Googleplex in the North Bayshore of Mountain View, CA. Photo by Austin McKinley via Wikipedia.
Mountain View, CA, is booming. New companies are bringing new residents—and with them worsening traffic congestion and rising home rental prices. Mike Kasperzak, a Councilmember in Mountain View and member of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council, is using a smart growth approach to help Mountain View solve these problems now and stay vibrant for the long term.
Kasperzak started his career on the Park and Recreation Commission in 1994 and has served on Mountain View’s Environmental Planning Commission as Vice Mayor, Mayor, and on the City Council.
“Mountain View needs sustainable growth that incrementally improves the quality of life for everyone in the community, not just those involved with a project,” Kasperzak explained. “A smart growth approach is exactly that.”
With those principles in mind Kasperzak has worked hard to make sure all residents will benefit from the policies surrounding development in Mountain View’s North Bayshore, currently home to Google, LinkedIn, Intuit, and several other major tech companies. A Precise Plan for the North Bayshore area was passed by the City Council in December of 2014 and in it, the city created a tiered density system which allows for dense development closer to the highway and lower density closer to the regional park. The density is based off of a maximum floor to area ratio (FAR), with bonus FAR available in exchange for a community benefit or environmentally friendly building design.
The Precise Plan puts into place several important transportation standards and guidelines. There are only three roads that travel into North Bayshore and all three are plagued with heavy traffic at peak hours. The Plan sets up a monitoring system for car trips going in and out of the area. If the number of trips exceeded the capacity of the roads for two consecutive monitoring periods, the city will halt all new construction. The plan also calls for 45% single-occupancy vehicle mode share, which is far lower than the national 85% average. If any company in the North Bayshore area wants to build a new development, they have to bring their entire operation to the 45% SOV mode share. In addition, there is a $15 per square foot transportation impact fee that is charged for all development.
Outside of the Precise Plan, a Transit Management Authority (TMA) was created in October to bring together all the different companies in the North Bayshore to address transit issues. The TMA runs collective shuttles, called MVgo, from the Mountain View Caltrain station to North Bayshore so that every company does not need to have their own private shuttles. Google also separately funds a shuttle through the Mountain View community during daytime hours. The $15 transportation impact fee goes to the TMA.
Strategies to make housing more affordable are still in the works. There was originally concern over the environmental impact of building new homes, as well as the lack of residential infrastructure like schools and grocery stores. Now the Council might revisit the idea and consider amending the Precise Plan to allow for several thousand housing units. There is also currently a $17 per habitable square foot rental housing impact fee on development that can be paid into an affordable housing fund. Units can also be built in lieu of paying the fee.
The Precise Plan opened up 2.5 million square feet of space for new development and for that space, the city received 6 million square feet of proposed development—more than double what was available. Kasperzak and his colleagues have helped make sure that the new development will benefit everyone through community benefits. Among the proposed community benefits are a pedestrian and bike friendly bridge over Highway 101, a complete redevelopment of the city’s public library, and new parks and trail infrastructure.
Councilmember Kasperzak has high hopes for the coming years in Mountain View. There is a new mixed use complex being built downtown, as well as new rental housing with state of the art bike and car sharing facilities. In the future, he wants the city to explore protected and inter-connected bike lanes and new forms of transit.
“More traffic congestion is the thing that creates the most opposition to new growth,” says Kasperzak. “Public transportation is the key to solving that challenge and creating a better city for everyone who lives and works here.”