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Guest opinion: Council has moral obligation to address housing crisis

 

The Mountain View City Council did it again: At its April 3 meeting, it sadly approved the demolition of 59 apartments located at 2310 Rock St. so that 55 townhomes can be built and sold for about $1.5 million each. On March 26, the council approved the demolition of 33 apartments at 1950 Montecito Ave. And at its Dec. 11 meeting, council members approved the demolition of 20 apartments at 2005 Rock St.

In less than four months the City Council has approved the demolition of 112 apartments, displacing dozens and dozens of low-income families that will not be able to buy the $1.5 million townhouses that will be built in the place that has been their home for many years.

Under the argument that landlords have the right to get out of the rental business if they so desire — and that the demolition projects are in full compliance with the city of Mountain View zoning and building codes and therefore its only option is to approve them — the council is making the already horrible housing crisis worse. As a result, low-income families are being displaced and pushed out of the city that has been their home for many years, the city where they work and where their children were born, go to school and have all their friends and many relatives.

Council member Lucas Ramirez was right when he brought up on April 3 the need to "identify a policy solution to mitigate this impact." Council member Chris Clark was also right about the "need to fundamentally change the rules." But they need to start working on it now instead of just talking about the need for change. All the council members have the moral obligation to explore and identify now what can be done.

If the current zoning and building codes in the city books prevent the council from denying approval of demolition projects as it says, then those zoning and building codes should be changed or updated now according to the current socio-economic realities and needs of our city. Don't point at the city's rent control law (Measure V) as the culprit behind the demolition projects you have approved.

Councilman John McAlister was wrong when he said April 3 that "rent control devalues a person's property, and if someone wants to buy it they can't get more than a 3 percent increase." The fact is they can get authorization to get much more than 3 percent if they present legitimate petitions to the Rental Housing Committee.

Council members, be brave and start working on those changes now if you really care and believe in the diversity of Mountain View. If you do so, it will raise Mountain View's status as a "human rights city" and its "diversity flags." If you don't, and instead keep doing what you did on Dec. 11, March 26, and April 3, you are causing a perfect storm of demolition approvals. And don't blame it on the city's rent control law or start thinking and talking about abolishing it in 2020. If you do, you will be the opposite of brave and will become the greedy landlords' accomplices to the detriment of Mountain View's diversity, values, and housing justice. You will be raising the flags of hypocrisy and inhumanity.

Job Lopez is an advocate for housing justice who lives in Mountain View.

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