New Zoning could create a "Castro Street" on Shoreline
February 23, 2012
— by Daniel DeBolt
Small businesses near Google headquarters are excited by proposals to create a vibrant and walkable village in North Bayshore, but also worry that they will be squeezed out by plans to accommodate the internet giant. Karen deMoor, co-owner of a Yoga and Pilates studio at 1220 Pear Avenue called Center of Balance, told the City Council on Tuesday that she hoped businesses like hers would have a place in North Bayshore's zoning map in the city's new 2030 General Plan, a draft of which is currently being reviewed and analyzed by local officials, planners and concerned residents.
"The redevelopment of Shoreline is really exciting and we want to be part of it," deMoor said of her North Bayshore business, which serves 350 people a week, including tech executives, Olympic athletes and Pilates instructors who train there. "We want affordable space to be designated for businesses like ours to help us survive this" redevelopment.
The City Council is considering zoning that could allow for something like a second Castro Street on Shoreline Boulevard north of Highway 101. A downtown-like setting with new offices, mass transit, shops and up to 1,500 apartments aimed at employees who work in the neighborhood, an idea advocated by Google and others to reduce car traffic and spur the creation of a pleasing, walk-able neighborhood with outdoor cafes and small parks.
Google bought the building four years ago where deMoor's studio has been housed for 15 years. But there is still "no clear understanding of the larger plan" for the building, deMoor said. The studio has less than two years left on its lease.
The building at 1220 Pear Avenue is also home for the last nine years to the Pear Avenue Theater. A theater representative also expressed concerns about a neighborhood redevelopment mostly driven by larger businesses like Google.
"We cannot guarantee our work will continue if we have to find another space," said the theater's artistic director, Diane Tasca, who requested that there be a place for the theater in the new North Bayshore. The intimate 40-seat theater hosts "remarkable performances at affordable prices. The arts are vital to the life of the community. The Pear has provided a lot of artistic bang for the buck."
The concerns were echoed in a recent workshop which 165 North Bayshore businesses were invited to discuss the future of North Bayshore said Marianna Grossman, director of Sustainable Silicon Valley, which organized the workshop. "The smaller employers are really concerned about affordable rent and having large enough space to meet their needs," Grossman said.
Those small businesses include tech start-ups that have flocked to Castro Street, attracted by Google's local presence. Office developers say downtown is seen as an attractive place to work by tech employees, with its restaurants and shops providing an atmosphere that has at least a chance of comparing to the fun campus environment of a workplace like Google or Facebook. Palo Alto has apparently noticed the demand from small businesses, having recently declared the Meadow Drive area near Mountain View's border as a neighborhood for start-ups.
While North Bayshore could be a second downtown, it will require careful planning in order to keep already substantial traffic on Shoreline Boulevard and Amphitheatre Parkway from getting worse, council members say. Planning Director Randy Tsuda said it might be helpful to begin thinking of a future North Bayshore as a campus where people park their cars and walk, bike or take transit inside, similar to Stanford University where a parking demand management system uses shuttles and pays employees not to drive, keeping traffic below 1989 levels.
Mayor Mike Kasperzak is one of several council members who are interested in a unique personal rapid transit system for the area, with a network of guided pod cars connecting North Bayshore to the city's downtown train station.
"Everybody hates the traffic," Grossman said. Larger employers such as Google, "all would like to expand but in a way that protects the beauty of the area without adding too much traffic."