Mountain View is at the south end of the San Francisco Bay, 10 miles north of San Jose. With a population of 72,200, it has about half the population of Santa Rosa, but with an average density about the same as the city of Los Angeles.
Once covered in orchards and vineyards, it was the agricultural center for the Santa Clara Valley. The town was incorporated in 1902 with a population of fewer than 1,000 people. After World War II, the population exploded with the growth of the electronic and aerospace industries. It was covered with small Eichler houses; the epitome of suburban sprawl.
The first hint of Transit Oriented Development came with the adoption of the Downtown Precise Plan in 1988. The community was searching for new strategies to stimulate new downtown development, and the Downtown Precise Plan was a key part of these strategies. A major goal of the Plan was to create a concentrated mix of land uses close to the Downtown Caltrain Station and within easy walking distance of each other. It established new development and design standards to create a better pedestrian environment. The Plan marked a major turning point for Downtown Mountain View.
The effort to implement high intensity development near transit stations escalated in 1991 with a successful grass roots effort to bring light rail from San Jose to Downtown Mountain View and create a multi-modal Downtown Transit Station.
The 1992 General Plan update emphasized the City's commitment to high intensity development near transit stations to address regional air quality, transportation, and housing issues. These goals were implemented by establishing
three new Precise Plans, updating the Downtown Precise Plan, and creating a new Transit Overlay Zone.
In 1999, the City decided to reassess the Downtown Precise Plan to determine whether it was still consistent with the community's current goals and aspirations. This update focused on residential densities and building heights, and set new development standards for greater compatibility among the mix of uses and with surrounding neighborhoods. By that time the new Downtown Transit Center included light rail in addition to Caltrain, bus service, shuttles, and bicycle facilities.
The community reconfirmed its commitment to higher density housing and an intensification of development near transit opportunities. Building heights were lowered on some blocks, but high residential densities were maintained. The updated Downtown Precise Plan allows residential densities of 30 - 60 units per acre and encourages housing in more areas of the Downtown.
Within a year of adopting the updated Downtown Precise Plan in February, 2000, 40,000 sq. ft. of retail space, 260,000 sq. ft. of office space, and 220 new residential units were under construction downtown. Development has continued at a high pace in spite of the intense economic downturn in Silicon Valley.
For a street map of the Mountain View Downtown Station Area (circle of half mile radius), click here.