Prometheus to add up to 526 units

Apr 10, 2014

Mountain View Voice

by Daniel DeBolt

On Tuesday, Prometheus Real Estate Group got the City Council's stamp of approval for 66 more apartments for its Manzanita complex on El Camino Real.
To be built at the corner of Mariposa Avenue and El Camino Real, the four-story building adds 66 units to the 162 unit complex recently approved for the former site of Western Appliance and Tropicana Lodge, which Prometheus is also building. All told, Prometheus is now set to build another 526 apartments in the city, including 184 units at 100 Moffett Boulevard and 134 units at 111 North Rengstorff — not including its proposal for 306 apartments at the former California Street Safeway site.

Demand is so high for housing in Mountain View that Prometheus' recently completed 203-unit complex at 455 West Evelyn Avenue has been advertising rents as high as $8,000 a month for a two-bedroom unit.

At 1616 El Camino Real, the approved building tapers down to two stories at the rear, which turned out to be too high to comply with city policies because of the proximity of single-story rental homes. City Council members approved the project with an exception to the rule, voting 4-3. Members Jac Siegel, John McAlister and John Inks were opposed.

Inks opposed a requirement proposed at the end of the meeting by Mayor Chris Clark. Prometheus would need to contribute $100,000 to the city for yet-to-be determined improvement to the neighborhood, which members approved in the 4-3 vote.

"That's not the way we do budgeting around here," Inks said. "If you are going to make it a $100,000 (donation) why not make it a million? How do you arrive at that?"

Council member Mike Kasperzak complained that the requirement was being proposed at the last minute, but other members said it was the first time they'd seen the project and so it was fair game.

Council member Jac Siegel suggested that Prometheus give even more, saying his opposition was partly due to "the very meager public benefits that are being offered."

Several residents advocated for a pedestrian path through the project, connecting to the end of Chiquita Avenue, as well as a safe El Camino Real crossing in front of the project for kids in the area going to Graham Middle School and Los Altos High School.

But there was just one problem — a private driveway stood in the way of a convenient connection to Chiquita Avenue just north of the Prometheus site, belonging to a homeowners association.

"I'm president of the HOA that people keep referring to," said Lorrie Gibson. "(People) want us to give them access through our land — it's not going to happen. I'm sorry people have children, I'm sorry they have to get to school, but it's not our problem. It's our land — it's not public land."

McAlister raised the issue of the project's rear heights not conforming to city policies, which alarmed neighboring property owner Jack Holman, who rents the adjacent homes to four households.

"I question where the exception was required because it's never been discussed, it's never come up in (planning commission meetings). I'm not aware of an exception," Holman said.

The project includes a small public plaza at the corner of El Camino Real and Mariposa Avenue with tables and chairs.

"If Prometheus thinks it's attractive and Prometheus wants to do it for its residents, that's fine with me," Bryant said of the plaza.

Prometheus will have to pay fines for removing two large trees from the site without permission. The trees were removed to build a two-level underground parking garage with 86 spaces.

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