Over his four years living in Mountain View, Paul Roales has been repeatedly shocked by the sluggishness and inertia that he believes is plaguing City Hall.
Big issues like the growing number of homeless residents living in vehicles on city streets, which could've been handled with haste, take several years to resolve. And for a city that talks a big game on housing, he said it's shocking to see just how long it takes and how difficult it is to get housing approved.
Roales said the bureaucratic mire is unbecoming of a city home to world-class businesses and a brilliant and diverse community, and that he would fight on the council to make the city move faster on the top issues facing city residents.
Roales only recently waded into city politics, working full time as an engineer at Waymo, a subsidiary of Google that develops self-driving cars. But this isn't his first foray into civic leadership, he said, boasting his experience as a former councilman of the city of West Lafayette, Indiana. The city is markedly similar to Mountain View in terms of size and demographics, he said, with the key difference that West Lafeyette could get things done quickly.
From the outset, Roales said the city must make housing development a bigger priority and actually deliver on the recent rezoning in places like North Bayshore and East Whisman. New housing proposals should be approved in a 90-day window, he said, not over the course of several years, which would bring down the sky-high cost of building in such an expensive area.
"If you talk to developers locally, they tell you a nontrivial fraction of the cost is driven by administrative delay, administrative process and bureaucracy," he said.
While Roales believes the housing crisis and the high cost of living are symptoms of a housing shortage, he said he isn't for urban, high-density housing everywhere. He believes the existing neighborhoods should retain their character, with growth focused in areas that are currently tech parks, industrial centers or completely undeveloped.
"We need to build housing and protect our neighborhoods, and that's not contradictory to me," he said.
Housing advocates have planted a flag in North Bayshore as a successful vision for housing growth, but he said it's already old and needs to be revisited. He believes the city "bargained down" to 9,850 homes allowed in the area, and that the number should be higher.
What has perplexed Roales over the years is the city's so-called gatekeeper process, which allows developers to submit development proposals that require special zoning exemptions. City staff has repeatedly urged the council to work on a select few at a time due to staffing constraints, which becomes a bottleneck for housing development. If the city wants to get serious about the housing crisis, he said, it needs to go on a hiring spree to meet the demand.
"We should be hiring all of the administrative staff that we need to approve and look at every project," he said.
On rent control, Roales said the city should stop trying to tinker with the Community Stabilization and Fair Rent Act (CSFRA). The law has been voted on twice now, he said, and the results of Measure D show voters overwhelmingly support the law as is. If rent control does need modifications, he said, the city should at least hit the pause button for a few years.
"We just need to wait and see how this plays out and see the effects on the market," Roales said. "I'm supportive of what we have today."
In talking to lawyers and reading the CSFRA, Roales firmly believes the renter protections should be extended to mobile home parks, and that it feels unjust to interpret the law as covering all vulnerable renters except for one small portion of housing. Worse yet, he feels city leaders and the Rental Housing Committee have been reluctant to extend rent control to mobile homes because of the threat of lawsuits -- something that shouldn't stop them from doing what's right.
"It's disappointing that we have leaders who can be pushed around that easily," he said.
Roales said he supports the city's oversized vehicle ban, Measure C, and that the problem of people living in cars and RVs on city streets should have never lingered as long as it did. Safe parking provides a more suitable location for homeless vehicle dwellers, he said, and the city's slow rollout of the program amounts to a failure to be compassionate to its citizens. The culprit, he said, was the city's overabundance of caution and fear of liability in creating safe parking sites -- hypothetical problems and issues that didn't even exist.
If Measure C passes, Roales said he wouldn't be inclined to implement the parking restrictions right away. He believes it would be better to wait until after the city's COVID-19 emergency declaration has been lifted.
On police reform, Roales said he emphatically supports modernizing the department's policies and procedures to better serve the community. He said he would promote merging the city's police and fire department, similar to the Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety, and cut down on the types of incidents in which sworn officers with firearms respond.
"If you get in a fender bender with someone and there's no injury, you don't need someone with a bulletproof vest and a gun responding," he said.
Roales said he believes the police department's budget could be pared back to get rid of excessive weaponry, and he disagreed with its request earlier this year for drone equipment. He said he was frustrated to see council members balk when members of the public asked for cuts to the department in June, claiming the budget had been mostly set in stone and couldn't undergo significant changes so late in the process.
"When citizens are paying attention to the budget when it comes up to a vote, you can't just say, 'Oh, you should've been paying attention six months ago,'" he said.
Roales also said he supports civilian review of officer misconduct complaints, rather than the current internal review by the Mountain View Police Department.
In facing a budget crunch in the coming years, Roales said he would be comfortable dipping into the city's reserves, and would prefer cutting capital projects -- like roadway improvements and replacing the pool at the Mountain View Community Center -- rather than staff. He worries that furloughs and pay cuts could force some of the city's top talent to leave, which would be bad for the city's long-term health.
Roales said he would advocate for the city to launch a program giving grants and loans to small businesses on the ropes due to COVID-19, and that far more money needs to be invested to help renters who are out of work during COVID-19.
"The city has bragged endlessly about rental assistance, but it's been a fraction of what it should be," he said. "They just aren't responding to the size of the issue."