Wet paint, heavy equipment, and exposed wiring still fill the new housing estate at 950 W. El Camino Real in Mountain View. But within a week it will be hosting dozens of people in need of affordable housing.
The latest addition to the city’s limited supply of affordable housing, Luna Vista Apartments are opening their doors as city officials look for ways to build thousands more units like this one. Luna Vista has 70 studio apartments for residents well below the average income in the region, including 15 units specifically reserved for adults with developmental disabilities.
Located on prime lot near downtown Mountain View and a short walk to public transportation, the project is replacing a Taco Bell with high density housing. The density of the 70-unit development corresponds to 117 units per acre – far more than that of most apartments in the city. Although each compact unit is 400 square feet, they are all designed to “live bigger” with fold-out tables and curtain-draped cabinets, said Diane Harvey Dittmar, project manager at Alta Housing.
Glass panels hang at the front of the building, projecting colorful works of art depending on the direction of the sun. Artwork for Luna Vista was created by clients of the Morgan Autism Center.
During development, Luna Vista had a reputation for being extremely expensive to build, costing more than $ 700,000 per unit, and requiring a city grant of more than $ 22 million. Despite the huge need for affordable housing, the $ 49.4 million price tag for the project was enough to cause heartburn to Mountain View City Council members.
Back then, Alta Housing officials cited high land costs as the culprit, but construction costs have skyrocketed since then. Recent projects ahead of the city, including one on Avenida and another on Avenida Montecito, cost a comparable amount per unit.
Although they were cost conscious and careful about keeping the price down, Alta Housing CEO Randy Tsuda said they did not save and strategically use extra money to create a “great” living environment that tenants enjoy regardless of theirs Income serves. Additional amenities such as a communal lobby and balcony on each floor, as well as a spacious roof terrace with views of the bay.
“It proves that you can do this for an affordable project, not just the expensive market-ready projects we see,” said Tsuda.
Rather than creating a box-shaped building that mirrors other housing developments on El Camino, Tsuda said there was a strategic use of warm materials and a large, curved element at the front. The design was inspired by some of the older buildings that previously existed on El Camino, said Tsuda, similar to the streamlined modern style of old drive-ins and gas stations.
Compared to other cities in the Bay Area, Mountain View has built a significant amount of housing in recent years, including hundreds of units for low-income residents and families. But it falls far short of the government-set targets for affordable housing. Between 2015 and 2023, the city was asked to build 1,833 deed-restricted, below-market units, but reports from city officials earlier this year show the city had only granted permits for 448 units – less than a quarter of the target.
The deficit bodes ill for the city’s newest residential destinations. California’s Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) requires Mountain View to zoning 11,135 new homes, which includes a goal of 6,255 deed-restricted units for low-income households – an order of magnitude more than what has been built in the city in the past. Early strategies for achieving this ambitious goal include finding new sources of funding and working with other agencies to pay for the high cost of housing.
For its part, Alta Housing is expected to be one of the actors helping Mountain View achieve its goal of affordable housing.