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.
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