Former State Assemblywoman Sally Lieber is seeking a return to the Mountain View City Council after an 18-year hiatus from city politics, with an eye towards preserving affordable housing and preventing displacement of long-time residents.
Lieber, who served on the council from 1998 to 2002 before a six-year stint in the state Assembly, said important public policy decisions are increasingly being made at the local level. She said she hopes to restart her career in public service to preserve what makes Mountain View a great community.
Top of mind going into the election season? Hanging onto the city's affordable housing, building more homes for low-income residents and creating communities with public health in mind -- including amenities for walking and biking.
"I see a lot of the challenges that Mountain View has in terms of retaining the affordable housing that we have and making sure that we provide for and take care of our service workers here in the community," she said.
Lieber specifically pointed to a worrying trend in which the City Council has approved the razing of several older apartments to make way for expensive rowhouses. Residents getting displaced in the process are not only getting booted from Mountain View, she said, but are often forced to leave the Bay Area entirely.
The defense is typically that the council's hands are tied by state regulatory guidelines and must rubberstamp the projects, Lieber said, but more can be done to retain affordable housing.
"I know that for certain projects there was a feeling among the council that there's nothing we can do but fast-track gentrification," Lieber said. "I think that we need to put a full-court press to keep people in Mountain View."
Lieber has a storied political history, running for the council in 1998 as an underdog and emerging as the top vote-getter. Soon after, Lieber ran a successful campaign for state Assembly in 2002 against steep competition, Rod Diridon Jr. and former Mountain View Councilwoman Rosemary Stasek, while facing a recall effort as mayor of Mountain View.
More recently, Lieber ran in the March 2020 primary for California's 13th Senate district, and narrowly lost to Josh Becker and Alex Glew, who will face off in November. Though Lieber fell short, results show she was the top choice in Mountain View. She was the top vote-getter in every precinct in the city, sometimes by a huge margin.
Lieber has been credited for championing state legislation for environmental protection -- including the creation of the San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority -- and an effort to raise California's minimum wage to $8 an hour in 2006. She also focused on changes to the criminal justice system, and introduced legislation that would ultimately reclassify human trafficking as a felony.
Lieber said Mountain View has gone through huge changes over the last two decades, yet some of the concerns she raised during her short tenure on the council are still relevant today. Her proposal to consider rent control for mobile home residents was unpopular among her colleagues at the time, but the idea has since gained traction as a way to protect vulnerable, typically lower-income residents.
While in the Assembly, Lieber authored AB 1059, which penalizes mobile home park owners who aggressively try to force tenants to move.
Lieber said it's clear that Mountain View and the Bay Area at large need more housing, particularly to bring down costs and give young people some hope of being able to stay here. But she said growth can be done in a thoughtful way and can still retain the smaller suburban neighborhood character that gives Mountain View its identity.
"I have a deep love for Mountain View," Lieber said. "it's a small town, it's not a big metropolis, and I think we can accommodate our needs and make sure that we still have the character in our community."