At a time of great uncertainty, Pat Showalter said she believes she has both the experience and the values to represent Mountain View residents for another term on the City Council.
A civil engineer by trade, Showalter counts herself a staunch supporter of housing growth in a region where the balance between jobs and housing has been heavily skewed for decades. Her mission was so focused during her first term that she gained the reputation for being the councilwoman who never disliked a housing project that came before her -- a reputation she says she's proud of.
Now more than ever, Showalter said the city needs to leverage its resources to prevent displacement of low-income families who have been an integral part of Mountain View's diverse community. That means stepping up rental assistance, preventing evictions and allowing low-income housing construction whenever possible.
But in seeking to rejoin the City Council this year, Showalter has said the city must also use 2020 as a wake-up call to work on its disaster preparedness. Not only is the coronavirus pandemic wreaking unpredictable havoc on the economy and public health, but climate change and sea level rise pose real threats to Mountain View's future.
Showalter successfully ran for council in 2014 on a similar platform, part of a winning slate of candidates that supported housing in North Bayshore. She ran for reelection in 2018, but lost her seat by 97 votes.
Over the last five years, Showalter said the city has done a good job aggressively zoning for housing growth -- much better than neighboring cities -- but there is still work to be done. Developers still need to put together housing proposals that pencil out in those freshly rezoned areas, particularly North Bayshore and East Whisman, and the city has a big role to play in raising or removing barriers.
In North Bayshore, the city is allowing Google and other developers to build up to 9,850 homes, but the logjam has been in the so-called Gateway site. Showalter said the city has taken the ill-advised approach of letting disagreements between developers in one location hold up the city's ambitious housing goals.
Going forward, she believes the city should tread lightly with rezoning for more housing, carefully picking areas that don't already have homes and would risk displacement. She pointed to the industrial Terra Bella area and long commercial stretches on El Camino Real -- the latter being an ideal place for retail with housing on top.
"We really want to concentrate our housing development in areas where the housing will be built and people won't be displaced," she said. "It's so disruptive to people, it's so hard and it erodes our diversity."
Showalter said she has always been supportive of stronger renter protections, but she hasn't always been a supporter of the city's rent control program, the Community Stabilization and Fair Rent Act (CSFRA). When it came before voters in 2016, Showalter and other council members backed an alternative -- Measure W -- largely seen to be the weaker of the two.
Since then, Showalter said she has come to recognize that rent control has been beneficial to the city, dampening the high cost of living that has forced so many families to spend much of their paychecks toward rent. She does not believe the city should attempt to tinker with the law through city-sponsored ballot initiatives.
"CSFRA is the law here, and it has had a rocky start for the first year or two but many of the kinks have been ironed out," Showalter said.
Showalter said she believes rent control should apply to the families who live in the city's mobile home parks, and that the city's best shot of doing that is to appoint the right people to the Rental Housing Committee -- which implements the CSFRA separately from the council. She said she does not fear lawsuits from mobile home park owners, and said she believes litigation can be worked through.
If the Rental Housing Committee fails to extend renter protections to mobile homes, Showalter said she would support a council-sponsored rent control ordinance.
"The whole purpose of the CSFRA is to protect the diversity of our community and protect the people who are economically vulnerable, and there are problems along those lines in the mobile home parks now," she said.
On the controversial topic of homelessness and vehicle dwellers in Mountain View, Showalter admits that the problem had been "incredibly difficult" to solve during her time on the council. She said her goal has always been to find a way to get people out of cars and RVs and into permanent housing, and that living along the street is not a good way to live.
"Nobody should be living in an RV or in a vehicle or a tent at the side of the creek," Showalter said. "That's just not good for them personally and for our public and our community. We want to get people into stable housing."
Still, Showalter said she strongly opposes Measure C, the city's oversized vehicle ban that would drive off close to 200 occupied RVs currently parked along Mountain View's streets. It pushes away, rather than solves, the problem of rising homelessness in the city, and would potentially take away the only semblance of shelter people have during the COVID-19 public health crisis.
"During a pandemic we don't want to do anything to make a single more individual homeless, and Measure C, the city's narrow streets ban, would do that," she said.
On the topic of police reform, Showalter said she does believe Mountain View needs to change its police policies to better serve the community. She said the city needs some kind of civilian oversight board, and that armed officers shouldn't be responding to incidents best handled by social workers. Mountain View may have a good track record, but the months of civil unrest mean it's time to take stock.
"Kind of like (police) Chief Bosel said, there is always room for improvement, and the Mountain View Police Department is no exception to that," she said.
As for handling COVID-19 budget cuts, Showalter said her approach is to preserve city services as much as possible, supporting roads, parks, libraries and water utilities in spite of the urge to be austere. Any budget item related to sea level rise should remain a priority as well, she said, and shouldn't be deferred when the city is faced with deficits. Showalter points to the city's healthy reserves as a way to weather the financial blow of the pandemic.
"Mountain View has a reserve, and if this isn't an emergency to go into your reserves, I don't know when there ever will be," she said.