Arguing for More Housing in the Silicon Valley

San Francisco Chronicle architecture critic John King criticizes the housing policy of cities like Mountain View, Silicon Valley home to companies like Google and LinkedIn.
June 4, 2014, 8am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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"… when it comes to mapping a future with housing options for the talented people who work within its boundaries, the South Bay city of 75,000 is stuck in the past," writes John King.

"During the next 15 years, Mountain View's plans allow fewer than 8,000 housing units to be added within its city limits. Within the same time frame, more than 20,000 new jobs are expected to be created - an imbalance that's sure to exacerbate the strains on a community where monthly rents on the newest one-bedroom apartments start at $3,400."

King details the missed opportunity of past work on the city's general plan: "During work on the general plan, planners recommended making the roadway the spine of a mixed-use corridor [on North Shoreline Boulevard] with 1,100 housing units above shops and cafes. The idea was to add a human scale to the clogged artery while creating housing options for younger workers who wouldn't mind small units if they were close to their jobs, with things to do downstairs."

Despite widespread support from housing advocates, developers, and Google, however, "when the council approved the general plan - on a 4-3 vote - housing was left out of what is called the 'North Bayshore Change Area.'"

But King hopes the next chance to plan for more residential density won't go to waste, and could serve as a model for other cities in the South Bay: "North Bayshore could be something different, a 21st century vision of a suburban district that isn't filled with towers, but has a complexity and sense of potential in tune with our emerging society…A more detailed plan for the 'change area' will be done in the coming year; at the very least, it should include housing as an option for future city councils to explore. Other South Bay cities with evolving business parks should look at pushing the mixed-use boundary as well, if only to set themselves apart from neighbors."

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Published on Tuesday, June 3, 2014 in SFGate
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