The Mountain View City Council voted to place a ballot measure before voters next March that would authorize rezoning land to allow the construction of a 125,000 square foot Home Depot store. Mountain View is a community of about 30,000 located north of San Jose, California.
After failing to win approval from the city council, Home Depot has been gathering signatures to put the matter directly to voters. Unable to make the December deadline to be on the March ballot, the company considered calling for a special election in April, which would have cost the city about $360,000. To avoid the expense, the council unanimously decided to include the measure in the regular March election.
Home Depot has sparred with residents over the development for years. The company negotiated a long-term option on the property in 1994. Residents have been outspoken in their opposition and, despite repeated attempts, Home Depot has yet to win approval from the city council. One neighbor has called the corporation “a disease that won’t go away.”
Opponents contend the store will exacerbate traffic and sprawl, and undermine the community’s character and quality of life. They commissioned an independent study that found that a high-end hotel on the site would generate hundreds of thousands of dollars more tax revenue for the city than a big box store. In a memo to the city council, the city attorney outlined repeated violations of noise, traffic, and maintenance ordinances at Home Depot stores in other communities.
In 1999, the city council placed a 50,000 square foot size cap on the site. Home Depot came back requesting an exemption from the city. After months of moving through the city’s process of analyzing and reviewing development proposals, the project was scheduled for a city council vote in July of this year.
But just hours before the vote, Home Depot withdrew its proposal. Residents and city councilors were furious that the company had wasted so much of the community’s time and resources. Opponents speculated that the company withdrew knowing that it would lose the vote.
Home Depot has not said how much it will spend on the ballot campaign. It has hired outside firms to conduct “push polls” of residents and collect signatures for the initiative. During one push poll conducted in October, at least one resident—in this case a planning commissioner—was falsely told that the telemarketing firm had been hired by the registrar of voters.