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Citing concerns over unrestrained housing growth, Li Zhang announces bid for Mountain View City Council

20-year Mountain View resident says she started getting involved in local government this summer

Mountain View City Council hopeful Li Zhang will face off against four other contenders for three open seats. Photo courtesy Li Zhang.

Before completing the city’s Chinese Language Civic Leadership Academy earlier this year, 20-year Mountain View resident Li Zhang didn’t realize local government meetings were open to the public, let alone that residents had the opportunity to participate in them. After graduating from the program, Zhang spent this summer tuning into City Council meetings, speaking up at the city’s R3 Zoning Update series and poring over the draft Housing Element.

“I gained a lot of knowledge, and gradually, later in the summer I started becoming concerned a little bit due to the really fast development, especially housing development, in the city,” Zhang, a senior finance manager at Tesla, said in an interview. “Since I’ve lived here for such a long time, I really want to make sure that as the city grows, we have a quality of life that’s really sustainable.”

Zhang is channeling her concerns into a bid for the Mountain View City Council: after pulling candidate papers just days before the filing deadline, Zhang qualified for the ballot and will be vying for one of three seats this November. She and Justin Cohen are the two newcomers to the race who will compete alongside three incumbents (Lucas Ramirez, Alison Hicks and Ellen Kamei).

“If I were elected to the City Council, I would like to ensure that the new developments be compatible with existing neighborhoods,” Zhang said. “The parks need to keep up with the population growth, and residents (need to) still have easy access to goods and services. That’s my main reason I want to run for City Council.”

Zhang first moved to Mountain View more than 20 years ago after graduating from University of California, San Diego with a PhD in chemistry and taking a job in Palo Alto at a major pharmaceutical company.

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“That’s how I settled in Mountain View,” Zhang said. “I never moved out of the city. I really like it here, it’s very diversified.”

After her son was born in 2006, Zhang decided it was time for a career change, so she went back to school and got her master's degree in financial engineering from University of California, Berkeley. She’s worked at Tesla since 2017.

Her decision to run for City Council came as "a little surprise to myself, too," Zhang said. By chance, Zhang heard about Mountain View's Chinese Language Civic Leadership Academy from a fellow parent at her son’s high school earlier this year.

“I applied and I got accepted, so I attended that academy and learned how local government works. I was really inspired,” Zhang said. “I’m an immigrant and I grew up in Beijing, and I never really knew there was so much you can do to contribute to the city.”

If elected, Zhang said she’d like to see a “comprehensive review of the general plan.”

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“I’d look at the city as a whole, not just neighborhood by neighborhood,” Zhang said. “I’ve attended a couple workshops for either the Housing Element or R3 upzoning. It just seems to me it's very segmented. … I’m not sure it’s super productive. The general plan hasn’t been reviewed for quite some time.”

Zhang acknowledged that she still has a lot to learn about the issues Mountain View is facing.

“I’ve only been really involved in attending meetings since the beginning of the summer,” Zhang said. “If I’m elected I do want to do a much deeper dive. As a researcher, I do want to understand all these matters.”

But, she believes her fresh perspective would be an asset if elected.

“I’m not political; I’ve never had a political career,” Zhang said. “In my career, I have been a force of bringing all parties together to create realistic and pragmatic solutions. I want to bring a new perspective to help out Mountain View residents who are just like me.”

Another top priority issue for Zhang is pedestrian and bicycle safety. As a parent, the issue hits close to home for her.

“My son bikes to Mountain View High School. He complains, as well as his classmates, about how narrow the bike lanes are,” she said. “It’s right next to the cars. That’s my concern. There was one kid who was killed at the intersection of Grant and El Camino -– that’s very upsetting to the community.”

Zhang tied this issue back to her concerns over unfettered housing growth. She questioned how future housing developments on Grant Road will impact traffic and potentially make already busy streets more crowded.

“I’m hoping there’s some way that we can make the road wider for cyclists,” she said.

Speaking to another hot-button issue, Zhang said she supports the decision of city voters to ban oversized vehicles from parking in Mountain View, though she understands the city is in a tough position in regard to enforcement.

“I don’t think RVs should park on a busy street. I think a lot of residents are upset in that neighborhood because there are all these pollutants, the sewage, personal waste,” Zhang said. “Due to the lawsuit, there’s nothing they (the city) can do at this point (to enforce the ban). I’m very sympathetic with the residents in the area.”

When asked about a potential solution – where RV dwellers should go if the ban was enforced – Zhang said it’s a complicated issue for the city to handle on its own.

“This is not a local issue, it’s a regional issue. If they don’t park here, they have to park somewhere,” she said. “I don’t have an answer for that.”

Zhang asked for Mountain View voters’ trust in her as she continues to learn about the ins and outs of local government.

“I hope they have faith in me that I do have their interests in mind, because I’m just one of them,” Zhang said. “I want to be their voice.”

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Malea Martin
Malea Martin covers the city hall beat in Mountain View. Before joining the Mountain View Voice in 2022, she covered local politics and education for New Times San Luis Obispo, a weekly newspaper on the Central Coast of California. Read more >>

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Citing concerns over unrestrained housing growth, Li Zhang announces bid for Mountain View City Council

20-year Mountain View resident says she started getting involved in local government this summer

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Mon, Aug 22, 2022, 1:41 pm

Before completing the city’s Chinese Language Civic Leadership Academy earlier this year, 20-year Mountain View resident Li Zhang didn’t realize local government meetings were open to the public, let alone that residents had the opportunity to participate in them. After graduating from the program, Zhang spent this summer tuning into City Council meetings, speaking up at the city’s R3 Zoning Update series and poring over the draft Housing Element.

“I gained a lot of knowledge, and gradually, later in the summer I started becoming concerned a little bit due to the really fast development, especially housing development, in the city,” Zhang, a senior finance manager at Tesla, said in an interview. “Since I’ve lived here for such a long time, I really want to make sure that as the city grows, we have a quality of life that’s really sustainable.”

Zhang is channeling her concerns into a bid for the Mountain View City Council: after pulling candidate papers just days before the filing deadline, Zhang qualified for the ballot and will be vying for one of three seats this November. She and Justin Cohen are the two newcomers to the race who will compete alongside three incumbents (Lucas Ramirez, Alison Hicks and Ellen Kamei).

“If I were elected to the City Council, I would like to ensure that the new developments be compatible with existing neighborhoods,” Zhang said. “The parks need to keep up with the population growth, and residents (need to) still have easy access to goods and services. That’s my main reason I want to run for City Council.”

Zhang first moved to Mountain View more than 20 years ago after graduating from University of California, San Diego with a PhD in chemistry and taking a job in Palo Alto at a major pharmaceutical company.

“That’s how I settled in Mountain View,” Zhang said. “I never moved out of the city. I really like it here, it’s very diversified.”

After her son was born in 2006, Zhang decided it was time for a career change, so she went back to school and got her master's degree in financial engineering from University of California, Berkeley. She’s worked at Tesla since 2017.

Her decision to run for City Council came as "a little surprise to myself, too," Zhang said. By chance, Zhang heard about Mountain View's Chinese Language Civic Leadership Academy from a fellow parent at her son’s high school earlier this year.

“I applied and I got accepted, so I attended that academy and learned how local government works. I was really inspired,” Zhang said. “I’m an immigrant and I grew up in Beijing, and I never really knew there was so much you can do to contribute to the city.”

If elected, Zhang said she’d like to see a “comprehensive review of the general plan.”

“I’d look at the city as a whole, not just neighborhood by neighborhood,” Zhang said. “I’ve attended a couple workshops for either the Housing Element or R3 upzoning. It just seems to me it's very segmented. … I’m not sure it’s super productive. The general plan hasn’t been reviewed for quite some time.”

Zhang acknowledged that she still has a lot to learn about the issues Mountain View is facing.

“I’ve only been really involved in attending meetings since the beginning of the summer,” Zhang said. “If I’m elected I do want to do a much deeper dive. As a researcher, I do want to understand all these matters.”

But, she believes her fresh perspective would be an asset if elected.

“I’m not political; I’ve never had a political career,” Zhang said. “In my career, I have been a force of bringing all parties together to create realistic and pragmatic solutions. I want to bring a new perspective to help out Mountain View residents who are just like me.”

Another top priority issue for Zhang is pedestrian and bicycle safety. As a parent, the issue hits close to home for her.

“My son bikes to Mountain View High School. He complains, as well as his classmates, about how narrow the bike lanes are,” she said. “It’s right next to the cars. That’s my concern. There was one kid who was killed at the intersection of Grant and El Camino -– that’s very upsetting to the community.”

Zhang tied this issue back to her concerns over unfettered housing growth. She questioned how future housing developments on Grant Road will impact traffic and potentially make already busy streets more crowded.

“I’m hoping there’s some way that we can make the road wider for cyclists,” she said.

Speaking to another hot-button issue, Zhang said she supports the decision of city voters to ban oversized vehicles from parking in Mountain View, though she understands the city is in a tough position in regard to enforcement.

“I don’t think RVs should park on a busy street. I think a lot of residents are upset in that neighborhood because there are all these pollutants, the sewage, personal waste,” Zhang said. “Due to the lawsuit, there’s nothing they (the city) can do at this point (to enforce the ban). I’m very sympathetic with the residents in the area.”

When asked about a potential solution – where RV dwellers should go if the ban was enforced – Zhang said it’s a complicated issue for the city to handle on its own.

“This is not a local issue, it’s a regional issue. If they don’t park here, they have to park somewhere,” she said. “I don’t have an answer for that.”

Zhang asked for Mountain View voters’ trust in her as she continues to learn about the ins and outs of local government.

“I hope they have faith in me that I do have their interests in mind, because I’m just one of them,” Zhang said. “I want to be their voice.”

Comments

longtime homeowner
Registered user
Blossom Valley
on Aug 22, 2022 at 2:34 pm
longtime homeowner, Blossom Valley
Registered user
on Aug 22, 2022 at 2:34 pm

I understand that it can be good to shake things up sometimes but without even talking about "politics" it just seems like this year's challengers are really new to understanding the day to day things a city needs to just actually work.

I appreciate the initiative, but if as Li says in this article that she has only been attending meetings since this summer, then I think I would rather have more experienced people on the council.

With R3 and the RV thing still being worked out, even if you are against it then I would at least want to hear what your proposed solution is... not just hear an admission that you dont have an idea!


Shane
Registered user
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Aug 22, 2022 at 3:12 pm
Shane, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
Registered user
on Aug 22, 2022 at 3:12 pm

Hi Li Zhang. I think you are what the doctor ordered for Mountain View City Council. I support your priority of improving the urban land use planning process and uncontrolled housing development at any cost to public health, welfare and the environment. Part of the remedy is the early engagement of the residents as early as the conceptual phase of the project design. This would help turn an adversarial and costly development planning process into a collaborative and cooperative process where residents issues and concerns can be addressed by the developer in the early stages before there are large commitments of time, money, and resources. The savings would be astronomical. A current issue I have is a new housing development that has been approved which will destroy a significant highway vegetation barrier between Highway 85 and our homes. Neither the City nor County understand the significance of preserving (and enhancing) this mature, tall, dense tree barrier for its capacity to effectively prevent exposures to toxic and carcinogenic chemicals emitted by cars and trucks on this busy highway. The removal of the natural barrier poses a significant public health threat to the residents. The City and County Health Department refuse to mediate this public health issue saying they have no authority or jurisdiction. If they cannot address a significant public health threat than what agency can the public turn to protect their long-term health. I have submitted EPA studies and reports that conclude the highway vegetation barriers are important to protecting near-road residential areas from exposures to airborne pollutants. It would take 20-30 years for these barrier to grow back and be effective. Please contact me to discuss my ideas, remedies, and solutions to uncontrolled housing development and harmful airborne emissions at [email protected] Thank you.


Seth Neumann
Registered user
Waverly Park
on Aug 22, 2022 at 4:19 pm
Seth Neumann, Waverly Park
Registered user
on Aug 22, 2022 at 4:19 pm

Her statements reflect a pragmatic balance of quality of life and sensible growth. I'll stronglyv consider casting my vote for Li Zhang.


Frank Richards
Registered user
Cuesta Park
on Aug 22, 2022 at 6:09 pm
Frank Richards, Cuesta Park
Registered user
on Aug 22, 2022 at 6:09 pm

It sounds like Li Zhang's heart is in the right place, but she lacks experience and knowledge to tackle the issues she cares about. Cities spend abundant time planning along with school districts to manage our city's expected growth. Hand-waving away the "RV issue" is concerning, since it shows no real concern with where the residents (and voters) will end up.

Since she sounds passionate about it, serving on the Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee could be a great way to push for change to improve bike safety, and help her gather experience along the way.


SalsaMusic
Registered user
Cuesta Park
on Aug 22, 2022 at 7:18 pm
SalsaMusic, Cuesta Park
Registered user
on Aug 22, 2022 at 7:18 pm

I am pleased that the challengers have strong math backgrounds and bring strong numeracy to bear, unlike current members. We have a multi million dollar budget to manage. The role is difficult to succeed in without a strong orientation to numbers.


ivg
Registered user
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Aug 22, 2022 at 9:33 pm
ivg, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
Registered user
on Aug 22, 2022 at 9:33 pm

Interesting how many of the people interested in voting for this Tesla employee are also worried about Big Tech ruining Mountain View.


Johnny Yuma
Registered user
Blossom Valley
on Aug 22, 2022 at 10:19 pm
Johnny Yuma, Blossom Valley
Registered user
on Aug 22, 2022 at 10:19 pm

Li Zhang is like a breath of fresh air. Imagine a candidate who expresses concern for “quality of life” in this town. Unheard of… Ms. Zhang will get my vote.


Leslie Bain
Registered user
Cuesta Park
on Aug 23, 2022 at 9:34 am
Leslie Bain, Cuesta Park
Registered user
on Aug 23, 2022 at 9:34 am

The following comes from Li Zhang's website, these sound wonderful to me:

"Li's priorities if elected


Accelerate efforts to combat climate change

I am committed to strengthening Mountain View’s policies to reduce our carbon footprint and combat climate change to ensure a bright and sustainable future for future generations, including my son. Specifically, I would like to see the city build out more electric charging stations and create more incentives for commercial and residential solar energy adoption.


Ensure sufficient infrastructure and services

To maintain our high quality of life while we expand housing opportunities for everyone. In addition, I want to assess and address the environmental impact such as water, traffic congestion and bike safety during the housing planning and inform the school board before future actions take place.


Revitalize our local economy

by supporting our businesses in recovering from the pandemic, with special focus on small businesses, which have been serving Mountain View for many generations. I would like the city to not only focus on maintaining the outstanding financial position, but also support the socio-economic diversity that makes Mountain View so unique and special."


Tootoo
Registered user
Cuesta Park
on Aug 23, 2022 at 12:01 pm
Tootoo, Cuesta Park
Registered user
on Aug 23, 2022 at 12:01 pm

We know the city needs to grow.
It’s really good to have someone like Li has a balanced approach. Yes we need housing that has infrastructure improvements to sustain the growth.
Big tech or small shop, regardless your employer; thank you for maintaining the life quality in Mountain View.


Bean
Registered user
Bailey Park
on Aug 23, 2022 at 4:29 pm
Bean, Bailey Park
Registered user
on Aug 23, 2022 at 4:29 pm

One more reason the state needs to completely take over all zoning decisions from these cities.

We have tried local control enough.

3 million dollar home values not paying their property taxes a la the prop 13 tax scam and thinking we have had "unrestrained" housing growth is so so funny.


Bean
Registered user
Bailey Park
on Aug 23, 2022 at 4:47 pm
Bean, Bailey Park
Registered user
on Aug 23, 2022 at 4:47 pm

Oh and from Li Zhang's website, her priority if elected..."Accelerate efforts to combat climate change"

Combat climate change by promoting sprawl and making sure the workers that support her existence including teachers live two hours away. So so funny.

These regressives should never be elected but they will and hence the state takeover of zoning.

Build dense, build tall walkable bikeable public transit rich neighborhoods is how you combat climate change.


Susan D.
Registered user
Old Mountain View
on Aug 23, 2022 at 8:39 pm
Susan D., Old Mountain View
Registered user
on Aug 23, 2022 at 8:39 pm

Li sounds like hard working, problem solver with a passion to make this community a better place for her family and all those around her. These are sensitive complex issues and Li is uniquely positioned to bring a fresh pair of eyes with a huge heart for her fellow human and Mother Earth. She gets my vote and will get it done without sacrificing the planet or folks livelihoods.


Leslie Bain
Registered user
Cuesta Park
on Aug 24, 2022 at 7:41 am
Leslie Bain, Cuesta Park
Registered user
on Aug 24, 2022 at 7:41 am

"One more reason the state needs to completely take over all zoning decisions from these cities."

Young people really need to be careful about what they wish for.

Politicians who lack concern for the "consent of the governed" are called TYRANTS. Once they gain power, it is hard to get rid of them.

And a movement that mocks and belittles "quality of life" issues, including education for public schoolchildren .. I cannot get my head around the idea that some people are proud to belong to such a movement.

I am sorry that houses are so expensive here now, but the fault doesn't belong to existing homeowners. The fault belongs to the fact that so many well-paying jobs are here. Realtors have a saying: "Location, location, location". Supporting a movement that wants to build out the area at a rate of 88% expensive, market rate units to 12% affordable units is not going to bring down the rents. The 99% are called that for a reason, there are more of us and we don't get paid like princes. Why is 88% of housing construction UNAFFORDABLE to most people? We need affordable housing, we need to build AFFORDABLE HOUSING. The CA YIMBY organization is funded by Big Tech and developers, who operate from a profit-motive. Over the past 8 year RHNA cycle, developers failed to meet their targets for affordable housing, but wildly exceeded the target for high end units (they achieved 650% of the goal). Building expensive, market rate units is what developers dream of doing.

SB9 and SB10 were signed into law by Newsom last year. Single-family zoning is dead. Have prices come down? No. When exactly is that supposed to come about? Is it possible that this theory that the high cost of housing is entirely caused by zoning is deeply flawed? And note that state politicians, including Gavin Newsom and Marc Berman, were in favor of them because we need affordable housing. Low-income and average earning workers are being conned. These politicians serve their campaign donors, Big Tech and developers, not the 99%.


SWAN song
Registered user
Shoreline West
on Aug 24, 2022 at 9:52 am
SWAN song, Shoreline West
Registered user
on Aug 24, 2022 at 9:52 am

"Longtime homeowner" and Frank Richards - thanks for helping me sort out conflicting thoughts. I like the new face and enthusiasm, but council is a tough job. I think Planning Commission would be a great place for Li to get started. It deals with almost all the issues she's passionate about and would give everyone a sense of how she balances the conflicting opinions of the city.


father of 3 sons
Registered user
Cuesta Park
on Aug 24, 2022 at 11:18 am
father of 3 sons, Cuesta Park
Registered user
on Aug 24, 2022 at 11:18 am

SWAN song / This candidate would really be good at learning the ropes on the Planning Commission (maybe) but certainly the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee. But ... for those who are single issue - why bother with experience? In Palo Alto those after one similar issue are called the "residentialist" block. It is a political block. (Apr 18, 2022 — Despite general consensus that downtown is the perfect place to add residential development, the PA City Council clashed on Monday over...)

No additional multi-family (“If I were elected to the City Council, I would like to ensure that the new developments be compatible with existing neighborhoods,”). I guess we can go back and hear her recorded public input to the public meetings! The quote above is not necessarily a 'fresh perspective'.

BTW - kid bike-to-school traffic on Grant Rd during the morning commute! I faced this delemma myself, kids biking to Mountain View HS. FIND A SAFER ROUTE, off side streets, with much less and slower traffic! Sometime the urban-planning issue/solution is staring you in the face. Although the 'road diet'/'protected bike lane' urban street worked in front of Graham Middle School, it is entirely unfeasable to work on Grant Rd. (way too many Los Altos commuters. :(


Jeremy Hoffman
Registered user
Rengstorff Park
on Aug 24, 2022 at 11:35 am
Jeremy Hoffman, Rengstorff Park
Registered user
on Aug 24, 2022 at 11:35 am

First of all, I celebrate anyone getting involved in their community.

I also strongly agree about the need to prioritize bike safety. The lack of protected bike lanes and bike boulevards in Mountain View is shameful, quite frankly. I have a four year old who loves to bike, and I want to let him out into Mountain View when he's old enough, but it terrifies me.

That said, I am less impressed with some of the rhetoric about housing affordability and new development.

Respectfully to the candidate and a commenter above, voicing concerns about "quality of life" and "unconstrained housing growth" are the opposite of a "breath of fresh air." If anything, it's the same stale rhetoric that we've heard in Mountain View and the other hundred cities in the Bay Area for decades. The result is plain for all to see: skyrocketing housing costs; losing valued community members like teachers who must move away; soul-crushing mega-commutes for the workers who serve us.

Also I have to smile wryly at calling a proposal to upzone a small number of 3-story residential plots to allow 3 or 4 stories "unconstrained" growth. Feels more like "very slightly less constrained" to me!


JustAWorkingStiff
Registered user
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Aug 24, 2022 at 3:01 pm
JustAWorkingStiff, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
Registered user
on Aug 24, 2022 at 3:01 pm

I look forward to Li running for office.
She is just a normal (albeit probably above average in intelligence) working person who wants to solve problems. I bet she has above average problem solving skills too. I hope she will be a positive change from the Activists (polite term) which have captured our administration. Another thing about Activists is they are set in their ideologies. Their lives are centered around fulfilling their agendas.


Paul Anawalt
Registered user
St. Francis Acres
on Aug 24, 2022 at 8:33 pm
Paul Anawalt, St. Francis Acres
Registered user
on Aug 24, 2022 at 8:33 pm

I enthusiastically support Li Zhang for the Mountain View City Council. I have known her for a long time. She is very intelligent and hard-working. She clearly wants a high quality of life for all Mountain View residents and visitors. We and future generations of Mountain View residents and visitors will all benefit from responsible growth that includes sufficient growth of parks and nature/open space to match the growth of housing and the population, diversity, safety, an excellent transportation system, a walkable city, great schools, excellent urban infrastructure and services, and capable financial management. Li is an outstanding candidate for all of these important values. Thank you to all Mountain View residents and its visitors for making this city such a great one.


Yan
Registered user
The Crossings
on Sep 5, 2022 at 1:09 pm
Yan , The Crossings
Registered user
on Sep 5, 2022 at 1:09 pm

As a long-time Mountain View resident and someone who knows Li for many years, I am excited about Li’s running for the city council and hope for more positive changes in the near future. What I like about Li are her energy and focus on subjects that she is passionate about. I have always been impressed by her humble yet determined mindset when she embarks on learning new things and making changes in her life and career. Her track record has shown she is very efficient and successful at doing just that.
I have seen tremendous growth in MV in recent years and am embracing the vibrancy the new development has brought along. At the same time, I share the concern about whether the quality of life for MV residents is sustainable as the city continues to develop at a rapid pace. I recognize and appreciate all the efforts of past and current council members, but believe we can also benefit from fresh minds that are not constrained by past experiences, especially if we agree that changes are needed. I am not knowledgeable about the ins and outs of city development, but feel more often the devil might be in the details when it comes to balancing options to implementing measurable solutions. Li's science background, project management, and financial skills are a rare combination of experience she can bring to the city council if elected. She is an incredibly fast learner. She does deep dive into very complicated matters and often is able to come up some very creative and as well pragmatic solutions. Another area of Li's interest in recent years is to understand human psychology dynamics in group settings where conflicts exist, yet collaboration and progress are made in the end. That seems in line well with the city council role she is running for. I will definitely vote for Li in the upcoming election.


Frank Richards
Registered user
Cuesta Park
on Sep 14, 2022 at 5:29 pm
Frank Richards, Cuesta Park
Registered user
on Sep 14, 2022 at 5:29 pm

Wow, I just took a look at her campaign website. She's touting endorsements by the local organizers that supported the RV Ban and tried to get rent control repealed! Take a look, Shari Emling has been pushing to roust the RVs for years, and Albert Jeans ran the local campaign for it. They both signed the ballot argument for the RV ban. Shari Emling filmed ads for the landlord lobby to support the repeal of rent control. This is a big indication to me just how much Li Zhang cares about keeping poor people housed in Mountain View.


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