Letter from the Chair: Prometheus’ proposed development

By Noam Livnat

More than 20 neighbors joined OMVNA’s Steering Committee’s July meeting to share their perspectives regarding Prometheus’ proposed development at the Minton site. An important related discussion also took place regarding what role, if any, OMVNA should play in representing the neighborhood in this regard.

Prometheus has proposed building more than 200 one- and two-bedroom flats in a format similar to Park Place Apartments, which stretch west from Castro between Church and High School Way. The proposal asks for a number of changes from the current zoning plan, including higher density, buildings with 3 and 4 stories, and narrower sidewalks.

To some, this is an example of smart growth: residences catering to professionals, next to a local transportation hub and in the midst of a walkable community. The neighbors who attended the meeting see it differently. Among the concerns they expressed were worries about deviating from the current zoning plan, increasing the already high percentage of renters in Mountain View, the possibility that the development will become student housing for a future Moffett University, con-cerns about the impact of inade-quate parking, traffic congestion, loss of City tax revenue due to the structure of the deal with Minton, and that public transportation us-age wouldn’t be enough to justify the development. Many were up-set by what they had heard about OMVNA’s position on the project.

The Steering Committee has sent two letters regarding the proposed project to City Council. The first one, printed in the March, 2009 Newsletter, supported Prometheus’ request for staff resources to evaluate the project. The second is printed on this page. Unfortunately, our position might have been misrepresented by others.

To be clear: the Steering Committee supports evaluating this project, and does believe that the Minton site is a good place for a high-density project. This doesn’t mean that the project is “ready to go.” Input from residents, evaluation by the city’s professional staff, traffic studies, and much other work are needed before anybody could pass truly informed judgment.
But there’s a more fundamental issue here. Any development project like this brings costs as well as benefits to the community. The problem is that the whole community enjoys the benefits, such as a more vibrant downtown, while many of the costs may be concentrated in a small area and primarily affect the development’s nearest neighbors.

OMVNA represents all downtown residents and thus the Steering Committee seeks to determine its positions on any topic in terms of overall costs and benefits to the entire neighborhood. This may contrast with opinions of groups of neighbors and that’s OK – OMVNA will help other voices be heard, because discussion and debate can only improve the outcome. But as each of us weighs in on this and other issues, we need to remember that there can be a fine line between majority rule and the tyranny of the majority, and to be respectful and sensitive to the needs and rights of groups within our larger community.

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