New mayor gears up for rent control amendment, RV ban referendum | News | Mountain View Online |

News

New mayor gears up for rent control amendment, RV ban referendum

Challenges ahead for Margaret Abe-Koga's 2nd term as mayor are a dramatic shift from Mountain View's issues in 2009

In 2009, Margaret Abe-Koga took her first turn as mayor of Mountain View. It wasn't as fun as it was cracked up to be, due to factors beyond her control.

The impact of the Great Recession was just beginning to sink in: home values plummeted, development froze, the city budget shrank and cutbacks became mandatory. Being mayor of a medium-sized city meant hard decisions, grim sacrifices and "a lot of lost sleep," she said.

Now more than a decade later, Abe-Koga returns to the mayor's seat, this time with a vastly different set of circumstances. On the books, things look great: unprecedented city budget surpluses, a booming economy, and more jobs than anyone knows what to do with. Mountain View is a city where a real estate investment at San Antonio shopping center can reap a 600% return in just three years, as evidenced by the Los Altos School District's recent purchase.

But for many others, the city is still reeling from deep-seated turmoil linked to homelessness and housing inaffordability. With many people's homes and livelihoods on the line, an undercurrent of fierce political strife has become normal on issues such as rent control, redevelopment and the city's future vision for North Bayshore. In many ways, this time around will be more difficult, Abe-Koga said.

"This is a completely different situation now, and in all frankness, I've had to change my perspective somewhat," she said. "The issues we face now are more complex, less clear-cut in terms of solutions."

At its Tuesday, Jan. 7, meeting, the Mountain View City Council voted in Abe-Koga as the city's new mayor in a unanimous vote. Ellen Kamei was voted in as vice mayor, putting her in line to be the mayor in 2021. Outgoing Mayor Lisa Matichak welcomed her successor with a hug, and received a standing ovation for her yearlong stint wielding the gavel.

Abe-Koga, 50, takes the helm as mayor at a very tenuous time in Mountain View's history, and she inherits a set of challenges that will be far beyond the scope of what one elected leader in one city can hope to solve. But she still says there are realistic priorities that she can work to achieve.

Among her goals, Abe-Koga would like to streamline City Council meetings to avoid grueling sessions that stretch into the early-morning hours. It's an idea that few would oppose, but how to do it?

Abe-Koga pointed out she can't abbreviate public comment or her colleagues' discourse, but she does have other tools to move things along. In talks with City Hall staff, she has urged city employees to be more aggressive in making professional recommendations for elected leaders to adopt. More council decisions should be able to reach consensus quickly, especially if easy decisions can be notched off through straw votes, she said.

"I don't think that meetings that run until 1 a.m. or 2 a.m. are good for anyone," she said. "There's little techniques that we can use to move things along."

Abe-Koga's term as mayor will also put her on point for quarterbacking the city's controversial March ballot measure to amend local rent control. This has been a focused priority for her since last year, when she led efforts to draw up a list of rent control tweaks that were later inserted into the city's measure.

She views these amendments as a sort of middle path between the landlord-tenant divide, allowing rent control to remain in place but tempering it to make it sustainable for apartment owners, she said. She expects to help organize a campaign to promote the measure in the near future. Politically, this job will require convincing tenants to vote against their short-term interests, while also persuading landlords to resist a more aggressive measure slated for November.

"We're not trying to get rid of rent control, and I'd really like us to move beyond that rhetoric," Abe-Koga said. "We need to see if we can find a happy medium so that we can put this issue to rest."

The ballot box will be a theme for City Council politics in 2020 in more ways than one. Another potential measure that could come before voters is a referendum to overturn the city's ordinance prohibiting large vehicles from parking on most city streets. This so-called RV ban has received harsh criticism for its impact on the city's homeless population who live in vehicles.

Among her first actions as mayor later this month, Abe-Koga must decide with her colleagues whether to place the ordinance on a future ballot, or to rescind it entirely. City officials are currently investigating whether the referendum can be placed on a special April election, Abe-Koga said. In either case, the referendum means the parking ban can't take effect for months, and that means the city's homeless efforts may be frozen for a while, she said.

"I see these restrictions as going in unison with the safe parking lot program ... I never thought that allowing RVs to park on the street could be a permanent solution," Abe-Koga said. "My hope with the RVs is to eventually get the folks into permanent housing, so how do we work on that?"

It's a question that is bewildering mayors across the Bay Area as they try to grapple with a homelessness crisis that cuts across city boundaries. Abe-Koga said she previously tried to persuade Google to open up the shuttered Gold's Gym off Shoreline Boulevard as a temporary shelter, but the company declined. The city needs to keep searching for other solutions, she said.

Where Abe-Koga sees more potential to enact change is improving the culture at City Hall. For too long, city employees have been beleaguered with hefty workloads and constant grind. Maintaining the city's quality means that Mountain View also need to make life easier for its staff, she said.

"For us to keep good people and maintain our service levels, we are going to have to do things more efficiently," she said. "We've been running at an intense pace in general at City Hall, and I think we need to reexamine that."

To that end, Abe-Koga signaled she doesn't have any sweeping priorities that she would push city officials to embark on. The city's list with more than 80 goals that was drafted last year should suffice, she said. Meanwhile, the city's template for building out about 15,000 new housing units in the coming years should serve well as as a road map for developers to follow, she said.

If there's any new priority the city needs to take up, it would be transportation, she said. Mountain View needs to put pressure on VTA to ensure the North County is represented and receives adequate funding. Meanwhile, Mountain View needs to "fill in the gaps" left by the county transit agency with the city's local shuttle service or other systems, she said.

Mountain View's mayor is charged with leading city meetings and calling speakers, but the position has little in the way of additional power compared to other City Council members. For the most part, the mayor's job is ceremonial: to act as the city's lead representative to meet with dignitaries, cut ribbons or give speeches.

While that may sound like the duties of a figurehead, the position does wield significant soft power, and pretty much anyone who has held the job can attest to its hefty workload.

Asked about what will be different from her 2009 turn as mayor, Abe-Koga emphasized the time demands of the job have dramatically increased. More than ever, the mayor is bombarded by media calls, corporate visits and constituent emails.

"People just don't know how much of time commitment this job is. Frankly, it's hard to describe," she said. "We're the center of Silicon Valley now, with all the companies we have here, so I guess that's added a spotlight onto the city."

What is democracy worth to you?
Support local journalism.

Comments

72 people like this
Posted by Clarify
a resident of Shoreline West
on Jan 8, 2020 at 4:24 pm

The editors keep referring to the RV dwellers as homeless. They’re not homeless. They’ve chosen to make their vehicle their home so they can live in Mountain View, one of the most expensive cities in the country. Impose the ban and they will find real housing either in another cheaper city (they’re not that far away) or in shared housing.

Since the city council can’t seem to deal with getting the RVs off the street has anybody started a referendum to ban them? I don’t think the required signatures will be hard to obtain.


30 people like this
Posted by Clarify More
a resident of Shoreline West
on Jan 8, 2020 at 4:46 pm

In fact, they often call people living in tent cities and under overpasses "homeless" when they're clearly choosing to live in that tent or under that overpass! If you really think of it, no one's "homeless" because we all have God's green earth as our home with the beautiful sky as our roof. The Voice should stop using such misleading terminology, post haste!


39 people like this
Posted by Clarify
a resident of Shoreline West
on Jan 8, 2020 at 6:09 pm

@clarify more- hardly the same. Most of those vehicles are rented and we know that there are techies with amenities at work that choose to live in RVs as well as other folks that want to “save money.” We have no reason to believe that permanent housing is not an option for the dwellers. They may see living in an RV as more desirable than commuting or sharing housing. After all, they were living someplace before they occupied the RVs and the local economy is booming so unlikely that they have less income. Housing has become more expensive in MV due to reduced supply but there are many places in the Bay Area where one can live at yesterday’s MV prices.


140 people like this
Posted by No to tent encampments
a resident of Bailey Park
on Jan 8, 2020 at 6:21 pm

Everyone needs to remember how this RV (New Housing option) started. It started by our then city council, 5 years ago now?, who told the MVPD to not enforce our parking ordinance.

This coming November you will have 2 of those council members, who where voted out of office, running again for city council. That is Lenny Siegel and Pat Showalther.

If those 2 gets elected they will have city council members Hicks and Rameriz waiting for them as they have opposed any enforcement against these RV's. They would be the new council majority who favor keeping and expanding these RV parking thru out our city.

Tent encampments will be next if these 4 people are on the city council.

Remember November and do not vote for Siegel and ShoWalther!




35 people like this
Posted by Billy Bob
a resident of Bailey Park
on Jan 8, 2020 at 6:25 pm

Abe Koga is clueless I think her only concern is what color shall I dye my hair this week. She wants to make council meeting shorter then stop babbling about nothing . Now she is mayor wow.


27 people like this
Posted by Rex
a resident of Rex Manor
on Jan 8, 2020 at 7:25 pm

Always love the fact-free hysteria from the NIMBYs who scream about nothing much. You want the RVs gone but shout down affordable and/or denser housing. You want better leadership but vote for schmucks. You want MV to be flush with cash and jobs but you don't want it to change at all. You want other people priced out of the neighborhood to uproot their lives and move elsewhere so that you can keep enjoying the appreciation of equity and low property taxes on your house, but would have a conniption fit if you got priced or otherwise pushed out. Sadly, the best thing you can do for this city is not vote. Best of luck.


14 people like this
Posted by Gary
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jan 8, 2020 at 9:24 pm

Gary is a registered user.

Well, I can tell you this much: SB 50 will not lead to housing for middle or low or no income residents. It is supported by tech giants that want more ownership (and rental) housing for their employees and shorter-term "contractors." Might high-density housing on your street have some "trickle down" benefit to middle and lower income residents? It would DEPEND - including on how many more corporate workers are imported from outside of the State.


92 people like this
Posted by SC Parent
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jan 9, 2020 at 6:25 am

@Mark Noack - Please stop using biased and inaccurate language in your articles and titles. The ordinance is not an "RV ban." You are fueling the confusion of those who oppose the narrow streets ordinance, which is focused on safety. It prohibits any oversized vehicle from parking on streets that are too narrow for traffic and bicyclists to safely pass, but does not in any way "ban" RVs from Mountain View.

It's fine if you have a personal opinion on the issue, but don't let it lead you to use imprecise (inaccurate) language in your professional reporting.


17 people like this
Posted by Clarify More
a resident of Shoreline West
on Jan 9, 2020 at 7:22 am

SC Parent, do you also insist that Trump didn't institute a Muslim ban? We're all adults here, we understand the motivations of people, especially when they've been abundantly clear about their intent. It's insulting when advocates try to pretend otherwise, and doesn't help your case when you need to be dishonest to sell your policies.


87 people like this
Posted by @Clarify More
a resident of Shoreline West
on Jan 9, 2020 at 9:50 am

@Clarify More,
Your comments to SC Parent are wrong, and false.

The city council did not ban all RV'S from our city. They banned them from parking on narrow streets.

It was written in an earlier article that many streets that are wide enough, mostly those streets that have apartments on them as an example, will be allowed to have their RV's park there under this new ordinance.

Instead of name calling someone you disagree with, you should take 5 minutes and read the ordinance yourself.

And yes, the Voice does have an agenda on this matter. They work hand in hand with Lenny Siegel on issues like this.


7 people like this
Posted by Fred
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 9, 2020 at 10:01 am

Voting to a private secret ballot is a wonderful thing. Please let us mountain view residents vote. It's well worth the cost. While we're voting on the parking situation in mountain view why don't we also have a vote on the Cannabis situation in mountain view. Apparently mountain view residence voted, in private ballot, more favorably towards cannabis legalization in California then the rest of Santa Clara county. This current city council voted to ignore the clear preference of the majority of their constituents on this hot potato subject. Let's see what the voting public has to say. Hell, I still want to vote for Ross Perot.


7 people like this
Posted by Clarify More
a resident of Shoreline West
on Jan 9, 2020 at 10:09 am

Trump didn't ban ALL Muslims, so it's clearly not a Muslim ban!

Where did I engage in "name-calling?" Why is it that advocates feel the need to be dishonest and mischaracterize when they can simply own the fact that they want to make the RVs illegal regardless of whatever alternate housing options are available. In the initial ordinance, the moderates on the council proposed tying its implementation to the lifting of the council-declared shelter crisis, which was rejected by the former Mayor, current Mayor, and current Vice Mayor.


19 people like this
Posted by Steven Nelson
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jan 9, 2020 at 10:35 am

I've watched MAK at many formal local government meetings over the last decade-plus. What I first found totally confusing - is that she has often taken a very, very long "conversational-feelings" approach to explain the position that she will ultimately take to VOTE (she Is IN the Room WHERE IT HAPPENS). Those last 3-5 minutes are concise and clear.

If she wants to Chair a legislative body to shorter deliberations, she should study the length-of-time (3, 5, 10, 20+ minutes) that she uses to publicly explain her anguish, in how she will VOTE. A 5-Minute Timer / for herself / would really be instructive for her (and her Council and the public)!

MAK - NO on Measure D, I'm putting my $$$$ where my mouth is, high noon today. :). Have a happy new year.


8 people like this
Posted by Liberalguns
a resident of Rex Manor
on Jan 9, 2020 at 10:42 am

@Clarify More

"...do you also insist that Trump didn't institute a Muslim ban?"

Trump did NOT "institute a Muslim ban", his policy effected ANYONE of ANY religion or ethnicity from a small select group of nations (two of which have virtually zero Muslims) who wanted to come to the USA on a Passport issued by nations which cannot be relied on to do the proper diligence in identifying people and doing background checks before handing out a passport.

The so-called "ban" was aimed at these unreliable NATIONS to try to force those nations to do a proper job of issuing passports the WORLD can rely on being true and force the nations to join the rest of the world in helping provide accurate criminal background checks.

"We're all adults here, we understand the motivations of people, especially when they've been abundantly clear about their intent."

I'm glad to see you admit your intent is also "abundantly clear".

"It's insulting when advocates try to pretend otherwise, and doesn't help your case when you need to be dishonest to sell your policies."

Smells like irony to me.


13 people like this
Posted by Clarify More
a resident of Shoreline West
on Jan 9, 2020 at 10:47 am

"Giuliani: Trump asked me how to do a Muslim ban 'legally': Web Link

You might want to let them know that it's not a Muslim ban...


115 people like this
Posted by Wow!
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jan 9, 2020 at 11:19 am

Clearly, some people have lost their grasp on reality.

They seem to think that Muslims are the one's in these RV, or something.

Please go to Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, RIGHT NOW.

You need help, new med's, and more.


5 people like this
Posted by Concerened MV taxpayer
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jan 11, 2020 at 9:19 am

The other concern to keep an eye on with MAK is her demonstrated pro-union sycophancy.


1 person likes this
Posted by roaksinri
a resident of another community
on Jan 15, 2020 at 1:40 pm

A note to clarify the "Clarifys" and others speaking out of ignorance- As an actual case manager assisting the homeless in Mountain View, I can assure you that categorizing "vehicle dwellers", "tent dwellers", and people living outside, even under an overpass, as "Homeless" is perfectly acceptable as defined by HUD (Federal) and the County of Santa Clara. Rex makes some very salient points regarding the NIMBY reactions. The truth of the matter is that homelessness has increased by over 30% in the last two years in SC County. In the midst of plenty and prosperity for a few, you have a perfect storm of under-funded mental health services, Baby Boomer seniors that are priced out of the housing market, single parents- usually women, often victims of abusive relationships, with no job skills eking out an existence for themselves and their children, a county shelter system with about 1,000 spaces and over 9,000 homeless that have been counted("Santa Clara County officials conducted the biennial homeless census over two days in January 2019 and found 9,706 homeless adults living in the county's 15 cities and unincorporated areas, an increase of 2,312 from the 2017 count"), an influx of undocumented asylum seekers fleeing the cartels and gangs of Latin America where horrific crimes against the innocent go unreported in our media unless it occurs against American tourists. This is the poor among us. Even I, and all other Social Workers, qualify as "low income" based on the County's median income of $123,000/year. It is time for complaining to stop and citizens to step up. Government and faith groups, businesses, large and small. The Great Depression and the Dust Bowlalso resulted in displacement and homelessness. Certainly there are solutions from the past that can inform and inspire solutions for our poverty problems. For further study: Web Link


1 person likes this
Posted by roaksinri
a resident of another community
on Jan 15, 2020 at 1:43 pm

A note to clarify the "Clarifys" and others speaking out of ignorance- As an actual case manager assisting the homeless in Mountain View, I can assure you that categorizing "vehicle dwellers", "tent dwellers", and people living outside, even under an overpass, as "Homeless" is perfectly acceptable as defined by HUD (Federal) and the County of Santa Clara. Rex makes some very salient points regarding the NIMBY reactions. The truth of the matter is that homelessness has increased by over 30% in the last two years in SC County. In the midst of plenty and prosperity for a few, you have a perfect storm of under-funded mental health services, Baby Boomer seniors that are priced out of the housing market, single parents- usually women, often victims of abusive relationships, with no job skills eking out an existence for themselves and their children, a county shelter system with about 1,000 spaces and over 9,000 homeless that have been counted("Santa Clara County officials conducted the biennial homeless census over two days in January 2019 and found 9,706 homeless adults living in the county's 15 cities and unincorporated areas, an increase of 2,312 from the 2017 count"), an influx of undocumented asylum seekers fleeing the cartels and gangs of Latin America where horrific crimes against the innocent go unreported in our media unless it occurs against American tourists. This is the poor among us. Even I, and all other Social Workers, qualify as "low income" based on the County's median income of $123,000/year. It is time for complaining to stop and citizens to step up. Government and faith groups, businesses, large and small. The Great Depression and the Dust Bowlalso resulted in displacement and homelessness. Certainly there are solutions from the past that can inform and inspire solutions for our poverty problems of today. For further study:

Web Link


1 person likes this
Posted by roaksinri
a resident of another community
on Jan 15, 2020 at 1:43 pm

A note to clarify the "Clarifys" and others speaking out of ignorance- As an actual case manager assisting the homeless in Mountain View, I can assure you that categorizing "vehicle dwellers", "tent dwellers", and people living outside, even under an overpass, as "Homeless" is perfectly acceptable as defined by HUD (Federal) and the County of Santa Clara. Rex makes some very salient points regarding the NIMBY reactions. The truth of the matter is that homelessness has increased by over 30% in the last two years in SC County. In the midst of plenty and prosperity for a few, you have a perfect storm of under-funded mental health services, Baby Boomer seniors that are priced out of the housing market, single parents- usually women, often victims of abusive relationships, with no job skills eking out an existence for themselves and their children, a county shelter system with about 1,000 spaces and over 9,000 homeless that have been counted("Santa Clara County officials conducted the biennial homeless census over two days in January 2019 and found 9,706 homeless adults living in the county's 15 cities and unincorporated areas, an increase of 2,312 from the 2017 count"), an influx of undocumented asylum seekers fleeing the cartels and gangs of Latin America where horrific crimes against the innocent go unreported in our media unless it occurs against American tourists. This is the poor among us. Even I, and all other Social Workers, qualify as "low income" based on the County's median income of $123,000/year. It is time for complaining to stop and citizens to step up. Government and faith groups, businesses, large and small. The Great Depression and the Dust Bowlalso resulted in displacement and homelessness. Certainly there are solutions from the past that can inform and inspire solutions for our poverty problems of today.


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Email:


To post your comment, please login or register at the top of the page. This topic is only for those who have signed up to participate by providing their email address and establishing a screen name.

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox.

This new Chinese restaurant in Millbrae specializes in live seafood and porridge
By Elena Kadvany | 9 comments | 3,652 views

Can you Pay to Reduce your Carbon Footprint?
By Sherry Listgarten | 8 comments | 2,178 views

You Can Help: Scents and Migraines
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 1,907 views

Truth Matters (and so does good beer)
By Laura Stec | 9 comments | 1,807 views