office space, they will not ameliorate Mountain View’s severe jobs-housing imbalance. To do that, we need thousands of homes in addition to NBS and East Whisman, particularly in existing R3 neighborhoods.

To that end:

  • We think the city should legalize taller buildings than currently proposed in the highest density designation (R3-D).
  • We would like to see R3-D applied to more areas in the city. In particular, we are disappointed to see that the R3-D designation isn’t proposed near transit or downtown. This is a big missed opportunity to permit a car-free lifestyle for the inhabitants of these future homes.
  • We think that more R3 areas should be designated R3-D even if they are near R1 zones. Rather than limit the amount of upzoning allowed near R1, we would like the city to consider upzoning those R1 neighborhoods to R2 as much as possible to allow for the creation of more homes while achieving a smooth transition from one designation to another.
  • We would like to see a transit-oriented overlay added to allow for a reduced parking requirement within a certain distance from public transit, along with the newly proposed R3 specifications.
  • We believe the city should strongly consider legalizing architectural arcades that will both improve the pedestrian experience and allow for some additional building capacity.
  • To achieve true form-based zoning, we believe the city shouldn’t add any limit on the total number of units for any of the newly proposed R3 designations.

Our city has the privilege of being a hub of opportunity and prosperity. We have the potential to turn these parts of town into environmentally friendly, walkable urban centers increasing access to jobs and high quality schools to more people. We hope that our city will embrace this opportunity.

Best Regards,
David Watson
On behalf of Mountain View YIMBY