Once upon a time, Castro Street in Mountain View was a far cry from the bustling city center it is today. Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Oscar Garcia and Mayor John Inks recalled the “Dog City” days of the mid-1970s – when the street’s only multistory building was vacant for so long that German Shepherds patrolled the floors to keep the squatters out.
“Downtown was not a place you really wanted to go to,” Garcia said Feb. 7 at the Chamber-sponsored State of the City/State luncheon.
Garcia credited downtown’s transformation into a successful business and retail district to strong city leadership. Luncheon speakers Inks, City Manager Dan Rich and new state Assemblyman Rich Gordon all made cases that the strength of leadership continues.
State of the city
Speaking to a full house at Michaels at Shoreline, Inks and Rich pointed to increases in housing and open-space options. Inks cited recent Stevens Creek Trail improvements as well as last year’s opening of Mariposa Park. In the works are plans for a Shoreline sports complex and playing-field improvements at McKelvey Park. Also planned is an affordable housing complex near downtown Mountain View for 51 families and a new Teen Center, scheduled for construction in summer on the site of the old Rock Church on Escuela Avenue.
Rich offered the state of this fiscal year’s city budget: $231 million, with a $94 million operational budget. Personnel costs account for $75 million, approximately 80 percent of the operational budget.
The $26 million received in property taxes concerns him.
“Property taxes are still below projections, and we’re supposed to be out of the recession,” he said.
On the other hand, Rich reported $17 million in sales-tax revenue and hotel occupancy taxes, which increased “significantly.” Rich expects the city to be in the black by approximately $150,000.
Rich and Inks emphasized numerous planning efforts, including an update of the general plan last year.
The next steps are “precise plans” for the North Bayshore area, San Antonio Road and El Camino Real. Among the problems that need addressing are traffic congestion in the North Bayshore area, impacts of a rising sea level and capacity issues at the Shoreline landfill. The city is also working on an update to its master plan for parks and open space.
State of the state
Gordon inherited Mountain View in December as part of his 24th Assembly district, due to redistricting. He offered a brief bio – raised in San Mateo, five years running a ministry, head of a nonprofit serving at-risk youth, 15 years in public service. As a youth, Gordon worked at Disneyland.
“It was my work at Disneyland that most prepared me (for the Assembly),” he joked, prompting the biggest laugh of the luncheon.
Gordon offered the bottom line about the state of the state.
“It’s getting better,” he said. “We’re not out of intensive care yet, but we’ll survive.”
He cited $20 billion in cuts, along with Proposition 30’s passage for seven years of additional tax revenue, which will lead to the first balanced budget in 10 years. He said the seven-year period would allow the state to pay down the debt while building a budget reserve. He emphasized the need for continued fiscal restraint.
Statewide challenges, Gordon said, include addressing inequities in education funding, implementing health-care reform in 2014 and rebuilding aging infrastructure.