PBS on Big Companies and Mountain View, Menlo Park and Cupertino

Silicon Valley has changed a lot, and it keeps changing. Big tech companies create huge successes, their employees take stock options and buy houses driving up prices, and towns that were sleepy get smaller-big-companies wanting to locate nearby.

Welcome to Mountain View, home of Google. Or Googletown as I like to call it. (Apple and Cupertino or Appletown, and Facebook and Menlo Park, or Facepark.. are also my nicknames for those places).

Anyway, PBS News Hour did a story on this a couple of days ago: Ever-growing tech giants have changed the pace and price of life in Silicon Valley

PBS News Hour on Silicon Valley growth

From Former Mayor Jac Siegel, Mountain View about all the changes we are seeing, and the challenges:

It’s just totally changing the nature of where we live, for people, for the sake of Google employment and for the developers who want to make a lot of money, and they do. It’s becoming a town of apartment dwellers more than others. An example; look on the right here; there’s 200 units of apartment buildings and yet minimal parking and no infrastructure.

We are challenged with how to grow, and still have a livable town that is unique in Silicon Valley. Mountain View risks becoming an office park if we don’t preserve what is left that makes us unique. Those few unique assets differentiate us from any other town, and now, with the pressures of development we risk it all. Help us act now to save the Chez TJ and Tied House buildings, by taking action and signing our petition, coming to the November 28th City Council meeting to support preservation of what gives us character and makes us Mountain View.

– Mary H.

More Video From Yanghaiying on Livable Mountain View’s Mission

A couple of weeks ago, Yaihanging, a video blogger from Mountain View, did a terrific video discussing the Chez TJ and Tied House buildings under threat from development:

Video story about Livable Mountain View’s Work

Yaihaning’s latest video is a chat with Jean M, of Livable Mountain View, to further explain why we need to save Mountain View’s characteristic buildings that make us a place to come visit.

Watch it and give us your feedback. And please take action here!

Welcome. Now, Let’s Get Busy!

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.

If you agree, please sign our petition, contact the Mountain View City Council by email, come speak at future council meetings, and make your voice heard!

Thank you for your support, from all of us at Livable Mountain View.