The city may eventually see some big changes to its landscape as a result of Tuesday's City Council election, which creates a council majority in favor of building a large new residential neighborhood near Google headquarters.
As results rolled in for the most competitive and unpredictable City Council election in years, residents and candidates eagerly watched the results Tuesday night to see who would take three open seats vacated by Jac Siegel, Margaret Abe-Koga and Ronit Bryant.
Candidates Pat Showalter, Ken Rosenberg, and Lenny Siegel (in that order) held the lead as the first portion of ballots were counted and election night parties were held across the city. The trend continued until all precincts reported their results in the early morning but some provisional and mail ballots have yet to be counted.
Showalter topped all the candidates with 16.57 percent of the vote. Rosenberg held 14.79 percent and Siegel had 13.31 percent. Trailing them was Lisa Matichak with 11.42 percent, Unangst with 10.70 percent, Ellen Kamei with 10.28 percent, Margaret Capriles with 9.85 percent, Mercedes Salem at 6.75 percent and Neal with 6.32 percent.
The city's growing jobs-housing imbalance was a key issue in the election, and Showalter, Rosenberg and Siegel were among those that promised the most aggressive measures to close that gap in an effort preserve the city's affordability and diverse character.
Siegel lead the charge as founder of the Campaign for a Balanced Mountain View earlier this year, and benefited from the name recognition his activism has created since he moved here in the the 1970s, including his job running the nonprofit that oversees toxic cleanup efforts in Mountain View, efforts to save Hangar One at Moffett Field and to stop cargo flights at Moffett in the 1990s. He also spearheaded two failed efforts to bring rent control to the city decades ago and was an anti-war activist with the local group Voices for Peace, among other things.
"Some of the candidates had slogans about preserving neighborhoods but to me that was just verbiage," remarked Siegel about his opponents, as he spoke to the group of supporters and neighbors that packed his home in old Mountain View Tuesday night. If elected, he said he would call on the jobs-rich cities in the region to form a regional body to address the area's jobs-housing imbalance. He criticized candidates who seemed to be saying that Mountain View employees needed to go live in San Jose. "How can anybody trust us if we don't put our own house in order?" he said.
"If Pat, myself and Lenny are elected, I suspect we're going to see big changes in Mountain View," said Rosenberg at Tuesday's election night gathering at KMVT. It will mean "residents of Mountain View are looking forward to progressive changes."
Rosenberg, a financial adviser and member of the city's human relations commission, called out the current council for "approving lots of office space, or in other words -- jobs -- and not many homes. Essentially what they are saying is, 'we welcome you to work in Mountain View but not live in Mountain View.'"
When asked about what the results meant, Matichak said "I think that things have changed in Mountain View and big money and corporations have a lot of influence."
Rosenberg and Showalter both benefited from independent spending linked to landlord groups, though Siegel spent little more than $12,000, raised mostly from individual donations. Little or none of Siegel's funding came from the real estate interest groups that funded campaigns of Capriles, Matichak, Kamei, Showalter and Rosenberg, who got the biggest boost with $25,000 in independent spending in support of him by the National Association of Realtors.
With a gap between Matichak and Siegel of only 408 votes, the results could change over the next two weeks as 100,000 to 120,000 provisional and mail ballots are verified and counted in Santa Clara County, on top of the 235,000 already counted, said Shannon Buchey, registrar of voters.
"Quite a few people will be waiting for results in many races as we process results for the next couple of weeks," Buchey said. She said that results would be updated every day at 5 p.m.
Matichak didn't want to concede the election, but said on Wednesday that "I don't expect the results to change." Siegel said he didn't expect results to change either after seeing a clear trend as results came in from all over the city.
Showalter, an engineer for the Santa Clara Valley Water District and a city planning commissioner for most of the 1990s, said what made the election unique and important is "the strong desire to open North Bayshore to housing. There's just been this groundswell of interest in the community."
The possibility of allowing as many as 5,000 homes to be built in the Google-dominated office park north of Highway 101 was the key issue of discussion during the race. It was a concept supported by Siegel, Rosenberg, Showalter, Greg Unangst and Jim Neal and opposed by the other four candidates.
The election appears to be a dramatic change as the three outgoing council members that had led the slim council majority opposed to a new neighborhood around Google headquarters in 2012 will be replaced by three new members who support the idea. There may soon be six out of seven council members who favor housing in North Bayshore.
Siegel said that if he was elected, he would call on the current City Council to halt its efforts to approve precise plans by year's end that will guide development for North Bayshore and the San Antonio area, and call on the council to allow the newly council members to take those plans on. The North Bayshore precise plan includes allowing 3.4 million square feet of new office development in North Bayshore, bringing as many as 20,000 jobs, but no housing. In the precise plan for the San Antonio shopping center area, council members recently backed away from plans to prioritize housing and are now set to create office space for more jobs than homes there.
Unangst said the election could mean Mountain View is embracing a more urban future.
Mountain View is "in a transition from a more suburban place to a more urban place and a lot of people are having a hard time letting go," Unangst said. "I think this election will determine how quickly we move in that direction."
Matichak said she wasn't sure that voters wanted that.
"A lot of folks are very concerned about the pace of growth in Mountain View and wanted to slow it down, so I'm not sure they are all supportive of housing in North Bayshore because that would imply more growth," Matichak said. She said residents were concerned about growth in North Bayshore even though it is out of sight north of Highway 101. "You still have an impact no matter where the growth occurs," she said.
Kamei, Salem, Matichak and Capriles opposed housing in North Bayshore during the election, saying, among other things, that there isn't enough infrastructure in North Bayshore to support a neighborhood, such as a school, transportation options to reduce traffic and a grocery store. Unangst said it was a "chicken and egg" problem because those things would come with or after housing development.
About 8,200 ballots have been accounted for so far with votes on Mountain View issues in the election, though there are just over 30,000 registered voters listed in the city.
Capriles said in an email "The disappointing concern I have about the election was the very low turnout. From my perspective this meant that the voters were 1) overwhelmed by the number of candidates and didn't have the opportunity to really get to know them personally or 2) not interested in the one issue of housing that permeated the campaign."
Siegel said it was interesting that Unangst came in fifth as the only candidate for rent control.
"I don't think enough renters voted to put him into office, but I think he's got a future in Mountain View politics," Siegel said. "He might have been elected if I hadn't run."
Salem said of losing the race, "I'm grateful for the support I did get. I was the newcomer and I came out of nowhere. The people who have won have been working for a better Mountain View for decades. I plan to stay involved in Mountain View politics and in the Mountain View community, definitely."
"I think that the results indicate that the residents of Mountain View are now ready for far more high density housing," Neal wrote in an email. "Over time we will see less single family homes and more high rise apartments and condominiums as Mountain View moves in a direction to accommodate all the people that want to work and live here. The demographics of Mountain View have changed rapidly in the last few years as people have relocated here that have lived in higher density urban areas, so it is not entirely unexpected that the residents voted to move towards more density and urbanization by electing Pat Showalter, Lenny Siegel, and Ken Rosenberg."
Measure A, which would raise City Council pay to $1,000 a month, was also favored by voters, with 59.9 percent for it and 40 percent against.