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Editorial: Reelect Hicks, Kamei and Ramirez to Mountain View City Council

Vice Mayor Alison Hicks, council member Ellen Kamei and Mayor Lucas Ramirez. Photos by Magali Gauthier.

This election, Mountain View voters have two clear paths for who to pick for the Mountain View City Council. If you're happy with the city's direction and confident in leadership decisions over the last four years, it's a slam dunk – all three incumbents are seeking to keep their seat.

If you want a candidate with a fresh perspective, then you've got two challengers looking to oust the incumbents with a different take on how to approach city issues.

But this November, we recommend the known over the unknown in voting for council members Alison Hicks, Ellen Kamei and Lucas Ramirez. All three have shown a deep knowledge of the city and a penchant for some of the more wonky land use regulations, which will prove invaluable as the city evolves its residential zoning in the coming years.

The incumbents all took part in setting ambitious goals for the city in 2019, and saw those plans swiftly put on hold as the COVID-19 pandemic became priority No. 1. Each of the incumbents say they're eager to get reelected and help some of these shelved plans finally come to fruition, whether it be anti-displacement measures or updates to multifamily housing zones. We think they deserve a chance to carry out that work.

The incumbents also proved to be effective leaders during the pandemic, supporting efforts to generously fund local rent relief programs long before the state finally stepped up to address accumulated rental debt. Kamei led the city during its effort to add a much-needed North County vaccination site, which proved to be a valuable extension of county services outside of San Jose. She also deserves kudos for fighting to get as many people as possible counted during the 2020 census, at a time when pandemic protocols were still in effect.

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We appreciate Ramirez' passionate approach to R3 zoning changes and anti-displacement work – both housing-related issues that he has championed during his first term, despite limited progress on both fronts. He also has a clear understanding of what it takes to get affordable housing built in Mountain View, and the various routes the city can take to dig up enough funding to get these expensive, deed-restricted units built.

Hicks has an impressive planning background and is both knowledgeable and creative when it comes to building sustainable, walkable and bikeable communities. Phrases like "smart growth" and "livability" are so often used to mask NIMBY motives, but Hicks understands that these are approaches that improve rather than stymie future development. Her perspective will be important as the city considers plans to permanently close Castro Street to traffic and create a car-free downtown, and doubly so if Mountain View adopts a new vision for future development north of Central Expressway along Moffett Boulevard.

We appreciate candidate Li Zhang's willingness to jump into the race for the council, a sure sign that the city's new Chinese Language Civic Leadership academy, which she attended earlier this year, is fulfilling its goal of getting more people involved in local issues. She represents the interests of a portion of the electorate concerned about too much growth. But her lack of experience or a track record on any of the city's committees is too hard to ignore. She also makes a case that the Mountain View's housing forecast is too ambitious and that there isn't enough infrastructure to support it all, but doesn't present a compelling alternative to the city's approach to state-mandated housing plans.

As for candidate Justin Cohen's platform, there really isn't much to say. The direct democracy experiment is an interesting idea, but there are still so many unanswered questions. What if polling the public only attracts a small minority of vocal residents, who control your stance on every issue? How are you going to handle closed-session matters that can't be shared with the public? If you genuinely disagree with what voters want, are you really going to vote against your own conscience? Representative democracy has worked pretty well, and Cohen, who lacks basic knowledge of a council member's duties and the issues facing the city, hasn't offered a compelling argument to deconstruct that tradition this November.

Mountain View is poised to grow at a rapid rate over the next eight years, and some of the biggest projects in the history of the city are currently winding their way through the planning process. What we'll see in terms of comprehensive neighborhoods built in East Whisman and North Bayshore will depend largely on the decisions made by the council in the coming years, and it's essential that we have experienced and thoughtful people making those decisions. Vote for experience this November by returning Kamei, Hicks and Ramirez to the Mountain View City Council.

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Editorial: Reelect Hicks, Kamei and Ramirez to Mountain View City Council

by The Mountain View Voice Editorial Board /

Uploaded: Fri, Oct 14, 2022, 1:57 pm

This election, Mountain View voters have two clear paths for who to pick for the Mountain View City Council. If you're happy with the city's direction and confident in leadership decisions over the last four years, it's a slam dunk – all three incumbents are seeking to keep their seat.

If you want a candidate with a fresh perspective, then you've got two challengers looking to oust the incumbents with a different take on how to approach city issues.

But this November, we recommend the known over the unknown in voting for council members Alison Hicks, Ellen Kamei and Lucas Ramirez. All three have shown a deep knowledge of the city and a penchant for some of the more wonky land use regulations, which will prove invaluable as the city evolves its residential zoning in the coming years.

The incumbents all took part in setting ambitious goals for the city in 2019, and saw those plans swiftly put on hold as the COVID-19 pandemic became priority No. 1. Each of the incumbents say they're eager to get reelected and help some of these shelved plans finally come to fruition, whether it be anti-displacement measures or updates to multifamily housing zones. We think they deserve a chance to carry out that work.

The incumbents also proved to be effective leaders during the pandemic, supporting efforts to generously fund local rent relief programs long before the state finally stepped up to address accumulated rental debt. Kamei led the city during its effort to add a much-needed North County vaccination site, which proved to be a valuable extension of county services outside of San Jose. She also deserves kudos for fighting to get as many people as possible counted during the 2020 census, at a time when pandemic protocols were still in effect.

We appreciate Ramirez' passionate approach to R3 zoning changes and anti-displacement work – both housing-related issues that he has championed during his first term, despite limited progress on both fronts. He also has a clear understanding of what it takes to get affordable housing built in Mountain View, and the various routes the city can take to dig up enough funding to get these expensive, deed-restricted units built.

Hicks has an impressive planning background and is both knowledgeable and creative when it comes to building sustainable, walkable and bikeable communities. Phrases like "smart growth" and "livability" are so often used to mask NIMBY motives, but Hicks understands that these are approaches that improve rather than stymie future development. Her perspective will be important as the city considers plans to permanently close Castro Street to traffic and create a car-free downtown, and doubly so if Mountain View adopts a new vision for future development north of Central Expressway along Moffett Boulevard.

We appreciate candidate Li Zhang's willingness to jump into the race for the council, a sure sign that the city's new Chinese Language Civic Leadership academy, which she attended earlier this year, is fulfilling its goal of getting more people involved in local issues. She represents the interests of a portion of the electorate concerned about too much growth. But her lack of experience or a track record on any of the city's committees is too hard to ignore. She also makes a case that the Mountain View's housing forecast is too ambitious and that there isn't enough infrastructure to support it all, but doesn't present a compelling alternative to the city's approach to state-mandated housing plans.

As for candidate Justin Cohen's platform, there really isn't much to say. The direct democracy experiment is an interesting idea, but there are still so many unanswered questions. What if polling the public only attracts a small minority of vocal residents, who control your stance on every issue? How are you going to handle closed-session matters that can't be shared with the public? If you genuinely disagree with what voters want, are you really going to vote against your own conscience? Representative democracy has worked pretty well, and Cohen, who lacks basic knowledge of a council member's duties and the issues facing the city, hasn't offered a compelling argument to deconstruct that tradition this November.

Mountain View is poised to grow at a rapid rate over the next eight years, and some of the biggest projects in the history of the city are currently winding their way through the planning process. What we'll see in terms of comprehensive neighborhoods built in East Whisman and North Bayshore will depend largely on the decisions made by the council in the coming years, and it's essential that we have experienced and thoughtful people making those decisions. Vote for experience this November by returning Kamei, Hicks and Ramirez to the Mountain View City Council.

Comments

Benemonios
Registered user
Blossom Valley
on Oct 14, 2022 at 2:43 pm
Benemonios, Blossom Valley
Registered user
on Oct 14, 2022 at 2:43 pm

I do not agree with The Mountain View Voice Editorial Board's recommendation. I will vote for Li Zhang. Her views align closer to mine than the incumbents seeking reelection. Li Zhang can learn the issues quick enough when elected. I am appalled that the editorial board is using this as a reason not to vote for her. Then how can anyone new become a city council member??? The City of Mountain View doesn't have to build more housing than what is required by the state which is what the City is planning to do now!


longtime homeowner
Registered user
Blossom Valley
on Oct 14, 2022 at 3:29 pm
longtime homeowner, Blossom Valley
Registered user
on Oct 14, 2022 at 3:29 pm

I am so glad to hear the Voice is endorsing all three incumbents. There is no reason to run a leadership experiment with our city at a time when there is so much economic uncertainty.

And now the state is actually enforcing housing laws against citys, we need experienced leadership right now that actually understand the laws so we dont get bulldozed by the state.


Local
Registered user
Martens-Carmelita
on Oct 14, 2022 at 3:49 pm
Local, Martens-Carmelita
Registered user
on Oct 14, 2022 at 3:49 pm

These candidates are of the "build and build no matter what the consequence" style. Mountain View is being required (by the state with new laws) to build 11,000 new living units - yet these three are pushing to build even MORE than this outrageous requirement and possibly doubling our city's population. Think about that!
Many of our roads are already at gridlock a great deal of the day. With this huge influx of residents where will their school-aged children go? How will MV have enough fire and police protection? Where will the water supply come from? What impact will this have on any remaining parks and open space? Unfortunately, the current needs of the residents in MV are not considered by these three candidates - and they will destroy a healthy city.
Building should be carefully done, with attention paid to traffic, and the impact to services for current residents. Mountain View cannot carry the burden for surrounding cities - they all need to do their part to house the Bay Area. I will only vote for Li Zhang and her careful and respectful approach to development. We desperately need her refreshing and directed study of what works for all of Mountain View - not just the developers, who seem to have the ear of many on our City Council now.
I hope voters are aware that that the Mountain View Voice is actually located in Palo Alto, and your reporters are not generally local. We in Mountain View would rather make our OWN decisions. Here's the deal: we won't tell you how to vote in Palo Alto, if you don't tell us how to vote in Mountain View.


Longview
Registered user
Slater
on Oct 14, 2022 at 4:18 pm
Longview, Slater
Registered user
on Oct 14, 2022 at 4:18 pm

Most people who are elected to City Council first serve on a City Commission, and attend and speak at City Council meetings and City Commission meetings, as any potential candidate can do in advance of running for office.


Susan
Registered user
Blossom Valley
on Oct 14, 2022 at 4:38 pm
Susan, Blossom Valley
Registered user
on Oct 14, 2022 at 4:38 pm

Does anyone know where I can report a candidate who trespassed on my property to leave election materials? Or one of their supporters did. I live in a secure building with double key access. If I had caught the person, I would have called the police. This candidate is not one of the Voices's endorsed candidates. It was thus past Sunday at approximately 5;30 pm


MyOpinion
Registered user
Sylvan Park
on Oct 14, 2022 at 5:43 pm
MyOpinion, Sylvan Park
Registered user
on Oct 14, 2022 at 5:43 pm

“Zhang makes a case that the Mountain View's housing forecast is too ambitious and that there isn't enough infrastructure to support it all, but doesn't present a compelling alternative”…. IT IS A COMPELLING ARGUMENT I AGREE WITH ZHANG, IF THE INCUMBENTS HAD THEIR WAY THEY WOULD PAVE OVER EVERY SQUARE INCH OF THE CITY. I REGRET MOVING TO MOUNTAIN VIEW
adding more high-end high-density shoebox sized apartments provides temp rental housing for tech workers, not permanent housing where people will settle down and make Mountain View their home.


MyOpinion
Registered user
Sylvan Park
on Oct 14, 2022 at 5:47 pm
MyOpinion, Sylvan Park
Registered user
on Oct 14, 2022 at 5:47 pm

Li Zhang has my vote, the 3 incumbents are in lockstep, we need a new point of view on the council.

And Cohen appears to have gone AWOL. He has missed candidate forums, clearly did this as a lark.


Frank Richards
Registered user
Cuesta Park
on Oct 14, 2022 at 8:59 pm
Frank Richards, Cuesta Park
Registered user
on Oct 14, 2022 at 8:59 pm

There's a part of me that does want to see the no-growthers like Benemonios, Local, and MyOpinion get what they're asking for. If they elect a bloc that chooses to submit a noncompliant Housing Element, Mountain View will get to reap the whirlwind from the state!

Unfortunately, I'd rather have a functioning city that complies with state housing law, so I simply cannot vote for Li Zhang.


Bernie Brightman
Registered user
Whisman Station
on Oct 15, 2022 at 9:59 am
Bernie Brightman, Whisman Station
Registered user
on Oct 15, 2022 at 9:59 am

Zhang should not try to jump all the way from nothing to the council. She should serve on one of the committees like Environmental Planning or Parks to get more experience first. Step by step will achieve the goal. I wish her everything good.


ivg
Registered user
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Oct 16, 2022 at 7:46 am
ivg, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
Registered user
on Oct 16, 2022 at 7:46 am

There's a candidate (not for city council) whose supporters have been accused of putting up signs without property owners' consent. You may be able to report such behavior to the CA Secretary of State.


SRB
Registered user
St. Francis Acres
on Oct 16, 2022 at 11:11 am
SRB, St. Francis Acres
Registered user
on Oct 16, 2022 at 11:11 am

Mid way through their first term, the pandemic hit: the 3 incumbents all stepped up and aptly steered the City through it. This came as no surprise as they were elected in 2018 based on their proven leadership, experience with City process/issues and community engagement. Something that is sorely lacking with the 2 challengers.

Completely agree with the Voice endorsements. All 3 incumbents deserve a second term.


Leslie Bain
Registered user
Cuesta Park
on Oct 16, 2022 at 2:42 pm
Leslie Bain, Cuesta Park
Registered user
on Oct 16, 2022 at 2:42 pm

I was curious who the Voice would endorse for MV City Council. I'm so disappointed.

“If you're happy with the city's direction and confident in leadership decisions over the last four years, it's a slam dunk”

This is true. Those happy with a council that has EMBRACED a state MANDATE for MV to UNEXPLAINABLY grow more than any other town of the same size, avoids discussion about “quality of life” issues, and approves project after project where only 11% of housing is created for those who earn less than $188K, should most certainly vote for the status quo.

We are in a moment of crisis, but let's just ignore that during the election. Voice: “Mountain View’s draft Housing Element doesn’t meet state requirements yet, Sacramento says - State says the city's proposed affordable housing programs 'do not appear to facilitate any meaningful change'” and “If the local Housing Elements are not fully certified by May 2023, the state will apply sanctions.” What will those sanctions be? Ordinary voters are kept in the dark. And Mayor Ramirez insists that there is nothing to see here, folks, just move along.

AND the draft EIR for our draft Housing Element was RIDDLED WITH ISSUES. Will the EPC be pressured to sign off on it anyway in order to avoid sanctions? Is water wet? - Web Link

“The fact that (the) Mountain View Los Altos High School District is already over capacity and is going to have more students, was not addressed,” Commission Chair William Cranston said of the draft EIR. “... That seems like an unavoidable impact.”

“I can’t imagine going from 80,000 people to 140,000 people with the parks that we have today and nobody notices,” [Cranston] said. “It doesn’t sit right with me.”

Li Zhang has already shown that she is a LEADER who is in touch with what THE COMMUNITY wants. The incumbents are changing their messaging in response to her campaign. Voters should remember that “quality of life” issues were on the back burner before Zhang came on the scene (and will return there if she is defeated).

Alison Hicks now says “I share the concern (with the community) that we need the infrastructure. We need parks and other kinds of open space and green space, we need to upgrade our transportation, our sidewalks, bike paths and the safety around those particular issues, and also we’re going to have to expand our schools.”

“[Ellen] Kamei says she’ll find creative ways to build affordable housing if reelected” - Web Link

“In particular, she wants to see through the city’s displacement and middle-income housing strategies.”

Middle-income housing strategies are the true “missing middle”: we are MISSING a STRATEGY to build more than 11% of housing for households who earn less than $188K. We get pretty words, yes, but the truth is we need more FUNDING. We also need to end the power imbalance that developers hold over our city council. Li Zhang has been mocked for being open and honest about the need for more funding. Relying PRIMARILY on developers for it is a fake solution that simply will not create enough housing to bring rents down in any significant way for the people who need it most.

Even Lucas Ramirez agrees that more funding is needed: “If reelected, Ramirez said he would support exploring local funding sources for affordable housing, such as a bond measure at the city level.” - Web Link

It's nice to see Zhang's LEADERSHIP having a positive impact on the incumbents. Will Kamei and Ramirez be mocked for such statements after Zhang issued hers? I bet not.

Zhang says, “I'm running primarily because I am concerned about the quality of life in Mountain View.” I never thought I'd see the day when such a statement would say so much about what is missing from our current city council. Shame on the Editorial Board for writing, “Phrases like "smart growth" and "livability" are so often used to mask NIMBY motives.” You imply that “NIMBY” desires to ensure that MV's existing infrastructure - including PUBLIC SCHOOLS - is not overwhelmed by the massive increase in density are actually a secret, subversive plot of some kind. Wow. Your true colors are showing.


Frank Richards
Registered user
Cuesta Park
on Oct 16, 2022 at 3:08 pm
Frank Richards, Cuesta Park
Registered user
on Oct 16, 2022 at 3:08 pm

Ok, Leslie has convinced me. Let's roll the dice and see what happens when we don't get a compliant Housing Element! Disobeying state housing law will work out really well for us, Leslie can't even tell us what the downside is!


JAFO
Registered user
Old Mountain View
on Oct 16, 2022 at 4:03 pm
JAFO, Old Mountain View
Registered user
on Oct 16, 2022 at 4:03 pm

Just an observation

What is amazing is that there are new immunity evasive Covid variants about to explode in the U.S> again, namely BQ.1 Everyone has been thinking that Covid is over, the National and State Medical Emergency Orders are STILL in effect. In fact it looks like as many as 5 new variants are beginning in the U.S.

The updated vaccines are clearly too late. On top of a recession, and a dramatically reduced job market and economy in Mountain View, and the housing crash because of the 8% mortgages, I simply see notyhing actually is in any control by the city council, other than trying to put out fires with a old style water pistol.




Jon B
Registered user
Blossom Valley
on Oct 17, 2022 at 8:17 am
Jon B, Blossom Valley
Registered user
on Oct 17, 2022 at 8:17 am

I too am voting for Li Zhang. Most of our incumbents have not learned to say No to the tech companies who have ruined our area. While the value of my house has gone up, my kids can’t afford to live anywhere near here. Google has given us traffic, homeless encampments and a bookmobile. I for one say ‘enough’.


Leslie Bain
Registered user
Cuesta Park
on Oct 17, 2022 at 12:19 pm
Leslie Bain, Cuesta Park
Registered user
on Oct 17, 2022 at 12:19 pm

Statement: “[Li Zhang] represents the interests of a portion of the electorate concerned about too much growth.”

This is nothing but YIMBY framing. The primary issue is not “too much growth,” it is a lack of URBAN PLANNING to prevent the PREDICTABLE problems that MV will experience when our population almost DOUBLES. The primary issue is “Who pays to fix the PROBLEMS that will come from massive growth?”

Those who insist on taking the “why worry?” approach are merely kicking the can down the road. The dirty little secret is that providing city services requires $$$. The larger a population, the more $$$ that is required. When the problems come, and they most certainly will come, the COMMUNITY will face awful choices: 1) do nothing (for example, just live with massively overcrowded public schools), or 2) increase our own tax burdens in order to fix the mess.

I find it sinful that certain wealthy players (developers, Google) will make handsome PROFITS from density, and the little people in MV will be forced to clean up their mess. I think those who PROFIT from density should also be financially liable to expand the infrastructure. Increasing the taxes of those who suffer from problems caused by density is like rubbing salt in the wound. And there is no guarantee that MV voters will even agree to raise our taxes, which means the community will just stay trashed.

Governor Newsom says, “The acute affordability crisis we are experiencing in California was decades in the making, and now we’re taking the necessary steps to fix it … Creating denser housing near jobs, parks and schools is key to meeting our climate goals as well as our affordability goals.”

Such pretty words. Over HALF the households in MV earn less than $188K, yet state policy is to REWARD developers who build only 11% of new housing units that are affordable to them. We are not building enough AFFORDABLE housing, period. I object to “too much growth” in expensive, market-rate units.

I want to see more growth in AFFORDABLE housing. That's why I am voting for Li Zhang.


JAFO
Registered user
Old Mountain View
on Oct 18, 2022 at 6:20 pm
JAFO, Old Mountain View
Registered user
on Oct 18, 2022 at 6:20 pm

Just an observation,

Remember it was the PRIVATE housing industry that succeeded in PRIVATIZING all housing. The consequence of that is that the Federal, State, County, and City are OUT OF THE PICTURE regarding housing . If you want to get more money to support the PRIVATE housing industry in any amount, it will require the END of Costa Hawkins and Ellis Acts.

Those laws were based on the false premise that the PRIVATE housing industry WOULD provide adequate hosing because it was more EXPERIENCED and EFFICIENT. That has been proven false for ever since 1995 when those laws were made.

And those laws were made because the CRITICAL housing problem existed prior to them already. Now only 17% of people in CA can afford the MEDIAN house prices, and it will get worse until the BUBBLE of housing is erased and correct housing values return to the state.

In any event do not vote for a City official based on the housing issue, it is well above the "pay grade" of a city council member.


Leslie Bain
Registered user
Cuesta Park
on Oct 18, 2022 at 10:35 pm
Leslie Bain, Cuesta Park
Registered user
on Oct 18, 2022 at 10:35 pm

JAFO, the state is certainly NOT "OUT OF THE PICTURE regarding housing."

See the article near the top of the Voice's home page: "Mountain View’s draft Housing Element doesn’t meet state requirements yet, Sacramento says - State says the city's proposed affordable housing programs 'do not appear to facilitate any meaningful change'" - Web Link

The state has MANDATED that MV "zone for" over 11,000 new housing units over the next 8 year RHNA cycle, an increase of over 30% of all housing that exists in MV today. And unless the state approves our new Housing Element document, MV will be subject to "sanctions".

I hear you and agree with you when you say, "Those laws were based on the false premise that the PRIVATE housing industry WOULD provide adequate hosing because it was more EXPERIENCED and EFFICIENT. That has been proven false for ever since 1995 when those laws were made."

You don't want to bail out the "PRIVATE housing industry" and neither do I. My goal is to stop the "PRIVATE housing industry" from EXPLOITING the pain of so many persons because rents are too d*mn high.

Those who think that building "more housing of any kind" will solve the crisis don't mind the fact that almost 90% of the housing that has been built over the past decade is expensive, market rate housing. No legislation has been passed in order to change that going forward. I'm not sure when exactly "the magic" is supposed to kick in, when all of this expensive housing will cause rents to fall all over MV for lower-income workers. If this theory was scientifically valid, I would think that date would be relatively predictable.


JAFO
Registered user
Old Mountain View
on Oct 19, 2022 at 7:57 am
JAFO, Old Mountain View
Registered user
on Oct 19, 2022 at 7:57 am

Just an observation,

Yes there are "mandates" but those mandates are because of the failures of Costa Hawkins and Ellis Acts. However, that is lso a so called "free market" requirement because of the failure of PRIVATE housing industries inability to provide 87, 89 91 octane gas equivalent of housing.

My understanding is that it was started as a subsidized system, but the subsidies failed. That is when it became a "mandate". As I again demonstrated that in the end, as the laws become more strict on development, the more the PRIVATE housing industry is going to start failing.

In the end as I said either "LEAD, FOLLOW OR GET OUT OF THE WAY" regarding the PRIVATE housing industry. They will likely fight tooth and nail. But since the UK has continued to show high inflation and we will too next month the likelihood of a .75% fed rate increase is about 100% and another .75% increase by the end of the year is strong.

Housing price corrections are going to continue, especially here in Mountain View. This area is predicted to see as much as 20% conservatively. My hope is that those price corrections will provide a increase in affordability, thus both ownership and rents are likely going to be forced to drop.


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