Highlights from the
ENVIRONMENTAL PLANNING COMMISSION
Wednesday, May 5, 2021
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The historic survey found that downtown Mountain View has some historic structures at the local, State, and national level. But overall, there are relatively few Environmental Planning Commission Staff Report May 5, 2021 Page 7 of 19 qualifying buildings, and the historic integrity of many older structures has been compromised. As such, downtown Mountain View does not meet the criteria to create a downtown historic district. (More information about this analysis is provided in Exhibit 7—Historic District Memo).
Even though the historic survey did not find that downtown Mountain View could be designated a historic district, the existing historic resources in downtown are protected through the City’s Historic Preservation Ordinance and CEQA. The City’s Historic Preservation Ordinance in Chapter 36 (Zoning) provides protection for historic resources and sets a process for modifications to historic resources and to add historic resources to the Mountain View Register. Historic resources can only be substantially modified or demolished with approval of a Historic Preservation Permit and are considered a project under CEQA.
The City Council also requested that staff look into additional incentives, such as Transfer of Development Rights (TDRs), which would allow historic property owners to sell unrealized development rights to another location within the City. The TDR value could be used for facade improvements or building renovations. Staff does not recommend a TDR program.
Historic Preservation Staff Recommendation
Make no changes to the DTPP regarding historic preservation and rely on existing preservation authority under CEQA and the local Historic Preservation Ordinance. Preservation of downtown character can be enhanced through updates to the DTPP standards and guidelines, though this would not have the effect of preserving individual nonhistoric buildings (see “Development Character and Design,” below).
Design Standards and Guidelines
The Precise Plan standards, guidelines, and procedures provide a strong framework for the oversight of development in the area. However, the City can better communicate the intended character of the district by clarifying the intent of existing design guidelines, reviewing where design guidelines can be promoted to the “Design Standards” section and including more illustrative graphics. In order to keep the focus of change to Areas A, G, and H, changes to the Area H design guidelines, which are also referenced in other areas of the Precise Plan, should be avoided.
Maximum Floor Area Ratio—Office
Area H is the only downtown area where building intensity is not controlled by the Floor Area Ratio (FAR). Instead, intensity is controlled by height, and staff recommended upper-floor step-backs. However, the lack of specific standards makes it especially challenging to address the design expectations for buildings and projects that require several design iterations. Staff is, therefore, recommending reviewing the inclusion of standards to provide clarity and streamline the development review process.
However, the City cannot add such general controls on massing for residential development (residential is a provisionally allowed use in Area H) under SB 330, and the City cannot adopt new standards that constrain the development of housing. However, staff proposes to study the massing controls illustrated in Figure 2 and identify other standards to include, but not limited to, FAR that would apply to nonresidential buildings only.
Office uses come in three primary varieties in the Downtown Precise Plan: • Office refers to general business offices and personal service offices, such as tax preparers, lawyers, architects, counseling, etc. • Administrative office refers to business offices performing headquarters activity, and management and administration of firms and institutions. Technology development and similar offices are included in this category. • Banks and financial office refers to banks, lending and investment companies, and similar uses. Administrative offices have the least ability or desire to provide transparency, pedestrian interest, and customer activity. In effect, this means administrative offices generally do not meet the pedestrian activity and interest standard for provisional uses on Castro Street and the cross-streets. As a result, to provide more clarity it would be preferable and more straightforward for the DTPP to simply prohibit the use. If Castro Street and the cross-streets prohibited ground-floor administrative office use, Figure 2 shows a map of the areas this would affect, while other areas would still require provisional use permits for the use.
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