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Council race: Jobs-housing balance is key for council candidate Greg Unangst

Mountain View resident Greg Unangst is aiming to spend a good bit of his retirement as a Mountain View City Council member after becoming involved in the city's Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee and the Campaign for a Balanced Mountain View.

Unangst, 68, is a retired Lockheed engineer and a Vietnam War veteran, a decorated Army commander who returned with a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star, and went on to a 33-year career as an electrical engineer in the automotive and aerospace industries.

"The thing that pushed me over the edge to run was the housing situation," Unangst said. "I knew it was bad, it's been bad for a long time. I went to a conference in February. and I realized it was worse than I was aware of. It's a massive regional problem.

"People on the lower economic scales are basically getting pushed out. You've got to have a high-tech income to afford to live around here and you are still stressed to make those mortgage payments. If you have a young family, you don't have any disposable income."

Unangst retired from Lockheed in 2011 and joined the Friends of the Stevens Creek Trail and the Moffett Field Restoration Advisory Board, where he met Lenny Siegel, another candidate and founder of the Campaign for a Balanced Mountain View. Unangst says he's been a member of Balanced Mountain View from the the start. He's spoken out about the city's jobs-housing imbalance at City Council meetings.

"There's been change in attitude among council members over the last couple of months," he said. "I don't think that they were that sensitive before, but they are now, thanks to people like Lenny. But we've got a long way to go. It's probably going to take decades to rectify this (housing shortage)."

"We're kind of in a fix at the moment. It's easy thing to say we need to build more housing, but where do you do that without jeopardizing quality of life?"

Unangst said his priorities include creating adequate park space, as much of the northern half of the city has a deficit of parks. He is also very interested alternatives to driving, especially biking, but also better transportation systems.

Unangst says the way the city has developed has been "very automobile-centric. There's not enough roads to get where you need go because everybody is going there too. The old suburban urban concepts live in one place and shop in another that may not work anymore. People are forced to live further and further away, you are spending what little income you have from (expensive) housing for commuting. Demographics are changing and more and more people don't want cars."

He said that when he volunteers for the Friends of Stevens Creek Trail, he runs into a surprising number of people who don't have cars.

Unangst says he is sensitive to the need for safer bike infrastructure. A good number of people would like to ride bikes "but find it too intimidating."

Fixing the city's housing shortage will require a very concerted effort, Unangst says.

"The way I view it is you have to do it gradually and consistently, every little opportunity you have."

As far as housing densities are concerned, "If you have a policy of not building high-density housing, you end up with the situation you have here," he said.

Rent control is bound to be one of th trickier issues candidates will wrestle with this year.

"I don't think I would go for something termed rent control," Unangst said, adding that he prefers the term "rent stabilization."

"I would definitely consider that type of policy and have the debate. I'm not trying to say that's the answer."

Generally, Unangst said he doesn't believe the real estate industry should be left to its own devices, as the libertarian-minded tend to believe.

"My life experiences have shown me that an unconstrained market doesn't necessarily work the way people say they will," Unangst said. "People say we can let the market take care of it there s a lot of human misery that flows out of that."

Unangst said he grew up in "blue-collar Detroit" and excelled in athletics and academics. He graduated from West Point military academy in 1968, served in the Army in Fort Benning and Fairbanks, Alaska before he was assigned to Vietnam in 1970, leading a platoon of American and Vietnamese allies as a captain and master sergeant.

"We would wander through the hills and central forest of the highlands looking for trouble and finding it very frequently," Unangst said. "I survived. I did receive a Purple Heart I was wounded (by a mortar). I left a year later with all my appendages and mostly sane."

Fortunately for Unangst, the military was in need of electrical engineers.

"Very good therapy for PTSD is a full load of graduate engineering courses," he said. "It forces you to focus on something else."

Unangst says he's retired with a pension from Lockheed as well as from the Army. He lives in a townhouse with his wife north of the Monta Loma neighborhood and has raised two children.

Other 2014 council candidate profiles:

Pat Showalter

Lisa Matichak

Ken Rosenberg and Helen Wolter

Lenny Siegel

Comments

 +   3 people like this
Posted by Konrad M. Sosnow
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Aug 1, 2014 at 2:27 pm

"I don't think I would go for something termed rent control," Unangst said, adding that he prefers the term "rent stabilization."


O.K. call it "Rent Stabilization" instead of what is is "Rent Control."
How many of us will be fooled by Greg's chiice of words?

I notice that Greg is not concerned about not concerned about protecting our neighborhood, traffic, parking, BRT, etc.

I recommend a NO vote on Greg Unangst!
.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Unangst for Rent Control
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Aug 1, 2014 at 2:33 pm

Ok, so Unangst is for Rent Control. That makes him a none starter for me. I can easily forget about him now. Thanks for trying to word smith the truth.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by voter
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Aug 2, 2014 at 12:31 am

I understand people wanting to live in MV.
Personally I'd like to live in a beautiful house in Atherton but I cannot afford it. So should Atherton City Council force owners to lower the rents so I can live there.

We should all be allowed to live in fine houses in Palo Alto but we cannot.
How about the Hamptons outside New York. Why don't they lower the house prices so I can live there? Redevelop the 20 acre properties and build lots of condos so we can all live there.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Army Vet
a resident of Stierlin Estates
on Aug 2, 2014 at 2:54 pm

"leading a platoon of American and Vietnamese allies as a captain and master sergeant."

This sentence needs editing. A captain is an officer. A master sergeant is a senior enlisted rank. I'm guessing if he graduated from West Point he was a captain and then a major.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sparty
a resident of another community
on Aug 2, 2014 at 5:35 pm

Sparty is a registered user.

obviously all these candidates think the entirety of MV voters express their opinions in the comments section here.

Do these economics experts have their Gini coefficients ready for us to look at?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Christopher Chiang
a resident of North Bayshore
on Nov 2, 2014 at 7:20 pm

Some of you may have read the article in the Mercury about a Palo Alto home bought in 1970 for $35,000 that sold for $3 million. Web Link

I respect homeowners and I respect that it always took perseverance to be a homeowner in the Silicon Valley past or present, but I don't feel the same respect has been extended to new residents, particularly renters.

Newer residents are derided as being selfish or looking for handouts. To understand why all these statements are so disrespectful to current renters, compare these numbers:

Palo Alto Home Bought in 1970:
$35,000
US Median Household Income in 1970:
$7,559
Home Price to Income Ratio:
4.6x

Current Mountain View Median Home Price:
$1,014,000
Current US Median Household Income:
$51,900
Home Price to Income Ratio:
19.5x (four times as hard to buy a home these days)

Even if you double the median income to reflect Mountain View salaries ($103k), that would be 9.8x, still twice as hard it was in 1970.

All residents have every right to want to maintain a way of living. In extension, they have every right to resist changes that they perceive to hurt their well being. Yet, over this campaign season too frequently the hardships of 60% of the city's residents has been described with too little empathy or at times, even cruel sarcasm.

Too often attempts to help renters is seen less as an attempt to help those less well off than you, but more as a direct assault against you.

I spent Saturday afternoon canvasing some apartments in MV for some candidates. As I walked up what seemed to be never ending flights and switchbacks, I thought to myself how hard some of our neighbors work, and how many Mountain View residents in more affluent parts may never even know these apartments and whole streets even exist in their city.

Thank you Mr. Unangst for fighting for so very many silent neighbors. Mr. Unangst used his own savings to bring attention this election to the most vulnerable among us. You continue to define what it means to be a real life hero.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Dishonesty
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Nov 2, 2014 at 9:02 pm

Dear Chris,

If you are going to compare the median household prices of Palo Alto and Mountain View from 1970 and today, then you should also compare median LOCAL salaries from 1970 and today. To do otherwise, is dishonest.

Aren't you the guy promoting microhousing? You realize that is an absolute failure in the US? Take a look at what is going on in seattle. Horrible!

What is your malfunction?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Christopher Chiang
a resident of North Bayshore
on Nov 2, 2014 at 9:30 pm

Good idea suggesting using all local numbers because it even more highlights how much harder it is today than it was in 1970.

Mountain View 1970s median salary: $9,364 Web Link
So a $35,000 home in 1970 is a home price to income ratio of 3.7x, using national median is a more flattering 4.6x. So a home back then was 3-4x one's annual salary.

Today, it's 10-20x one's annual salary (10x using MV median, 20x using US median), as shown in the earlier post.

In Seattle, many complained about undesirable new residents and crowded street parking regarding microhousing. As someone who lives in North Bayshore, if new micro housing in NB was zoned and built without parking, I don't think people will be parking their cars over a mile away across the freeway crowding out existing residents. It would be much easier for such a resident to utilize shared car services at that point. It is also worth noting that microhousing in Seattle was not built by main hubs of employment, that's not the case in NB.

The United Nations released a new report on climate change stating that we must do things differently. Web Link If microhousing can be offered to those who voluntarily wish to live on a smaller carbon footprint, I continue to push what's the harm? If no one wants it, it doesn't get built.

If by malfunction you mean I see things differently than what's currently done, then thank you! I continue to welcome critiques, and I would be the first to reject the idea if it cannot stand up to scrutiny.


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