All Posts By

Mary Hodder

Santa Clara Wants to Reclaim Its Downtown

By | City Planning, Historic Buildings, Livability, Walk Appeal | One Comment

Santa Clara, which tore down its downtown in the 60’s, wants to rebuild it as a central walking, meeting and human scaled space.

Old Santa Clara downtown, demolished in the 60s.

 

New vision for Santa Clara

 

 

 

 

 

Last November, ABC News covered Reclaiming our Downtown’s efforts. For more on their vision, see the group’s webpage.

 

Click on the image to watch the video: ABC News on Santa Clara Downtown rebuild

CBS Video on “Mountain View City Council Rejects Boxy Architecture, Seeks More Organic Designs”

By | City Planning, Livability | No Comments

KPIX in SF (CBS) posted a video titled “Mountain View City Council Rejects Boxy Architecture, Seeks More Organic Designs

Boxy design reminds me of the proletariat 60s design that went out of style fast.. within 10 years in fact. Those old 60s buildings quickly became eyesores.. and I suspect the buildings we are putting up that benefit developers (every inch of the box can be sold and building them is cheap) will not stand the test of time either, leading to more ugly reputation for Mountain View. When I moved here, people had horrified looks on their faces, when I told them. I asked why, as Old Mountain View is lovely and I hadn’t seen anything ugly. They replied that the proletariat 60s apartment buildings were all over the rest of it, and I live in one of two nice neighborhoods. The rest was awful, as I quickly discovered. But still I’d hoped we’d learned from those old design mistakes. However, we appear to want to repeat history and do it all again. And the community will suffer while the developers and architects will live elsewhere, no need to live with the bad buildings they leave us with.

I’m happy to see our City Council of Mountain View is recognizing that these new boxy slightly refreshed but still 60s-proletariat buildings aren’t cutting it. But can developers think of anything to come up with truly livable designs?

Today in the Downtown Committee, Robert Green of The Robert Green Company presented a hotel and office, and said to us, “Mountain View doesn’t have a style.” And then “We are trying to find it….” And this is what he presented (along with Rob Zirkle of brick. who presented the Villa proposal):

Hotel and Offices proposals

Where is the livability in that?

Mountain View does have a style. Neither of these guys live here, so they don’t even realize our style. But it’s west coast craftsman arts and crafts, Queen Anne, Victorian, along with Spanish Mission (Tied House uses this with a mixture of that and Hamberg Warehouse style). Just because developers have ripped out and ruined some of our heritage and mostly put up garbage design that’s boxy, doesn’t mean we don’t have some remaining style left in our town. We want to save the stylish parts and build where we aren’t removing our heritage, with design that makes sense and is beautiful, with quality.

Other more imaginative developers have been able to muster that sense of quality and design. See these View Street Condos (just off Villa and Dana) for reference. In fact I would prefer to see the City ask the Hotel, and offices all be built in this style and quality:

Villa Condos Example of Mountain View Style

What makes the View Condos a great development isn’t just the design but good quality materials, attention to detail and a variety of special spaces such as the balconies, entries and courtyard, different heights and varying levels of facade. It’s still a very large building and yet standing at the front at street level it feels very human and livable. Also, high quality troweled stucco instead of popcorn pin point stucco is used, as is great thick wooden treatments for balconies and trims, doors and windows. No flimsy vinyl window divides here.. it’s a highly desirable building.

We need more of this.. and no more boxy proletariat buildings. These proposed hotel and offices are $100 million each buildings. Amazing that Green and Zirkle would propose such short sighted construction and design for Mountain View that won’t stand the test of time.

PBS ON BIG COMPANIES AND MOUNTAIN VIEW, MENLO PARK AND CUPERTINO

By | Livability | No Comments

Silicon Valley has changed a lot, and it keeps changing. Big tech companies create huge successes, their employees take stock options and buy houses driving up prices, and towns that were sleepy get smaller-big-companies wanting to locate nearby.

Welcome to Mountain View, home of Google. Or Googletown as I like to call it. (Apple and Cupertino or Appletown, and Facebook and Menlo Park, or Facepark.. are also my nicknames for those places).

Anyway, PBS News Hour did a story on this a couple of days ago: Ever-growing tech giants have changed the pace and price of life in Silicon Valley

PBS News Hour on Silicon Valley growth

From Former Mayor Jac Siegel, Mountain View about all the changes we are seeing, and the challenges:

It’s just totally changing the nature of where we live, for people, for the sake of Google employment and for the developers who want to make a lot of money, and they do. It’s becoming a town of apartment dwellers more than others. An example, look on the right here: there’s 200 units of apartment buildings and yet minimal parking and no infrastructure.

We are challenged with how to grow, and still have a livable town that is unique in Silicon Valley. Mountain View risks becoming an office park if we don’t preserve what is left that makes us unique. Those few unique assets differentiate us from any other town, and now, with the pressures of development we risk it all. Help us act now to save the Chez TJ and Tied House buildings, by taking action and signing our petition, coming to the November 28th City Council meeting to support preservation of what gives us character and makes us Mountain View.

– Mary H.

The 10 Commandments of Smart Growth

By | City Planning, Design, Walk Appeal | No Comments

From Smart Growth America. Note #2 and 5. That’s the way we make Mountain View distinctive and unique.

The 10 Commandments of Smart Growth:

1. Mix land uses.
2. Take advantage of existing community assets.
3. Create a range of housing opportunities and choices.
4. Foster “walkable,” close-knit neighborhoods.
5. Promote distinctive, attractive communities with a strong sense of place, including the rehabilitation and use of historic buildings.
6. Preserve open space, farmland, natural beauty, and critical environmental areas.
7. Strengthen and encourage growth in existing communities.
8. Provide a variety of transportation choices.
9. Make development decisions predictable, fair and cost-effective.
10. Encourage citizen and stakeholder participation in development decisions.

Historic Mountain View: Airbase Laundry (Tied House)

By | Design, Historic Buildings, Livability, Uncategorized, Walk Appeal | One Comment

The Air Base Laundry or Tied House at 954 Villa St echoes famous Hamburg Warehouse district architecture.

Update Aug 12, 2017:  this is one of two historical treasures that were slated to be destroyed . . .

TIED HOUSE 964 Villa Street was completed in 1931 for the “State of The Art” Air Base Laundry Company.

The Building was typical of 19th century brick warehouse styles that were popular in Europe.  Mountain View had many German immigrants at the time and this building echoes the architecture of the famous Hamburg Warehouse district that was built in the late 1800’s.  It is reasonable to assume that this reinforced concrete structure with its classic brickwork reminded the early settlers of Mountain View of their homeland, while combining it with local materials typically found in Mission style architecture.

The Airbase Laundry opens….

Airbase Laundry announcement in the MV Register-Leader, July 31, 1931

964 Villa Street is still situated on the street in the same manner it was in 1931 as shown in a period photo. A pair of wood doors that are highlighted by a recessed arch provided a distinct entrance.  Iron mullioned windows flank the doorway in the typical warehouse style of this era.  Inside, the double height space was practical for the use of large equipment and ventilation.  The roof is made of durable Spanish tiles that were both functional and beautiful.

This building now houses the Tied House Restaurant that opened in 1987.  The Restaurant is based on the German concept of microbreweries that are “tied” to the restaurant and include serving food.

964 Villa provides Mountain View Residents with a glimpse of the town’s rich history and early immigrants.  It is one of the first brick structures built in Mountain View and is exceptional because it is still standing in its original location.