Chris Clark assumed the role of mayor of Mountain View for 2014 at the Jan. 7 city council meeting. Following is an edited question-and-answer interview with the Town Crier.
Q: Tell us about yourself. Where are you from, how long have you been a Mountain View resident, where do you work and how did you get involved in city government?
Clark: I grew up on a family farm in rural Illinois and became interested in public service while serving as a page for the U.S. House of Representatives. I moved to the Bay Area to attend Stanford University and have lived in Mountain View for about seven years. I worked at a Mountain View tech startup that was acquired by a financial services company a little over a year ago and am now leading one of its product groups. I was first involved in Mountain View politics as a Human Relations Commissioner, subsequently transitioning to the Environmental Planning Commission and then won election to the city council in 2012.
Q: What are three goals you would like to see the city accomplish during your year as mayor?
Clark: This is the last year our current council will serve together. Three members are terming out at the end of the year, so I want to ensure that we wrap up several of the efforts my colleagues initiated. These include finalizing three of our major planning documents (San Antonio, North Bayshore and El Camino Real precise plans), carefully managing our budget until we fully recover from the recession and investigating ways to finance some much-needed infrastructure improvements.
Q: What do you see that the city does well, and where is room for improvement?
Clark: Mountain View is very well managed across the board, and a community survey last year indicated that residents are generally quite satisfied with our quality of life. However, there is always room for improvement, such as improving our transit infrastructure to reduce congestion and make biking/walker easier, streamlining the permit processes for residents and small businesses, and making more services and functions available online.
Q: What is the No. 1 concern residents bring to your attention?
Clark: I think residents right now are most concerned about the growth and development associated with our current economic cycle. Compared to most of the rest of the country, we are in the enviable position of having significantly more jobs than housing, but accommodating growth in an already dense 12-square-mile city is quite challenging and requires a delicate balancing act. Now that the economy has picked up, we’re dealing with some painful realities, such as the fact that no new rental housing was built in almost 10 years and that some level of new supply is critical if we want to keep prices somewhat in check and better meet demand. On the other hand, we must carefully balance this growth with the preservation of our quality of life.
Q: What do you see as the biggest misconception about the work of the city council?
Clark: One big misconception is that the city always says yes to developers and approves everything that comes before us. We have said no to spending any staff time on a number of projects and effectively turned them down at the earliest possible stage, but those decisions rarely make headlines. Having said that, we do vote to at least study and work with developers in many instances on projects we believe have the potential to provide significant community benefits. The misconception is that a vote to study something is effectively an approval. Even if a project makes it to the review process, the larger ones generally take a year or more of public meetings, scrutiny and significant revisions before coming to a final vote. Projects might be approved the majority of the time at the final approval stage, but that’s because months, if not years, were spent significantly revising the original plans to ensure that the project fits into the surrounding area well. We don’t always get it right, but we invest a lot of time and effort in the outreach and planning processes to try to ensure that we get it right.
Q: Are you holding office hours as mayor?
Clark: I plan to hold office hours twice a month, likely on Tuesday mornings. We’re still determining the exact time and will publish the schedule on the city website as soon it’s finalized.
Chris Clark becomes Mountain View Mayor - Photos by Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier