It's been over a decade since she was involved in Mountain View's city government, but Pat Showalter said she believes the time is right to run for City Council.
Showalter was on the city's planning commission from 1993 to 2001, and says that "certain themes seem to carry through" from the unprecedented growth during the late 1990s dot-com boom, when tech companies and tech workers pushed out many residents and small businesses. It spurred conversations similar to those heard today about balancing job growth with housing growth to reduce gentrification, and how the city could maintain a sense of community during such an upheaval.
"The jobs-housing issue was very, very big," in the 1990s, Showalter said. "That's when we developed the (below market rate housing) ordinance and we tried to come up with a way to promote all levels of affordable housing. There were also really serious traffic issues we worked on solving."
Showalter is water resources manager for the Santa Clara Valley Water District and a resident of Waverly Park who has lived in Mountain View 30 years. She says she is able to run now because of "changes in my personal life, my kids are older and I have more time."
She says her top priorities include "environmental protection, promoting a high quality of life and also regional collaboration. I think a lot of problems we have in Mountain View, they don't stop at our border." When it comes to working with other cities to address the region's housing problem, "I don't think that means we don't need to build houses too," she said, "I think it's both, not either/or."
Showalter says she definitely supports efforts to rezone portions of the city to create a better balance between office and housing growth. She pointed to Whisman Station and the Crossings as successful housing projects when she was on the planning commission. Both were built on former commercial or industrial sites.
"I have kids that are in their late 20s," Showalter said. "I would like for them to someday be able to live in Mountain View, but right now it doesn't ever look like it's going to be possible for them. That makes me kind of sad."
She was reportedly known as one of the more progressive members of the planning commission during the 1990s. She says that if she had been on the commission during 2012, she would have been part of the majority that recommended the City Council consider a plan for 1,100 homes in North Bayshore near Google headquarters, a proposal which the City Council rejected and which council candidates Lisa Matichak and Margaret Capriles have said they do not support.
Showalter says there is "a serious distinction" between making a recommendation on the commission and acting on the same recommendation as a City Council member.
"I'm really interested in considering all the possibilities for housing but wouldn't want to say I want to OK any specific project," Showalter said. "We need to be very mindful of the balance that's created. Every project needs to be evaluated on its own merit, it needs to be considered very carefully how it fits into the whole, the cumulative impacts."
"I think there are a lot of economic forces outside of our control," Showalter said. "It's very much a mixed blessing we have here. We have a great economic engine and a very, very low unemployment rate. The flip-side is we have these social issues that are very, very serious that have to be worked on."
As for the city's jobs-housing ratio, Showalter says the city needs "to have serious discussion about 'What do we think it should be?'" noting that it has "never been close to 1:1." The ratio is now two jobs for every home and rising.
"I don't think we've ever had that conversation about what things would look like at various levels," she said.
As a mother she's been been a Girl Scout leader and PTA member. She's also been on the board of the Mountain View-Los Altos chapter of the League of Women Voters.
"As a civil engineer I have specialized in water resources engineering my whole career, especially environmental restoration work," Showalter said. "A voice on the council that has that technical expertise would be a good thing."
It should be noted that her employer's jurisdiction over several Mountain View creeks, and its position as a supplier of water to 10 percent of the city's residents, may mean that she would have to recuse herself from related council actions.
Like the five other candidates who say they will enter by the August deadline, Jim Neal, Margaret Capriles, Ken Rosenberg, Lisa Matichak and Helen Wolter, Showalter says she will stick with the city's voluntary campaign expenditure limit of $22,030.
"I'm really struck by how we are facing just huge changes right now, so I feel like there's a need," Showalter said of her decision to run. "And my husband is retired now too, so that helps."