Uploaded: Thu, Sep 4, 2014, 10:35 am
Housing, transportation are top issues at candidate forums
In a crowded City Council race, Mountain View's nine candidates are already busy introducing themselves and their platforms to voters at a couple of candidate forums, with several more scheduled in the coming weeks.
In a forum attended by all nine candidates Tuesday, Sept. 2, candidates Mercedes Salem and Ellen Kamei came out against zoning for a new residential neighborhood in North Bayshore, something businesses and the Chamber of Commerce have proposed as a way to deal with the city's housing crunch. Other issues the candidates discussed included the need for better bicycle and transit infrastructure in Mountain View and involving the city's immigrant population in local elections.
On Sept. 2, the Housing and Transportation Forum was held at the Rengstorff Community Center. Tuesday's event was kicked off with a questions about what sort of bike infrastructure projects candidates would support to encourage more bicycling.
"People don't (ride bikes) unless they feel safe," said candidate Ken Rosenberg. "I'm in favor of almost anything that is going to promote biking or walking."
Salem said she liked the proposal for a "road diet on California Street that creates buffers for bikes, buffers for pedestrians." She said no pedestrians or cyclists should have to die because of unsafe streets, as one of her friends had recently died after being hit by a car while crossing El Camino Real in Menlo Park in a crosswalk.
Candidate Greg Unangst, who chairs the city's Bike and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, listed some possible improvements, such as more crossings over Central Expressway and a true bike Boulevard on Latham Street that is more than just "putting up signs" directing cyclists to it. Cyclists often point to neighboring Palo Alto's bike boulevards, which discourage car traffic, as exemplary.
"I'm not a millennial, but I usually use a bike to get around town," said candidate Lenny Siegel. "Anyone on council or on staff making decisions on bicycle safety should get on a bike and see what it's like. It's not just a matter of safety, it is a matter of creating pleasant environments where people want to walk."
"Every time a development proposal comes before us I'm looking at how bike-able and walkable is it?" said candidate Lisa Matichak, who is also a Mountain View planning commissioner. "Personally I would like to see the trails expanded -- we need to have them connect throughout the entire city."
Kamei said the city's hiring of a bike and pedestrian coordinator will help, while candidate Pat Showalter said other cities needed to continue to work on the Stevens Creek trail. Candidate Margaret Capriles said bike and pedestrian mobility needed to continue to be a council priority. Candidate Jim Neal said most of the planning had already been done and "from this point we just need to get the details fine-tuned."
New neighborhood in North Bayshore?
On Tuesday candidates Salem and Kamei both came out against housing in North Bayshore for the first time. Candidates Siegel, Showalter, Neal, Unangst and Rosenberg reiterated their support for housing in North Bayshore in some form or another, while candidates Capriles and Matichak had already made their opposition known.
"The North Bayshore precise plan looks at 500 acres, I think we can devote 100 acres near 101 and North Shoreline to housing and we are not going to threaten our open space," said Siegel, who founded the Campaign for Balanced Mountain View in January to lobby for the creation of the new neighborhood. If built at a density similar to the five-story apartments at Park Place downtown, there would be enough units to support a school and services and retail. "It will take a lot of work to reverse the course the city has been on since 2012 when council rejected 4-3 the environmentally superior alternative for housing in North Bayshore." He later added that there was enough demand for extending light rail to North Bayshore from downtown that planning such an extension could start now.
Quoting language city planners used at the time, candidate Unangst said that it is "environmentally superior" to include housing in plans for office space for tens of thousands of new jobs in the area around Google headquarters.
Kamei had hedged on her answer to the North Bayshore housing question before, but this time she expressed clear opposition.
"I also at this point don't feel that housing makes sense in North Bayshore," she said, explaining fears that the housing would make it harder to reach the city's goals for traffic reduction. Proponents make the opposite argument, saying that new housing would lessen commute traffic. "It is important to reach these transportation goals, then it can be revisited," she said.
Salem said the reason why North Bayshore is so successful is because there's very little housing out there. She said that a new grocery store would fail because the residents would likely "work at big companies that already provide everything for them from soup to nuts."
She also raised fears about sea level rise and a lack of stable "bedrock" in an earthquake, though that concern has never been part of the city's extensive discussions on redevelopment in North Bayshore, where landfills have been excluded from new development plans. Earthquake dangers for development in North Bayshore were found to be "less than significant" in the 2012 general plan environmental impact report.
Showalter, a civil engineer for the Santa Clara Valley Water District, said she has "looked at flood maps and there are places that even with impacts of climate change people should be able to live (in North Bayshore). The impacts of people living close to work is just tremendous. We really have to take advantage of that. People have been concerned that there isn't shopping but Costco isn't that far. We also need to consider the reverse commute advantage those people would have."
At the Chamber-sponsored forum on Aug. 27, Matichak said the current council members she identifies with the most are the four most consistent opponents of housing development: John McAlister, Jac Siegel, Ronit Bryant and Margaret-Abe-Koga. The latter three are leaving the council this year due to term limits.
El Camino bus lanes unpopular
A few years ago, in a 4-3 vote, council members narrowly rejected a Valley Transportation Authority proposal to create an El Camino Real bus experience similar to light rail in Mountain View, with dedicated bus lane and stations along the center of El Camino Real. Citing the city's car traffic woes, candidates did not indicate they would want to change course on the Bus Rapid Transit plan, with candidates Rosenberg, Siegel and Capriles among the opponents.
"I do not support taking away full traffic lanes for BRT," Siegel said, adding that there were other ways to "make buses more efficient. Maybe someday we'll have enough people in buses to take away traffic lanes."
"We need to work on frequency of buses," said Showalter, which spurred Unangst to say that there wasn't enough population density to create demand for more bus service. Unangst touted self-driving car technology and automated people-movers as solutions to transit woes.
"I do not support a (dedicated) lane, not here in Mountain View," said Rosenberg. Salem agreed, saying, "I don't see it as a viable alternative for our community."
Capriles and Kamei called for partial bike lanes to help bicyclists trying to get across town in areas where El Camino Real is the only convenient route. Kamei called for widening sidewalks and removing street parking in particular sections to make room.
Involving immigrants in local politics
Candidates Neal and Rosenberg appeared a bit baffled when asked to comment on how some cities have allowed undocumented immigrants to vote in local elections, so the questions was changed to ask how the candidates would involved undocumented immigrants in their decision making.
"It's something that can't be solved at city level," Neal said of letting the non-citizens vote, as was done in Maryland's Takoma Park 20 years ago. "It doesn't matter what the city says about that. My wife is an immigrant from Italy, I don't have a problem" with immigrants. He added that his wife volunteers at the Day Worker Center and that immigrants always have a right to speak out.
"This is why the Civility Roundtable was conceived," said Rosenberg, who created the Civility Roundtable series to provide a forum for difficult community discussions. "I'm an advocate of our Day Worker Center and a user of it as well. We had a civility roundtable on this topic." Some say immigrants need to get in line to get their citizenship, but "there is not process to get citizenship for people who are here," he said.
"We have to welcome immigrants whether they be kids form Central America or kids from Beijing," Siegel said. "It's not only right, these are the people who are going to be paying for our Social Security. Immigration is what we need in this country. I'm not sure they can vote in Congressional elections but I think there are communities who have made that happen (for local elections)." Siegel suggested Spanish translation of council meeting broadcasts. "You have to make people feel comfortable, you have to make them feel empowered. They are part of our future"
"I worked precisely on these issues (as a congressional staffer) in Washington, D.C.," said Salem. "I'm a huge proponent for the DREAM Act. I do not agree with the federal government deputizing local police" to enforce immigration law. Allowing the undocumented to vote, she said, would take a Constitutional amendment.
Capriles had previously told the Voice she would "love" to allow the undocumented to vote in local elections, but did not reiterate that on Tuesday. "I think that Mountain View has done a superb job of encouraging the undocumented residents to come forth," she said, adding that she respected the work of Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren and activist Jose Antonio Vargas.
Showalter spoke of wanting to make them feel welcome and to make sure they are not taken advantage of, while Kamei said the question touches on something that makes Mountain View really special, because her own grandparents were immigrants who cut flowers in the Mayfield Mall area and later had their own flower-growing business. She said the keys include multi-lingual translation and "talking to those in the community who we might not normally have outreach with."
Like this comment
Posted by Transcriptionist
a resident of another community
on Sep 5, 2014 at 2:01 pm
Housing/Transit (only) Q&A notes here, hope it's not too long:
9 candidates (one had to leave early)
Q: promoting biking/walking infrastructure safety
what projects/policies would you support for them.
KR - people don't do it if they don't feel safe.
It's a land use issue. Favor anything to promote increased bike/walk.
MS - safer bike /ped/grnspace. why it's not safe- want great streets proposal, road diet
bike and ped paths estrella & calif
slow roads in neighborhoods
more overpasses on central. try to make el c corridor more walkable
LS - 1978, on planning commission, stevens creek trail, realtors found out people like to live near it.
Use a bike to get around town. People making decisions on biking need to get on a bike to see what it's like.
Not just safety, Make pleasant environment, where people want to walk.
PS - Need sidewalks. Stevens Crk trail, a wonderful dream. Need places safe on streets. Doesn't want to live in another neighborhood where people don't care enough to build sidewalks to let you walk over safely to talk to your neighbor.
GU - current chair, bike/ped advisory for mtn view
City bike network has no strategy, small projects that don't necessarily connect, bike lanes that disappear etc.
Revising the bike transportation plan. Get involved, community involvement sessions coming up.
Make a bike blvd on lincoln. ? creek trail?
There are only 6 crossings on Central.
Need more staff time, and money to do this stuff.
MC - current priority is safe ped paths
how to do things better, can we separate the bike paths, can we cross diagonally etc.
Shuttles, so people who cant walk far can get around w/o cars
EK - regardless of(...?)
hiring a bike/ped mobility coordinator
a bike master plan in the works
epc takes them into account
how to create buffered bikelanes
what's connectivity to neighboring cities & to SC trail
LM - master plan will put together blueprint.
Right now - precise plans for bayshore, el c, etc
Whenever a dev proposal, asking how bikable, how walkable it is
A lot of our office parks don't have sidewalks.
Want to see trails expanded, thru entire city.
JN - city doing good. El C sidewalks, roots upheaving. annoyances.
Used to ride a bike in SF, understand need for safety.
Q: Housing - rents up 14% in past 2 yrs, MV is among cities w highest rents in nation. A challenge for its employers, a regional issue. What should mtn view do to address housing affordability?
EK: It's supply & demand. how to be proactive.
2014, there were 1136 subs apt, and 76 in construction.
MV is 12 sq mi.
$13m (per year?) is dedicated to affordable housing.
More rental than(? and?) ownership opportunities. Variety of pricing for variety of income
Realistic goals in housing element
LM - it's regional.
Fix(?) transportation - so people don't sit on freeway a couple hours.
Buses for employers n public
Free community shuttle, listen to users to tune it to meet their needs.
2500 units are in the pipeline.
Whisman area is already zoned for it , add housing there.
JN - The mtn view voice said, of the madera proj., that actual rents turned out to be 5-6k/mo, 2x the original estimate. (ouch)
240k/yr income shouldn't be needed, you can't call that affordable housing.
Design more realistic housing w/o these amenities. amenities cost 1% of construction, said owner, but they let the landlord charge a lot more based on them.)
(didn't mention supply and demand that I heard)
KR - no below mkt rate projects can happen w/o coordination of city & county nonprofits as a minimum.
Increase supply. Consider all designs. Build more housing near transit.
Rethink parking requirements. Secondary units, we don't have to change neighborhoods to do that.
Distinguish between Affordable vs obtainable housing.
MS - We wont be able to solve the problem, but we can ease the pain.
city has 13m for aff housing, need to look for more $$.
Publ/priv partnerships to let people have a pathway to (loans to get) a home, w steady mortgage. keep families here.
Her rent has gone up 25% in last several years, neighbors have been priced out.
And build housing in the 5 change areas of the general plan.
(Didn't mention supply and demand, that I noticed)
1. expand city plans for low income housing - sec8, etc
2. invest in community land trusts to let people enter hsing market invest as owners. buy in cheap
BUT these are a drop in bucket, real problem is supply and demand.
We need to dramatically increase hs supply in parts of MV that can take it, namely san antonio and n. bayshore
Asks audience to show up at the planning meeting (3rd?), and city council mtg next week, the city's about to make situation much worse, talking about adding 3.4m sq ft of office space (~17k new jobs) and no housing. Only way to solve the jobs-housing imbalance is to put brakes on office space and build more housing.
PS - city's done good aff housing things, just not enough . we have a lot of money for low inc housing, should put it to work. Publ priv parnerships are v hard to develop. need to come up w other things, eg. mortgage assistance for teachers and public safety workers. rent subsidies.
make granny unit ordinance less strict.
Allow vacation rental by owner, can let owner get a little more money.
GU - involved with city housing element working group, housing advocacy network. how to work the below mkt rate housing problem.
Problem: the fed, state are backing out, leaving burden on cities. Need Mv to lead the way in finding solutions.
Otherwise we're stealing futures of younger generation.
Business need to coperate in finding solutions for their workers.
a huge regional problem.
MC - publ priv parnership, pursue aggressively.
48 units at (green?) /n regstorff but probably a big waiting list , have funds available and are looking at 2 sites, but it's not fast enough.
What are new ideas? to make sure nurses, police, fire fighters can live here.
?(couple issues?) have more potential than publ-priv parnership
Q - On transportation, air pollution, congestion, ghg emissions
8 years from now, after 2 council terms, how do you expect
transportation and land use to be?
PS - community shuttle, originally just 2, maybe if 20 or 30 it'll solve.
More infrastructure for bikes
Rail improvements, light rail doubletracked
GU - we'll have learned that we need to build housing near jobs.
On sustainability taskforce 2008, learned 50% of co2 emissions is from cars and trucks.
Elecrifying the rail line is critical.
Commuter rail lines, since people now have ridiculous 50-60mi commutes, a service worker who lives in modesto
MC - keep open space. safe ped and bike routes. city housing near transportation. 10 min shuttles near your house. We need to be diligent, make sure routes make sense & meet needs.
EK vibrant infrastructure, efficient public transit.
caltrain electrification, longer train? (extra train cars)
Have VTA more efficient(?,) direct fr mtn view to SJ?
option to be a feetfirst community -
comfortable streets and buffered bikelanes
LM bemoans no BART on peninsula, frustrates me no end.
TMA (Mountain View Transportation Management Association; formerly Google private bus) hope it'll be wildly successful
Comm shuttle likewise. 2 year trial.
key locations for better bikability.
Lightrail can do more, in whisman area
Trail expansion n completion.
JN - caltrain more efficient and effective, it (already?) has 2 bike cars/train.
Roundabouts, so no need for stop signs/signals.
KR - curbside composting.
San antonio Phase 2.
Housing construction on n bayshore
Mountain View will be newer. This scares people - as city leaders, we need to ease the process.
MV is poised between surburbia and urban suburbia
Things have changed so much in 2 yrs (since general plan?), need again to find what we collectively want.
MS - stoplights for ped/bike safety on trails.
Safer roads, less fatalities (example)
Shuttle expanded route, Wifi on caltrains
LS MV's big mistake has been growth w/o infrastructure to support it, all these jobs in n bayshore.
Rail to n bayshore, maybe loop throu moffit field
It might not be done by 8 yrs, if you're going to do something important, it does take a while
Housing is about more than housing near transit, it's about housing near employment, & providing reverse flows. using the unused transit capacity.
Q How to keep livability w changes coming. Projected addition of
20k jobs by 2030.
MC - whats our vision for mv to look like -
maintain open space, for hi density res?
There are never enough parks in mtn view.
Balance, overall vision. gather, move around, take care of our daily needs, does it all have to be in 1 particular place. how do you want that community to look.
EK - housing and transportation are big issues that hit on quality of life in MV.
neighborhoods are our strength.
JN - at current pace, we'll add the projected 20k jobs in 2-3 yrs?
why don't we slow down, in approving projects.
And don't redevelop those that already exist, thats not making it more livable.
KR - many development requests are in pipeline, but little built yet.
Livability means many things - community and neighborhoods.
Maintain connectivity to neighbors
MS - feel comfortable living here, financially. hard to live here. we can provide other services - for srs, families, children. thoughtful growth.
LS - 2012 had 75k jobs. by mid 2013 we should pass the 20k expected by 2030 we're already busting our general plan, already exceeding the estimate.
Slow down the growth.
Plan neighborhoods, w a school and a park, where kids can get around, don't just plan in reaction to what developers come to us with.
To avoid threatening our quality of life n diversity we need to think boldly...
PS - built environment - make it comfortable for people to move around, and balanced neighborhoods.
Parks and recreation contribute, continue to support them
GU - transition. will keep adding jobs.
Protect neighborhoods that are there, they're single family homes on 1/4 acre lots. Need to protect that.
But also need to figure out how to make denser housing in other areas. In light industrial, do urban villages there, with small parks and trails.
Do it smartly, take advantage of opportunities b4 us.
Even really small parks are heavily used, thats what we need.
Q - Do you support more housing in n bayshore, why/not?
LS - yes. Its specific plan is 500ac, Can devote to 100 acrs of housing at 101/shoreline, at a density like that of park place&castro st to support a school & resources - but needs effort to change the course that the city set in 2012 when they rejected (by 4-3 vote) the environmentally superior alternative of putting housing in n bayshore.
If we care about the environment, & about the diversity in our community, its a no-brainer, we've got to do it.
PS - maybe not 100 acres, but shoud have housing in n bayshore. Even w floodmaps, there are places(?)
Just the ems we'd save w people closer to work...
school? shopping? Their reverse commute advantage
GU - environmentally superior option was the housing option, shoud do it. 5000/1000? what's the sweet spot, need to analyze.
Housing near jobs is the way of the future, we need to get away from these long commutes.
MC - how much do we keep building in MV to accommodate the present need, is it sustainable over time. (case of silicon graphics, once was located at what's now Computer history museum) . We dont have transp or services there (n bayshore?), need to consider that.
EK - housing doesn't fit with goals for that area.
N bayshore plan is (already?) talking about congestion pricing.
JN - 1 way or other, it'll be housing or office. School? no, better it be transitional housing for employees of the businesses there.
Businesses have 30 yr lease, they're not going anywhere.
KR - likes n bayshore housing - corp residents are asking for it.
MS - n. bayshore is good as office park since there's no housing. no real draw, for services, since big companies provide all that stuff for employees.
Concerns: Sea level rise. Earthquakes: n. bayshore is not bedrock, remember sf's marina district?
Audience Q - Effective transit on El camino to connect?
MS - hybrid BRT is possible, full BRT(dedicated lane?) not feasible, palo alto has already said no, so we'd be the endpoint
LS - dont support taking traffic lanes for buses yet, but some things can be done. busy corridor +
we have SFH neighborhoods that don't feed well into el c, the last mile is our problem.
PS - speed traffic flow. not dedicated bus lane unless we can have them be frequent, every 5 min
GU - no frequency of bus svc on el c, not enough population density. We should look at upcoming technologies - people movers, self driving cars, might take advantage of.
But in meantime, we have to deal with cars.
MC - need some partial bike lanes to go N-S on el c.
(but not all the way down unless you have a death wish)
We need to resolve city's other transportation issues before we ever consider a dedicated bus lane.
EK - wider sidewalks. Move some parking off el C. Secure bike parking.
JN - against BRT, says Santa Clara BRT needed to remove 135 redwoods, to put it in. Time the lights, more overcrossings, let cars and bikes travel faster.
I Wrote an Affordable housing article in Jan 2014 MV voice, read it for my views.
(Here? mv-voice.com/square/2014/01/26/first-candidate-for-2014-city-council-election-steps-forward )
KR - EK said a lot of what I would.
VTA routes 22 and 522 have some of heaviest ridership for whole system,
Riding BRT is interesting, they control the lights.
Don't support the single lane though, it doesn't make sense here.