"How are we going to thwart him?"
Those words were sent out early Thursday morning in an email by Mountain View Mayor Lisa Matichak, apparently by accident, in response to former council member Lenny Siegel's push to promote housing growth in the city's North Bayshore area. To housing advocates, the message is evidence that Matichak's stated support for residential growth is superficial, and that she could be working to undermine plans for a future North Bayshore neighborhood.
Asked for comment, Matichak confirmed to the Voice that she had sent out the email, but she said it was a mistake and was being taken out of context.
Matichak's message was sent in response to a mass invitation Siegel sent on Wednesday evening to members of the pro-housing Balanced Mountain View group. Siegel's invitation was for a March 12 meeting to strategize about promoting a goal to create 9,850 new housing units in North Bayshore amid failed negotiations between Google and other landowners last month.
The one-line "thwart him" response came from Matichak's email account at 6:47 a.m., and it was sent to Siegel as well as hundreds of other members of the Balanced Mountain View listserv. Mathicak has been a member of the Balanced Mountain View listserv for years although she had almost never engaged in any of the group's discussions.
When he saw the message, Siegel initially thought Matichak's email was being spoofed by someone else. If not, she had clearly made the mistake of replying to everyone on the email when she meant to forward it to someone else, he said.
"This certainly doesn't seem like the kind of thing that was intended for the email list or for me to see, but it's consistent with her behavior," Siegel said. "She was against housing in North Bayshore in 2014, and every step of way when we developed the precise plan, she was against it."
Matichak describes her position quite differently. During her failed 2014 City Council run, she did oppose North Bayshore housing, but she said her stance had evolved since then. In her successful 2016 run, she pledged to help implement residential growth, and she reasserted that promise earlier this year upon assuming the mayor's gavel. In her public comments, she has consistently remained a skeptic about unchecked residential growth, saying it must be balanced with other quality of life issues.
Speaking to the Voice on Thursday morning, Matichak asserted that she remains supportive of housing in North Bayshore. She later sent out subsequent emails to the Balanced Mountain View message board, saying she was committed to implementing the city's residential goals.
"We still have our housing plan, and I certainly will continue to make housing a reality in North Bayshore," she said.
But what about this new email that she had sent, implying she intended to "thwart" the plan? Matichak confirmed that the email was sent by her, but said she thought she was responding to a different message on a different topic.
Who was the "him" she was looking to thwart? It wasn't Siegel, she said, but she declined to specify who it was about. She also declined to identify her intended email recipient.
"I don't know that I'm going to share that," Matichak said. "There's a lot going on, but this was not in response to anything that Lenny Siegel had said."
The email comes at a time when the political temperature in Mountain View appears to be heating up. The city's rival political camps have normally kept their disagreements couched in civility and courtesy, but things seem to have changed since last year's election.
In that election, Siegel and former councilwoman Pat Showalter, who both aggressively pushed for housing growth, lost their bids for a second term and the defeat remains bitter for their supporters. Since his loss, Siegel has been accused of shouting at first-term Councilwoman Ellen Kamei over her push to revisit rules for retail cannabis shops. At Tuesday's City Council meeting on that issue, Councilwoman Margaret Abe-Koga called out Siegel for being offensive to Asians because he asked why the Chinese community formed the core opposition to cannabis shops in Mountain View.
Siegel described the email from Matichak as a new low in the city's political infighting.
"There have been times where we've had disagreements, but I haven't seen this level of mendacity in the past," he said. "It's going to be hard for me not to get personal. I'm not the kind of activist who turns the other cheek."