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New Mountain View mayor gears up for housing growth, pandemic recovery

Lucas Ramirez, Mountain View's newly appointed mayor, says the city has a lot to get done in 2022. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

By the time 2022 rolled around, Lucas Ramirez said he had hoped the coronavirus pandemic would be in the rearview mirror, bringing back a sense of normalcy and an end to Zoom meetings and masked gatherings.

But with COVID cases surging to new heights this month, Ramirez appears poised to lead the city as Mountain View's mayor through another daunting year of public health crises. Rather than simply endure, Ramirez said the city can and must take on big, unresolved problems in 2022, ranging from housing growth to public assistance for the city's most vulnerable families.

"We continue to be in this uncomfortable space where we really need to find a way forward, because the pandemic continues to cause economic hardship, but we still have to contend with the public health emergency," Ramirez said. "People are still getting sick and people are still dying."

Ramirez, 33, is among the city's youngest council members to serve as mayor. He's also a renter, setting himself apart from most elected officials in the region. He cut his teeth in local politics volunteering with the League of Women Voters, quietly attending City Council meetings and monitoring key decisions before running for the council himself in 2016.

At the time, Ramirez said he was driven to run for public office because of the housing crisis, moved by public testimony by hundreds of residents that high rent increases, evictions without cause and other problems were pushing out the city's low-income families. Rather than wade into the rent control debate that gripped the city that year, Ramirez set his sights on the supply side of the problem.

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"We were doing a good job relative to our neighbors, but there is more we have to do to dig ourselves out of the historic deficit," Ramirez said. "That's why I pushed so hard on the housing front as a council member."

Top of mind going into 2022 are major housing priorities that the city simply hasn't addressed despite making it a goal for years. Mountain View has yet to complete its displacement response strategy as a means to keep people housed, Ramirez said, and address widespread redevelopment that is ousting longtime residents from lower-cost housing.

Some state laws, notably SB 330, have slowed down the rate of displacement, but Ramirez said those rules will sunset and can change or be removed if the state Legislature sees fit.

"We still don't have a local policy or set of policies to contend with that kind of redevelopment," Ramirez said.

The city also has yet to implement policies to help middle-income families find an affordable place to live in Mountain View, another priority Ramirez said he would like to finally address this year.

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Even more significant -- if only because it's required under state law -- is the city's update to the Housing Element, the blueprint under which housing growth will be achieved in Mountain View over the next eight years. Mountain View is being asked to zone for 11,135 new homes that could feasibly be constructed in that time frame, which would crank up the city's total housing stock by nearly 30%.

While the state mandate is causing consternation and even panic in some Bay Area cities, Ramirez said he's confident it won't require any tectonic changes in zoning in Mountain View. The city's ambitious Precise Plans in North Bayshore and East Whisman mean a lot of the work has already been done and largely avoid planting high-density housing next to existing neighborhoods.

"Fortunately for us we've been pretty good at planning for growth," Ramirez said. "Rezoning will likely not have to be a key strategy for achieving the housing obligation."

Outside of housing, Ramirez said the city still has a lot on its plate to help those suffering economic hardship, particularly families and businesses affected by the pandemic. Among the most noteworthy and most well-funded efforts is the city's guaranteed basic income pilot program, which will provide $500 monthly checks to low-income families with no strings attached.

Add in a mix of other projects -- the reversible bus lane project on Shoreline Boulevard, the closure of Castro Street to traffic and the small business recovery program -- and Ramirez said it's going to be a packed year with a ton of work.

"None of these items are trivial, they are all difficult, and if we can achieve these over the next year we will have had a remarkably productive year," he said.

In taking the reins as mayor, Ramirez emphasized that the goals the city sets out to achieve reflect the creativity and the compassion of the residents themselves. Mountain View has repeatedly punched above its weight when it comes to things like homelessness response and pandemic-related financial assistance, he said, and it's borne out of a desire to help each other.

Even on contentious issues like RV parking restrictions, Ramirez said residents on both sides of the issue had a distinct desire to help homeless people and low-income residents.

"I think here we really care about our community, and I think that's what drives a lot of what we do," He said. "There is a strong sense of concern for our neighbors."

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Kevin Forestieri is an assistant editor with the Mountain View Voice and The Almanac. He joined the Voice in 2014 and has reported on schools, housing, crime and health. Read more >>

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New Mountain View mayor gears up for housing growth, pandemic recovery

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Tue, Jan 18, 2022, 12:52 pm

By the time 2022 rolled around, Lucas Ramirez said he had hoped the coronavirus pandemic would be in the rearview mirror, bringing back a sense of normalcy and an end to Zoom meetings and masked gatherings.

But with COVID cases surging to new heights this month, Ramirez appears poised to lead the city as Mountain View's mayor through another daunting year of public health crises. Rather than simply endure, Ramirez said the city can and must take on big, unresolved problems in 2022, ranging from housing growth to public assistance for the city's most vulnerable families.

"We continue to be in this uncomfortable space where we really need to find a way forward, because the pandemic continues to cause economic hardship, but we still have to contend with the public health emergency," Ramirez said. "People are still getting sick and people are still dying."

Ramirez, 33, is among the city's youngest council members to serve as mayor. He's also a renter, setting himself apart from most elected officials in the region. He cut his teeth in local politics volunteering with the League of Women Voters, quietly attending City Council meetings and monitoring key decisions before running for the council himself in 2016.

At the time, Ramirez said he was driven to run for public office because of the housing crisis, moved by public testimony by hundreds of residents that high rent increases, evictions without cause and other problems were pushing out the city's low-income families. Rather than wade into the rent control debate that gripped the city that year, Ramirez set his sights on the supply side of the problem.

"We were doing a good job relative to our neighbors, but there is more we have to do to dig ourselves out of the historic deficit," Ramirez said. "That's why I pushed so hard on the housing front as a council member."

Top of mind going into 2022 are major housing priorities that the city simply hasn't addressed despite making it a goal for years. Mountain View has yet to complete its displacement response strategy as a means to keep people housed, Ramirez said, and address widespread redevelopment that is ousting longtime residents from lower-cost housing.

Some state laws, notably SB 330, have slowed down the rate of displacement, but Ramirez said those rules will sunset and can change or be removed if the state Legislature sees fit.

"We still don't have a local policy or set of policies to contend with that kind of redevelopment," Ramirez said.

The city also has yet to implement policies to help middle-income families find an affordable place to live in Mountain View, another priority Ramirez said he would like to finally address this year.

Even more significant -- if only because it's required under state law -- is the city's update to the Housing Element, the blueprint under which housing growth will be achieved in Mountain View over the next eight years. Mountain View is being asked to zone for 11,135 new homes that could feasibly be constructed in that time frame, which would crank up the city's total housing stock by nearly 30%.

While the state mandate is causing consternation and even panic in some Bay Area cities, Ramirez said he's confident it won't require any tectonic changes in zoning in Mountain View. The city's ambitious Precise Plans in North Bayshore and East Whisman mean a lot of the work has already been done and largely avoid planting high-density housing next to existing neighborhoods.

"Fortunately for us we've been pretty good at planning for growth," Ramirez said. "Rezoning will likely not have to be a key strategy for achieving the housing obligation."

Outside of housing, Ramirez said the city still has a lot on its plate to help those suffering economic hardship, particularly families and businesses affected by the pandemic. Among the most noteworthy and most well-funded efforts is the city's guaranteed basic income pilot program, which will provide $500 monthly checks to low-income families with no strings attached.

Add in a mix of other projects -- the reversible bus lane project on Shoreline Boulevard, the closure of Castro Street to traffic and the small business recovery program -- and Ramirez said it's going to be a packed year with a ton of work.

"None of these items are trivial, they are all difficult, and if we can achieve these over the next year we will have had a remarkably productive year," he said.

In taking the reins as mayor, Ramirez emphasized that the goals the city sets out to achieve reflect the creativity and the compassion of the residents themselves. Mountain View has repeatedly punched above its weight when it comes to things like homelessness response and pandemic-related financial assistance, he said, and it's borne out of a desire to help each other.

Even on contentious issues like RV parking restrictions, Ramirez said residents on both sides of the issue had a distinct desire to help homeless people and low-income residents.

"I think here we really care about our community, and I think that's what drives a lot of what we do," He said. "There is a strong sense of concern for our neighbors."

Comments

Bruce Karney
Registered user
Old Mountain View
on Jan 18, 2022 at 2:19 pm
Bruce Karney, Old Mountain View
Registered user
on Jan 18, 2022 at 2:19 pm

I've known Lucas Ramirez for many years and he's an exceptionally approachable and thoughtful individual. I have no doubt he will make a good Mayor.


Donna Davies
Registered user
Cuesta Park
on Jan 18, 2022 at 2:46 pm
Donna Davies, Cuesta Park
Registered user
on Jan 18, 2022 at 2:46 pm

I've had the great pleasure of working with Lucas in the League of Women Voters and know that he is very knowledgeable and smart, tactful and compassionate, respectful and optimistic.


I can't breathe pollution
Registered user
Shoreline West
on Jan 19, 2022 at 4:40 pm
I can't breathe pollution, Shoreline West
Registered user
on Jan 19, 2022 at 4:40 pm

Well bad news Lucas Ramirez, the coronavirus didn't go anywhere. Sounds like your health policy is about as realistic as your housing policy


Ron MV
Registered user
Waverly Park
on Jan 20, 2022 at 2:34 pm
Ron MV, Waverly Park
Registered user
on Jan 20, 2022 at 2:34 pm

@I can't breath: What on earth are you on about? No where does the article talk about any sort of Ramirez health policy. He said he was hoping long ago that the pandemic would be a thing of the past. It isn't, but that has nothing to do with him or any policies.


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