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Issue date: January 12, 2001

It's official -- City Clerk Angee Salvador administers the oath of office to the four council members elected in November: Rosemary Stasek, Matt Pear, Mary Lou Zoglin, and Mario Ambra. Pear joined the three re-elected incumbents in taking office at Tuesday's city council meeting. @vcredit:Dick Waters

New council may take new approach to issues New council may take new approach to issues (January 12, 2001)

Housing a big question as council session begins

By Justin Scheck

As the latest incarnation of the Mountain View City Council took seat Tuesday night -- with the replacement of former Council member Nancy Noe by new Council member Matt Pear -- the question of how differently the new governing body will function from the old one was on the minds of council members and watchers alike.

"This council, just by the political makeup now, is going to be a more conservative council. But it remains to be seen how that will play out," said current Council member -- and outgoing mayor -- Rosemary Stasek.

Rosalind Bivings, a council watcher whose bid to run for council last year was thwarted by a state law that prevents paid speakers from running for public office, said she was concerned about the makeup of the current council.

"I think this council's much different than any council over the last 10 years. I think it's more conservative, and it's going to be more difficult to do anything that will help the community at large," Bivings said.

"I don't think they're as progressive-thinking at this time as far as housing and social problems go, including homelessness and the working poor, so that really concerns me," she continued.

While Mayor Mario Ambra agreed that the council would be different, he did not view the change as negative.

"You've got a council member with a different perspective," said Ambra. "It will have a different dynamic and a different direction."

"I think there will be a lot of 4-3 decisions," said Council member Ralph Faravelli, pointing to Pear's addition to the council as a move toward a "more cautious" approach to high-density housing.

In his speech Tuesday night, Pear spoke about his family's history in Mountain View, as well as his goals for the city council.

"It is with equality and justice for all that I assume this community service position, and pledge my allegiance to do all that I can to resolve the issues and concerns that face or society in a way that is equitable for all," Pear said.

Pear was unavailable for comment after Tuesday's council meeting, but in a recent interview, he explained his position on affordable housing, saying that in his opinion, any effort to build affordable housing should be decided by the community through the ballot initiative process.

Faravelli pointed out other changes in the council, as well.

"Sally Lieber, since she may be running for the assembly (the state assembly district 22 seat in 2002), may have a different focus. ... She may be thinking outside of Mountain View a bit more," Faravelli said.

In a Tuesday interview, Lieber confirmed she is considering an assembly bid, but stressed that her current focus is on the city council and housing and child-welfare issues.

Stasek, Faravelli, Ambra, and Council member Mary Lou Zoglin agreed there will be three major issues coming before the council over the next three months: Home Depot's request for a zoning change to allow construction of a big-box retail store at the former Emporium site; the proposed housing-impact fee, which would tax developers to raise money for affordable housing; and the choice of a location for the low-income efficiency studio housing complex.

Because Home Depot has not yet presented its plan to the council, council members agreed it is too early to comment on that issue.

However, they did speculate on the other issues.

Faravelli and Ambra stated their belief that the housing-impact fee would be an undesirable measure.

"I think that's going to be a very, very tough issue," Faravelli said. "It would really turn (developers) off."

"I have a concern about someone paying for someone else's housing. ... I totally disagree with the housing impact fee," Ambra said.

Stasek said she was waiting to see the city staff's study on the fee before making a decision.

With the question of the location for the efficiency studio apartments still open for discussion, Faravelli said he opposes the downtown site, while other council members said they will wait to see the various options before they decide.

Ambra said that, in addition to the issues above, he is very concerned with California's current power crisis. "I want to look at ways in which we can be more self-sufficient and efficient with our energy. We need to look at how other cities, like Palo Alto, manage their utilities," he said.

Stasek agreed, saying "Palo Alto and Santa Clara own their own utilities. That's something I looked at a few years ago, in relation to getting 'green' power, when they first came up with deregulation."

Ambra said that he also wants to look into developing a bus system in Mountain View. "We need to get people out of their cars and into mass transit," he said.

But Zoglin said that many of these issues are too far away to speculate on now. She said also that, while she has "read in the newspaper" about Pear's views, she will wait to see how council discussions go before forming an opinion of how the new council will differ from the last one.

This council's challenges "will be different, but I don't think they'll be any greater," Zoglin concluded.


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