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Letter to the editor: City growth should be metered by drought conditions

Original post made on Mar 6, 2022

Mountain View resident Henry Whitfield argues the city should hit the brakes on new development, particularly office development, as future water supplies face uncertainty.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Saturday, March 5, 2022, 8:37 AM

Comments (7)

Posted by ivg
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Mar 6, 2022 at 7:27 am

ivg is a registered user.

Stick to the message, dude. If this were really all about the water, you wouldn't pepper your letter with references to "quality of life" and "dystopian office space projects."

Also, drought hawks are suspiciously silent about landscaping. According to Valley Water, half of a typical home's water is used outdoors. A few lawns in my neighborhood have disappeared, but many homeowners still insist on growing landscape plants that are completely inconsistent with the climate. In California, we're blessed with hundreds of beautiful native species that do just fine with little or no irrigation. (I have a few in my own yard.)


Posted by sonnyt650
a resident of Castro City
on Mar 6, 2022 at 8:05 am

sonnyt650 is a registered user.

Agreed, though water is just one resource that will not grow in accordance with the city council's desires; individual and family long-term income is even more constrained. During and after the pandemic, traditional housing is not scarce as any visit to local apartments will show. The empty parking stalls in the evening show the occupancy rate to be closer to half rather than full, while the city council tries to fend off the homeless problem by insisting on availability of low-income and no-income housing. Such housing will be paid for by the "wealthy" residents - in reality you, me, anyone that doesn't qualify for such charity. If someone is unaware of the meaning of gentrification, we only need to point at the city of Mountain View's unintended policy to push out those that are neither wealthy nor struggling.


Posted by Randy Guelph
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Mar 6, 2022 at 12:56 pm

Randy Guelph is a registered user.

Ever since you went online-only, does the Voice just publish anything?

We can listen to [Portion removed due to disrespectful comment or offensive language] about how to handle droughts, or we could listen to the EPA: "EPA believes that increasing development densities is one strategy communities can use to minimize regional water quality impacts." ( Web Link ). Do better, Mountain View Voice.


Posted by ivg
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Mar 6, 2022 at 1:26 pm

ivg is a registered user.

@SonnyT, the empty parking stalls show that the city requires excessive amounts of parking!

Two problems with a common solution: encourage landlords with extra parking spaces to rent them to RV dwellers.


Posted by Leslie Bain
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 6, 2022 at 2:50 pm

Leslie Bain is a registered user.

@Randy, I'm always convinced by papers like yours that include definitive statements like "Higher densities [MIGHT] better protect water quality, especially at the lot and watershed levels." Actually, I'm kidding, I don't find such papers very convincing.

What does water quality at the watershed level even mean?

"Denser developments consume less land to accommodate the same number of houses. Consuming less land creates less impervious cover in the watershed." Impervious cover? What's that?

I found a different source to answer those questions:

"Impervious surfaces and flooding

If you are not familiar with the term "impervious surface," this picture will help explain it. As cities grow and more development occurs, the natural landscape is replaced by roads, buildings, housing developments, and parking lots. The metro Atlanta region has experienced explosive growth over the last 50 years, and, along with it, large amounts of impervious surfaces have replaced the natural landscape.

Impervious surfaces can have an effect on local streams, both in water quality and streamflow and flooding characteristics. The picture to the right illustrates how water-quality problems can occur from development. Sediment-laden water from a tributary where construction is taking place is shown entering the Chattahoochee River, just west of Atlanta." - Web Link

The article that Randy gave us talks about the quality of stormwater runoff that flows into streams, which is an issue faced by communities that experience FREQUENT FLOODING. It's interesting, but not especially relevant to the situation we face in the Bay Area where FREQUENT DROUGHTS are our problem.

The issue here is that water is in very short supply. Higher density will require MORE WATER, it's about as smart as deciding to grow rice in the desert.

[Portion removed due to disrespectful comment or offensive language]


Posted by Christopher Chiang
a resident of North Bayshore
on Mar 8, 2022 at 10:42 am

Christopher Chiang is a registered user.

If the goal is to reduce our climate footprint, people living closer to work in smaller sized homes (without traditional yards to water and commutes) would have a beneficial environmental impact. Understandable for neighbors to seek to defend suburban living from a particular quality of life standpoint, but on the environmental question, suburban setups are far higher in their use of resources.

Stopping housing in MV does not make people needing housing disappear, it only makes those lives more difficult, albeit their suffering less directly visible to MV residents. If the question was if MV should stop allowing employment growth to exceed housing, or if the region should not allow one city's employment growth to exceed housing growth without some other city creating corresponding housing, that is a worthy debate.


Posted by Leslie Bain
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 8, 2022 at 11:52 am

Leslie Bain is a registered user.

Christopher, there are many goals at play here.

The primary goal for many in the "affordable housing" movement is to dramatically increase the number of housing units in MV for those earning >$175K. Their concern is primarily for high-income workers, not low-income ones.

Who is actually trying to "stop housing in MV"? As in ACTUALLY STOP IT? I don't see that. There is a difference between reasonable growth, and a mandate from unaccountable state politicians to increase the total number of housing units in a place by 32%. Mountain view IS A SUBURB. Why are we being singled out to become an URBAN AREA? Answer: Google.

The author correctly points out: "If there is no water, Mountain View's "water allocation" is worthless and we will all have to adjust to draconian water rationing, which yet again reduces the quality of life in this community (which seems not to be even on the radar of city priorities)."

Those who favor pro-density, pro-developer policies seem intent on putting their heads in the sand and completely ignoring all of the problems that high-density will bring to MV. One of which is water shortages during droughts, which is a REAL PROBLEM that has occurred repeatedly over the past decades. Some of us live with dead yards and unflushed toilets because of our experiences during these shortages.

But instead of trying to find common ground on this issue, those who favor pro-density, pro-developer policies cast such issues as mere whining by NIMBY's.

"If the question was if MV should stop allowing employment growth to exceed housing, or if the region should not allow one city's employment growth to exceed housing growth without some other city creating corresponding housing, that is a worthy debate." Agreed.

IMHO, Google's plans to hire thousands more to work at the Googleplex is causing a lot of pain. THE PROBLEM IS NOT SUPPLY, it is demand. As long as DEMAND is not constrained (i.e. limits on office space), MV residents will always be at the mercy of Google's whims. MV will in effect be Google's company town.


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