Mountain View City Council January 2019

January 8

Council Chambers was packed for this primarily ceremonial session as outgoing Councilmembers Ken Rosenberg, Pat Showalter, and Lenny Siegel stepped down; newly elected Councilmembers Ellen Kamei, Lucas Ramirez, and Alison Hicks took their seats; and Vice Mayor Lisa Matichak and Councilmember Margaret Abe-Koga were elected Mayor and Vice Mayor, following the standard progression.

Most of the council members made brief remarks regarding their priorities. First, Kamei spoke of her goals of working on creating more housing (and offering rental and ownership opportunities particularly for those with a middle income), housing the unhoused, transportation, climate change, and diversity.

Ramirez, noting “I was conditioned by the candidate forums to speak briefly”, simply listed three requests:

  1. Don’t be afraid to reach out to me.
  2. Please be respectful in your speech and in your deeds
  3. Hold me accountable when I fail you.

Hicks spoke about affordable housing, homelessness, climate change, and making sure to speak to every city in and out of the county for regional solutions. She thanked Progressive Action and Livable Mountain View (which she noted she founded but was no longer a part of).

Matichak, upon her election to Mayor, listed three personal areas of emphasis for 2019:

  1. Being very proactive to push back on federal and state attempts to reduce local control.
  2. Working towards greater regional consistency and collaboration
  3. Most importantly, addressing what residents have been asking Council for regarding quality of life issues (including tree canopies and traffic).

January 15

Council first held a study session interviewing the candidates for the Rental Housing Commission for two positions and one alternate. After a brief discussion after the interviews, they decided in a unanimous straw vote to promote the current alternate (Julian Pardo de Zela) to a full member, citing his experience on the board during a time of transition; then appointed Susyn Almond as the second full member and Nicole Haines-Livesay as the alternate.

Later that evening, Council held a second study session regarding whether Mountain View should adopt a formal Vision Zero program. Vision Zero, first pioneered in Sweden and primarily adopted by larger cities than Mountain View, (quoting the staff report) is a set of policies, plans, programs and approaches based on the philosophy that loss of life from traffic collisions is unacceptable and preventable. Council was supportive of adopting a Vision Zero policy, primarily to add measurable goals to the project and work already underway to decrease traffic collisions.

January 22

In this session, Council discussed the policy they would use to establish their two-year Major Goals and Work Plan. This year, they agreed to submit project ideas during the initial brainstorming workshop (on February 28) in addition to discussing the goals. Ramirez proposed that councilmembers could optionally submit their list of potential programs early so it could be included in the agenda.

Also during this session were two transportation items. The first was on the Downtown Valet Parking Pilot Program (as explained, valet parking increases parking lot capacity by enabling cars to be parked in the aisles, blocking others, since the valet could move cars as needed), and the second was on approving appropriating funds to implement a redesign of the intersection of State Route 237 and Middlefield Road.

Council also discussed their priorities for their visit to Washington DC as part of the National League of Cities Congressional City Conference in March; deciding that the most fruitful meetings to schedule were with NASA, the Department of Transportation, the Pentagon, and Anna Eshoo.

January 29

This was a special Council team-building session, held in the Library. Your observer was late due to unexpected work on-call duties and arrived at the tail end of the session; where Councilmembers compared and contrasted the “Brown Act” style of San Jose (where groups of councilmembers release proposals before meetings) and Mountain View (which as Vice Mayor Abe-Koga stated, where councilmembers come with an open mind, listen to public input, and then make a decision). They closed with a discussion on staff and council relations, agreeing that Council’s job was policy and Staff’s job was implementation and day-to-day decisions.

—Max Beckman-Harned, observer

Mountain View City Council Meetings May 2018

Fiscal Year 2018-19 Narrative Budget Report and 10-Year Financial Forecast

On May 1st, the Council provided initial direction on recommendations for the FY 2018-19 budget. Staff indicated that the City continues to benefit from significant property tax growth resulting from new development and changes in property ownership. With a recommendation to add a net 14.5 new positions to address heavy workloads and increase staff capacity, the City is approaching the 2001-02 peak of approximately 650 positions. If the new positions are approved, there will be a total of 632.25 positions (ongoing and limited-period). Much of the increase will support the Community Development and Public Works departments, which are experiencing the heaviest workload due to significant demand for development in the City.

In the 10-year financial forecast, staff projects that the next recession will begin in Fiscal Year 2020-21, later than the previously projected 2018-19 timeframe. If the project is accurate, it would mark the longest economic expansion in recent history. Staff also forecasts modest deficits beginning from the projected recession through Fiscal Year 2027-28, the end of the forecast period.

The City projects $137.4 million in revenue and $124.8 million in expenditures in FY 2018-19. Using the surplus, Council approved staff recommendations, including funding a new Transportation Reserve and paying down employee pension unfunded liabilities. Additionally, responding to significant public support for new positions to focus on environmental sustainability, Council directed the City Manager to prepare for additional staffing to implement the anticipated recommendations from the Environmental Sustainability Task Force (ESTF-2). Finally, Council approved a number of other minor expenditures, including membership in an organization lobbying to address airplane noise, employee appreciation (potentially a one-time cash bonus), and new furniture in a council committee room.

Development of Commercial Cannabis Regulations

Council provided additional direction on the development of commercial cannabis regulations during a study session held on May 8th. A majority of the Council supported maintaining a 600-foot buffer from schools, but decreasing the buffer from child-care centers and day-care facilities. The Council also directed staff to study allowing storefront cannabis retail businesses in large retail centers (like the San Antonio Shopping Center and El Camino areas), Downtown, and Retail and Neighborhood Service areas (like North Bayshore and the East Whisman area). Finally, the Council supported limiting the total number of cannabis businesses permitted and establishing a permitting process.

2017 State of Mountain View Seniors Report & Age-Friendly City Update

The May 8th Council meeting included two consent items related to Mountain View’s senior population. (Consent items are usually non-controversial and approved without any discussion from the Council.)

The first was an update regarding the City’s World Health Organization’s (WHO) Age-Friendly City designation. This designation reflects a city’s efforts to support senior residents in eight “domains:” housing, transportation, communication and information, community support and health services, outdoor spaces and buildings, social participation, respect and social inclusion, and civic participation and employment. The WHO accepted the City of Mountain View as a new member of the Global Network of Age-Friendly Cities and Communities in February 2017. Subsequently, the City established an Age-Friendly Task Force that prioritized two domains: Community and Information, and Respect and Social Inclusion. The Task Force will create a resource guide for seniors and develop a community survey to gather more information about the needs of seniors in Mountain View.

The second item was “The State of Mountain View Seniors” annual report, prepared by the Senior Advisory Committee. The report includes an analysis of the demographics of the senior population in Mountain View as well as an assessment of the needs of and the existing services available to seniors. The report highlights the rapidly aging population as residents live longer, and it identifies housing affordability as a key issue affecting seniors in Mountain View.

North Bayshore Precise Plan and Master Plans

“Master Plans” show how an area is proposed to be developed over time. To implement the North Bayshore Precise Plan, Council previous approved the use of Master Plans to ensure the creation of three complete neighborhoods: Joaquin, Shorebird, and Pear. The Plans would include land uses, project size(s) and location(s), open space locations, new blocks, traffic circulation, conceptual architecture and infrastructure, and construction phasing. Each of the proposed new neighborhoods have unique considerations, most notably differences in the number of land owners and the amount of land owned in each of the areas.

On May 22nd, the Council reiterated its support for this conceptual planning process. Master Plans could be proposed by property owners or, particularly if there is not agreement between property owners, developed with City assistance.

— Lucas Ramirez, Observer

Mountain View City Council Meetings March & April 2018

Update on Initiatives to Assist Homeless and Consideration of Parking Enforcement Options

On March 6, the City Council received an update on many initiatives previously approved to assist homeless people in Mountain View. A biannual count conducted Countywide revealed that the homeless population increased from 276 in 2015 to 416 in 2017. The Council voted to continue a number of programs with some minor refinements based on experience gained over the past 10 months. These programs include: rapid rehousing (short term financial assistance); biohazard waste cleanup and waste dump pilot (for RV dwellers); safe parking program pilot for vehicle dwellers; RV/vehicle repair assistance; Dignity on Wheels (mobile shower and washer/dryer services for hygiene support); and rental assistance.

The Council also provided direction on parking enforcement policy options to address concerns about RV and vehicle dwellers on public right-of-way. A December 2017 count by the Mountain View Police Department identified 291 inhabited vehicles in the City. After considerable deliberation, the Council voted 4-3 to “use current tools with enhancements to parking and towing enforcement in order to enhance the management of City streets.” Under this direction, the Police Department would continue to enforce existing parking regulations, and additional traffic measures and parking signage could be installed to enhance safety.

Short-Term Rental Regulations

Short-term rentals (like Airbnb) are currently prohibited under the municipal code – that is, hotel and motel uses are not permitted in residential areas. On March 20, the Council directed staff to study allowing and regulating short-term rentals. Short-term rental operators would pay the transient occupancy tax (TOT), which is paid by hotel and motel operators. Additionally, the Council directed staff to explore placing a limit on the number of days homes can be rented out unhosted (that is, without the homeowner occupying the home).

Amendments to the Tenant Relocation Assistance Ordinance

The Council approved modifications to the Tenant Relocation Assistance Ordinance on March 6 to conform to the voter-approved Community Stabilization and Fair Rent Act (CSFRA), also known as Measure V. This included increasing the eligibility threshold for relocation assistance from 80% area median income to 120% area median income. (As a baseline, the median income in Santa Clara County is $113,300 for a four-person household.)

The other key decision was related to the “First Right of Return” provision in the CSFRA. This pertains to the Ellis Act, a law passed by the state legislature in the 1980s that allows landlords to legally withdraw their rental units from the housing market. The Council on a 5-2 vote approved the staff recommendation, which was to be consistent with provisions previously approved by the Rental Housing Committee. Under this direction, tenants who are displaced when their landlord withdraws their unit from the rental market have certain rights and protections. If that landlord returns that unit to the rental market and re-rents it to a new tenant (or fails to provide the former tenant with a First Right of Return) within two years of the withdrawal, then the former tenant has a right to collect actual and exemplary damages. For up to five years after the withdrawal, the former tenant has a right to renew their tenancy under the same monthly rental amount as when the tenancy was terminated. For up to ten years after the withdrawal, the former tenant has a First Right of Return, but no longer at the original rental amount as at the time of the termination of the tenancy.

Gatekeeper Process Update

On March 27, the Council approved modifications to the gatekeeper process. Development proposals that require discretionary actions by the Council (such as General Plan Amendments or re-zonings) must first receive Council permission before they can be processed by City staff. This preliminary “approval” is referred to as the “gatekeeper process” – in other words, for development proposals that do not comply with existing zoning or General Plan regulations, the Council needs to explicitly allow the project to move forward to the entitlements process. This ensures that City planners do not spend a lot of time on a project that the Council will definitely not support.

Previously, gatekeeper proposals did not require public noticing beyond what is required for regular meeting agendas. The Council voted to require that notifications be mailed to property owners near gatekeeper sites and to any tenants living in units that would be demolished or affected by the gatekeeper project. Additionally, gatekeeper proposal applicants would need to provide more information about their proposal to the Council, and approved gatekeepers would require Council reauthorization if significant changes are made to the proposal. (In other words, if the Council allows a gatekeeper proposal to move forward, and the developer makes substantial changes to the proposal, then the proposal would need to go through the gatekeeper process again.)

Public Comment Regarding Newly Proposed Charter Amendment

On April 17th, nearly 20 members of the public used the portion of the meeting reserved for comment on items not on the agenda to speak about the effort to place a charter amendment on the November 2018 ballot that would significantly modify the Community Stabilization and Fair Rent Act (CSFRA), also known as Measure V. Six speakers expressed concerns about the impact of the CSFRA on their rental property and supported the effort. The remaining speakers urged residents to not sign the petitions circulating to put the charter amendment on the ballot.

The most significant provision in the charter amendment would reduce the vacancy threshold at which the CSFRA would be suspended entirely. The CSFRA grants the Rental Housing Committee the authority to suspend the law (terminating the rent stabilization program and the just cause eviction protections) if vacancy rates exceed 5%. If approved by voters, the proposed charter amendment would reduce that threshold from 5% to 3% and make the suspension mandatory. The current vacancy rate is approximately 4.4%.

Community Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory

Despite strong support from the Council for environmental sustainability efforts and programs, the updated Community Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory revealed that 2015 emissions were significantly higher than the baseline 2005 levels. The inventory is a regular measurement of the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions being generated citywide.

On April 24, City staff alerted the Council that, even with the 100% carbon-free electricity being procured by the Silicon Valley Clean Energy Authority, 2020 emissions are projected to be significantly higher than the goal for that year. Transportation and energy together comprise more than 90% of all emissions, and while emissions from energy are down from 2012, transportation emissions have increased significantly. This means that, despite very positive progress on reducing emissions from electricity, increased emissions from transportation not only wipe out the progress made with cleaner energy, but in fact is making things much worse than projected.

The Council approved the staff recommendations to increase the frequency of developing greenhouse gas inventories, conduct a transportation greenhouse gas analysis, and begin working on the next Environmental Sustainability Action Plan (ESAP-4), which includes a number of programs and initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Human Rights Analysis Pilot

In December 2016, the Council approved a resolution designating Mountain View a “Human Rights City” and adopting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as guiding principles. On April 3rd, 2018, the Council approved a pilot program based on a recommendation from the Human Relations Commission to “implement a human rights policy analytical framework to analyze policy decisions through a human rights lens.” The pilot program would assess the impacts of policy proposals on four priority concerns: housing displacement, housing affordability, social equity (disparate impacts on racial, ethnic and economic groups in Mountain View), and economic prosperity (fiscal impacts on small businesses and specific demographic groups in Mountain View).

The Council approved the staff recommendation to apply the pilot to three upcoming policy issues: Short-Term Rental Regulations, the East Whisman Precise Plan, and Vision Zero, which is a goal to eliminate all bicycle and pedestrian fatalities and injuries caused by collisions with cars. During the pilot, the Council will evaluate the usefulness of the additional analysis and the impact on staff time and resources.

VTA North Bayshore Transportation Access Study

On April 17, the Council provided input on a study conducted by VTA in partnership with Google regarding transportation access to the North Bayshore area. Originally a feasibility study on a Light Rail extension project from the Bayshore/NASA Station, the study scope expanded to evaluate several transportation technologies. Based on a number of factors including capital and operational costs, the study recommends a “hybrid option of buses and autonomous vehicles (AVs)” in the near term, and further analysis of AVs and possible light rail in the long term. The Council generally agreed with the analysis and directed staff to work with VTA to identify funding partners and integrate this work with the Automated Guideway Transit (AGT) study, which is investigating alignments and transportation technologies that will connect North Bayshore with the Downtown Transit Center.

— Lucas Ramirez, Observer

Mountain View City Council Meeting January 2018

Election of Mayor and Vice Mayor

In the ceremonial first meeting of the year, the Council elected Lenny Siegel and Lisa Matichak as the new Mayor and Vice Mayor. Outgoing Mayor Ken Rosenberg spoke about his proudest moments, including Mountain View’s self-designation as a Human Rights City and the adoption of the North Bayshore Precise Plan revision, which allows for up to 9,850 new housing units to be built in the office park north of Highway 101. In his remarks, Mayor Siegel emphasized the remaining work to be done on the East Whisman Precise Plan and the new Terra Bella “visioning” to determine the land uses in what are predominantly commercial areas. The Mayor also spoke about the City’s work in resisting the initiatives of the federal government.

Summary of Council Actions

The Council took action on a number of items in January. Previous reports have described the new regulatory framework the City is creating for commercial cannabis activity; consistent with that work, the Council extended the temporary moratorium necessary to prevent a “regulatory gap” (the absence of municipal regulations while an ordinance is being created). The Council also provided additional direction related to an agreement with the Los Altos School District to secure a site in Mountain View north of El Camino Real for a 10th school (described in a separate report).

Additionally, the Council adopted a work plan and established a subcommittee to work on 3 potential revenue measures that would appear on the November 2018 ballot: a tax on cannabis activity; an increase in the transient occupancy tax (TOT); and an update of the Business License Fee. The Council also approved an agreement with a consultant to assist the City with issues related to noise from South Flow Arrivals at the San Jose International Airport, sharing costs with the City of Los Altos.

Finally, the City approved an expansion of an affordable housing project at 460 North Shoreline Boulevard (Shorebreeze Apartments). The expansion replaces 12 existing affordable units with 62 new units. The residents of the 12 units would be temporarily relocated and ultimately moved back into the new units.

— Lucas Ramirez, Observer

Mountain View City Council Meeting December 2017

Adoption of North Bayshore Precise Plan

After nearly three years of work, the Council adopted the North Bayshore Precise Plan revision, which establishes three neighborhoods adjacent to Shoreline Boulevard north of Highway 101 and allows up to 9,850 new housing units. In a marathon session on December 12th, the Council unanimously approved the plan after addressing a number of outstanding policy issues. The plan includes a 20% affordable housing goal, a “Local School District Strategy” to help secure funding or land for the possible development of new schools in the area, and a “local hire” policy to encourage the use of local workforce for the development of the plan area.

A key component of the plan is a program that allows developers to voluntarily provide community benefits in exchange for greater building height and density. All residential projects must comply with the citywide 15% affordable housing requirement. In addition, “Tier 1” projects must provide transportation improvements, funding or land for schools, or some other public amenity. Even larger “Tier 2” projects are required to provide 20% affordable housing and dedicate land for the development of a local school.

The Council also discussed the development process for the plan area. High-level “Master Plans,” which show the “proposed land uses; building locations; street improvements and circulation; and the overall phasing, timing, and improvement” of a given development site, will be required for each of the new neighborhoods. The Council may require Master Plans for other projects at its discretion. Generally, proposals that comply with an approved Master Plan will be allowed to proceed using a streamlined process. If a project is not in compliance with a Master Plan, Council approval will be required.

Addendum to 938 and 954 Villa Street (Weilheimer House Relocation)

On November 28, 2017, the Council voted 4-3 to allow the Weilheimer House to be relocated to 1012 West Dana Street, which is necessary to allow a redevelopment proposal on Villa Street to proceed. The proposal would replace two restaurants, Chez TJ and Tied House, with an office building and new ground-floor restaurant. However, on December 5th, one of the Councilmembers who had voted in favor of allowing the relocation of the Weilheimer House announced that he had reversed his position. This means that a majority of the Council does not support the relocation of the House. The developer may choose to alter the proposal, proceed with an up-or-down vote for the current proposal regardless of the Council’s position, or take some other action.

Potential Revenue Measures

The Council directed City staff on December 5th to prepare a workplan to pursue three revenue generating ballot measures, which would potentially be placed on the November 2018 ballot. The Council expressed interest in a cannabis tax, an increase in the transient occupancy tax (which would apply to hotels and potentially short-term rental services like Airbnb), and an increase and possible restructuring of the business license fee, which has not been updated since 1985. A Council subcommittee will be established to work on the details of each measure.

Temporary Moratorium Prohibiting Commercial Cannabis Activity

Also on December 5th, the Council approved a temporary moratorium prohibiting commercial cannabis activity. The “urgency ordinance will allow time for studies and community outreach for the development of a permitting and regulatory scheme for the City.” The moratorium went into effect immediately upon approval for 45 days, which options to extend for 1 or 2 years.

The Council also directed staff to prepare an ordinance allowing delivery of cannabis from business entities that have a license from the state and another city. Other cannabis activity will continue to be prohibited until the regulatory framework is fully developed, but the Council directed staff to prioritize the regulation (and legalization) of delivery of cannabis.

— Lucas Ramirez, Observer

Mountain View City Council Meeting November 2017

938 and 954 Villa Street: Proposal to Relocate the Weilheimer House

On November 28th, the Council provided additional input on a proposal to remove two historic buildings in the downtown area and replace them with a four-story office building and ground-floor restaurant. Despite significant public support for preserving the Weilheimer House (currently occupied by the restaurant Chez TJ) in place, the Council voted 4-3 to allow the House to be relocated to nearby 1012 West Dana Street, currently the site of a four vacant housing units. The vote allows the developer, The Minkoff Group, to proceed with the redevelopment proposal. The Weilheimer House will become private property and be restored to its original use – as a single-family home.

The Council also provided early feedback on the design of the new building and on parking requirements. A majority did not support retaining and incorporating the façade of the Tied House building into the new development. Additionally, the Council directed staff to use the Downtown Precise Plan parking requirement calculations for the project. Under the Precise Plan requirements, the developer would need to provide 27 more parking spaces than they would otherwise have to under an older, conflicting agreement that the City made with the property owner in 1988. Under that agreement, the property owner agreed to pay the City $243,000 in lieu of providing 27 parking spaces. The agreement stipulated that the In-Lieu Fee payment reduces any future parking requirement on this site by 27 parking spaces. However, the parameters of this agreement were never incorporated into the Downtown Precise Plan.

Affordable Housing Strategy & Modifications to the Below-Market-Rate (BMR) Program

Also on November 28th, the Council confirmed the direction provided during a September 12th study session on affordable housing. The Council affirmed an investment strategy for affordable housing funds, which will be used to construct housing for low-income people and permanent supportive housing for homeless individuals; a strategy to provide housing for the “missing middle” (middle-income families); and a strategy to provide additional opportunities for homeownership.

Additionally, the Council directed staff to immediately modify the City’s Below-Market-Rate (BMR) Affordable Program. The BMR Program requires that 10% of units in market-rate residential development be affordable to low-income people. The City’s BMR Program went into effect in 1999, but a state appellate court decision (Palmer v. The City of Los Angeles, often referred to as the “Palmer decision”) rendered the Program unenforceable, and it was suspended in 2009. However, earlier this year, Governor Brown signed AB 1505 (called the “Palmer Fix”) into law. AB 1505 allows cities to enforce inclusionary housing ordinances, like Mountain View’s BMR Program.

Council approved a two-step modification of the BMR Program. First, the affordable housing requirement will be increased from 10% to 15% of both rental and ownership units in new residential developments. The Program will also allow developers to propose an “alternative mitigation” in lieu of providing units. This could include dedicating land for a future affordable housing project, paying a fee, or some other option. Second, City staff will begin a longer-term comprehensive update of the Program.

The Council noted that residential projects in the pipeline will be significantly affected by this update. Council directed staff to identify a reasonable threshold for exempting projects that are close to project approval.

— Lucas Ramirez, Observer

Mountain View City Council Meeting October 2017

Sanctuary City and Anti-Registry Policy Considerations

On October 24th, the Mountain View City Council adopted policy language pertaining to the City’s role in federal immigration law and to the potential creation of a Muslim registry. Specifically, the language states that the City does not use “resources to create, implement, provide investigation or information for enforcement, or otherwise assist or support any government program requiring the registration of individuals, creation of a database of individuals, and/or detention relocation or internment of individuals on the basis of religion, national origin, or ethnicity.” Further, the Council adopted language stipulating that it is neither the City’s mission nor role to enforce federal immigration laws, and that the City’s law enforcement will not arrest any person on the basis of any civil immigration laws.

The Council had originally directed staff to explore Sanctuary City and “anti-registry” policies during the goal-setting process, but after Governor Brown signed Senate Bill 31 (the California Religious Freedom Act) and Senate Bill 54 (the California Values Act), staff recommended no further action, as these laws essentially implemented these policies at the state level. During the meeting, there was significant public support for stronger measures, including for model Sanctuary City and “anti-registry” ordinances. The Council accepted some, but not all, of the actions proposed. Accepted actions include, prohibiting conditioning of City benefits and services on immigration status (unless required by law), removing immigration status from City applications and forms, and allowing for the presentation of an identity document by the individual’s nation of origin when a driver’s license or identification card is an acceptable form of evidence of identification.

The Council agreed with the Police Department that existing City law enforcement policies pertaining to immigration law sufficiently protect members of the immigrant community in the City. The Council was not comfortable eliminating the discretion of law enforcement to contact the federal government in certain, rare instances when current law enforcement policy allows such contact.

Los Altos School District – Transfer of Development Rights

In a study session on October 3rd, the Council provided additional direction on a program that could potentially allow the Los Altos School District to more easily acquire land in the San Antonio area for a tenth school site. The “transfer of development rights” (TDR) process provides a funding source to support development of a public school by allowing private property owners to purchase and utilize the development rights of the potential school site at another property. The sale of these development rights reduces the land acquisition cost for the school district.

To enhance the viability and attractiveness of the program, the Council supported allowing the conversion of residential floor area to office floor area through the transfer, waiving public benefit contribution requirements for the floor area transferred, and allowing the transfer of floor area outside of the San Antonio area. Additionally, the Council supported a contribution of $6 million per acre, up to $23 million, of Park Land Dedication funds to the Los Altos School District to assist with the purchase of open space, with the understanding that the City will have access to the open space or recreational facilities constructed on the new school site.

Magical Bridge Foundation – All-Inclusive Playground

The Magical Bridge Foundation is a nonprofit organization founded by the community members who coordinated and successfully created the Magical Bridge Playground in Palo Alto, an “all-inclusive” playground accessible to everyone, regardless of disability or age. All-inclusive playgrounds go “beyond ADA requirements by utilizing designs and equipment that help address physical, mental, and development needs.” On October 3rd, the City Council directed staff to execute a contract with the Foundation and to apply for up to $2 million in matching grant funding from the Santa Clara County All-Inclusive Playground Grant Program. Under the agreement, the Magical Bridge Foundation will assist the City with the design of the playground as well as with fundraising. The Council selected Rengstorff Park as the preliminary site for the all-inclusive playground.

Automated Guideway Transit Study Update

Over the past two years, the City has been studying the feasibility of an off-street “Automated Guideway Transit” (AGT) system that would connect the jobs-rich North Bayshore area with the Downtown Transit Center. Four transportation technologies have been studied:

  1. Aerial Cable Transportation – systems that carry passengers in cabins suspended by cables. Examples include gondolas and aerial trams.
  2. Automated People Movers – automated rubber-tired or steel-wheeled transit systems featuring large capacity vehicles operating on a fixed guideway. Examples include monorails and Maglevs.
  3. Automated Transit Network (ATN) – these include Personal Rapid Transit and Group Rapid Transit systems. They provide point-to-point service and can bypass other stations to get to the passenger’s destination.
  4. Autonomous Transit – driverless vehicles capable of integration with mixed-flow (non-exclusive right of way) traffic.

On October 17th, the Council provided direction to focus on the newer, emerging technologies – Automated Transit Network and Autonomous Transit. Although less mature, City staff recommended these technologies because they potentially could provide the greatest passenger experience, serving anticipated travel demand between North Bayshore and Downtown, and they allow for greater flexibility in expanding the system to serve other areas of the City. Council further directed exploration of at-grade elements, which means that Autonomous Transit technologies could have lower infrastructure impacts on the City if current infrastructure can be utilized (rather than utilize an entirely new aerial or dedicated off-street structure). The study is projected to be finalized in 2018, when Council will be provided proposed next steps.

— Lucas Ramirez, Observer

Mountain View City Council Meeting October 2017

After a two month summer recess, the Mountain View City Council resumed meeting in September.

Upon reconvening the Council on September 5th, Mayor Rosenberg read a moving tribute to Julie Lovins, the longtime Observer of the Council on behalf of the Los Altos-Mountain View League. The tribute was prepared by Julie’s brother, Amory, and is available in the video recording of the September 5, 2017 City Council meeting on the City website.

North Bayshore Precise Plan – Final Policy Direction

On September 26th, the Council provided policy direction for the last time on the North Bayshore Precise Plan. Although the Council had previously been divided on the issue of the appropriate mechanism to monitor traffic impacts of new development in the area, there was unanimous agreement on the robust monitoring and enforcement programs devised by City staff. This includes biannual trip counts to ensure that the “trip cap” (the maximum number of vehicles traversing into and out of North Bayshore during peak hours, based on the vehicle capacity of San Antonio Road, Rengstorff Avenue, and Shoreline Boulevard) is not hit. If the number of vehicles traveling down any of those three “gateways” into North Bayshore exceeds the trip cap, then the City stops issuing building permits, effectively prohibiting new development in the area.

Additionally, the Council supported policy language in the Precise Plan intended to promote the development of a local school in North Bayshore. All proposed residential development projects will be required to submit a Local School District Strategy, which may include land dedication for a new school, additional funding for school development, or other innovative strategies.

The Council also removed a mechanism that would have allowed proposals for additional office space, exceeding the 3.6 million square feet of office space studied in the Environmental Impact Report for the North Bayshore Precise Plan. During the study session, a representative from Google challenged this decision, saying that Google would not build any housing at all if it did not have the ability to develop additional office space beyond the 3.6 million currently allowed. However, Google has since rescinded its “ultimatum” and has indicated that it supports the effort to build housing in North Bayshore, despite the removal of the provision for potentially more office space.

Affordable Housing Priorities and Strategic Framework

In a lengthy study session on September 12th, the Council discussed a comprehensive strategy to address the housing affordability crisis. Although no formal actions were taken, the Council expressed support for a variety of measures recommended by City staff, including approval of an investment strategy for the projected $78 million generated by affordable housing fees on new development over the next several years. $50 million is proposed to be allocated to develop 350 to 400 affordable homes for low-income households, and $28 million will be allocated to fund 200 to 250 permanent supportive housing units or rapid rehousing for the homeless. Additionally, strategies to provide housing for moderate income people (often referred to as housing for the “missing middle”), increase the number of ownership housing units built, and strengthen affordable housing programs to produce more affordable units were broadly supported by the Council. Staff anticipates returning to Council next year to refine and prioritize the programs and strategies.

Regulation of Commercial Marijuana Activities

In November 2016, Proposition 64 was approved by California voters, legalizing recreational marijuana activity. Noting that 68% of Mountain View voters supported the ballot measure, the Council directed staff to develop an amendment to the Zoning Code to permit and regulate commercial marijuana activity, including delivery and sale of cannabis products. Staff will return with a temporary moratorium of all commercial marijuana activity until the development of a regulatory framework is complete in order to avoid a regulatory gap. In the absence of any local law, the state becomes the sole regulatory body of marijuana-related activities.

Environmental Sustainability Task Force 2

On September 5th, the Council provided direction on the scope and deliverables for the newly established Environmental Sustainability Task Force (ESTF). The ESTF was first convened in 2008 and concluded with a major report providing a number of recommendations pertaining to climate change, water use, waste reduction, energy, land use, transportation, and other sustainability activities. This second Task Force is charged with analyzing how Mountain View can achieve its aggressive greenhouse gas reduction goals over the next 10 years and assisting with community education and outreach efforts. The new ESTF will prepare a report and present its findings to the Council in the summer of 2018.

City Clerk Retiring

City Clerk Lorrie Brewer announced that she would be retiring at the end of this year after over six years of service to the City. On September 26th, the Council initiated the process of searching for her successor. A candidate is anticipated to be appointed by the Council early next year.

—Lucas Ramirez & Julie Lovins, Observers

Mountain View City Council Meeting June 2017

The Council met for the final time before the summer recess on June 27th and will resume meeting in September. Here are some of the final actions the Council took in June:

Adoption of Fiscal Year 2017-18 Budget and Capital Improvement Projects

After several months of discussion, the Council adopted the Fiscal Year 2017-18 Budget on June 20th. The $304,715,136 budget includes a $127,092,614 General Operating Fund, which funds the core city services (Police & Fire, Parks & Recreation, Library, Planning, Public Works, and Administration). Significant discretionary expenditures include payments for city employee pensions and other post-employment benefits (to reduce unfunded liabilities), additional positions across all departments (particularly Planning and Public Works to address the development boom), and 100% renewable energy purchased from the new Silicon Valley Clean Energy Authority to power municipal operations.

Additionally, $34,380,690 has been appropriated for Capital Projects. These include the Shoreline Blvd Interim Bus Lane (a reversible bus lane running through the median to improve traffic flow to North Bayshore), improvements for the Center for Performing Arts and Library, and the Rengstorff Park Aquatics Center Replacement.

North Bayshore Precise Plan Land Use and Transportation Discussion

In a lengthy and contentious study session on June 27th, the Council provided input on the North Bayshore Precise Plan for what was intended to be the last time before adoption of the finalized plan in Fall 2017. However, because the Mayor was traveling and unable to participate in the meeting, a divided Council deadlocked 3-3 on a key policy question: how should the new housing be phased in?

All Councilmembers supported allowing a maximum of 9,850 new units, and all supported a policy to monitor the new development and evaluate traffic and other impacts. The Council disagreed on the staff proposal to implement a “Phase I residential growth policy” that would allow 1500-3000 units before Council review and approval of the next phase. The three members who did not support the staff proposal instead advocated for using the existing trip cap report (which imposes a strict cap on all car trips into North Bayshore and allows the Council to regularly monitor trips) and a “Master Planning” process as a way to monitor progress and potential impacts. A “Master Plan” would require the developer to show how their project would “meet the Precise Plan’s vision and intent, complete neighborhood strategy, affordable housing goals, and other standards and guidelines, including any necessary area transportation infrastructure improvements.”

Because no proposal earned the support of a majority, staff will seek Council direction on this question again at a future study session.

Preservation of 938 and 954 Villa Street Historic Buildings

On June 13th, the Council provided early feedback on a proposal to remove two historic buildings in the downtown area and replace them with a new office building and restaurant. 938 Villa Street (the “Weilheimer House,” currently occupied by Chez TJ) and 954 Villa Street (Tied House) are historic resources because they meet at least one of four criteria:

• If it was associated with a person or organization important to the history of the City.

• If it was the site of a significant event in the City’s history.

• If it embodies distinctive architectural characteristics significant to the City’s history.

• Has yielded or may yield information important to the City’s history or prehistory.

938 Villa Street was built around 1894 and first occupied by prominent Mountain View resident Julius Weilheimer, who served on the City Board of Trustees. Not long afterwards, it was the home of Arthur Free, who served as City Attorney and later was elected to Congress (1921 to 1933). 954 Villa Street was built in 1931 and employs notable building design and architecture.

The Council generally preferred to preserve the Weilheimer House at its current location, but a majority was open to exploring the feasibility of relocating the building to allow the new development to proceed. Because the building at 954 Villa Street is much more challenging to relocate, several Councilmembers expressed interest in potentially incorporating its architectural features into the new office building instead.

Council directed staff to explore options for preserving or relocating the structures and to return to the Council in another study session. The office developer, The Minkoff Group, indicated that, even if the historic buildings were relocated, the current restaurants would not be preserved, as both restaurant owners intend to be partners in the new restaurant (which would occupy the ground floor in the new office building).

—Lucas Ramirez & Julie Lovins, Observers

Mountain View City Council Meeting May 2017

Water Supply Transfer Agreement with the City of East Palo Alto

On May 23rd, 2017, the City Council approved an agreement to permanently transfer a portion of its San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) water supply guarantee to the City of East Palo Alto. The agreement stipulates that, for a one-time payment of $5 million, East Palo Alto will receive 1 million gallons per day (MGD) of Mountain View’s 13.46 MGD supply guarantee from the SFPUC. East Palo Alto’s supply guarantee, in contrast, is only 1.963 MGD, and because current consumption is near that maximum allocation, a moratorium has been established on new development.

Under the supply agreement with the SFPUC, Mountain View must purchase a minimum of 8.93 MGD – even if the City does not use that amount. Because of significant changes in industrial water use and successful conservation efforts, the City has used less water than the minimum purchase requirement in five of the past seven fiscal years (FY), using only marginally more than the minimum in FY 2012-13 and FY 2013-14. City staff indicated that “water consumption has not come within 1 MGD of the supply guarantee since the last 1980s,” and was only 6.78 MGD in FY 2015-16. In fact, despite the increase in population and development, water use has declined significantly, and is half of the 13.5 MGD that the City used in FY 1986-87. Assured that the City would not run out of water anytime soon, the Council approved the agreement on a 6-1 vote.

Automated Guideway Transit Study

Also on May 23rd, the Council provided additional direction on the scope of the Automated Guideway Transit (AGT) feasibility study. The intention is explore the possibility of developing a fully automated, driverless, off-street (exclusive right of way) transit system connecting Downtown Mountain View to the North Bayshore area. Four technologies will be studied:

  1. Automated Transit Network – these include Personal Rapid Transit and Group Rapid Transit systems. They provide point-to-point service and can bypass other stations to get to the passengers destination.
  2. Automated People Movers – these include rubber-tired or steel-wheeled systems, monorails, and Meglevs. They allow for the highest speeds, offering scheduled service with small headways (3 to 5 minutes).
  3. Autonomous Transit – driverless vehicles capable of integration with mixed-flow (non-exclusive right of way) traffic.
  4. Aerial Cable (Gondolas, Aerial Trams, Funitels)

In providing input, the Council expressed interest in possibly expanding the system to serve the Shoreline Amphitheatre and the San Antonio and East Whisman areas. Council also sought to minimize negative impacts to neighborhoods. The feasibility study will provide cost estimates and a timeline for implementation.

North Bayshore Affordable Housing Administrative Guidelines

Although the final number of housing units that will be allowed in North Bayshore has not yet been determined, the Council provided input on the robust affordable housing program that city staff is developing for the area. The program provides incentives to developers: in exchange for greater building height and density, developers must provide affordable housing. The Council’s ambitious goal is to have 20% of the new housing be affordable to individuals and families at low and moderate levels of income.

On May 16th, the Council made several technical changes to the guidelines, including establishing the density and height bonuses provided in exchange for housing, setting the individual and family income eligibility for affordable units (based on the “Area Median Income” for the county), and exploring making units affordable in perpetuity (instead of the typical 55-year deed restrictions placed on affordable units currently). The Council also directed staff to investigate preferences for anyone who lives or works in the area.

— Lucas Ramirez, Observer