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Council approves $625K for downtown studies

Original post made on Apr 14, 2010

The City Council approved a slew of studies worth $625,000 Tuesday to help navigate the future of Castro Street, where officials are concerned about losing millions a year in redevelopment money.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, April 14, 2010, 4:30 PM

Comments (27)

Posted by resident, a resident of Castro City
on Apr 14, 2010 at 5:25 pm

The city council wants a downtown tax district. Reality check here: we do not have a downtown. Nobody comes to Castro Street from other communities unless we have a art/wine festival of some type. As Gertrude Stein may have said (originally about Oakland) "there is not there, there". We do have some excellent businesses along Castro, but do not charge for parking, or the downtown area will turn into a ghost-town area. Why make a punishing tax for businesses that are struggling to survive in a recession?
Why is the city council always trying to turn us into L.A., with all it's problems?

Posted by Downtown Brown, a resident of another community
on Apr 14, 2010 at 5:46 pm

"Reality check here: we do not have a downtown"

Huh? Nobody seems to have told all the people that seem to regularly be on Castro Street.

Posted by localmom, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Apr 14, 2010 at 10:19 pm

None of our Council members "get it", perhaps except Abe-Koga. The reason people pay HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS MORE For their homes in Los Altos and Palo Alto is NOT the downtown, it's the SCHOOLS!!!! Mountain View should take ANY and ALL extra revenue, money from expiring tax districts, etc and PUT IT INTO EXCELLENCE for K-8 education and property values would increase. Guess what ELSE Will increase??? Tax revenues!! Being greedy bureacrats and trying to screw the schools out of the money they deserve by extending something that is supposed to expire, and NOT paying off debt like a responsible municipality, is VERY irresponsible and I have half a mind to file a class-action suit against my representatives if they continue this nonsense.
Our city will NEVER increase its property values until the schools improve and that costs MONEY. There is TONS of it in Mountain View, particularly in the corporations that operate in our boundaries and pay nominal taxes, but it is being squandered on repaving sidewalks in office parks and planting baby trees on side streets and creating free parking for people who should pay....not to mention paying city fire and police $200-300K salaries. Our children bear the brunt of this lack of investment in education, but we ALL share the burden of lower property values, and the city suffers as well from lower property taxes that go along w/having a second class school district. Margaret A-K, stand your ground!!!!

Posted by localmom, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Apr 14, 2010 at 10:37 pm

I feel a bit silly commenting on my own comment, but I just had a flash of insight. Perhaps MV has no INTENTION of ever improving its schools. Even the THOUGHT of extending a useless "tax district" (read: boondoggle for businesses) is absurd if anyone at all cares about the schools. And that translates directly to property values. So it occured to me, perhaps there is a (somewhat of a left-wing) conspiracy to keep property values relatively LOW and keep things more affordable, by keeping the schools downtrodden. Just a thought.

Posted by USA, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 15, 2010 at 9:05 am

USA is a registered user.

It is amazing how the tax-and-spend culture can affect peoples thoughts and even their language. For example, the opening sentence has "The City Council approved a slew of studies worth $625,000". No, that is not correct. The studies will cost $625,000. What they are worth is to be seen. (BTW, my old friend Mr. Math, who pointed out that the surveys will cost about $40 per Mtn. View household, said that the city would have been better off printing up $40 vouchers for use in Mtn. View businesses.)

Moving on ... In the third paragraph, there is a reference to the "dilemma" but no mention of what the dilemma is. Is the dilemma an aging sewer system, cracked sidewalks, or some other problem facing the residents and businesses of our fair city? No, it appears the dilemma is that the city is losing it ability to tax as much as it had in the past. Oh, so sad.

Here's an idea -- how about we first figure out what we need and how much it will cost THEN we figure out how to raise that particular sum of money.

Posted by Don Frances, Mountain View Voice Editor
on Apr 15, 2010 at 10:28 am

Don Frances is a registered user.


As an expert on semantics, you might appreciate the mistake in your post when you wrote, "No, it appears the dilemma is that the city is losing its ability to tax as much as it had in the past." Technically, no one is being taxed more, or less, and no one is losing their ability to tax. The city is losing a certain amount of diverted funds -- diverted from schools and to the city, to be used for specified purposes -- once the tax district sunsets. The properties in question will not be taxed more or less either way.

As for whether this represents a true "dilemma" for city leaders, we trust our readers to be able to decide for themselves.

Posted by bert, a resident of Rex Manor
on Apr 15, 2010 at 10:55 am

[Post removed due to disrespectful comment]

Posted by localmom, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Apr 15, 2010 at 12:02 pm

To Don, since you are following the comments, why don't you weight in on how this will impact the school system and therefore property values?

Posted by Kristine, a resident of Monta Loma
on Apr 15, 2010 at 2:28 pm

Forgive me if I'm excited and proud to see ever greater development in our downtown. Plus our schools aren't exactly what would call underfunded last I checked.

Posted by USA, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 15, 2010 at 2:32 pm

USA is a registered user.

Don, relax. I am not chastising Daniel. He is just reporting what the tax-and-spend people told him.

You are right about the tax diversion issue vs. raising taxes, but my point still stands.

There are two ways to go about running government taxation and spending.

The tax-and-spend folks approach is:
1. How much money can we get?
2. We got X.
3. What can we spend X on?

The better approach (the Right approach) is:
1. What do we need to do?
2. What will that cost?
3. Now let go raise that amount and no more.

For example, we have people saying that we should start changing for parking downtown, but they did not say what the compelling reason is for doing so. We have spent many millions on the pink palace on Castro and various upgrades along the street. What else do we need to spend millions on? Shouldn't they tell us in advance?

Posted by James, a resident of Whisman Station
on Apr 15, 2010 at 2:40 pm

We used to come to Mountain View in the 80s for video games and Colonel Lee's BBQ, and I think Printer's Ink was there too, plus all the Chinese restaurants. I think the oldtimers consider the new downtown more yuppified than before. There are certainly a lot of young techies still going to the downtown restaurants and bars after work.

I think spending more money on the schools is the better investment now, the returns will be greater down the road, plus I expect tech workers can afford to pay a little more for the downtown in the form of parking fees or higher restaurant bills.

Posted by USA, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 15, 2010 at 2:49 pm

USA is a registered user.

Just yesterday, UC Berkeley reported that it spent $3 million on a survey to find out where it is wasting money. (I'll wait a moment while the irony-challenged catch up.)

Mtn View. is going to spend $625,000 on surveys including $175,000 on parking needs. (Let me guess, we need more parking?) For $625,000, we could have hired a dozen teachers for a year.

So, this begs the question, how do I get in on this scam? If I had known about it, I would have bid $174,950 on the parking survey. Heck, I have driven around downtown so many times looking for a spot to park, I could just whip out the report in an afternoon then spent the rest of the year hanging out at Mollys.

Posted by Taxpayer, a resident of Waverly Park
on Apr 15, 2010 at 2:54 pm

I don't understand what the council means when they say "there isn't enough money to keep up downtown's appearance." I like to know exactly what services are going into the downtown area that needs the additional tax revenue. This is an area where the city needs to show accountability and allow the residents to have more insight into this dilemma so that we can all provide valuable input into this discussion.

On the other hand, if the schools are better, then you will have more middle class family within the city boundary that will contribute to the downtown business. It's about the chicken or the egg first. If the schools are good, people will want to live in Mountain View. This drives property value upward and increasing revenue for the city. This is a bigger revenue source than increasing downtown business where it only generates a small tax revenue income from sales tax alone. Increase funding to school = increase property tax revenue & sales tax revenue.

Government has to start to think more like a private business. Just because you have $6 million sitting around doesn't mean you have to spend it today. It's okay to save the money till a project comes along that has a high ROI to justify the spending. We all need to do our due diligent for the next election cycle so that we have the most qualify candidates managing our city come next election.

Posted by vfree, a resident of Waverly Park
on Apr 15, 2010 at 2:55 pm

1. Current conditions - BAD
2. Grocery Store - No, if it was feasible one would be there.
3-4. Business can't afford your fees.
5. The current staff can handle the additional workload, or replace them with someone who can.
I just saved the city $625,000.

Posted by USA, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 15, 2010 at 2:58 pm

USA is a registered user.

Thanks, vfree. I owe you $40.

Posted by kanank, a resident of Waverly Park
on Apr 15, 2010 at 2:58 pm

I wonder how much kickbacks and nepotism involved in this pork. I do not trust any of the city council members and the officials running our city. The system is rotten. I never spend a penny in downtown because our city is run by unethical people at all levels. Palo Alto is the same.

Posted by kathy, a resident of Sylvan Park
on Apr 15, 2010 at 3:18 pm

As a start how about knocking down Food Street "restaurant" which has been an eyesore on Castro for years now Why is the owner permitted to leave it in this condition? Let's start with the obvious.... If that was in Los Altos or Palo Alto it would be long gone.

I am glad the city has 600K for 'studies' last I heard we were in a deficit of 5 million?

Posted by CC, a resident of Shoreline West
on Apr 15, 2010 at 4:20 pm

MV had wasted a lot of money on something that has no value added. When are we going to do something that make sense?

If we want to a better city, we need to bring in more Peters, who work hard and able to afford paying more taxes.

How do we get more Peters instead of Pauls? Very simple. Invest in what Peters like. Better schools is the key, not a downtown with best buritos. If Whisman school district has API score of 900+ on average, the MV city will not have a budget problem. All city worker could make 6 figures at minimum one day because Peters are willing to pay you for making MV the best place for their kids (through property taxes and sales taxes).

Posted by neighbor, a resident of another community
on Apr 15, 2010 at 9:34 pm

Perhaps Mary can get an advice from a feng-shui master about the downtown new face at no cost!

Posted by Parent, a resident of another community
on Apr 15, 2010 at 10:26 pm

Good idea - ROB from the schools to pay for high speed rail. Really? High speed rail will just ruin the downtown district anyway - like plopping a ground level airport in the middle of downtown. Why? To make it as convenient as possible for all the mass of peninsula residents to drive through your city streets, to get themselves to LA. Ask yourselves this - do people going to SFO or San Jose airport spend alot of time directly OUTSIDE OF THE AIRPORT? No they do not. You'll have people making a bee line for the long term parking (which the High Speed Rail will collect), they might buy a cup of coffee at the concession once inside the HSR terminal (which the High Speed Rail will collect), and they'll screw up your surround infrastructure with massive concrete overpasses, walls, noise, etc etc etc.

So all in all, GREAT IDEA CITY OF MOUNTAIN VIEW - rob from school funding to prop up your downtown business district just long enough to BEG the California High Speed Rail authority to come in there and TRASH it for you.

Posted by Rodger, a resident of Sylvan Park
on Apr 15, 2010 at 10:39 pm

What, save the money just last week they were talking about a bunch of silly fees to raise the same amount of money. No silly fees and no silly studies

Posted by Thom, a resident of Jackson Park
on Apr 16, 2010 at 11:56 am

Downtown is looking more and lore like a foreign country. That's not racist, that's the reality of it. Having night clubs on Castro street makes it near to impossible to manuever if you walk down the street. Maybe LV should repeat former failures like changing the light poles, or telling the eateries what color chairs they can use, or maybe spend the money where it's needed most. Spend the money on the future. That would be the youth in the community. The sports leagues need fields to play on without sharing with other sports. Spend the money on the community center and services for the youth and seniors in the community.

Posted by Kristine, a resident of Monta Loma
on Apr 16, 2010 at 3:10 pm

Look, I'm in favor of giving more funding to schools but sports should be a lower priority in that funding. More problem solving based classes over memorization based ones. Respectable home economics classes and more computer knowledge classes since most jobs round here seems to treat that as a required given.

Posted by NP, a resident of Shoreline West
on Apr 16, 2010 at 7:00 pm

Thom of Jackson Park wrote:

"Downtown is looking more and lore [sic] like a foreign country. That's not racist, that's the reality of it."

Yes indeed, strolling down Castro Street brings back wonderful memories of my vacation to Chinamexindiathaitaly.

Posted by Bob, a resident of Rex Manor
on Apr 18, 2010 at 9:04 am

If the financial situation is truly as dire as our City "leaders" claim it is how can anyone consider this type of spending o.k.?

Schools and Public Safety people.

Posted by Garrett, a resident of another community
on Apr 18, 2010 at 8:16 pm

The study that is going seems to high, but then again i think will be paid for out of downtown funds. The next thing our schools don't have a big shopping center to get Property tax from look at Los Altos and Palo Alto, the other things look at the make of those 2 places and then look at Mountain View, they have more money, have much more of college background then we do. But we are in a really bad state of affairs, with shrinking tax bases, job loss, decline of housing prices, of course we are going to fight over money, but then again the schools need more of stable way to get money. Taxes have to go up, but we need to get the country up and running agin

The other i remember when downtown wasn't where you want to go, it was awful and not very pleaant, i like when we have done with it. Wish we can carry thur to El Camino

Posted by New MV resident, a resident of Blossom Valley
on Apr 21, 2010 at 10:00 am

Long-time MV residents may be interested in the opinion of a newer MV resident. My husband and I moved to the area for jobs about three years ago. Last year we decided to purchase a home, and we considered all neighborhoods between San Carlos and Sunnyvale. This is the competition that MV faces: how does the city lure in new residents and convince them to purchase here (and bring with them big increases in property taxes, since long-time residents are all grandfathered in at ridiculously low property tax rates). The new residents are the ones driving up the tax revenue - so that is who the city needs to attract. For us, MV represented the best combination of decent schools, access to public transportation, and a nice downtown. Sunnyvale and Cupertino were axed off of the list because they lack a multi-cultural, enjoyable downtown. In contrast, Palo Alto, Los Altos, and Menlo Park have downtowns that feel like over-priced tourist traps to our Midwestern sensibilities. So far, we love MV, and we hope to stay here for a long time. I think improving the schools to the north of El Camino would definitely lure in more new residents and be beneficial for the entire city, but the city council is also correct to worry about sustaining the downtown development. We would have purchased a home near downtown because we enjoy walking there, but the schools worried us, so we bought in Blossom Valley instead.

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