Welcome to Livable Mountain View — and our very first blog posting. Yay!
As you may have gleaned by now, Livable Mountain View is a volunteer group of city residents who are very much concerned with the toll that unbridled growth has been taking on our historic resources.
We believe development can be positive, if and when it’s approached with both thoughtful planning and regard for the things and places that attract people, rather than repel them. We’re concerned, however, that Mountain View is quickly and irreversibly getting out of balance in this regard.
And we’re facing the immanent possibility that some true architectural treasures will be removed from Downtown Mountain View. More on that below.
Right now, though, we’d like to make our near-and long-term goals clear: To ensure that the few historic blocks in Downtown Mountain View remain intact and protect the very essence and character that continues to attract so many to the downtown. Our downtown plan lays out a vision for the larger downtown area with a sense of place that is walkable and inviting. But it has been long-ignored, allowing unplanned, out-of-scale and out-of-place development to take hold.
We strongly advocate, therefore, achieving balanced growth – growth that takes into account the needs and rights of the downtown’s small, locally owned and run businesses; property owners; and residents alike. We endeavor to preserve what’s made it so unique, vibrant and inviting along our first three blocks of Castro. But our downtown is not just those first three blocks of Castro; it includes the full length of Castro St. and side streets.
On so many levels, Downtown Mountain View is rich — in history; lively restaurants, cafes and bars; and classic architecture, with some structures dating back to the 19th Century. All those attributes have made down a truly desirable place to visit, by locals and other cities’ residents alike. And Livable Mountain View is here to make sure it stays that way.
The trouble is, there’s a minority of people, with self-interest as their motivation, who feel that desirability is expendable, in the name of “growth.” Consequently, we’re now in real danger of losing the precious little that’s left of our historic resources downtown. Indeed, we’ve already witnessed several office buildings erected recently, displacing smaller but character-rich structures.
This isn’t to disparage office buildings in general; from a commercial perspective, they can indeed make a contribution to cities. (People have to work somewhere, right?)
But none of those office structures that have gone up downtown offers anything in the way of amenities to anyone other than the workers occupying them. And let’s not overlook that once a sound, still-functional building with local significance is replaced by an office building, it’s gone forever.
There’s a prime — and disturbing — example of this on the horizon: an out-of-town developer has proposed removing two historic buildings on Villa St. to erect an office building.
Presently at 938 Villa St. is the Weilheimer House (where Chez TJ now operates). It was built in the 1890s and is one of the oldest standing structures in Old Mountain View. It was the home, at various times, of Mountain View merchants in the late-19th and early-20th centuries, the city’s first mayor, and first and only congressman to hail from the city. Adjacent to the Weilheimer House, at 964 Villa St., is the former Air Base Laundry building (currently the Tied House brewery), dating to 1931 and which has a unique heritage of its own.
To say these two structures are historic would be an understatement. (See HISTORIC MOUNTAIN VIEW.) Losing them for the sake of yet another office building would be a monumental, irreversible loss to those who visit, work in and live near Downtown Mountain View. (A sad but apt fable comes to mind — about killing the goose that lays golden eggs.) To preserve these historic buildings in place, on the other hand, would help ensure the appeal and vibrancy of the downtown for generations to come.
Thank you for your support, from all of us at Livable Mountain View.