September 21, 2023

Modernizing Mountain View’s Gatekeeper Pre-review Process


At the City Council meeting on September 12, 2023, the City of Mountain View embarked on a crucial discussion centered around its “Gatekeeper” process and how the city might reform it to remove barriers to housing development.  The “Gatekeeper” process requires developments that request a change in the city’s zoning code to go through an extensive pre-development planning process, after which they come before the city council for approval to move forward. This process can be lengthy, expensive, and high-risk since there is no guarantee that the council will approve these projects when they come up for review.  The “Gatekeeper” review has occurred less frequently than many believe is reasonable; it has been over a year since a development project successfully navigated the gatekeeper process.

Mountain View’s gatekeeper process was originally intended to ensure that city staff focuses its energies on proposed projects that the council believes are aligned with the city’s urban growth objectives while promoting important opportunities to build more housing in more places. The goal was to address the housing needs of various income groups within the community. The question before the council was – is this process effective in realizing these goals, or is it a barrier that needs to be reformed or removed?

Recognizing the need for change, city staff presented a memo outlining proposed updates to the gatekeeper process. These changes are poised to bring about a more responsive and adaptable system for the city. Here are the key highlights:

  1. Increase Gatekeeper hearings to at least one per year.
  2. Prioritize very and extremely low-income households.
  3. Revaluation of Land Use constraints to acknowledge that residential development may be appropriate in areas previously reserved for commercial uses.

Following city staff presentations, both the public and city council shared their opinions. The responses ranged from supporting the reform and further development of the gatekeeper process to advocating for its removal altogether.

As Mountain View navigates the modernization of its gatekeeper process, these changes aim to enhance efficiency while adapting to the evolving needs of the city and its residents. This is a discussion happening throughout the county and region as cities work to remove barriers to development, as required by the State. We will continue to watch these efforts closely as the work picks up in Santa Clara County.