Mountain View Voice

News - January 22, 2010

City Briefs

City workers get home loan perk

Mountain View's city employees will now be eligible for low interest home loans worth up to $100,000 thanks to a late Christmas present from the City Council approved Tuesday.

The council voted 6-1, with John Inks opposed, to invest $2 million in low interest home loans worth up to $100,000 for city employees

The First Responder's Homebuyer Assistance Program was pitched as a way to encourage more city employees to live in the city so they can quickly respond in the event of an emergency. Firefighters and police are known to live in far-off places like Turlock, where they can afford to buy more land, but the program was extended to include other city employees as well.

The program is funded by $1 million from the city's Below Market Rate Housing fund and $1 million in general funds. Police and firefighters of all income levels can use the general fund portion of the program, while any city employee making less than 120 percent of the area median income can use the BMR-funded portion. The home must cost less than $1,047,000 and be the employee's primary residence.

MV joins solar bulk buy

The City Council on Tuesday unanimously agreed to sign on to a "power purchase agreement" with Santa Clara County, which is administering a bulk solar panel lease arrangement for dozens of city governments in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, giving dozens of cities a way to afford solar purchases.

Once purchased, the panels could be installed on as many as 90 properties owned by cities on the Peninsula.

Joan Jenkins, transportation and policy manager, said it would be cheaper in the long run for the city to purchase its own solar panels, but the up-front cost is not affordable for the city. The lease agreement breaks up the payments over a 15- to 20-year lease, while keeping overall costs during the lease term lower than PG&E rates, Jenkins said.

Jenkins said there would be a second "offering" from the county for a bulk purchase of solar power once cities are able to see how the first agreement pans out.

City staff listed three possible sites for solar panels in Mountain View, including the parking garage at 135 Bryant Street, the Shoreline Golf Links parking lot or pro shop, and the Shoreline maintenance facility and carport structures. City Hall was ruled out due to a lack of suitable roof space.

City could buy Castro Street properties

The City Council considered the purchase of a quarter acre of prime real estate on Castro Street during a closed meeting Tuesday night.

The former Der Wienerschnitzel building at the corner of Castro and California streets, now a Mediterranean restaurant, was one of two pieces of property the council discussed. The other is a small office building directly behind it at 756 California St.

With property values down, the acquisitions could be seen as a strategic move for the city. Economic development director Ellis Berns said it is not clear what the city would do with the property, but that it would be in line with the city's ongoing downtown redevelopment efforts.

The properties would be purchased with downtown redevelopment authority funds, which would not affect the city's general fund deficit.

— Daniel DeBolt

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