On Saturday, January 11, the City of Mountain View hosted a public workshop to describe and solicit community feedback for the El Camino Real and San Antonio Center Precise Plans. There is clearly interest in the two projects: over 100 people attended the 2.5-hour workshop, including members of environmental, transportation, housing, and equity organizations, as well as citizens who simply wanted to learn more and have a voice.

I attended specifically to participate in the El Camino Real group. SVBC has been working with two fantastic organizations, Greenbelt Alliance and Peninsula Interfaith Action (PIA), to encourage greater public participation in the ECR planning process. Together, our groups are advocating for a precise plan that envisions a vibrant El Camino Real corridor, with a mixture of commercial uses, affordable housing, community spaces, and comfortable bicycle and pedestrian access. We met up with members and supporters before the meeting began for bagels, coffee, and a discussion of our groups’ priorities. Then, it was a quick bike ride over to the meeting at the Mountain View Senior Center.

After an initial overview, we were broken up into groups of eight, each led by a volunteer mediator, to discuss four topics: active frontages and pedestrian improvements; bicycle facilities; height and scale; and potential public benefits. Within each topic, we were asked to weigh two options. The first, a focused option, would direct future development along the corridor into targeted areas, or nodes, largely centered on existing intersections and high-activity locations. The second option would plan for development spread evenly along the entire 3.9-mile corridor, generally meaning that any public investment would be spread thinner to accommodate the scope. SVBC supports the focused strategy. We feel that concentrated nodes of activity will be good for car-free travel, and bikes will be an ideal means of transportation to get from node to node.

I randomly sat at a table with an empty seat, and soon found myself in discussion with a diverse and thoughtful group of people: a developer, a small business owner, nearby residents and concerned citizens, and Chris Lepe from frequent SVBC partner organization TransForm. The group had an involved discussion and weighed both options in each topic, spending an hour to debate whether the proposed options would ensure neighborhood compatibility, provide gathering areas, support local business, promote revitalization, improve the pedestrian experience, manage congestion, provide safe access for bicycles, improve the viability of transit, and utilize parking efficiently. We could have gone on for two or three hours, but we nonetheless came to several group conclusions. Mainly, we preferred the focused strategy for all topics. We also had some specific suggestions:

  • Start in important areas and expand improvements outward (focused strategy).
  • Focus on placemaking.
  • Coordinate pedestrian access, land use, and transit.
  • We would trade on-street parking for buffered bike lanes on El Camino Real.
  • The city should also pursue a bicycle boulevard on Latham/Church.
  • Retail and more intensive development should be clustered at activity centers.
  • Nodes should be mixed use, with retail on the ground floor, professional offices on the second floor, and residential above.
  • Public benefits (provided by developers) should include the following in order of priority:
  1. Affordable housing
  2. Safe pedestrian and bicycle improvements
  3. Shared parking and other “park once” solutions
  4. Adherence to green building standards

I was so impressed that my group – without prodding from me! – decided that giving up on-street parking for protected bike lanes was a reasonable idea. Not only that, but they declined to decide between El Camino bike lanes and a bike boulevard on Latham/Church. They wanted both! Later in the meeting, when all the groups presented their summaries, I was pleasantly surprised to hear that my group was not alone. Many attendees wanted the City to pursue both bike lanes on El Camino and a parallel bike boulevard. Even those groups who were less explicit repeatedly stressed the need for safe bike access on El Camino.

Thanks to the City of Mountain View for hosting this very informative workshop, and thanks to everybody who gave up a Saturday morning to help plan the revitalization of the royal highway!

If you’re interested in getting involved in the El Camino Real planning process, there’s more to come! Attend either the January 22 Environmental Planning Commission meeting or the February 4 City Council meeting. You can also keep up with bicycling issues in Mountian View through SVBC’s own Mountain View Team.