What is the jobs-housing imbalance? Simply, it describes a situation in which many more people work in Mountain View than there are employees who live in Mountain View. Here are the numbers for 2011 (the last year for which data is available), and the imbalance has visibly worsened since then.
Jobs minus Housing
Jobs minus Employed Residents
What's wrong with the jobs-housing imbalance? It drives up the cost of housing and threatens the economic, social, and cultural diversity of our community. It makes traffic more congested. It creates longer and longer commutes, wasting energy and generating vast quantities of greenhouse gases. And in the long run, it even undermines the vitality of the Silicon Valley economy.
Instead of promoting uncontrolled high-tech employment growth, Mountain View can plan North Bayshore to create a desirable new, medium-density residential neighborhood in one of the world's most dynamic centers of employment.
I am not suggesting that everyone who works in Mountain View should live in Mountain View. Currently under 8 percent do. As many Mountain View workers live in Sunnyvale, and nearly three times that live in San Jose. Besides, city boundaries are an imperfect measure of proximity. Many homes in Palo Alto and Sunnyvale are closer to Mountain View's high-tech complexes than homes in southern Mountain View.
People make housing and job choices based upon many factors, and those factors change over time. The primary goal of providing housing near employment is to give people the opportunity to live close to work, reducing their commute times and to allow parents to be closer to their schoolchildren should emergencies arise. Even if people other than local employees live in workplace-centered housing, the new land-use pattern can open up reverse-commute capacity in roadways and create a critical mass of travelers to make better public transit cost-effective.
Earlier this month the Campaign for a Balanced Mountain View was formed to promote the following principles for North Bayshore development. We propose:
• Enough residential units to accommodate new employees and create an opportunity for a better balance of jobs and housing in the area.
• A mid-rise, medium-density, compact community with a good balance of jobs, housing, and local services, including cafes, shops, and educational facilities, as well as at least one supermarket, to serve local needs.
• A mix of housing that serves diverse income levels and family sizes.
• A vibrant neighborhood that stays alive when major employers close for the day or the week.
• Comfortable, convenient personal mobility within North Bayshore, including walking, biking and public transportation.
• Permanent connections from North Bayshore to the regional transit system via the downtown Caltrain station and the VTA light rail system.
Mountain View needs to reform more than its North Bayshore plan, and Mountain View cannot do it alone. But in the absence of concerted action by local residents and employees outraged by our deteriorating quality of life, things will only get worse.