Editorial: Brownrigg for state Senate | News | Mountain View Online |


Editorial: Brownrigg for state Senate

With an outstanding field of candidates, whoever wins will be able to capably fill Jerry Hill's shoes

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There couldn't be a better example of why legislative term limits are a good thing than the quality of the candidates competing to replace termed-out state Sen. Jerry Hill in the 13th Senate District. When an incumbent isn't in a race, good people step up to run.

Five of the seven candidates, all Democrats, have the experience, understanding of the issues and support to represent the Peninsula (from South San Francisco to Sunnyvale) and make an immediate impact in the legislature, each in his or her own unique way.

In California's open primary system, these five plus the lone Republican and Libertarian will appear on every ballot. The top two vote-getters, regardless of party, will face off in the November general election. We hope the top two will be Democrats, just as occurred four years ago when Marc Berman and Vicki Veenker faced off in the fall for the open Assembly seat after running against each other in the primary. This will allow for a competitive campaign rather than an election destined to go to the Democrat given the overwhelming Democratic voter registration advantage.

Among the five Democrats, we think the three strongest candidates are Mike Brownrigg, Josh Becker and Shelly Masur. But they only slightly edge out Sally Lieber and Annie Oliva. Every voter will have to weigh what issues are important to them and the views, personal qualities and varying backgrounds each of these five bring. The "candidates on the issues" grid that can be found here should help.

We believe our district is best represented in the State Senate by an independent-minded person with bold ideas who will not be influenced by the donations of large contributors and special interests and who will resist the pressure to march in lock-step with Gov. Gavin Newsom and party leaders. The super-majority held by Democrats means the party, and organized labor in particular, can push through almost anything they want. That approach is not in our state's or district's best interest.

The big problems facing California, including housing supply and affordability, homelessness, climate change, income inequity, the costs of higher education and the education achievement gap require more innovation and bipartisanship and less political muscling and horse trading.

We think Mike Brownrigg, 58, comes the closest to meeting this criteria. On the Burlingame City Council for almost 10 years and eight years prior to that on the Planning Commission, Brownrigg has shown himself to be a strong, effective and collaborative leader. Unlike Becker and Masur, he has taken no large campaign contributions from organizations, labor groups or large donors (with the exception of his mother, who without his knowledge set up an independent campaign committee and funded it with about $460,000). He has largely self-funded his campaign and focused on meeting voters instead of fundraising.

Brownrigg was raised in Los Altos Hills and attended Gunn High School. He joined the U.S. Foreign Service after college and was posted to multiple embassies around the world. He later became a partner in ChinaVest, a venture capital firm that focuses on early-stage Chinese life science and information technology companies and was a founding partner in Total Impact Capital, a social impact fund that provides capital to projects seeking to "make the planet a better place." He has devoted his career to finding solutions to difficult problems.

Brownrigg doesn't hedge on controversial issues; he has been a clear-spoken promoter of creative solutions to problems facing the state. He strongly opposed SB 50, the local zoning pre-emption bill to force cities to develop high density housing around transportation hubs. Instead, he advocates financial incentives, including state subsidies and tax breaks, for the preservation and creation of affordable housing. For example, he has proposed the state subsidize the purchase, by nonprofits, of existing multi-family housing units to prevent their sale to companies that would increase rents, and to reward the seller with capital gains tax reductions as an incentive. He's also proposed state funding for infrastructure when a city approves high-density zoning for housing. He wants to see California become carbon-free in 10 years, supports a carbon tax, more aggressive conversion to all-electric appliances, and the state purchase of PG&E.

Becker, a Menlo Park resident, and Brownrigg share a venture capital background and a commitment to social impact investing. They have similar priorities and views on the big issues, but we are concerned that the endorsements of Becker by Newsom and Hill, as well as a $500,000 donation from LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman to an independent committee supporting him, will lessen his independence.

Masur, a Redwood City councilwoman and former school board member, has made education a centerpiece of her campaign and drawn major financial support of the teachers' unions, as well as many other labor unions. She supported the latest iteration of SB 50, the only candidate in the race to do so.

In this impressive group of candidates, we give the nod to Brownrigg and look forward to a vigorous fall campaign between him and either Becker or Masur.

Read our profiles of each candidate, alongside videotaped interviews with six of the seven contenders, on our Atavist page.

Candidates debate

The seven candidates for state Senate District 13 faced off in a debate on Feb. 5. Read our debate recap here. A video from the event is available on our YouTube channel.

Related content:

Oil tax? Wealth tax? Prop. 13 reform? Senate candidates debate how to pay for new programs for state's youngest residents


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Endorsements are the opinion of the Voice and Embarcardero Media editorial boards and are separate from news stories or reporting.

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9 people like this
Posted by Build Build Build
a resident of Rengstorff Park
on Feb 16, 2020 at 12:09 am

> He strongly opposed SB 50, the local zoning pre-emption bill to force cities to develop high density housing around transportation hubs. Instead, he advocates financial incentives, including state subsidies and tax breaks, for the preservation and creation of affordable housing

This right there disqualifies him. Who in the world is going to build "affordable housing" if it's not permitted to be built?

"he advocates financial incentives" --> there is plenty of financial incentive to build housing in the free market system. You don't need subsidies and tax breaks. You just need to let people build housing. It's so simple. MV Editorial board apparently doesn't understand basic economics, or is being willfully ignorant.

If you want a strong candidate, vote for Masur, who supports SB50 and building housing. If you want to continue with current broken policies, vote for any of the other status quo candidates.

15 people like this
Posted by Gary
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Feb 16, 2020 at 12:25 am

SB 50 is a corporate con-job. It would authorize developers ("development applicants") to build mid-rise market-rate condos or apartments (their choice) in "jobs-rich" areas including areas otherwise reserved for single-family homes throughout much of metropolitan California. It is high-density for high-tech employees (current and planned) overlooking YOUR BACKYARD.

7 people like this
Posted by @Gary
a resident of Shoreline West
on Feb 16, 2020 at 4:03 pm


I don’t have a backyard because I live in a mid rise condo. Like many other Mt View residents I live in medium or high density housing, and believe others have a right to do so as well.

Demonizing “corporate” developers is an age old scare tactic use by NIMBYs. A developer provides a useful service (building housing for others).

I’m glad you and others were able to afford $3M single family houses. For those of us who can not afford that, let us buy $1M condos. Anything else is hypocritical and selfish.

8 people like this
Posted by Gary
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Feb 17, 2020 at 10:23 pm

The developers are mostly corporations or LLCs. But I was referring to the men behind the curtain. The great and powerful executives of tech giants behind SB 50. If they can get more nearby housing, they can pay less to workers and gain more local control through local employees. Gaining control over governments and land use has always been among key corporate objectives. It is an old trick. A RICH tradition. And so is the use of political operatives ready to doubletalk any criticism of corporate power-brokers. Nimby is a concocted term. So is Yimby - straight from corporate PR. There is plenty of room for new housing of every kind without destroying bedroom communities. But folks realize that developers and some selfish high tech-sters want high-density overlooking single-family homes. Some tech-sters will pay for the view - even if there is no onsite parking. Streets and other people's driveways can be used for parking.

Like this comment
Posted by @Gary
a resident of Shoreline West
on Feb 18, 2020 at 12:00 pm

I hear a lot of scare tactics and demonization, and nothing to address the basic question of fairness: if I can "only" afford a $1M condo, and not a $3M single family home (like I assume you have), why am I not allowed to build / buy such a thing for myself? Whether a corporation builds my home is entirely irrelevant. I just want to buy a $1M condo for myself to live in.

1 person likes this
Posted by Community Minded
a resident of another community
on Feb 18, 2020 at 6:01 pm

I have to disagree with the Mountain View Voice criterion that candidates who self fund are the best: that is just a clear preference for wealthy candidates and there’s no reason to think they will be any more capable or focused on community (rather than self) interest than other candidates. I think it’s sufficient to offer Donald Trump as evidence of the utter folly of this criterion.

The Mountain View Voice also says it wants 2 Democrats to win the primary so that there can be good competition for the seat in this Democratic area — so, it’s good that Brownrigg converted to Democrat at some point so he wouldn’t be excluded on this basis.

Shelly Masur’s history of serving on both a school board and city council gives her the breadth of experience needed to tackle tough issues for our area and California as a whole. For California senate, I like candidates who have served in elective office — who have negotiated publicly with peers for policy solutions, made public votes, and been held publicly accountable by constituents. There are too few women in the California senate and from the greater Bay Area delegation, and we should change this by electing Shelly.

8 people like this
Posted by Gary
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Feb 18, 2020 at 11:49 pm

You can buy a million dollar condo. Just not overlooking single family homes. People bought those homes in light of the zoning. Now you want the zoning changed.

Like this comment
Posted by @Gary
a resident of Shoreline West
on Feb 19, 2020 at 11:38 am

You are under the (understandable) misconception that if an area is zoned for density, it can be developed. This is not the case in California, thanks to NIMBY's:

Exhibit A: Web Link

Zoning rules allow it, NIMBY's hate it, nothing gets built, rents skyrocket. Welcome to the California nightmare, brought to you buy folks like Gary.

4 people like this
Posted by Gary
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Feb 20, 2020 at 4:24 am

SB 50 (and whatever bill number is next used) would, in part, rezone single-family neighborhoods for midrise million or three million condos. ( or high-rent apts, developers' choice) with a view of the neighborhood. It would do other things to further encourage such a change in land use. Lots would need to be assembled. There are lots of barriers to development. But what is your argument for state rezoning? Is it simply that you want a condo overlooking a single-family neighborhood for $1 million?

2 people like this
Posted by Gary
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Feb 24, 2020 at 9:01 pm

Monday update. I received 3 political mailers today: (1) a hit piece against state senate candidate Sally Lieber from a Southern California PAC, (2) a slick piece from state senate candidate Shelly Masur who supports empowering developers to erect high-density housing in all single-family-home neighborhoods in the district (not mentioned in the mailer), and (3) another piece from the landlords in support of Measure D which would underline MV's limited rent control. This one is about retrofitting against earthquakes.

Like this comment
Posted by The Business Man
a resident of Castro City
on Feb 24, 2020 at 9:16 pm

In response to Gary you wrote:

3) another piece from the landlords in support of Measure D which would underline MV's limited rent control. This one is about retrofitting against earthquakes.”

I think you meant undermine, but spell check can’t catch that.

What I found is it basically threatens that if Measure D does not pass housing will be unsafe.

Using grossly misleading highlighting and that there are unsafe housing units in Mountain View.

First, yes there are buildings not up to code and if tey are not, the landlords woill pay a VERY high cost in the case of an earthquake.

Second, it is not like they can threaten with not doing the retrofitting, it is required under STATE laws. If they do not, the City has no choice but to pull their license to operate their apartments, this will force them to pay relocation costs, and even make them pay for housing provided by someone else.

Or worse they are forced to have empty apartments that cannot be used until the retrofitting is completed. Thus leaving them with no operational income.

And if the use their Ellis Act rights, they cannot just sell the building without disclosing the violation of state laws. The prices they get will be mayber 25 cents to the dollar of their perceived value. But if they have a current mrtgage, I doubt that will cover the existing balances.

No the fact is this is required to be fixed no matter what happens. This is just another BIG LIE via selective editing of existing stories to mislead the voters.


4 people like this
Posted by Gary
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Feb 25, 2020 at 5:09 am

A point I keep making and others keep skipping is that many landlords are making a fortune in higher rents because of VACANCY DECONTROL. Each time a unit is vacated (lawfully), the landlord may establish the initial rent for the new tenant(s) at whatever the "market" will bear. A landlord who raises half of the units from $3,000 to $5,000 over, say, 3 years, is making on average $4,000 per unit - plus annual adjustments for all units. Opponents of the "sneaky reveal" of local rent control headed for the November ballot better make that point for voters.

2 people like this
Posted by Gary
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Mar 2, 2020 at 8:25 pm

Don't skip voting. Mail-in ballots can be dropped into collection boxes - including at city hall and the MV library - or postmarked by Tuesday. But the mail is picked up outside the MV post office at or soon after 5pm. So get it done. And don't waste a vote on a Presidential candidate who has dropped out.

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