For a Mountain View City Council race in which many candidates hold similar positions, Proposition 10 is driving a sharp wedge into the field.
The state ballot measure, which would rescind restrictions on rent control under the Costa-Hawkins law, is turning into a sort of litmus test for candidates in the Nov. 6 election.
Mountain View is no different -- at an event last week, the six candidates in the City Council race were asked to state their positions on Proposition 10. Candidates Pat Showalter, Lenny Siegel, Alison Hicks and Ellen Kamei each affirmed their support, while candidate John Inks declared his opposition.
The surprise of the night was Lucas Ramirez, who championed Mountain View's rent control measure in 2016, but said he couldn't support Proposition 10. While rent control was helping protect residents from displacement, expanding it to all housing would have a chilling effect on new residential construction, Ramirez explained.
"I'm inclined to think that subjecting new development to rent control could remove the economic incentive to build," he said. "I think that would make it a challenge to address the long-term housing crisis."
The backlash was swift and fierce. Rent control advocates engaged in a heated debate over whether they should continue supporting Ramirez. Mountain View Tenants Coalition spokesman Steve Chandler described a "blizzard" of discussion following the meeting from people who were seizing on the issue.
"It's embarrassing for supporters of Lucas to hear that he doesn't support local control," he said. "I'm hearing from people who say they would've voted for him, but they certainly won't now."
Ramirez's defenders pointed to his past advocacy for rent control, and they argued that rival camps were fueling the issue to chip away at his support. In comments to the Voice, Ramirez pointed out that his concern about rent control stifling new housing was shared by Siegel, although they differed regarding Proposition 10.
"Rent control protects people who are here now, but we also need to build more housing," Ramirez said. "I wanted to be honest with folks because I have a specific concern on this."
Even if Proposition 10 passes and the Costa-Hawkins law is repealed, there would be no immediate impact in Mountain View. This is because most of Costa-Hawkins' restrictions -- rent control doesn't apply to single-family homes or any units built before 1995 -- are included in the city's rent control law. Any significant changes would require another ballot initiative, or perhaps legal action.