City Council Planning

4880 El Camino – Citizen Concerns

4 story apt. building on fire
Out-of-state 4-story housing on fire. Safety of upper floors of 4880 El Camino was a citizen concern...
Written by lalahpolitico

July 6, 2016. Here are some of the minutae of citizen concerns about the 4880 El Camino development plan expressed by public speakers and sometimes also by council members at the June 27, 2016 City Council meeting.

Lalahpolitico has excerpted some of the more interesting diagrams and images of 4880 El Camino prepared by Dahlin Group architects. The Architect’s full plan is a large file on the City’s server and during business hours can be a slow download – 10-30 minutes? On the holiday I got it in a minute or two.

In this post, diagrams are often clickable if you want to see a larger version on a desktop or laptop PC.

This topic is spread across three posts

Part 1 – Council Meeting June 27, 2016 Summary/Action/Analysis

Part 2 – An Aside: 4880 El Camino Plan vs. Colonnade Development

Part 3 – Minutiae of Public & Council concerns June 27/ Diagrams, Photos

Merits and Issues of 4880 El Camino

Lalahpolitico agrees with Councilmember Mary Prochow that this is an excellent project by an excellent architect – the Dahlin Group.  I would not buy there: I’m so used to my single family home. But it will appeal to its target market – childless tech workers.  We may get households with children in the  3 BMRs.

It features 10.5 foot ceilings,  2 and 3 bedroom units of  1800+ square feet, underground parking,  a rooftop terrace, and “high-quality” materials.

What will it look when I drive by?

4880 Figure 1

pedestrian across El the daytime

This is how it might look for a pedestrian standing way across El Camino…in the daytime. Notice the existing neighbors Jack in the Box and Mohr Clocks.


4880 Figure 2

4880 El Camino Rendering of Front at twilight

4880 El Camino Rendering of Front for a pedestrian standing way across the street at Twilight

I think both these views probably have “the pedestrian” standing deep, deep in the parking lots of the small businesses across El Camino in Mountain View there. In other words, this feels like a somewhat ” wide angle lens.”  To human eyes, it may feel taller as you probably won’t see all of it through your car windows.

“Before” Photo of 4880

My photo of the closed Hunan Home restaurant.

This is almost the same pedestrian vantage point as the architect’s rendering above. It’s my photo of the closed Hunan Home restaurant. [Aqua awning.] You can make out the “story poles” that describe the planned height. It’s shot with a fairly wide angle lens. Things seem further than they are.

How about when I get a burger at Jack n Box?

4880 Figure 3

4880 El Camino Elevation from Jack n Box side

4880 El Camino Elevation from Jack n Box side. Blocking much of your view of the lower area will be the burger building and the old ranch home with large oaks situated behind the burger shack . You’ll see the upper floors though..above the 3 floor high screening bamboo.



What about the rear neighbors?


4480 El Camino. See the mature green screening at the 8 foot concrete wall.

My photo of the condo/apt. complex neighbor right behind the parcel adjoining 4480 El Camino. See the mature green screening hiding the over 6 foot concrete wall at the parked cars. Whole Foods is in the far, far distance. A wide angle lens make things look further away than they are.


Photo of back of Hunan Homes Shack From Neighbor

4880 El Camino Hunan Home Restaurant rear

I shot this by reaching over the 6+ ft. wall to photo the back of the 4880 El Camino Hunan Home Restaurant shack. From the rear neighbor condo/apts, the green screening and the [not shown] wall below the camera hide this view. In the condo parking lot, when walk you can’t see this view. I used a fairly normal angle lens.

At the the June 27, 2016, Council meeting,  neighbors seemed mainly happy to see the restaurant close and be replaced by luxury housing.  One single family homeowner on Marich and another on Delphi Circle supported the 4880 El Camino plan.  The owner of Mohr Clock [tan building on left of photo] also supports the 4880 El Camino plan.  One middle aged renter — who grew up locally and has rented in the rear condo for 25 years — lamented the increased density. Lalahpolitico: Tell ABAG and the MTA to stop the jobs, housing and transit increases! Good luck with that.

4480 Figure: Architects Render of SE Neighbor View

To a neighbor on the ground, they might perceive glimpses of the first and second floors

This is a vantage point similar to my photo of the rear of Hunan Home above. To a neighbor on the ground, they might perceive glimpses of the 4880 first and second floors through the redwood trees.

4480 Figure: Architects Render of NW Neighbor View

Architect's render of the neighbor view first and second floors from the southwest corner.

Architect’s render of the neighbor view  of 4480’s first and second floors from the southwest corner. Higher floors set back 100 feet are also visible on the top left. You won’t see into the high story windows without binoculars.


Notes from Lalahpolitico’s visit… There is a gap in the trees here now as shown by the architect.  But The hedge is much, much higher than rendered.  The wall is over 6 feet, so I don’t think a pedestrian would actually see as much of the first floor as rendered. I could not see the existing Hunan Home at all.   This rendering from the 4880 El Camino plan feels more like a view from the rear neighbors’ second story bedroom or bathroom windows?  The condo complex is arranged around pleasant courtyards.  Even if realistic, this would certainly not be a primary view for the rear neighbor.

If you look carefully at the left and top of the rendering, you can see how floors 3, 4, 5 would feel when standing in the rear neighbors’ parking lot.

Lalahpolitico:  Based on my on site inspection of the neighbor, this 4880 plan does a good job of being considerate of the rear residential neighbors.

What if I lived in the 4880 Condo Plan?

From the 4880 side of the real wall, this is a rendering of the 20 to 40 foot "backyard"

From the 4880 side of the existing real wall, this is a rendering of the 20 to 40 foot 4880 “backyard”

20 feet of the yard is for all residents’ use and features some bench seating. The fence on the right delineates the beginning of two ground floor units’ private, large decks.

Figure: Ground Floor Setbacks from Rear

4880 Floor 1:Ground

Ground Floor Rear Yard Setbacks: 20 feet to the ground floor units private decks. 40 feet to the ground floor unit windows

4880 El Camino Plan Front

There is  25 foot setback from the front property line at El Camino. This is way more generous than the inadequate First Street setbacks. It seems similar to generous setback at 960 S. San Antonio.

On the left is the 26 foot wide short driveway is leading to a ramp down to the underground parking. On the right is the lobby. There are bike racks and a bench for waiting for your Uber ride.

4880 El Camino Landscaping Plan

At the council meeting  some council members and some citizens, criticized the front landscaping plan.  There was confusion about the existing code/guidelines. Some said the front had to be 50% herbaceous. Others said it had to be 50% pervious surface.  As planned, it is obviously 50% pervious. The pervious requirement is more for storm water run-off that “community tastes.”

The existing code also says landscaping should be “lush and abundant.”  Lalahpolitico: This language – written in the 1990’s before the drought — is so subjective, and it needs to be rewritten.  If you really want lush and abundant, please move to South Florida, Hawaii, or back East. I think California housing developments which use this modern style of drought-tolerant plants in neutral palates should get a pat on the back. It’s handsome and calming. In a urban area, no one wants “abundant” landscaping where thugs can hide.

Why all the palm tree hating?

Why all the palm tree hating?

Lalahpolitico: And the two palm trees in the landscape plan got disrespected!!! Hey, can you say drought tolerant?  Can you guess who has had palms on most of her properties through the years?

The palms provide visual interest and some privacy screening, but don’t completely block the views from the lower floor units that look out on El Camino. Councilmember Megan Satterlee joked that maybe they should add an apricot tree to the landscaping mix. At least I think she was joking. Too bad she is termed out of council this November.

4880 El Camino Parking?

Figure: 100 Foot setback: ramp to parking

4480 El Camino underground 2-level parking

The 100 foot set back to floors 3, 4, 5 shows on the left.  On the right is the ramp to the two-level underground parking.

Some public speakers claimed the 4880 El Camino building, with all its 2 and 3 bedroom units would be used by 2 or 3 unrelated adults and therefore would be underparked; however the plan meets standards.

Some council members expressed concern about the automated auto stacking system. A speaker said he’d only seen such systems being used with full-time attendants. Councilmember Pepper wanted answers about routine cleaning up of the toxic auto oils and other fluids, about response time of the vendor in case of a malfuntion, etc.  A citizen wondered how people would cope without a car during a power outage after a big storm or earthquake? [ Lalahpolitico: I expect El Camino gets its power restored first?!]

Figure: Klaus Automated Auto Stacking

automated auto stacking system

The 4880 El Camino building uses a Klaus automated stack system to provide about half of the required parking spaces.


The developer replied that 180 of these automated car stacking systems have been installed in the Bay Area, and these don’t use attendants. Residents’  “clickers” can’t issue conflicting commands to open and close doors or move the lift up and down; once a given clicker has started a sequence of motions, no other clicker can start a new sequence. There will be some EV charging capability in the system.

Garbage, Deliveries, Fire 

At the June 27, 2016 Council meeting, there were also concerns about delivery truck access, firetruck access and garbage collection.

As described by the developer…On each floor, the building has 3 kinds of chutes for the 3 streams of Mission Trail Garbage: recycles, compost, garbage.  This stuff falls into 96 gallon rolling bins in the basement.  A facilities person will have a small “tractor” that can pick up one bin. The tractor will be driven up the parking ramp. The facilities person will manually roll the bin down a “trash curb cut” into El Camino.  This is the way it is done for much of El Camino now according to the developer.  He stated that on-floor chutes is a luxury building amenity.

The developer says it is common for UPS and Fedex trucks to stop at the curb along El Camino and run into a lobby to make a drop off. [What about signature required?]

Figure: Landscaping and  <4th floor Fire Ladder Access Points

4480 El Camino fire ladder access areas

Blue circles show location for fire ladder access to BELOW 4th story sleeping rooms. There are 6 or 7 foot walkways down each side. There is a 20 foot backyard.

The developer said that the key fire guy, “Chief Harding” at “Central Fire,” has apparently given the plan his approval.  Lalahpolitico: Nevertheless, for a fire where the fire fighters aren’t entering the building using the interior stairs to fight a contained fire, upper floor access from outside fire truck ladders looks like it may be difficult and slow.  ” [Central Fire” is apparently a coordination of the area’s fire fighting organizations.]

The 4480 plan may rely in part on the possibility of fire trucks getting near the building from the existing commercial neighbors – Jack n the Box, Mohr Clocks. The blue circles in the figure above are described in the plan as “10 by 10 feet fire ladder access zones. These allow access to sleeping rooms below the 4th story.” Perhaps a couple of fire fighters can walk a portable extension ladders that extend to 35 feet down the  6 and 7 foot wide side yards to the ladder access locations?


Lalahpolitico: Yes, it sure would be nice to have a fire truck lane going down the back wall along all of the parcels in this area next to Whole Foods. Whole foods has a rear fire lane. The Colonnade condos have a fire lane.  If the 4880 El Camino developer had been able to buy all the 4-5 adjoining parcels, that potential development probably would have been designed with a firelane. It would have made economic sense.

Lalah: In the future, I guess it is possible that the other parcels’ owners may cooperate to create a firelane when the adjacent parcels are eventually redeveloped.  For 4880 El Camino, a future firelane would eat up the  20 foot “backyard” of course. The ground floor units would still have their very large private decks.  Potential buyers should check their fire insurance coverage.


Lalahpolitico:  We’ll wait till August 23 to hear if the City “incentives” of a height to 62-feet — granted for the BMRs in this plan —  are actually necessary or are excessive.

Just suppose they are necessary…then don’t let the perfect stop the very good. I agree with Megan Saterlee that the plan’s current 100 foot setback of the floors 3, 4 and 5 is very “sensitive” to the rear neighbors.  Reducing the rear setback to get the 21 unit [3 BMRs]  building down to 4 stories is a questionable trade-off.   Ask the rear neighbor about that trade-off.

End of Part 3. This topic is spread across three posts

Go To

Part 1 – Council Meeting June 27, 2016 Summary/Action/Analysis

Part 2 – An Aside: 4480 El Camino Plan vs. Colonnade Development

Part 3 – Minutiae of Public & Council concerns June 27/ Diagrams, Photos

About the author


Norma Schroder is an economics & market researcher by trade and ardent independent journalist, photographer and videographer by avocation. Enthralled by the growth of the tech industry over the decades, she became fascinated with the business of local politics only in the past several years.

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