MOUNTAIN VIEW — Two new politicos are going up against three incumbent city leaders for a shot at three open seats on the city council in the November election with the housing crisis dominating the political conversation.
Mountain View has long been seen as Silicon Valley’s beacon for housing construction, leading in office and housing construction among its neighbors in the north side of Santa Clara County. But with the post-pandemic setting in amid fears of a recession, the looming question is whether Mountain View can keep up with the housing construction boom while also expanding city services and shaping new neighborhoods.
The council’s three seats are currently held by incumbents Ellen Kamei, Mayor Lucas Ramirez and Alison Hicks, and their newcomer opponents will be Justin Cohen and Li Zhang. All candidates answered questions in a Bay Area News Group questionnaire this week, and outlined major issues facing the city and how to tackle it.
Kamei, who served as mayor in 2020, said she is running to “continue to bring my collaborative, balanced and pragmatic approach to tackling the city’s most difficult public policy challenges” which include the housing crisis, transportation and infrastructure needs and mental health.
Kamei is a Mountain View native who has spent the last eleven years in the city. She is a full-time working mom and has been in city politics for the last 10 years, including six as a Environmental Planning Commissioner, four as council member and one as mayor.
If elected she hopes to focus on “providing housing solutions for residents at various income levels,” increasing multi-modal transportation and pedestrian options in the city and enhancing public parks and open space.
“The best way to tackle any issue is to be bold and collaborative,” Kamei said. “I am running for re-election to continue to bring my collaborative, balanced, and pragmatic approach to tackling the City’s most difficult public policy challenges like our housing crisis, addressing transit and infrastructure needs, and mental health.”
Mayor Ramirez, who has been on the city council since 2018, is focusing his campaign on the work he’s done to address the region’s housing crisis. Since his foray in local politics as a member on the Environmental Planning and Human Relations commissions, Ramirez has focused on funding affordable housing, tenant relocation assistance, rent control for mobile homes and streamlining housing production by setting up guidelines like the East Whisman neighborhood plan.
A lifelong resident of Mountain View, Ramirez hopes to continue to work on the housing crisis and homelessness while also tackling traffic congestion issues in the city and the COVID recovery. Ramirez is
also one of only two current council members to vote against the placement of Measure D in the 2020 ballot — which would have essentially dismantled the city’s rent control program — and against the RV ban, along with Hicks.
“Our Council has approved innovative and forward-looking land use policies that will meaningfully address the housing crisis and concerns about traffic congestion and safety,” Ramirez said. “We are converting suburban office parks into thriving mixed-use neighborhoods. By planning for housing growth in our job centers, with significant affordable housing requirements, we provide opportunities for low- and moderate-income people to remain in Mountain View and reduce the need to commute from long distances.”
Since joining the council, 20-year-long Mountain View resident Hicks — a city planner by trade –has advocated for more environmental protections and housing construction to deal with the area’s homelessness and affordability crises. In addition to her experience as a planner and affordable housing advocate, Hicks has served on the council for four years including as vice mayor and has chaired multiple committees, including the council’s affordable housing committee which has created affordable housing projects that have served as a model for the region.
Hicks said her top three priorities are the city’s financial and legal liabilities, environmental sustainability and affordable housing. She’s most proud of her work in championing the city’s car-free downtown area and its master plans for parks and recreation, as well as her efforts in making Mountain View more bike and pedestrian friendly.
“I’m running because we live in a growing city and region. I believe that we have to make that growth livable,” Hicks said. “I want Mountain View to have more parks and trees, abundant housing and thriving small businesses. My education, experience and past four years on Council are invaluable assets for the city as we face the challenges ahead.”
Also running for council are two new faces in Zhang and Cohen. Cohen did not respond to the questionnaire.
Zhang has called Mountain View home for two decades and is concerned about the city’s quality of life, and would like to see the city grow while retaining its good quality of life for all residents. She believes new developments should be compatible with existing neighborhoods and that the amount of parkland and access to goods and services should keep up with population growth.
Zhang has been a lifelong member of the Sierra Club and Audubon Society, and since 2001 has been an active community leader and volunteer for local organizations like Mountain View High School, her son’s Boy Scout troop and the UC San Diego Regional Alumni Club. She has not previously held public office.
“Throughout my education and career, I have focused on utilizing technology for innovative and breakthrough solutions to our many societal challenges,” Zhang said. “I have been a force in bringing all parties together to create pragmatic solutions for extremely complicated problems. I will bring my keen financial acumen and can work with staff to continue the practice of structurally balanced budgets for our city, and a long-term view of the city’s finances to ensure continued financial health.”
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