A council majority of just four members could oversee development of more than 3 million square feet of offices in the North Bayshore in the coming years, they can approve a recently unveiled precise plan for four major zones of El Camino Real, which will guide areas of high, medium or low intensity development; or test a bus rapid transit program with dedicated lanes on El Camino. With four votes, a council majority recently stopped a proposal by Google that was backed by the city staff to study the environmental impact of building a bridge over Stevens Creek so Google shuttle buses could reach the site of an approved 1.1-million-square-foot office complex on Moffett Field.
Other major decisions will come before the council in the next few years, which is why every citizen should pay close attention to the candidates running for City Council this November. Do the candidates have a firm understanding of the tools cities use to control the meteoric growth that is taking place now in Mountain View and throughout the Peninsula?
And it is just as important for public-spirited people familiar with city government to consider filing for office themselves. Three seats are up for grabs, almost a council majority. The three members leaving — Margaret Abe-Koga, Jac Siegel and Ronit Bryant — have had a good run and left their stamp on the city. The issues championed by this trio include making sure any development in the North Bayshore is eco-friendly, especially for the burrowing owls and egrets which nest there. And they have had a long-standing aversion to seeing any housing built in this area, which is now home to the Shoreline Amphitheatre, Google headquarters and many other company offices, as well as the city's major recreation complex, which includes the Shoreline Golf Links, the Michael's at Shoreline restaurant and Shoreline Lake and recreation area. It is a jewel that has been created over a former landfill and now attracts thousands of visitors every year.
But the responsibility of the City Council ranges much further than the North Bayshore. New development in the city's vibrant downtown, such as the hotly debated Greystar housing complex at Castro Street and El Camino Real, ultimately must be approved by the council. Other big housing projects are pending on El Camino and of course, there still are decisions to make at the San Antonio Center. These decisions all play into one of the major criticisms of the current council — not doing enough to hold down housing costs, which have skyrocketed in the last several years because of overwhelming demand. For example, the top rent for a two-bedroom apartment at the Madera complex on Evelyn Avenue across from the city's train station has reached $8,000 a month, but lower priced units also are up substantially in many locations.
So whether your interest is in housing, development, the environment or a range of other issues, now is the time to look closely at the city's record on these fronts and the familiarize yourself with the candidates who are volunteering to serve. So far there are four in the running, with more expected. Newcomers Helen Wolter, chair of the Parks and Recreation Commission, and Ken Rosenberg, a member of the Human Relations Commission, have said they are running, as have 2012 candidates Jim Neal and Margaret Capriles.
These citizens care enough about their city to volunteer many hours of their free time to serve the public. It is a noble calling, and one that keeps our city government functioning year after year. Here is a chance to truly make a difference in how Mountain View grows as a city. Please study the issues so you can make an informed choice on election day, Nov. 4.