City should plan to redress the jobs-housing imbalance | March 21, 2014 | Mountain View Voice | Mountain View Online |

Mountain View Voice

Opinion - March 21, 2014

City should plan to redress the jobs-housing imbalance

by Lenny Siegel

Mountain View, along with other industrial suburbs on the Peninsula, has suffered from a jobs-housing imbalance for decades, and if our City Council moves ahead with its tentative plan for North Bayshore, that imbalance will be aggravated. The city is planning for the construction of high-tech office space designed to house more than 15,000 workers, with no housing allowed on that side of the freeway.

What is the jobs-housing imbalance? Simply, it describes a situation in which many more people work in Mountain View than there are employees who live in Mountain View. Here are the numbers for 2011 (the last year for which data is available), and the imbalance has visibly worsened since then.





Housing Units


Employed Residents




Jobs/Employed Residents


Jobs minus Housing


Jobs minus Employed Residents


What's wrong with the jobs-housing imbalance? It drives up the cost of housing and threatens the economic, social, and cultural diversity of our community. It makes traffic more congested. It creates longer and longer commutes, wasting energy and generating vast quantities of greenhouse gases. And in the long run, it even undermines the vitality of the Silicon Valley economy.

Instead of promoting uncontrolled high-tech employment growth, Mountain View can plan North Bayshore to create a desirable new, medium-density residential neighborhood in one of the world's most dynamic centers of employment.

I am not suggesting that everyone who works in Mountain View should live in Mountain View. Currently under 8 percent do. As many Mountain View workers live in Sunnyvale, and nearly three times that live in San Jose. Besides, city boundaries are an imperfect measure of proximity. Many homes in Palo Alto and Sunnyvale are closer to Mountain View's high-tech complexes than homes in southern Mountain View.

People make housing and job choices based upon many factors, and those factors change over time. The primary goal of providing housing near employment is to give people the opportunity to live close to work, reducing their commute times and to allow parents to be closer to their schoolchildren should emergencies arise. Even if people other than local employees live in workplace-centered housing, the new land-use pattern can open up reverse-commute capacity in roadways and create a critical mass of travelers to make better public transit cost-effective.

Earlier this month the Campaign for a Balanced Mountain View was formed to promote the following principles for North Bayshore development. We propose:

• Enough residential units to accommodate new employees and create an opportunity for a better balance of jobs and housing in the area.

• A mid-rise, medium-density, compact community with a good balance of jobs, housing, and local services, including cafes, shops, and educational facilities, as well as at least one supermarket, to serve local needs.

• A mix of housing that serves diverse income levels and family sizes.

• A vibrant neighborhood that stays alive when major employers close for the day or the week.

• Comfortable, convenient personal mobility within North Bayshore, including walking, biking and public transportation.

• Permanent connections from North Bayshore to the regional transit system via the downtown Caltrain station and the VTA light rail system.

Mountain View needs to reform more than its North Bayshore plan, and Mountain View cannot do it alone. But in the absence of concerted action by local residents and employees outraged by our deteriorating quality of life, things will only get worse.

Lenny Siegel is the executive director of the Mountain View-based Center for Public Environmental Oversight (


Like this comment
Posted by Konrad M. Sosnoow
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 21, 2014 at 8:15 pm


If your logic is correct that a high jobs to housing ratio results in high home and rental prices, then a low jobs to housing ratio should result in low home and rental prices.

So, let’s look at the facts:

Atherton has very few jobs and his median home value in Atherton is $4,506,500.
Los Altos Hills has virtually zero jobs and the median home value in Los Altos Hills is $3,199,400
Atherton has very few jobs and his median home value in Atherton is $4,506,500.
Woodside has very few jobs and the median home value in Woodside is $2,951,900.
Palo Alto has many jobs, with jobs to housing ratio of 1.31 (less than Mountain View’s 1.97) and with a median home value of $1,826,600.

Then what is it that Los Altos Hills, Atherton, Woodside and Palo Alto have?
They all have a high Quality of Life.
Residents can live on quiet streets, plant flowers on their laws, and enjoy playing with their children in their back yards.

What don’t they have?
A majority of City Council members who will approve very office project without concern for the quality of life of current residents, such as traffic, parking, and pollution.
A majority of City Council members who will approve very rental project without concern for population density and the quality of life of residents of neighboring communities.

What will be the result?
Middle class residents will leave Mountain View for Sunnyvale, Cupertino. Fremont, etc.
Mountain View will become a city of offices and renters.

Like this comment
Posted by Moffett Resident
a resident of Willowgate
on Mar 21, 2014 at 10:58 pm

Lenny - Please tell us:

What - I mean exactly - does"medium density" mean? What is that in terms of stories, in terms of FAR?

How many new residents do you envision in this area? How many new jobs?

How much, exactly, would be ownership housing, how much would be apartments?

Personally, I'm undecided. On the one hand, there are some really excellent arguments against putting housing in North Bayshore. On the other hand, every square foot of housing that is put here is one square foot that the City Council will not be able to commit to office space, an even more misguided idea, to which they seem committed.

One argument you can't realistically use, though, is that building a few thousand units of housing will have any appreciable effect on the price of rentals. The imbalance is too great; it's a drop in the bucket. New construction will just be more Madera-type $8,000/month "luxury" stuff, because that's where the greatest profits are for developers.

Here's a better idea: Hold off on the precise plan until after the next election.

Like this comment
Posted by Nope
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 22, 2014 at 1:08 am

Let's be honest here..We are talking about Google. There is some misguided notion that their rapid expansion is what is sending housing cost sky high in Mtn View. Of course, it's because of all the thousands of google employees that want to live here, right? Wrong. Most Googlers want to live somewhere COOL. Like SF. Why do you think they bus so many people from down there?

Or they are wealthy and want to live somewhere beautiful AND have the best schools in the country. Again, not mountain view.

Mountain View is rapidly losing it's charm as it caves in to developers. Our council and city staff feel they must grant every variance, regardless of the impact to existing residents. What about the history here in MV? No museum. Any farms? Oh yes, they tore that down to put in big houses for the wealthy. What else can we pave over?

Yeah, googlers are obviously SO excited to live here. Not!

Housing/job imbalance at the city level can not be solved by creating more housing. To do that would be to pave over everything remaining.

Like this comment
Posted by Garrett83
a resident of another community
on Mar 22, 2014 at 6:10 am

Garrett83 is a registered user.

Residents of Los Altos Hill, Woodside, Atherton, Portola Valley and etc. They made all their money in Mountain View, Sunnyvale and Santa Clara.. So when the chance came they purchased in these enclaves, they could afford it.

Mountain View is not one of those towns, we have thriving job scence, good restaurant vibe and still plenty of single family homes to plant flowers.

People will come here to either work or start a business, either way they need a office or a place to live. In some cases both.

Everything has already been paved over.

Like this comment
Posted by Old Ben
a resident of Bailey Park
on Mar 22, 2014 at 6:35 am

There are people clamoring and falling all over themselves to offer well over 1M for seemingly any house in MV, with buyer bidding up the price because enough can afford to, beginning the battle of multiple offers and up-bids.

OK, now lets pretend there is a big development of low cost housing built and prices start at 400K. The sheer crush of limited supply and huge demand will make those units jump in cost form day 1.

There would need to be some qualifications of buyers as low income earners, and agreements that they cannot sell the unit openly, that they must sell to another qualified low earner in order to keep out the investors. But then again, as a home owner, who would want that?

I guess we _could_ build these government housing projects and regulate who buys them, but I don't favor that.
Unless you place heavy restrictions on who qualifies to buy now and into the future, light supply and heavy demand will always bring the price up to the level that only the high bidders can afford.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.


Top restaurants to check out

Mountain View Voice readers have officially decided. See which local restaurants and businesses can now claim the title — Best Of Mountain View 2017.

View Winners