Much has changed in the 18 years since former state Assemblywoman Sally Lieber served on the Mountain View City Council. Yet some of the problems she faced during her first term still seem all too familiar.
Longtime residents were having trouble keeping up with the cost of living, and Lieber found herself advocating on behalf of mobile home residents who felt abused and exploited by park owners ratcheting up the rent. At the time she called for rent control as a solution -- an idea that did not succeed then, but has since been enshrined in city law.
After an unsuccessful run for state Senate earlier this year, Lieber is seeking a return to the City Council this year, bringing her progressive approach to the city's most pressing issues. With the coronavirus pandemic putting financial strain on so many, she believes the city could use someone with leadership experience working through financial crises while ensuring those most harmed by COVID-19 are shielded from displacement.
But what truly crystallized her decision to run for council has been the loss of affordable housing in Mountain View, and repeated decisions by the City Council to allow older apartments to be razed for redevelopment. She was among the residents protesting against the demolition of 20 apartments at 2005 Rock St., which she described as a "horror show" and a sign that greed was overrunning the city.
"People come forward after a long work day, with their kids in tow, and find out that their home is going to be knocked down for condos that they have no hope of ever affording," Lieber said.
Lieber's track record in the state Legislature makes clear where she stands on most issues. She backed minimum wage increases and a moratorium on the death penalty, and has been an outspoken supporter of gun control.
Locally, Lieber said more housing production is a top issue, and that she would be an advocate for more compact, workforce housing linked to transit. And while there are limits on what the city can do to push developers to build, it can leverage publicly owned land -- particularly surface parking lots -- to create more affordable housing. She is also an advocate for accessory dwelling units (ADUs), and said the city could use a greater mix of apartments, duplexes and ADUs next door to one another.
In order to keep traffic down, Lieber said lower-income families need to have a viable and affordable way to use public transit, and she worried that Caltrain isn't the answer. Fare hikes have made it difficult to afford, she said, which is why the median income of a Caltrain rider is somewhere around $120,000 per year.
Lieber said she is a supporter of rent control, and signed the ballot argument against Measure D, which sought to make revisions to the law during the March primary. She believes the council should acknowledge the will of the voters, but instead has a track record of meddling with the law by "baking in conflict" with its appointments to the Rental Housing Committee (RHC).
"I think we need to look at the appointments to the RHC and if we have folks coming forward who are just philosophically opposed to the existence of rent control, then I think that they are not candidates for making those quasi-judicial decision about the level of rent control," Lieber said.
Consistent with her views in 2001, Lieber said she would support extending rent control to mobile homes, and that many of the mobile home residents are seniors on fixed income who are particularly vulnerable to rent hikes. People make huge investments in their mobile homes, yet that equity is tied to unregulated rent increases and no state-level laws protecting their right to sell their home.
"For everybody just about across the board in mobile home parks, their home is the largest investment in their life, and so I think we need to be mindful of that and cover ownership mobile homes and rental mobile homes," Lieber said.
During her time in the state Legislature, Lieber authored nine bills related to mobile home protections, and for years chaired the select committee on mobile homes.
Lieber opposes Measure C, the city's proposed ban of oversized vehicles, and said now is not the time for the city to be chasing out homeless people who are living in vehicles. People living in cars and RVs is a problem that isn't going away, particularly for seniors and senior women who have been priced out of their homes, she said.
"I think it’s just not the right time to chase and displace," she said.
Instead, Lieber said the city's resources would be better spent expanding and improving its safe parking program. She said she would advocate for dispersing the program into more areas of the city, including church parking lots, and would make a push to better accommodate families with children who are living in vehicles.
Amid recent calls from residents to defund and reform the Mountain View Police Department, Lieber said the city should step up as a leader. She generally favors a close review of the department's policies to fix racial disparities in the way law enforcement interacts with the public, and said that few cities in the region have stepped up to the task. When common sense changes to police use of force came up this year in the form of AB 392, only two cities in the entire Bay Area supported it, she said.
"Instead of being great followers, I think that we should punch above our weight and take a position on human rights and on ameliorating the disparities on how people are treated overall," Lieber said.
If elected, Lieber may find herself in the familiar position of making budget cuts, though not quite the $29 billion shortfall she faced in the state Assembly. She said she does not favor across-the-board cuts and said it's important to be strategic, as often times it's possible to get the same level of service for less.
While some candidates are optimistic the economic recovery will be swift, Lieber is taking a more cautious approach, and believes the city should be prepared to triage.
"The economic crisis is not going away, it's going to be deepening throughout the next year," she said.