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Comment on Mountain View City Council Item 3.1 Housing Element

Dear Mayor Kamei and Members of the City Council,

Mountain View YIMBY would like to provide comments for Item 3.1 Housing Element.

Planning the next decade of our city’s growth is no small undertaking, and staff deserves a huge ‘thank you’ for their conscientious work. While we know the city is still early in this process, we’d like to be proactive in identifying areas of opportunity, including addressing:

  1. Our over-reliance on the North Bayshore and East Whisman plan areas, which we do not believe will be built quickly enough to satisfy our housing targets.

    1. East Whisman already had one development fail due to financial feasibility.

    2. For North Bayshore, Lendlease expects Shorebird North (1118 homes) to be permitted by 2031 and, if we’re fortunate, Shorebird South (1794 homes). Other homes in that master plan will likely take longer, absent streamlining.

    3. The new Mello-Roos style tax proposed by MVWSD, if approved, will likely make any new housing infeasible.

  2. The city’s duty to Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) requires more work:

    1. Figure 2 (pg. 13) of the staff report makes it plain that the city is clustering development, which, as staff notes on page 5, is not permitted.

    2. Per HCD guidance, the city needs to take a regional lens on AFFH, and we believe this should include an analysis of our jobs-housing imbalance that exports displacement pressures to other cities. The Google projects, while great, do not ameliorate Mountain View’s severe jobs-housing imbalance. To take a regional lens on AFFH, we need to aim above our RHNA and close this gap.

For these reasons, we believe the city must greatly expand housing capacity outside the two plan areas. To quantify the need for additional upzoning, the city should use a data-driven approach in calculating the likelihood of redevelopment of non-vacant inventory sites. LA and SF are using rigorous modelling for their housing elements, but even simple statistics are useful here: Mountain View is on track to develop around 21% of its 5th RHNA cycle site inventory. So, Mountain View YIMBY believes we should apply great scrutiny to a housing element that claims the median inventory site has much more than a 21% of development by 2031. As staff notes, more upzoning is required if housing development is not sufficiently likely. Thus, to hit our housing targets, further fair housing and align with our climate goals, we believe the city should upzone high-opportunity areas within a half-mile walk of transit.

We’d also like to suggest the following:

  1. A major constraint to affordable housing is funding. Pursuing HCD’s pro-housing designation will give our city priority access to affordable housing grants. Mountain View is one of the most pro-housing cities in California, and we should diligently strive for this designation, which we absolutely can attain.

  2. In stakeholder meetings, affordable housing providers and market rate housing providers both agreed we should streamline permitting, reduce parking mandates, and invest in staff capacity. These items must be a major focus of our housing plan.

  3. The city must diligently reach out to “all economic segments of the community,” per AB 686. Yet we have not targeted outreach to housing-insecure residents, whether they live in mobile homes or RVs. Their needs are pressing and must not fall by the wayside.

Our city has the privilege of being a hub of opportunity and prosperity. We have the potential not only to meet our housing targets, but to turn our city into a green, walkable urban center that shares opportunity widely. We hope that our city will embrace this opportunity.

Best regards,

Salim Damerdji

On behalf of Mountain View YIMBY