Mountain View Voice

News - December 31, 2010

City imagines its future

Officials mull World's Fair site, new growth, train stations and pot clubs in 2010

by Daniel DeBolt

It was a year for futuristic visions for the city.

A car-less Googletopia surrounding the headquarters of Google was envisioned along with a 2020 World's Fair at Moffett Field showcasing Silicon Valley's cutting edge.

But it wasn't always dreamy. The city also survived major budget cuts, a City Council election, a battle with an unwelcome marijuana dispensary and requests from the school district for the city to share Google's tax revenue.

Future vision

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger himself used his star power to back the idea of having the 2020 World's Fair in Silicon Valley at Moffett Field, with major implications for Mountain View. Dreams for what it could do to spur the redevelopment of the former Navy base soon followed in the form of an attractive rendered image that included a ferry terminal on the bay. A college campus could be left behind when the fair closed its gates, long sought after by the University of California and other universities.

Google would surely have its own pavilion at the World' Fair, but it also worked on a vision for its Mountain View headquarters next door to Moffett Field which included as many as 1,500 homes amid new shops and restaurants on Shoreline Boulevard. The City Council discussed going completely car-less in Google's neighborhood in a discussion that pleased Google employees. Council members wrestled with the drawbacks of allowing Google's industrial land to become housing, but decided to study the idea anyway.

The city's general plan update took shape as well, and while not yet approved, the city is on track to allow buildings up to five stories on much of El Camino Real, and double the densities allowed for businesses in the Whisman and North Bayshore areas, including Google. Also part of the city's new future was a proposal to redevelop a large portion of San Antonio Shopping Center with a new Safeway and 350 homes. The design was disappointing to some, who wanted more of a Santana Row feel in Mountain View.

Medical marijuana

The City Council took up the issue of whether to allow medical marijuana to be sold in Mountain View in February, and a short time later battled with Buddy's, a marijuana dispensary that opened up before the city could come up with regulations.

A judge eventually ordered Buddy's to close its Bayshore Parkway location, and it left Mountain View despite threats from Buddy's operator, lawyer Matt Lucero, to bring a lawsuit against the city to the state Supreme Court.

Regardless of the trouble with Buddy's, five of seven council members expressed support for sale of medical marijuana in Mountain View, but the idea could be threatened by the unwillingness to compromise over how heavily to regulate the dispensaries. A draft ordinance is set for a council vote in February.

Birds and ball fields

The city finally got a handle on some bird problems that have plagued Shoreline Park for years, namely Canada Geese, American Coots and the poop the birds leave everywhere, annoying golfers and park users.

After trying a wide range of scare tactics, including remote-controlled boats and fake alligator heads, to frighten the geese away from the Shoreline Golf Links freshwater ponds, the city decided to drain most of the ponds to get rid of the geese. That happens to also provide additional hunting grounds for the rare burrowing owl, which is declining in numbers at Shoreline Park, and would lose foraging ground to the new playing fields planned next door.

But the plan for new fields at Shoreline had neighbors of McKelvey Park saying that park no longer needed to be dominated by youth sports, and they called on the Santa Clara Valley Water District and the city to turn it into more of a neighborhood playground when it is modified to double as a flood basin for Permanente Creek.

Belt-tightening

After a year of running a structural deficit, the city was able to close a $4.6 million budget deficit in its $87 million general fund budget. City officials spent a year hammering out a budget that spread the pain with $1 million in fee hikes for almost all city services, the elimination of 11 vacant employee positions, a restructuring of the police department and reducing equipment costs and city vehicle use, among other things.

The city's tight fiscal situation made a request by the Mountain View Whisman School District for more money all the more stressful for city officials who said they felt blindsided by it. Facing their own budget problems, the city's elementary schools want the city to share more of the property taxes Google and other companies pay exclusively to the city as part of the unique 1969 Shoreline tax district, which funds Shoreline Park and the redevelopment of Google's neighborhood.

The school district says it is missing out on $5 million a year because of the Shoreline tax district's existence, but the city points to over $2 million in programs and services it provides for the district, such as field maintenance and after school programs.

Some of those Shoreline property taxes could have gone to subsidize a long-desired boutique hotel and conference center next to Google headquarters, but after lengthy negotiations council members decided to call off the deal, saying the city's subsidy was too large and its return in the form of land lease payments too risky.

A train runs through it

The possibility of building a new station in downtown Mountain View for high-speed trains wasn't the only major development considered along the Caltrain corridor this year. The council approved a 203-unit apartment building to be built across the street from the train station on the site of Minton's Lumber and Supply, which closed its doors in November.

The city also approved a new 50-unit affordable housing development across the street from the train tracks at Evelyn Avenue and Franklin Street, and a new four-story office building on the corner one block east of it on Evelyn Avenue.

Further up the tracks at San Antonio Road, there was big news in August about the massive Mayfield housing development, which was reduced in size from 436 to 253 units — to the chagrin of housing advocates but pleasing to neighbors worried about traffic. Developer Summit Land Partners said larger buildings would have been too large an investment in the shaky housing market.

While the council had supported a study of a large downtown station for high-speed trains last year, members decided this year to say no to building the depot in the city, as did Palo Alto. And in design workshops, residents stated a preference for building the tracks below ground level, either in a trench or tunnel, if the fast trains come to Mountain View's train corridor.

Incumbents survive council election

It seemed there wasn't much excitement in store when election season started this year, but the city was in for a surprise when three newcomers decided to file papers to challenge council members Ronit Bryant, Margaret Abe-Koga and Jac Siegel.

Longtime resident Greg David and Google employees Dan Waylonis and Aaron Jabbari lost to the incumbents, but they said they were proud to have provided a "legitimate challenge," raising issues about the city budget, the money-losing golf course and city employee compensation costs.

Meanwhile the city's phone tax was expanded to include broadband, national and international calls, thanks to an overwhelming approval by city residents. There was some controversy however, about whether an assistant to the city manger was too involved in the campaign to pass the phone tax, Measure T.

E-mail Daniel DeBolt at ddebolt@mv-voice.com

Comments

Posted by JC, a resident of Sylvan Park
on Dec 30, 2010 at 11:39 pm

Ha Ha Ha, I forgot, where is the Wal-Mart in Santana Row?


Posted by the_punnisher, a resident of Whisman Station
on Dec 31, 2010 at 5:50 pm

The future of Mtn. View is to look like East Palo Alto in a few years, thanks to the sanctuary city policy and opening of your magnet for Illegal Aliens ( the CORRECT and PROPER TERM, not the PC stuff regurgitated by M$M ).

Watch your unsolved crimes escalate, since your MVPD resembles the Boulder, CO PD in many respects. In fact, both you and Boulder should become sister cities, both city governments behave in a similar fashion; you both roll out the red carpet and benefits ( which YOUR TAXPAYERS pay for ) to your Illegal Aliens.

Lawbreakers should never be rewarded. People who aid and abet lawbreakers are also breaking the law.

These actions have consequences. There are changes in the way our Federal government is going to handle the illegal alien problem. Mtn. View may be on the receiving end of those changes.

Good luck. I think you are going to need it. ( That includes the mouthpiece, too )


Posted by disappointed, a resident of North Whisman
on Jan 1, 2011 at 9:30 am

I agree with the punnisher regarding the MVPD. The city (and its police dept) need to regain integrity and look to take care of its current tax-paying, law abiding inhabitants instead of catering to whoever raises their voice the loudest.

And good for Google for wanting to go carless, but honestly there is a division arising between Googletopia and the rest of the city. I smell a huge discrepancy between the have- and have-nots of Mountain View growing....and its going to get worse and worse over the next decade if we don't do something to stop the infiltration of illegal immigrants (whose parents can't help their English-learning children with homework) and low-income residents who refuse to get work because it would interfere with their ability to stay on welfare or Section 8. If Google really wants to build up the city and its lifestyle perks, maybe they should contribute to reinstating integrity to the MVPD, create jobs for the tax-suckers in Section 8, and create English-speaking programs for all the illegals our city harbors.


Posted by disappointed, a resident of North Whisman
on Jan 1, 2011 at 9:39 am

Better yet--why not institute a limit to how long someone can be on welfare or Section 8? Something like a 5 year limit is long enough for someone to use the program to "get by" while they gain some skills, education, or actually find a job. Then when their voucher expires in 5 years or their welfare runs out in 5 years, they have the ability and skills to provide for themselves instead of being a drain on the city.


and another thought---why can't we change the way our city runs the budget? I understand that the changes to the railroad crossing at Rengstorff were approved by voters almost TEN YEARS AGO but dontcha think that if voters could, now that we're in a recession/depression, they would rather the funds for that crossing went into education or something else that is hurting instead of the Rengstorff crossing? The money is there...its just labeled as untouchable since it got virtually spent a long time ago. But it isn't physically gone.

If Mountain View really wants to be a cutting edge city, maybe they should consider revamping the way they run their politics and political budgeting.


Posted by DdC, a resident of Whisman Station
on Jan 1, 2011 at 7:20 pm

The entitlements created in the last century have done short term
wonders and have created long term worrisome side effects. Here some
statistics:
- 50% of the births in CA are paid for by MediCal
- The bottom 97% in CA pays only 50% of the CA income tax
- The bottom 50% in the US pays about 3% of the Federal income tax
- 55% of the CA kids have parents who cannot pay for school lunches

The ultimate solution to these side effects is to attach conditions to consuming entitlements, including eligibility for affordable housing (called social housing in Europe). What kind of conditions you ask? Indeed what you think, but cannot articulate: procreation limits.

MV does not have the legal tools to pull that off, I believe.
But there may be better minds ...


Posted by disappointed, a resident of North Whisman
on Jan 3, 2011 at 10:04 pm

School lunches was started in the 20th century under the label of National Defense...after the president of the time realized that most of the rejected potential soldiers who were of age to fight in WWI or WWII (can't remember which) were rejected due to ailments caused by malnutrition. So by providing means for school lunch our country was providing means whereby future generations would be physically healthy enough to fight to protect our country.

Given the current trend to be anti-enlisting and anti-draft, not to mention the childhood obesity epidemic, maybe its time to scrap that program as well. But I know this is way above and beyond the city of MV's scope...


Posted by DdC, a resident of Whisman Station
on Jan 4, 2011 at 7:20 pm

Eliminating a free service is very hard after it has become a 'right' and actually a necessity for a majority to survive. [One can NOT blame the recipients - it is the system that has generated the dependence. Thus one needs to dig deep to rollback the madness: 70-80% of the population receiving more in social services than they pay in taxes.] Hope someone will tackle it ...


Posted by Mamma Mia!, a resident of Castro City
on Jan 5, 2011 at 10:52 am

So hungry kids should just be left to starve?


Posted by DdC, a resident of Whisman Station
on Jan 5, 2011 at 11:01 pm

25% of US kids now depend on food stamps.
Why did their parents put them in the world?
Why is that still legal behavior?
Just asking, like you ...


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