Given how rising housing prices and commuter traffic are causing serious problems for many, tracking the city's job growth has become a big deal to City Council members and City Council candidates. And how alarming the jobs-housing imbalance sounds may depend on your data source.
Council candidate Lenny Siegel has been sounding the alarm about the worsening "environmental and social disaster" that is being caused by unrestrained job growth in the area without adequate plans for housing growth, a combination that's driving up housing prices, traffic and pollution. He says job growth may have already passed the predictions included in the city's 2030 general plan, created two years ago.
A city-hired economist projected 80,800 total jobs by 2030, but Siegel points to the latest U.S. Census numbers that show the city already had 66,768 in 2011 and 74,949 in 2012. The lowest over the decade since the dot-com bust was 53,261 jobs in 2004.
"If the increase between 2011 and 2012 was the same the next year, then we already surpassed the 2030 number that's enormous" Siegel said. "Epochal I guess would be the way to put it. That to me explains what we're noticing in terms of housing and traffic."
Mountain View's community development director Randy Tsuda says the city uses a different set of Census data, called the American Community Survey. It is collected from employee surveys instead of payroll reports, which is the case for the data Siegel points to. Tsuda said the latest ACS numbers showed 71,000 jobs in Mountain View in 2012.
Which set of numbers is right? Tsuda said it's hard to know. "It tends to be somewhere in the middle of the range," he said.
"From our standpoint it's less important to know exactly how many jobs there are in the city," Tsuda said. "What is critical is you track this over time and you look at the trajectory of job growth." Regardless of which data set you use, "the fact is we are having a substantial amount of job growth -- I think that's agreed," he said.
The topic of the city's jobs-housing imbalance is sure to be a topic of debate in this year's City Council election. It was raised by most of the nine council candidates when asked about their priorities. Despite plans for new office buildings in the works that would add over 30,000 office jobs to the city, Tsuda said there are 2,850 homes in the city's planning pipeline to add to the city's housing stock of 34,000 or so homes. "That's a lot of units in a 12-square-mile city," he said.
To alleviate increasing rents and traffic, Siegel has called for the city to allow 5,000 or more homes to be developed in a new neighborhood around Google headquarters. Council member Mike Kasperzak said it would be unprecedented for the city to see more than 1,200 homes built in one year.
"The data I've summarized is unprecedented," Siegel said. "There are probably few times in the history of humanity where economic expansion in such a small area has been so great."