Mountain View to raze affordable apartments

By Janie Dent and Ishaan Parmar

On Tuesday, December 11, the Mountain View City Council approved a proposal by Dividend Homes to tear down the Royal Viking Apartments on Rock Street, displacing more than 70 residents. The 20 units of affordable housing will be replaced with 15 lux

ury townhouses that will sell for $1.3 million each. The Mountain View City Council struggled to balance the rights of the property owners with the needs of the residents but ultimately approved the proposal to demolish the apartments with a 4-3 vote. Current tenants must move out of the complex by December 2019.

Over 700 homes in Mountain View have received notices to vacate since 2015 due to an increasing number of proposals to redevelop affordable rental apartments into for-sale housing. 135 households received these notices in 2018.

Some residents may be forced to leave the city of Mountain View to find new homes due to high housing costs. The rental rate for the Royal Viking Apartments is around $2,000 a month, but other comparable apartments in Mountain View are $3,000 a month or more.

Residents of the Royal Viking Apartments and community members who opposed the proposal gathered outside of Mountain View City Hall to protest on the night of the vote.

“We don’t want to leave Mountain View because we have kids [who] are going to school here,” resident Angelaes Anducho said, interpreted by Leticia Romero.

However, the majority of the Mountain View City Council members felt they should approve the proposal to honor the rights of the property owners who did not want to rent out the apartments any longer. The Mountain View City Council was able to improve the tenants’ relocation assistance and extend their eviction date by six months. Current tenants will also receive compensation of three months of market-rate rent and a year of rental subsidy, which could amount to $25,000 according to the developer Dividend Homes.

[We] need to cater to everybody, because Mountain View needs everyone to make it function. If you don’t, everything is going to fall apart.

— Mountain View City Council member Chris Clark

Mountain View City Council member Chris Clark was the tiebreaker in the vote to approve the proposal. Clark said that had he denied the proposal, the tenants of Royal Viking Apartments would have been worse off.

It was pretty clear that, regardless of whether we approved this particular project or not, the landlord was going to proceed with the evictions,” Clark said. “I decided, if these folks are going to be out in June regardless, the least we as a council can do is work with the developer and make it really clear, like, ‘Look, we want to give them more time, we want to give them more assistance than you’re offering, and we want you to work with each one individually to try and find the best outcome possible for each of [them].’ ”

Mountain View has plans to develop more affordable housing in the near future. The construction of new subsidized rental units on W. El Camino Real and E. Evelyn Avenue will be complete in the spring of 2019.

Mountain View is building a number of subsidized housing units that [will be available] this year and next year, so part of [why] I asked [to hold the evictions] until the end of 2019 was because I knew a bunch of those units were going to come online before the end of the year,” Clark said. “I really wanted those folks to be able to enter that lottery because I think a lot of them would float to the top of that lottery, just based on their qualifications.”

However, not everyone is satisfied with the council’s efforts, including current Royal Viking Apartments resident Rocio Carrillo.

“[A relocation package] is just extra money,” Carrillo said. “To actually qualify for an apartment, you need to have [an] income. It doesn’t matter what my bank statement says. Whatever amount of money they give me isn’t going to make a difference. I feel like it’s just a little bit [of] hush money.”

Other long-term residents of Mountain View want the council to be more vocal in its support of affordable homes and to make good on their promises.

“We voted recently in an election and chose council people that wanted to really provide for low income, average, ordinary people,” Mountain View resident Marilyn Pontius said. “It seems like just the opposite of what Mountain View has committed to by tearing down a structure to make room for more luxury apartments with rents too high for the average, ordinary person.”

Carrillo would also like to see affordable housing that caters to more than just a specific income level.

“There also needs to be what they call ‘natural affordable housing,’” Carrillo said. “The difference is that low income [housing] has a very specific, narrow cut off. I know of people that are working two, three jobs… and because you work so hard, you’re getting a higher income, so a lot of us don’t qualify for that low-income housing. I know people that have been rejected from a low-income home because they make $80 more than [the] limit.”

Residents of Mountain View who have been hurt the most by the housing crisis are concerned that Mountain View’s gentrification problem will worsen.

“A community like Mountain View needs all different types of people,” Carrillo said. “[We] need to cater to everybody, because Mountain View and neighboring cities like Sunnyvale and Palo Alto need a little bit of everybody to make it function. If you don’t do that, everything is going to fall apart.”