Guest opinion: Making basic human needs a reality

Silicon Valley should apply 'moonshot' mentality to addressing homelessness

Google X's mission statement is to invent and launch "moonshot" technologies that aim to make the world a radically better place. They've worked on projects that include driverless cars, Wi-Fi "weather" balloons, "smart" glasses, delivery drones and artificial intelligence technology that will one day revolutionize how we care for humans in regard to their health.

When Google was asked recently by the Mountain View City Council if they would "donate" a parking lot to the soon-to-be-displaced RV population, for which the City Council even offered to cover the insurance and liability, Google said no. Google's delegation said they would not be participating in the safe parking program and did not offer to donate another building that is currently shuttered and could be ready for use.

As both a citizen who rents in the city of Mountain View and an employee of a San Francisco-based company over the past four and a half years I've watched as both cities have spiraled into an abyss of what seems to be an "unsolvable" problem. Reading the city of Mountain View's recent decision to ban RVs from parking on the main thoroughfares or in neighborhoods, coupled with the city reaching out to one of the most influential and well-endowed companies in the world and being turned down was heart-wrenching. I drive by the Google X campus often, and I thought to myself, "How can a company that claims to make "moonshot" ideas become realities not solve one of the most basic problems, literally in its own backyard?" How can Google claim to want to make the world a radically better place and when given the opportunity to simply make their community a better place say no? (To be fair, Google offered funds, to which the city replied that funds weren't necessary, but land could be helpful.)

Wage disparity, housing shortages, and exorbitant housing costs are all real problems that have real solutions. How can we as a community say we value our "quaint" downtown littered with mom and pop shops that perpetually display "for hire" signs because even at $18 and $20 an hour those shops can't maintain employees who can afford to live in the community they service. How can our City Council, prompted by community members' "outrage," turn down business permits for cannabis dispensaries that will bring more tax dollars to the community, which would result in more funds to help the increasing homelessness population? It seems as a community and as a city we want our cake and we want to eat it too — we just don't want to share it with those who bake it and serve it to us.

I'm ashamed that in the cradle of innovation and "radical ideas" we can't come up with a plan that isn't that radical at all — taking care of our community members, and even more basically, fellow humans. Not everyone can earn a six-figure salary, not everyone was born into a system that allowed them to navigate efficiently and economically and therefore earn and save the wages that are required to live in Mountain View.

As written by T.R. Goldman in the July 11, 2019, article for Politico Magazine titled, "In Detroit, Tiny Homes Are More Than a Lifestyle Trend, They're a possible solution to homelessness and chronic poverty," there is a group with a simple idea that is providing a solution that seems not only doable in Mountain View, but given Google's financial and land resources, achievable. Can we as a community not band together in the name of humanity and do something? Can we not only be known for making moonshot technologies a reality, but also for making basic human needs a reality?

Michelle Novak is a Mountain View resident.

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7 people like this
Posted by MV Resident
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Nov 11, 2019 at 12:34 pm

Michelle, what have you personally done to help the homeless/RV situation? You’re asking a company to do something, how about you personally?

5 people like this
Posted by Dan Waylonis
a resident of Jackson Park
on Nov 11, 2019 at 2:37 pm

Dan Waylonis is a registered user.

It's not clear to me why a private company should be expected to take on a role entrusted to the local government.

A better approach would be to ask the city to investigate what is causing the disparity between supply and demand of housing. I have my suspicions that the supply is limited because of costly and onerous regulations in the city.

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Posted by Mark
a resident of Monta Loma
on Nov 11, 2019 at 4:30 pm

Well well well. Our neighbors defend the Evildoers. When asked for generosity out of their billions of profits, GooGoo can do nothing. What is more objectionable is that the neighbors themselves could give an f about each other. That's the way this society is headed, in its cell-phone addicted isolation. Expect it to only get worse as the entitleds demand more subservience with less provenance.

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Posted by Stephen Inoue
a resident of another community
on Nov 11, 2019 at 11:15 pm

Andrew Yang's campaign message is #HumanityFirst. He wants to give a #FreedomDividend of $1k to every American citizen 18 and up. It would be a game changer for so many of Silicon Valley's homeless. $12k a year is Federal Poverty, but it is enough for car/rv repairs, a tool to reduce bike theft, Amazon package porch piracy and car break ins. It will inject millions of dollars into Mountain View's economy by revitalizing struggling businesses. Next time you are the the Castro Street Farmer Market look for the Andrew yang supporters wearing #MATH hats - Make America Think Harder and ask how together we can help humans with life's basic needs.

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Posted by member
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Nov 12, 2019 at 9:29 am

The city could take the funds that were offered to it and buy land with it. Then pave it into a parking lot for RV's. Seems like a simple solution.

6 people like this
Posted by member
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Nov 12, 2019 at 9:31 am

And the issue with the disparity in housing is because office buildings bring in more money compared to their cost to build than residential ones, even at the large cost in the area. I think enforcing housing neutrality is a good idea that will force developers who want to build lucrative office campuses to have to balance that with building housing for the city to house those employees.

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