This Tues. June 8 at 5:00 our City Council will decide on issues that will be the turning point for the future of our historic downtown: will we protect and enhance our irreplaceable buildings and ensure the existence of the restaurants and retail that make Castro Street a lively, safe and unique public space for residents and visitors OR will they allow first floor offices that will take over the restaurants and shops and leave us with darkened windows, closed doors such that Castro will become an office park next to the train station? Click thru to see how to show your support to council by sending them a message.
OUR PROCESS: Each of the nine candidates responded to our questionnaire on critical issues affecting livability now and in the post-pandemic future such as the future of our historic downtown, office-housing balance, local control over development and the development of Moffett Street adjacent to downtown.
Eight of the nine candidates accepted our offer of an interview to expand on their written responses.
RESULTS: Lisa Matichak and Margaret-Abe Koga were the two candidates whose written responses were 100 percent in support of the advocacy and goals of Livable Mountain View and who we feel would give Mountain View much needed leadership during this critical time.
We wish to thank all the candidates for their efforts. Please see the questionnaires of candidates who gave us permission to publish (see links below).
ABOUT LIVABLE MOUNTAIN VIEW: WHAT WE HAVE BEEN DOING TO KEEP MV LIVABLE
Formed in 2018 to advocate for Mountain View City Council candidates and actions that promote the livability of our city, LivMV was a key contributor to the 2018 election of our (former) steering committee member Alison Hicks to the Council. We also endorsed first place council candidate Ellen Kamei. Livable Mountain View was the prime driver behind Weilheimer House (Chez TJ) and the Air Base Laundry building (Tied House) receiving eligibility for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places. Prior to this honor being granted by state and federal commissions we lobbied our Council to preserve these buildings with a 2600 signature petition and appearances before the Council when their destruction seemed imminent. In the last two years, Livable Mountain View has lobbied the Council on a number of other issues, including the inappropriateness of cannabis stores in our downtown, positive characteristics of an affordable housing project proposed for downtown Parking Lot 12, and the need for a competitive process for the design of the new downtown Transit Center to create a world class entry to our city.
Here are the full questionnaires from Candidates:
NOTE: Alex Núñez and Sally Lieber refused permission to share their answers.
Margaret Abe-Koga (pdf)
Lisa Matichak (pdf)
Pat Showalter (pdf)
Lenny Siegel (pdf)
José Gutiérrez (pdf)
Paul Roales (pdf)
John Lashlee (pdf)
California State Historical Resources Commission Deems Downtown Mountain View Buildings Eligible for Historic Register
MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — July 23, 2019 — Livable Mountain View, a volunteer community group dedicated to the sustained livability of Mountain View, today announced the successful completion of its
campaign to assign historical designation to two historic buildings in the city’s downtown. The California State Historical Resources Commission (SHRC) determined the Weilheimer House (presently home to Chez TJ restaurant) and the former Air Base Laundry building (now the site of the Tied House Cafe and Brewery) are eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, following Livable Mountain View’s formal nomination of each building for historic designation. By virtue of the SHRC determining the buildings’ eligibility, both the Weilheimer House and former Air Base Laundry building, located adjacent one another in Mountain View’s historic downtown business district, are now listed on the California Register of Historical Resources.
Appointed by the Governor of California, the SHRC is a nine-member state review board responsible for identifying, registering and preserving California’s cultural heritage. Its members include experts in history, prehistoric archaeology, architectural history, and restoration architecture. During its public hearing in Sacramento earlier this year, the SHRC reviewed Livable Mountain View’s nominations, which included extensive written documentation and visual materials supporting the historical and architectural significance of the Weilheimer House and former Air Base Laundry. The commission then voted 7-0 — two commissioners were absent — to support the buildings’ eligibility and later rendered formal decisions on both.
The SHRC hearing was video-recorded and is available to view online at:
(The Weilheimer House and Air Base Laundry segment begins at the 55-minute, 30-second point.)
“Working toward and achieving eligibility for the National Register of Historic Places like this serves as a powerful example of what a concerned, involved community can accomplish,” said Carole Whitacre of Livable Mountain View’s Steering Committee “It’s a wonderful outcome for the residents of Mountain View, its historic downtown and all those who value preserving the city’s rich heritage and historic treasures.”
The Weilheimer House was built in 1894 by Julius Weilheimer, son of Seligman Weilheimer, a German-Jewish immigrant who in 1853, along with his brother, settled in what then was known as Mountain View Station. The Weilheimers opened a general store, followed by many other family businesses that included a hotel, livery, and additional general stores. Julius Weilheimer was born in Mountain View in 1860 and eventually ran many of the family businesses, which by then were located on and around the city’s main downtown commercial street, Castro Street. He served as trustee, mayor – he held city council meetings in the Weilheimer House – and vice-president of the local bank, and led the effort to rebuild Mountain View’s downtown after much of it was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake.
The Weilheimer House’s next resident was five-term U.S. Congressman Arthur Free, who was responsible for Moffett Field (later Moffett Field/Ames Research) coming to Mountain View in 1930, when cities up and down California were competing for this project.
Built in 1931, the Air Base Laundry largely served the base and thus was designed to match the thirty Spanish Revival buildings still located at Moffett Field, all of which are on the National Register of Historic Places. Its façade remains unchanged as it retains its stucco finish, red roof, original upper story windows and corbels below the roofline. Although updated since 1931, the materials and scale of the doors and windows are consistent with that of the original building. By history, function and design, the Air Base Laundry building is Downtown Mountain View’s link to the first generation of air and space technology — events that helped to lay the foundation for today’s Silicon Valley.
About Livable Mountain View Livable Mountain View is an all-volunteer group of residents with the aim of making Mountain View the most livable city in California. The group supports smart growth throughout Mountain View and advocates for development that shows respect to the city’s rich heritage, irreplaceable historic structures and vibrant downtown. For more information, go to www.LivableMV.org or email to info@LivableMV.org.
Livable Mountain View media contact:
For additional information and a Q&A on the historic eligibility of these buildings see: Weilheimer / Chez TJ and Air Base Laundry / Tied House Preserved – Q&A and Castro Street: Where It Came From, Why It Should Be Preserved
• 1852 The first Mountain View was a tiny settlement formed around the first stagecoach stop for the first stagecoach service originated by John W. Whisman near Grant Road and El Camino. Richard Carr opened the first general merchandise store.
• I853 the Weilheimer brothers, Seligman and Samuel, German-Jewish immigrants, arrived from Germany and to take a shot at the American Dream. they opened the second general merchandise store. Competition and diversity had an early start in Mountain View.
• 1854 The settlement is named “Mountain View” by a local store shop keeper and post master, Jacob Shumway.
•1856 The Weilheimer brothers established a general store, livery, and hotel in Mountain View.
•1860 The census listed Julius Weilheimer as being 9 months old. He will eventually run the family businesses, serve as town mayor, town trustee, help create and serve as vice president of the local bank (now occupied by Red Rock Coffee) which eventually became Bank of America, built and resided in the Weilheimer House at 938 Villa in 1894 (currently occupied by Chez TJ), lead the effort to rebuild a shattered downtown after the 1906 earthquake, and serve as postmaster and Wells Fargo representative among other contributions to our city.
•1864 The railroad in the form of the Southern Pacific arrived and by locating its rail line in its present location, the Mountain View we know today grew and prospered.
•1865 The new Mountain View town grid was laid out and remains today with Castro as the main street. The area was called Villa Lands.
•1867 Rengstorff House was built.
•1870-71 The Weilheimer brothers thrived and opened more businesses on and near Castro Street. Their 1874 Farmers Store at 124 Castro Street remains today and is occupied by Oren’s Hummus. It is believed to be the oldest building on Castro Street and perhaps the peninsula.
•1880 The Weilheimer family built its home and opened a stable on what is now Evelyn Street with and another general merchandise store in the first block of Castro Street.
• 1902 Mountain View was incorporated, Mountain View High School opened. We had electric streetlights, telephone service and a municipal water system.
•1905 The Ames Building at 171 Castro Street, was built with its Spanish influenced tiled roofline and is one of Castro’s oldest commercial structures. For decades it was occupied by the Jehning family lock business and Lock Museum.
•1906 The Mockbee Building at 191 Castro Street, occupied by Knapps, is an example of the Italiante Style of commercial buildings popular in Mountain View. It was originally a hardware store and meeting place for civic groups.
•1906 the San Francisco Earthquake destroyed many downtown businesses including the Ames Building which was quickly rebuilt.
•1913 The Jurian Building at 194 Castro Street, most recently a candy and pop shop, was a drug store and general merchandise building that had a hall upstairs for dances, civic gatherings and celebrations.
•1920 The Farmers and Merchants State Bank at 201 Castro Street, now occupied by Red Rock Coffee was built with the participation and investment of Julius Weilheimer and remains a distinguished building with Romanesque features and elaborate decoration.
•1933 U.S. Naval Air Station, Moffett Field was established with buildings in the Spanish Revival style then popular in California. The Air Base Laundry, now occupied by Tied House, opened at 954 Villa Street to serve the needs of the Air Base and utilized the same Spanish Revival architecture, as do other buildings in Mountain View, Sunnyvale and Palo Alto.
Below are our endorsements for City Council, after a written question and answer period, where some candidates asked for in-person interviews. Following are links to their written statements, if they submitted them:
See written answers from: Alison Hicks (pdf), Ellen Kamei (pdf), Pat Showalter (pdf), Lenny Siegel (pdf), Lucas Ramirez (pdf). NOTE: Candidate John Inks elected not return the questionnaire or respond.
Based on a 5 questionnaire form and interviews (optional) the current Council Candidates received the following scores: Alison Hicks (5), Ellen Kamei (4), Pat Showalter (3), Lenny Siegel (1.5), Lucas Ramirez (1), John Inks (0).
Our questions were focused on topics that greatly affect livability and quality of life in Mountain View.
Scoring was based on one point for each signed response and comments were considered which were provided by the candidates. Partial credit was given to those who supported the spirit of the question both through comments and their voting records.
There are an alarming amount of “deadzones” in Mtn View. This is a planning term used for areas that have no public interaction or service to the community. Here in black are the areas people are barred from entering in our downtown:
- Deadzones harm the remaining businesses trying to survive because they hurt foot traffic numbers and the remaining businesses feel less interesting. Less retail concentration in proximity leads to less vibrancy and sustainability for the remaining businesses. Deadzones come in many forms:
- Permanently closed shops
- offices allowed on our main walking streets that block out the windows and don’t allow interactive use
- buildings with blank walls feet from our main sidewalks on Castro,
- buildings with temporary closures for remodels or even, as we found out interviewing shopkeeps, from lack of traffic that simply means they stay open very few hours.
- Out of town developers come to make money on land they deem most profitable: office space, but contribute to the deterioration of our downtown by putting office buildings which are not interactive, closed to the street, and contain commercial kitchens that feed their employees for free, starving our downtown restaurants. A triple threat to our downtown.
Here is an example, right on Castro: The Quora Building at 605. Note the closed shades, right on our main street, in the middle of the day. Surrounding retail businesses struggle when some areas on the main street are closed. Foot traffic decreases in these deadzone areas.
Urban Grain and Vibrancy of Older Neighborhoods: Metrics and Measures is a new paper by Kathryn Rogers Merlino at University of Washington. It speaks to what Livable Mountain View has been saying we need for Mountain View’s downtown, which is to create density but with livability that includes a sense of place that is unique to Mountain View. One of the things we hear from Sunnyvale folks, both residents and their leaders, is that it was a huge mistake to tear out their historic downtown (all but two blocks). The 5 story boxy steel and glass buildings have tenants who live in them above, but the retail shops below aren’t all filled, and the sidewalks are deserted after 5pm. It’s not a place that is special or that people want to be. And we’ve heard that Sunnyvale is now looking to recreate that as an extension to the 2 blocks of Murphy Street so they can get it back.
We don’t want to see Mountain View lose our first three blocks (See our analysis of our Downtown Precise Plan which shows that every building, even ones that might one day be on the historic register, can be removed and bulldozed the next.) And frankly, we are concerned that without the preservation of the buildings that give us character we could end up just like Sunnyvale. Regretting it and not having the new development used as a downtown like it should be. We want density, but we want to use the lots and areas without special buildings to make it and leave the special buildings in tact and protected.
Current trends of urbanization across the country are focusing on increased density in our cities. While the idea of living at higher densities can combat sprawl, how does this affect existing, older neighborhoods? Many new buildings built for high density lack a sense of historic character and uniqueness of place, and cover entire blocks that don’t lend themselves to a quality pedestrian experience. Density must be combined with livability if we are to make quality cities that make successful places for people. This paper presents a study that suggests that a variety of age, texture and scale in buildings inherently assert a degree of richness in neighborhoods. Preliminary results of the study suggest that fine grain buildings in a block correlate with increased pedestrian activity and therefore urban vibrancy.
The study’s conclusion:
…preliminary results of the study provide quantifiable data that suggest a finer grain block with older building ages corresponds to increased pedestrian activity and street vibrancy. Higher ratings were found on blocks that had shorter average building widths that corresponded with older buildings and more durable materials. Blocks that had long, continuous building facades appeared to provide no interest or engagement for the pedestrian, nor did blocks that had open, empty lots, or buildings with poor material quality.
As the Merlino team at UW continues the study collecting data and analyzing the ways people react in different urban environments, we will keep you updated.
An old idea is making a comeback as Bay Area Cities invest in Land Trusts. Why hasn’t Mountain View considered this option? Read this article about how it’s working in Oakland.
A home you can afford: How land trusts are changing Bay Area home ownership – July 30, 2018, SJ Merc.
Also take a look at the Oakland Community Land Trust‘s site which explains more about their work.
Palo Alto’s city council voted to cap development to be half of what it was, because of a looming referendum that would have been on the fall ballot. Read more here:
Palo Alto lowers the cap on office development: City Council adopts citizen initiative to revise Comprehensive Plan
Below is a matrix showing the tools cities on the San Francisco Peninsula use to assess and preserve historic assets when considering development in their towns. These tools follow the CEQA requirements specified by the State of California.