Housing crisis hangs over council race

Candidates present different visions for growing city

Amid expensive housing, congested roads and rising numbers of people living on the streets, Mountain View is experiencing a flurry of challenges. These growing pains for the city became the central theme for six candidates running for the City Council during their first public policy discussion last week.

The Aug. 30 candidate forum, organized by the Mountain View Chamber of Commerce, gave citizens a chance to ask those running about their positions. It was a polite, civil event for the candidates: former planner Alison Hicks, Planning Commissioner Lucas Ramirez, Councilwoman Pat Showalter, Planning Commissioner Ellen Kamei, former Councilman John Inks and Mayor Lenny Siegel. Unlike a formal debate, the forum allowed candidates to take turns answering questions from the audience, and they were restricted from directly challenging or responding to each other's comments.

By far, housing issues underpinned the discussion, and all candidates agreed that Mountain View needs more of it, although they differed on how to accomplish that.

Yes, housing is vital, said Hicks, but she immediately framed her campaign around ensuring that growth is accomplished responsibly. Parks, trees, safe streets and walkable communities all have to be considered as the city builds up, she said.

"We may be the fastest growing city in the Bay Area, and I'm running to make sure that growth is great growth," she said. "Along with building, we need to build it right."

On the other end of the spectrum was Mayor Lenny Siegel, who indicated he was less concerned with the qualities of housing, rather than the quantity. Solving the housing crisis means new market-rate housing and lots of it, which would provide fees to pay for new subsidized housing, he said.

Housing is the "existential crisis" of Mountain View, said Ramirez. The best way to solve the crisis is to build high-density housing near job centers, he said. He plugged long-term planning to encourage more duplexes, triplexes and transit systems.

"Over time as the community evolves ... I think we can retrofit this community in a way that makes transit a viable option for people," he said.

Echoing a theme of her campaign, Kamei touted building more housing priced for the "missing middle," those earning too much to qualify for affordable housing but not enough to buy a home. A recent Bay Area housing assessment reported that Mountain View had built zero homes fitting this income category, she said.

Inks parted ways with the group on this issue, saying city policies were causing older affordable apartments to be razed and rebuilt into pricey condos. He didn't utter the words "rent control," but his implication was clear.

Dovetailing with housing, candidates were also asked about the growing homeless population, exemplified by the inhabited vehicles on city streets. Mountain View is funding three full-time workers who are trying to help people living on the street access services, but it a difficult balancing act, Showalter said. Poverty isn't a crime, but the city needs to enforce rules against any criminal activity stemming from those vehicles, she said.

Many other candidates touted Mountain View as a "compassionate" city. Hicks and Ramirez both said that public land should be repurposed as some kind of temporary parking area for vehicle dwellers. Inks, who said he had previously been an "urban camper," pointed out that many residents are losing patience with people squatting in their neighborhoods, and he suggested the city needed to stop "subsidizing habits."

Speaking next, Siegel swiftly denounced the push to sweep the homeless out of town.

"I will not be intimidated by the intolerant few who think we can play whack-a-mole and knock them out of our community," he said. "I'm not going to throw them out just because we don't like to look at them."

On another issue, bringing paid parking to downtown Mountain View, Siegel was in the minority. He came out against the idea for disproportionately punishing the poor, while other candidates indicated they were open to studying the idea. Paid parking is worth testing out as a pilot program, Kamei said.

The Chamber of Commerce moderator also made sure to ask about the city's proposed employee-based tax on businesses, which some are calling the "Google tax." Kamei and Ramirez both said the city could have done better in drafting the tax increase with the business community, but they indicated general support. Inks said Measure P would hurt businesses by disincentivizing them from growing beyond certain thresholds. Siegel was the only champion for the proposed tax, describing it as a "drop in the bucket" for most businesses to pay.

The candidates spoke about a variety of issues, including transportation, teacher housing and sustainability. More information on the candidates' positions can be found online at A video of the candidate forum can be found here.

The next candidate forum will be hosted by the League of Women Voters on Wednesday, Sept. 26, at Charlie's Cafe on the Google campus at 1600 Amphitheatre Way in Mountain View. The event is scheduled for 4 p.m. to 5:15 p.m. with a reception to follow.

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97 people like this
Posted by Voter
a resident of Monta Loma
on Sep 7, 2018 at 10:51 am

I appreciate Mr. Inks describing himself as an urban camper. I will vote for him because he has real life experience.

163 people like this
Posted by Politicsasusual
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Sep 7, 2018 at 12:00 pm

If you own a pre 1995 multi-family project, sell it

If you own any type of post 1995 residential real estate you currently rent, or plan to rent, sell it.

Once Prop 10 passes, single family homes, duplexes, condos will enter the "rent pool" too. OMI will cease, already illegal in SF for a myriad of reasons for pre-1995 multi-family housing.

Imagine leasing your home for two years while pursuing an employment opportunity only to return and unable to get your home back.

The landlord tenant relationship is irrevocably broken. It's all lawyers, accountants, uninformed politicians and citizen boards (with a one-sided agenda) determining a "fair rate of return" for a few old landlords that operate pre-1995 multi family housing. Soon these people will be able to tell post-1995 homeowners what a fair rate of return is regardless of a standing mortgage or not.

It's a whole new ballgame once Prop 10 is passed, everyone gets to suffer. Rent control is a battlefield where there are only losers. New rent controlled housing, affordable or not, will never be built by private investors

The only plans that "pencil out" in the future will be 100% taxpayer funded and subsidized, never enough to satisfy all in need and will probably end up in the hands of well connected people anyway.

The smart money went to commercial real estate development in the 80's.

MVCC member priorities-get elected, get re-elected, pander to the under informed masses and disregard the 1st rule of economics-scarcity.

Remove council members that support the demise of Mountain View housing availability who support Prop 10 and rent control (Ask them!!) and those that think ordering MVPD to stand down by selectively enforcing of our parking ordinances regarding only RV's. Yes, some people need help and some just need to obey parking enforcement, surely MVCC and MVPD can figure out which is which.

Even Berkeley has a plan to exempt new housing development from rent control should Prop 10 pass. MVCC has a plan in place to allow/invite more RV's to the street.

Candidates positions on these issues are ambiguous and very fluid:)

4 people like this
Posted by mvrenter
a resident of Shoreline West
on Sep 7, 2018 at 12:06 pm

"Mountain View's rent control law -- the Community Stabilization and Fair Rent Act (CSFRA) -- has many of the core tenets of Costa-Hawkins baked into its language. For example, the 1995 cutoff date for apartments is written into the law, which was approved by voters as Measure V in 2016. Likewise, single-family homes, accessory units and duplexes are explicitly exempted from rent control under the CSFRA"
(Web Link)

108 people like this
Posted by Its the RVs dummy
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Sep 7, 2018 at 12:12 pm

The vast majority of the citizenry would like a solution to the RV problem.
This is not a "chase them out of town situation, but something DOES need to change.

This is the issue, IMO, where the candidate will become the next council member; provide a PLAN to not kick them out of town, but not allow them to continue as is the current situation.
They SHOULD NOT be allowed to live, literally, in our gutters.

4 people like this
Posted by Politicsasusual
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Sep 7, 2018 at 12:51 pm

True for the moment, but as you surely now, a new initiative once the repeal is complete is an entirely new ball game for Mountain View.

126 people like this
Posted by @mvrenter
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Sep 7, 2018 at 1:28 pm

Your comments can be taken the wrong way. Let me clarify for people.

If Prop.10 passes, ALL Rental Properties in Mountain View will be under rent control. NO EXCEPTIONS!!

IMHO, any candidate that still supports living in a vehicle at this point, which in some cases are being used as a business and rented out just like an apartment, I will vote against.
No to Hicks
No to Ramirez
No to Siegel

1 person likes this
Posted by Kay
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Sep 7, 2018 at 1:29 pm

Kay is a registered user.

Where was this forum held? Which candidates attended? The next forum is at Google. In the election, will people be allowed to vote on their own or will they be required to deliver their proposed ballots to the Chamber of Commence and Google?

3 people like this
Posted by LOL
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Sep 7, 2018 at 1:42 pm

@ dude, you're not going to vote for any candidates because you're an absentee, out-of-town landlord. It's the same reason Measure V passed, you only get to vote in elections if you live here.

6 people like this
Posted by mvrenter
a resident of Shoreline West
on Sep 7, 2018 at 1:52 pm

I don't think my comment *can* be taken in the wrong way. You are wrong about what prop 10 means in mountain view. I encourage anybody reading this to read the article I am referring to. Web Link
MV-Voice article is:
Costa-Hawkins repeal's impact muted for Mountain View
Prop. 10 would loosen restraints on rent control, but city's law incorporates many of state law's limits
by Mark Noack / Mountain View Voice

5 people like this
Posted by mavericks74
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Sep 7, 2018 at 2:41 pm

mavericks74 is a registered user.

Is there a site where we can compare all the candidates side by side on their policies/views/votes?

5 people like this
Posted by mvrenter
a resident of Shoreline West
on Sep 7, 2018 at 2:46 pm

In the case of Prop 10, it is a repeal of the state law, so there's nothing that 'trumps' the language in the CSFRA. Prop 10 doesn't alter the text of CSFRA so the exemptions stand.

58 people like this
Posted by Thomas Payne
a resident of North Bayshore
on Sep 7, 2018 at 3:04 pm

"Over time as the community evolves ... I think we can retrofit this community in a way that makes transit a viable option for people," he said.

This is exactly the wrong kind of thinking with Ramiraz, Siegel, and Showalter. Let's create a huge infrastructure and city service problem building high density without expanding transit, parks, schools, hospitals, smart and green growth so we are not sucking on exhaust fumes all day crawling in traffic. Don't forget they sold the highest quality, most valuable water resource rights which may be needed for all the planned growth. These are short-sighted, panic-minded brains I can not support!

108 people like this
Posted by Ownit
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Sep 7, 2018 at 3:12 pm

"Under Costa-Hawkins, cities may not subject newly built properties to rent control. The 1995 law also prevents cities from designating single-family homes as rent controlled.

If Prop 10 passes, it would add the following language to the state’s civil code:

“A city, county, or city and county shall have the authority to adopt a local charter provision, ordinance or regulation that governs a landlord’s right to establish and increase rental rates on a dwelling or housing unit.”

You don't know, now you know. Prop 10 is bad news. I expect our local leaders to take a stand now one way or another.

12 people like this
Posted by Kay
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Sep 7, 2018 at 7:05 pm

Kay is a registered user.

What was the article about? It doesn't seem to matter to some of these post-a-holics.

5 people like this
Posted by Bronxboi
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Sep 8, 2018 at 2:34 pm

Bronxboi is a registered user.

To all the naysayers that keep bringing up the "doom and gloom" that will befall the poor landlords, you need to ask yourself this question "without intervention, what do you think is going to be the housing situation in a one or five years from now?". Considering the massive growth this area has seen, to say that the market will produce the necessary housing is disingenuous. The landlords and home owners in this area have already made it quite clear, they do not care to offer affordable or middle range housing and they are completely happy with the status quo because it benefits them. They can continue raising rates endlessly and not worry about how it affects the community or individuals. Rent Control is only part of the solution but like those the bitch and moan about the ACA, you have nothing to offer to the conversation but negativity. Trust me, there is a need for Rent Stabilization in California because the level of greed is far outstripping the ability of most of the population to live.

27 people like this
Posted by kehlar
a resident of another community
on Sep 8, 2018 at 2:58 pm

kehlar is a registered user.

I knew nothing about any of these candidates, but just by reading their positions here it's clear that while everyone else has a measured response to the housing crisis, Siegel would happily turn MV into a dump if it means fitting everyone into an apartment and the homeless having free rein of the city. For your own sakes don't elect this guy in. I'm just glad he doesn't live in my city.

4 people like this
Posted by a MV resident
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Sep 8, 2018 at 9:10 pm

a MV resident is a registered user.

John Inks says, to solve the housing crisis is to eliminate rent control and preserve pre-1995 apartments, rather than build more new housing. In other words, Inks' plan is to restore and preserve exploitive environments of old apartments that make landlords richer through artificial restraints on supply with no pathways out for MV renters?

Does John Inks represent the interest of the half of MV that rents or that of Los Altos Hills?

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

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