Melanie Hogue| Peninsula Press| Link to Article
Residents of two Mountain View apartment complexes that developers are looking to replace with luxury housing say they won’t be able to stay in the city if they’re forced out of their homes.
Tenants of 2005 and 2310 Rock St. say the relocation assistance that the developer offered them — an equivalent of three months rent, according to a city official — won’t be enough to cover what residents expect could be at least a $1,000 per month increase in rent long-term.
The city’s rent levels have risen significantly in recent years. In 2017, the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment was $3,110, the San Mercury News reported, up from $2,295 four years earlier — a more than 35 percent increase.
One 2005 Rock St. resident, who has lived at the complex for more than five years, said she pays $2,000 a month for her two-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment. Newer residents pay more, she said.
For months, the residents have packed city council meetings and urged Mountain View officials to halt the projects, both of which are being developed by Morgan Hill-based Dividend Homes. Although the 15-unit project for 2005 Rock St. was already recommended for approval by the city’s zoning administrator in August, the council is tentatively scheduled to vote on approving the 2005 Rock St. project on Nov. 13. The 2310 Rock St. project is under review and is tentatively set for a Zoning Administrator hearing on Nov. 28 and a public hearing with the city council on Dec. 11, says a planning division official.
The complex at 2005 Rock St. currently has 20 two-bedroom units in total. Those would be replaced with eight rowhouse units and seven townhouse units. The current 59 multi-family units at 2310 Rock St., consisting of 20 one-bedroom, 33 two-bedroom, and six three-bedroom units, would be replaced with 55 rowhouses.
The housing crisis in the Bay Area has led to battles at city council meetings over how to preserve affordable housing. Also, as Bay Area residents head to the polls Nov. 6, they will be asked to vote on a bevy of ballot measures and propositions related to affordable housing construction. Although cities throughout the county are struggling to provide affordable housing for middle-class and low-income families, Mountain View remains one of the leading cities in Santa Clara County on issuing permits for housing developments, which could lead to more affordable units in Santa Clara county as a whole, according to Mountain View Voice.
It is not the first time older housing complexes in Mountain View have been torn down to make way for newer projects. In June, the council opted to tear down Moffett Manor apartments in the North Whisman neighborhood, the Voice reported.
On Sept. 25, roughly two dozen community members attended the city council meeting wearing shirts with the words “#WeBelong,” and “PACT: People Acting in Community Together.”
Leland Erickson told the council the proposed demolition means his partner of 19 years would relocate to North Carolina for more affordable living with her family, but that he would need to find a way to remain here because he is on Medi-Cal. Erickson said North Carolina might not be able to offer him comparable health care coverage.
Eleven-year old Lupita Flores said she and her family have lived in Mountain View for four-and-a-half years. “I have made really good friendships in the apartment,” Lupita said. “It will be hard not seeing my friends every single day.”
Adriana Tapia, a member of PACT, a grassroots advocacy group, noted that residents at her complex are largely Hispanic. “This is diversity and we represent diversity,” said Tapia.
But diversity will be lost if this project gets approved, said Zoe Delgado, a second member of PACT. “We don’t want to leave. We want to stay here. We’re not choosing to leave they’re forcing us. And that’s what gentrification is all about,” said Delgado, who currently studies biology at Foothill College.
Lucas Ramirez, a San Jose planning commissioner and candidate for the Mountain View City Council, said it can be difficult to reject housing proposals such as those on Rock Street “because a lot of these proposals are in compliance with the zoning laws that the city has.”
Joshua Vrotsos, listed as the applicant on the city’s development proposal, said he wanted to review questions from the Peninsula Press with an attorney. He did not respond to several subsequent emails or a phone call seeking comment.
Acknowledging the need for affordable living options, Mayor Lenny Siegel said the solution is to build more. City regulations require that at least 15 percent of housing must be affordable — but specific regions in the city have requirements for closer to 20 percent. Developers also have the option of paying fees rather than setting aside affordable housing units.
For Rock Street, Siegel said he is currently waiting to hear back from the city attorney on whether the council would be authorized to reject development proposals that are in compliance with regulations.
But, Siegel said, “in the case of the two Rock Street projects, people are being forced out with no place to go. And we haven’t come up with an answer to that yet.”