At Silicon Valley Chamber event, five South Bay are mayors speak on issues that need collective action

From left: Sunnyvale Mayor Larry Klein, Cupertino’s Sheila Mohan, Mountain View Mayor Pat Showalter, Santa Clara Mayor Lisa Gilmore, and Milpitas Mayor Carmen Montano. Picture by Ritu Jha

Ritu Jha–

Five South Bay mayors from California extolled the virtues of their cities and how to work collaboratively at the annual Mayors’ Breakfast hosted by the Silicon Valley Central Chamber of Commerce (SVCCC) on March 7.

The event was attended by Santa Clara Mayor Lisa Gilmore; Sunnyvale Mayor Larry Klein; Mountain View Mayor Pat Showalter; Cupertino Mayor Sheila Mohan and Milpitas Mayor Carmen Montano. They participated in a discussion moderated by Russell Hancock, CEO, Joint Venture Silicon Valley (above left), on issues affecting their cities including transportation and affordable housing.

Harbir Bhatia, the Indian American CEO and president of the Silicon Valley Central Chamber of Commerce (SVCCC), on bringing five mayors to talk on collective issues told indica, “The objective was to bring the conversation to the regional context. The mayor’s job and responsibilities are at the local level. But organizations like SVCCC give them platforms to converse about things that impact each other, and so the event was aimed at bringing the conversation to the benefit that businesses bring to society.”

When Hancock posed a question on creating self-regional transportation, Cupertino’s Sheila Mohan said, “Cupertino did move towards improving the transportation system. We spent considerable time and effort to expand our operations. Now we are working with our other neighbor, [Sunnyvale], to have seamless point A to point B transportation.” She said Cupertino’s Hopper service was recently extended to Santa Clara.

She said the city is known for quality schools and its proximity to high tech jobs, and this makes it a desirable address for a highly educated and culturally diverse population. “Seventy percent of the population is Asian American, and more than 50 percent have a graduate degree. Education, innovation, and collaboration are at the heart of everything they do.”

She told the audience that Cupertino’s economic base comprises 10,000 businesses and close to 50,000 jobs, of which 20,000 workers were added between 2012 and 2022.

“Cupertino’s real estate plays a large role in the city’s economic success,” Mohan said. “With low office vacancy citywide, we’re in a perfect position for the next wave of investment opportunities. We recently launched the Cupertino Business Connect platform to ensure that our local businesses have the tools needed to continue to thrive with the exchange of ideas, resources, and opportunities.”

Santa Clara Mayor Gilmore agreed about the Hopper connectivity. “The Evelyn trail, an idea I had over 15 years ago, is finally coming to pass, at least from our downtown,” she said. “Hopefully, we’ll make it to Mountain View soon. We are removing bike lanes and creating a multi-buffered trail next to the Caltrain track to connect our downtown.”

Gilmore said though the existing transportation systems are running well, they don’t fit everyone’s needs. So, they’re looking for something that fits their schedule.”

She spoke to indica on the sidelines of the event. “The event gave me a chance to talk about the programs and availability of assets that we have in our city. But it also let me listen to the other cities to see where they are, because we like to collaborate. A lot of our issues cross city lines.”

She said that Santa Clara has always been a business-friendly city. “We have 4500 businesses, including Nvidia, Intel, Palo Alto Networks, and AMD. We want to make sure that we keep that reputation and to let our business community know that if they want to start a business or expand their business in Santa Clara, we’re open and willing to help.”

She revealed that with people now working from home, many small businesses are impacted. “We’re hoping people come to work a few days a week so we can help our city’s economy, especially small businesses. We lost a lot during the pandemic.”

Mohan elaborated on housing, “Cupertino is working towards getting our housing element approved. People in government understand the challenge we have for the allocation of 4500 units, including affordable housing. We are streamlining processes and encouraging people of all levels to make Cupertino their home.”

Sunnyvale Mayor Klein said that even if it is the second biggest city in the county, it doesn’t get publicity. “It’s a very well-run city. We’ve got a $4 billion investment for a chip research facility. We just approved our Moffett Park Specific Plan in the north of the city and will add 10 million square feet of office space, 20,000 units of housing, and half a million square feet of retail. Basically, we’re designing a small city in that part of Sunnyvale.”

He said that 95% of the city’s businesses have 25 employees or less. “Lots of cities depend upon their restaurants and small businesses. From a tech standpoint, all the big companies rely on mid-size and small companies to provide services and other things that make sure that they’re successful. So, we want that mix within our city,” he said.

On housing, he told indica, “Downtown is getting a boost through mixed-use development. With that mixture of retail on the bottom, and residential units and employers on other floors it’s vibrant during the day and it’s very vibrant in the evening because people are living there.”

Carmen Montano, the first woman mayor of Milpitas, was also at the event. “Business in Milpitas has flatlined,” she said. “The biggest factor is inflation. When prices are high, people keep money in their wallet, and it does not get circulated. That a key issue,” Montano told indica.

“Milpitas is increasingly recognized as a highly desirable location,” Montano said. “It’s a great place to do commerce. Our water is fresh, clean, and safe. A lot of people come here, especially the biodiversity companies and if you don’t have clean water for the semiconductors, it affects the microchips.”

She said Milpitas is one of the few cities that have BART [Bay Area Rapid Transit], and it has an interconnection now. It’s going to be more of a regional service in the county. We also have a shuttle service called SMART. We started with two shuttle services and now we have eight.”

Mountain View Mayor Showalter said, “We are not part of the joint shuttle service, that’s something we need to work on. We do have an internal shuttle service called Mountain View Go, which has been going on for about a decade now. It was funded initially by money from Google, and now the city has taken that over and we expanded the schedule last year so that it can also take kids to school.”

She said Mountain View is home to Google, Intuit, LinkedIn, Waymo, and a host of other companies. “We have 4800 business licenses. Most of those corporations are very small, consisting of two or three people, but there’s a tremendous amount of innovation. Mountain view may be small, but we play an extra-large role on the world stage because of the prominent businesses.”

Showalter said Mountain View has only 83,000 people living there, but “have big jobs and housing imbalances. That’s something I’ve devoted most of my time to besides environmental issues. We have over 1400 affordable housing units in the city. That means they’re subsidized and people who have AMIs or average median incomes of less than 80%, some less than 30% can live there and pay 30% of their wages.”

On housing, she said, “We have about 3000 units in the pipeline. We also are working to increase our stock for market-rate housing. And that turned out to be a lot easier because Mountain View is a very desirable place to live and develop and to work and it’s also a great place to go out for food. We have 45 parks and we desire to have a park within a less than ten-minute walk of all of our residents.”

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