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Walk Appeal

LIVABLE MOUNTAIN VIEW ENDORSES ALISON HICKS & ELLEN KAMEI

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

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:

LivMV Council Endorsements 2018See 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.

 

 

What is a Deadzone?

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

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 in black: Mountain View's 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.
      Quora offices at 605 Castro

      Quora’s office use creates a deadzone on Castro Street.

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.

Combining Density and Livability

By | City Planning, Design, Historic Buildings, Livability, Walk Appeal | No Comments

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.

Historic Mountain View: Weilheimer History

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

Update Aug 12, 2017:  One of twho historical treasures that were slated to be destroyed . . .

The Weilheimer House — or Chez TJ, as it’s been known the past 30 years — was built in the 1890s by early Mountain View settlers and features Queen Anne architecture.

THE WEILHEIMER HOUSE or CHEZ TJ as it’s known today:

A walk along Mountain View’s Villa Street reveals a perfect example of Victorian Architecture from the late 1800’s. The Weilheimer House at 938 Villa Street remains at it’s original location on a grassy knoll with large Heritage Trees in front. Built in 1894, and having survived the 1906 Earthquake, it is one of the oldest buildings on the Peninsula. The Weilheimer House has a rich chronicle of Owners and is rooted in Mountain View’s Living History.

The Weilheimer House is on land that was originally part of Castro’s farm. When Castro died (around 1856), his sons hired the Lawyer Houghton to defend them against squatters and secure the land.

Weilheimer House circa 1894

From the State of California National Resources Agency:

“As payment for representing the Castro’s in court, Houghton was given land. A portion of the land Houghton received included the property. It was part of what he named “Villa Lands.” Circa 1869, Houghton sold a good portion of his land in Mountain View to Doctor Bowling (D.B) Bailey for $3,500 (he was not a medical doctor; his first name was Doctor). Over the next twenty years Bailey began developing Villa Lands and by 1887 had recorded a subdivision map.”

The Weilheimer House was built in the 1894 to be the residence of Julius Weilheimer and his young bride, Fanny. Julius was the son of Seligman Weilheimer, an early Mountain View pioneer who arrived in the city with his brother, Samual, during the California gold rush. The brothers owned a general store located on Castro St., which Julius would later operate.

The younger Weilheimer would go on to serve two terms as mayor of Mountain View.  He was a merchant, bank officer and member of the first Town Board.

FROM THE MV CITY STAFF REPORT:

“938 Villa Street, now Chez TJ, was built for Julius Weilheimer, one of Mountain View’s most prominent pioneer families. A property survey states that the Weilheimer home was built in 1894. According to the City’s 2003 Survey, “the house is an excellent example of a Queen Anne style cottage.”

It was built in an elaborate style for early Mountain View with Palladian windows, an ample porch, an open balustrade and sawtooth shingles on one of the gables. Julius was the son of Seligman Weilheimer a Jewish immigrant from Dossenheim, Baden, Germany, who built Mountain View’s first big general merchandise store in 1856. The Weilheimers also had established a general store in Old Mountain View on El Camino Real during the 1850s stagecoach era. They set up a new shop on Castro Street when the railroad opened.

“The building still stands today as one of the oldest commercial buildings in the North County. The family also ran a hotel, livery, and other businesses near the first block of Castro. Julius was very prominent in a critical era in the city’s history, when it voted to incorporate. Julius was one of our first City Council members, although the body was called the Board of Trustees at the time.  He was also Vice President of the Mountain View Farmers and Merchant’s Bank. The Weilheimer family moved to San Francisco in 1907 whereupon Arthur Free, city attorney and later Congressman had the house until 1914. The Chez TJ Restaurant, now run out of the house has long been advertised as “a contemporary French cuisine restaurant that is uniquely located in one of the most historic Victorian homes in Mountain View.”

The Weilheimer House has a rich chronicle of owners and is rooted in Mountain View’s living history.

The house is on land that had been part of the Mexican land grant of Rancho Pastoria de las Borregas.  This land grant was later passed on to Mariano Castro, who managed a farm on the land that is now Mountain View. When Castro died, around 1856, his sons hired Mr. Houghton, a lawyer, to defend them against squatters and secure the land.

FROM THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA NATIONAL RESOURCES AGENCY:

“As payment for representing the Castros in court, Houghton was given land. A portion of the land Houghton received included the property. It was part of what he named “Villa Lands.” Circa 1869, Houghton sold a good portion of his land in Mountain View to Doctor Bowling (D.B.) Bailey for $3,500.  (He was not a medical doctor; his first name was Doctor.)  Over the next twenty years Bailey began developing Villa Lands and by 1887 had recorded a subdivision map.”

The Weilheimer House was built in the 1894 to be the residence of Julius Weilheimer and his young bride, Fanny.  Julius was the son of Seligman Weilheimer, an early Mountain View pioneer who arrived in the city with his brother, Samual, during the California gold rush.  The brothers owned a general store located on Castro St., which Julius would later operate.

The younger Weilheimer would go on to serve two terms as mayor of Mountain View. He was a merchant, bank officer and member of the first Town Board of Trustees. His father and brother owned a general store on El Camino and another downtown, which still stands at 124-8 Castro.

The home’s other notable past residents include Arthur M. Free, Mountain View’s postmaster and city attorney, who went on to become the only U.S. Congressman from Mountain View.

Congressman Arthur Monroe Free

Arthur Monroe Free (January 15, 1879 – April 1, 1953) was a United States Representative from California. He was born in San Jose, California. His birthplace at 66 South 14th Street is listed on the National Register of Historic Places in Santa Clara County. He graduated from the Stanford University law department in 1903 and commenced practice in San Jose. Free moved to Mountain View and was a city attorney from 1904 to 1910. He was the District Attorney of Santa Clara County from 1907 to 1919. He voluntarily retired and resumed the practice of law at San Jose.

Congressman Arthur Monroe Free

Free was a delegate to the Republican state conventions in 1914 and from 1920 to 1936. He was elected as a Republican to the Sixty-seventh and to the five succeeding Congresses (March 4, 1921 – March 3, 1933).

Lloyd A. Free (29 September 1908 — 11 November 1996) was Arthur Free’s son.  Born in the Weilheimer House, he was a founder of the Institute for International Social Research.  In the war against Hitler, Free joined the Foreign Broadcast Monitoring Service. He counted references to specific military units mentioned in propaganda broadcasts and made accurate inferences about enemy offensive movements.

After the war, he assisted UNESCO in their communication operations before continuing similarly with the State Department. He helped establish the Institute for International Social Research which did opinion polling in France, Nigeria, Japan, Thailand, and the Philippines, publishing the results, frequently as an Institute publication.  Free was a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and of the World Association for Public Opinion Research.

The Weilheimer House has maintained its handsome Victorian-era character over the years. Technically, it can be classified as a “Painted Lady” because it uses three or more paint colors to highlight its architectural features.

EXTERIOR CHARACTERISTICS TYPICALLY FOUND IN A VICTORIAN STYLE HOMES IN SAN FRANCISCO AT THIS TIME:

  •       ASYMMETRICAL HOUSE DESIGN.
  •       OVERHANGING EAVES
  •       GINGERBREAD-STYLE GABLES
  •       DECORATIVE TRIM
  •       CUTAWAY BAY WINDOWS
  •       PALLADIAN WINDOWS
  •       AMPLE PORCH COVERING THE PRIMARY ENTRANCE AREA
  •       BUILT-IN CABINETRY
  •      SAWTOOTH PATTERNED WOOD SINGLES

THE INTERIOR BOASTS VICTORIAN PERIOD FEATURES THAT INCLUDE:

  •      WIDE TRIM BOARDS AND ARCHITECTURAL CROWN MOULDING.
  •       WAINSCOTING
  •       BUILT-IN CABINETRY
  •       LARGE PANELED WOOD POCKET DOORS
  •       WORKING TILED FIREPLACE

This historic house is currently home to the award-winning restaurant Chez TJ, a Mountain View favorite.  Chez TJ has long been advertised as “a contemporary French cuisine restaurant that is uniquely located in one of the most historic Victorian homes in Mountain View.”

 

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

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.

Can This Downtown Be Saved?

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

Mountain View’s Poor Growth Planning Can Be Stopped.

Downtowns are to our cities like kitchens are to our homes — the heart. Downtowns are gathering places for our community. Downtowns are where we discover a new book or the perfect outfit. Downtowns are where we can bump into a neighbor while walking our dog and decide to stop for a cup coffee or a glass of wine.

My family and I moved to Mountain View six years ago after falling in love with the wonderful downtown. We loved the quirky, one-of-a kind shops and restaurants housed in historic buildings. We loved the small-town accessibility, knowing we would walk to downtown for restaurants, coffee houses, bookstores, live music, and specialty shopping. We loved the vibrant streets and ambiance.

At that time, it was clear that the downtown reflected the diverse interests and vitality of its neighborhoods and we wanted to be a part of it. We also recognized that growth was inevitable, but were confident the city management would protect the assets that made the downtown unique. It appeared that the City Council had not sold out to developers and large ubiquitous, box and chain stores. We believed we had found our dream town.

For a while, our downtown appeared to avoid the pitfalls of poorly planned growth. Then slowly, one by one, pieces of our history and Mountain View’s public usability began disappearing.

One of these fatalities was the destruction of Pearson House at Villa and Bryant Streets, a very important historical building that residents fought to preserve 12 years ago.

It was taken down by the City, only to be replaced by a closed-to-the-public, 24 hour-guarded office building.

That plan was approved by the City Council with the Developer’s commitment that the first floor would be designed for public use. That promise was broken.

Why ruin the historic charm of Villa Street, part of our walkable downtown welcoming people to Mountain View?

See those tables / umbrellas? No one uses them. The landlord and WhatsApp refuse to put in the cafe they promised.

Office buildings create “Dead Zones” in our downtown.

Dead zones and dark windows on Castro Street (our main st) at Quora HQ.

These Dead Zones discourage us from exploring other open businesses further down the street. Almost overnight, a number of new office buildings have sprung up on Castro Street, some with opaque windows, some with no name, providing no public access or interactivity, and creating more Dead Zones.

Now we are faced with the imminent threat of losing Chez TJ and Tied House on Villa Street to another office complex again, with the promise to build a restaurant on the first floor. Tied House and Chez TJ have been recognized by the City Council as historic buildings.

WeilHeimer House, now and for the past 30+ years, home of Chez TJ.

Chez TJ has capitalized on this historic designation, using the history in its advertising materials for years! Structures of historical, architectural, and cultural significance enrich the quality of life in Mountain View. They provide the unique character that draws residents and visitors downtown.

The popular Tied House is proposed for demolition.

Growth is not inherently bad, in fact it can be welcome, but only when it is well planned. Office buildings as part of smart growth are welcome as they bring jobs to our community, but our downtown center is not the place to build them. “For Lease” signs are seemingly everywhere. “Public Notification of Building” signs are popping up, construction cranes are towering over St. Joseph Church.

This lovely church is now blocked from pedestrian view from Castro Street.

I found myself asking what is the “vision” for our wonderful town? Is there a plan? It looks like Mountain View is for sale to the highest bidder.

How can our Council permit the destruction of our downtown’s assets and replace them with office buildings? How are these office structures affecting our cherished businesses, the lifeblood of our downtown?

Over the past few months, I visited many of our downtown businesses. Shockingly, I learned that many are not thriving at all! The few that are surviving do so because they own the building and don’t have to pay exorbitant rent. All the businesses I spoke to reported that for the past two years their revenues have dropped, and many question if they can survive another year.

The downtown assault began with the promise that corporate expansion would provide more foot traffic for our restaurants, cafes and boutiques. Instead, what happened was that these corporate offices provide their own food, which keeps employees sequestered in their buildings.

23 & Me right off Castro across from the Train Station.

Restaurants such as La Fontaine, which has been serving MV residents for 16 years, told us they have no patrons from these offices.

When an office building developer does not build enough parking for its employees, the city collects fees in lieu of these needed parking spaces. It doesn’t matter how many fees we collect, we don’t have the parking we need to support small restaurants, cafes and shops. Office workers park their cars in our public parking spaces all day, or in front of residences nearby. This explains, in part, why it is nearly impossible for our residents, visitors, small business owners and their employees to park during peak hours. Neighbors and visitors are so frustrated by the limited parking that many no longer enjoy going downtown. Several small business owners have been paying over $300 per year to park per space. While the City Council is considering raising the price per space for these office workers, it’s also considering charging for all parking regardless of time or use! This would be devastating for our small downtown businesses.

Several dead trees sit on Castro, outside our City Hall, and one is missing, for the past couple of years.

Empty store fronts, “Dead Zones,” lost historical buildings, limited parking and constant construction do not make for an inviting downtown. The streets and sidewalks are not being cleaned of litter, food, and waste. Street and median landscaping is dismal, even our City Hall median is populated by dead trees.

There is no decorative sign welcoming visitors to our downtown. Palo Alto, San Carlos, Los Altos, Burlingame, Campbell, Los Gatos, as well as many other California towns have sensible planning and protections in place that strengthen their downtowns.  Why don’t we?

Actually, we do. Mountain View does have what is known as a <em>precise plan</em>, a plan that has a strict process of identifying community-valued assets, such as historic buildings, green spaces, interactive walking spaces, etc., which are protected when designing a community. Our downtown precise plan was written by experts: architects, historical preservation and business development specialists. This is an important practice that all of our neighboring cities follow. The bad news is that Mountain View has not adhered to its precise plan for many years and the negative impact is easy to see.

There is something we can do to save the Mountain View we love. We have the power, but we must act.  Several dead trees sit on Castro, outside our City Hall, and one is missing, for the past couple of years. We must demand that the City Council PAUSE on any future development and follow the Downtown Plan that taxpayers funded.

The City of Sunnyvale is a lesson we should learn from—they stood up for their historic downtown when it was almost too late and all that is left is a block of Murphy Street, the most vibrant part of their downtown. They continue to regret their decision to tear down the rest of their historic downtown.

Help us save Mountain View! Visit www.livablemv.org/savedtmv-petition to sign our petition and learn about other ways you can help.  Together we can make a difference in our city.

Please contact us.   It’s time to remind the City Council who they work for.

WE CAN DO THIS!

– Carole W.

Ten Reasons to Save the Weilheimer House and Tied House Building

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

<strong>We are losing our history, piece by piece. There’s not much left, but together we can stop further losses.  </strong><strong>Please read these ten reasons to save our historic resources — and join us!</strong>

#1 We must preserve our valuable urban/historic downtown. Once you tear down or move historic structures like the Weilheimer House and Tied House building, they can NEVER be replaced. Mountain View risks eroding one of the most important reasons so many people have moved and continue to visit here: a vibrant, eclectic and historic downtown. Saving these historic properties is still possible, however. Mountain View’s city council had the opportunity to protect them in June when a developer made a proposal. It did not. We need to work together so they’re preserved and remain in place, while we revitalize the downtown.

#2 There are currently 78 proposed developments in Mountain View — and a full 5 of them are in downtown alone. Do you want developers to design your downtown? No, you want to have a voice in what happens to your town.

#3 Do you want to lose your distinctive small businesses that serve you to make room for more office buildings. These projects are ruining the downtown and create more DEAD ZONES. There are other suitable places for such development other than where historic buildings are located.

#4. Why should large businesses and their developers take away your livable city center? You can’t get a cup of coffee in their lobbies or sit in their concrete gardens. We don’t have to choose, there are plenty of locations in Mountain View to build office space. In fact, the city itself owns plenty of land.

#5 The downtown center and surrounding blocks should be reserved for its citizens and visitors, not corporate office buildings, which don’t allow public use.

#6 In order to keep our small businesses thriving, it is critical to keep our historical, walkable downtown distinctly different from the modern San Antonio development. Our historical buildings are what help make our downtown distinctive, attractive and the reason so many residents of Mountain View and other communities visit our downtown.

#7 Part of Castro Street is overflowing with activity. Now is the time to enable spillover foot traffic from Castro Street onto these side-street offerings. Villa Street is one such side street. Moving or removing the Weilheimer House and Tied House building would inhibit that opportunity to capitalize on spillover foot traffic.

#8 When the Castro/Moffett automobile crossing is closed, Villa Street will certainly become one of the more active gateways to our downtown. The “Front Door” to downtown Mountain View should be unique and inviting, and feature attractive, historic properties in place — not another office building.

#9 We don’t have to continue building without a sensible plan. It’s time to stop the destruction of our heritage buildings and assess that we as a community want our downtown to provide for us.

#10 What about the owners? Cities face this question all the time. There are several options if the owners want to sell or lease their properties: The city can buy them; it can offer incentives given the historic nature of the properties or it can offer the owners/developer a transfer of rights, for example, to a property more suitable for an office building. The city could also say “no.” There are many comparable examples and best practices from other cities that can be followed if the owners want to sell or lease their properties.