Council candidates discuss high cost of housing


In a Whisman neighborhood forum Monday night, City Council candidates had differing views on how to tackle what they all agreed is an affordable housing problem in Mountain View.

"I don't really understand the logic of subsidized housing in a popular place like this," said resident Greg Coladonato when he asked the candidates for their views on the city's below market rate housing program, which requires developers pay into a fund to subsidize affordable housing projects or to make portions of their projects affordable for lower income residents.

"I am unabashedly in favor of BMR housing programs," said incumbent Mayor Mike Kasperzak. "One of the things people really like about this community is diversity, and we are becoming a community where people cannot afford to live. I actually got a call earlier this year from a Googler who was being priced out of their apartment. I don't think we want a community where our Starbucks barista has to drive from Tracy to serve us coffee. We're going to become a gated community."

Kasperzak mentioned the "housing impact fee" paid by commercial building development such as that of Google, a fee which some council members want to raise. "When Google brings in 10,000 employees that a creates demand for lower paid service workers," Kasperzak said. "It's a problem."

Vice mayor and incumbent John Inks had the "opposite point of view," he said, calling the programs Kasperzak supports "kind of a disaster" that only serves a small portion of those who need it.

Housing development "doesn't create a need for housing itself," Inks said, but "you have single property owners and developers paying the whole fee" towards subsidizing affordable housing.

"That's because you can isolate them. If you went to the broader community and said, 'Let's all chip in,' like we did with the recent parcel tax, they would say, 'No way, let the other guy pay for it,'" said Inks.

"I think it is appropriate maybe to have some sort of subsidized housing program," Inks said. "But you have to have a broader tax base. Don't just penalize individual developers and property owners."

Candidate Margaret Capriles said the city needs to take another look a the problem.

"I think we have to step back and say, 'What do we really cherish in Mountain View, what do we want it to be?'" Capriles said. "We need to seriously consider, do we all chip in? We do have a very consolidated plan to address the lower income socioeconomic areas but as far as going for the middle class ... what kind of housing can somebody in the middle class afford and what can we do about it?"

Speaking as the owner of Mountain View's Basin Robbins, candidate and planning commissioner John McAlister expressed concern, and mentioned a developer's recent claim that $800,000 row houses were "affordable."

"Baskin Robbins doesn't pay great salaries," he said. "Even my little store, it's tough to get employees because they can't live in Mountain View. I work a lot with high school students, which is great because I give them their first job and they live with mom and dad. But I have huge turnover."

McAlister said he'd like for his shift leaders to at least be able to afford to pay rent in Mountain View.

"I agree with John Inks, the developer should not be penalized," McAlister said. As a "community, we should find a way to pay for it."

Candidate Chris Clark expressed support for the city's current efforts, having served on a committee that helped distribute over $12 million in affordable housing funds to projects, including 51 affordable family homes under construction behind the Tied House and a smaller affordable project recently approved for the disabled. He noted that the city's practices are not "out of whack" compared to neighboring cities.

"I think what we are doing is on par with the rest of the area," Clark said. "I'm pretty proud of what we've done, at least in the last couple years."

North Bayshore housing discussed

Inks was vocal about this opposition to the council's recent vote against allowing zoning for over 1,000 homes for Google employees in North Bayshore, saying the discussion was "hijacked by discussions of feral cats and dormitories" and that the city should have at least studied it further.

Capriles said she supported the rejection of housing because of its possible impact on Shoreline Park wildlife, which includes the rare burrowing owl, to which Kasperzak reminded everyone that the homes would not have been allowed inside Shoreline Park, but on Shoreline Boulevard south of Charleston Road. McAlister said he also voted no on the idea as a commissioner because North Bayshore is isolated from services, increasing the need for cars. He said small businesses would not be able to compete with all of Google's free services and food for employees.

"I voted yes because it was clearly the environmentally superior option," said Chris Clark, whose views were similar to Kasperzak and others who said it would reduce car traffic and help create a livable neighborhood with new services, which he said Google wants to support with incentives for employees who use them.

"I don't think it's something we are going to revisit anytime soon without a transportation solution" to better connect North Bayshore to the rest of the city, Clark said.


3 people like this
Posted by crime is up
a resident of Shoreline West
on Oct 5, 2012 at 11:05 am

Really?! I post a comment not agreeing with affordable housing and all comments are then removed!! Why are you trying to silence people? You don't agree with my opinions because they differ from yours? Please respond. Or are you going to just remove this too?

3 people like this
Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Oct 5, 2012 at 12:25 pm

Affordable housing is not the example, check out Menlo Park list of people living in this type of housing. It is right up there next to the Palo Alto Weekly. Affordable homes can be starter homes, middle income housing, a place that a first time college grad newly married with new job who are going to buy a first time home couple. You have seen them,.might have know them, they even to you or they might even be.your kids or you.

3 people like this
Posted by Renter
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Oct 5, 2012 at 9:06 pm

I would like to see rent control. My rent goes up 10% each year. The Park Place apartments have a large number of units that are rented to other entities for extended stay. I believe that inflates demand and drives up rental prices. Not sure how much longer I can afford to live in this lovely town.

3 people like this
Posted by Old Ben
a resident of Shoreline West
on Oct 5, 2012 at 11:54 pm

My rent goes up 10% each year as well. Rent control is a little extreme, but requiring a five-year lease is not.

Leases should be mandatory. Month-to-month is ridiculous. And Mountain View has no standards whatsoever when it comes to what is permitted to be rented out as inhabitable residences.

3 people like this
Posted by Real World Resident
a resident of St. Francis Acres
on Oct 8, 2012 at 11:21 am

I was very please to have a month to month alternative when we had sold our house but had not bought the next. The rental was slated for a rebuild and the owner needed to keep covering rent until all the permits and such were completed. The month to month option served both of us perfectly. A month to month lease is still a lease.

3 people like this
Posted by Monica
a resident of North Whisman
on Oct 8, 2012 at 1:09 pm

This is a real problem. Compared to when we moved into our apartment just 3 years ago, our rent has gone up $400 a month. That's an extra $4,800 a year!

We live in a modest 2-bedroom apartment. We are a Google household, so we're by no means low-income. If we're feeling the pinch of the crazy high rent increases, than I imagine it's an even bigger problem for middle and low-income renters in MV.

3 people like this
Posted by kma
a resident of Monta Loma
on Oct 8, 2012 at 3:02 pm

Has anyone seen the prices of the new houses they are putting up on Evelyn?

A cool Million dollars they want and that is just the starting price.

3 people like this
Posted by Political Insider
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Oct 9, 2012 at 12:28 am

Rents have not risen 10% per year from 2000-12. If so they would have gone up about 3.5 times, from $1000/month to $3500/month

Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Cuernavaca

on Jun 4, 2017 at 9:09 pm

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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