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A Surprise Visit to Jac Siegel

by Carter Coleman & Robert Cox

Robert Cox and I were biking around Mountain View last Wednesday when Robert spotted Jac Siegel’s house. Perhaps a surprise visit to the Vice Mayor would make an interesting article for the newsletter. And besides, Deb was nagging me about doing an article. “Copy!” she said. “I need copy for the newsletter!”

So we rolled into Jac’s back yard, and he happened to be in his garage working on a 1946 Willys station wagon. What was remarkable was that Jac’s clothes were impeccably clean, as was the engine of the Willys.

Jac greeted us heartily as if he’d been expecting us.

The Willys shared the garage with plenty of other cars, bicycles and motorcycles that Jac had restored to mint condition. I immediately recognized an ancient but impeccable Cushman scooter that I owned in high school.

The conversation about cars turned to house remodels, and Jac took us into his woodworking shop, impressively neat and well-appointed. It turns out that Jac has largely rebuilt his 1886 farmhouse.

Neighborhood Preservation

Jac clearly has an appreciation for historic and well designed stuff. This appreciation has translated into his support of neighborhood preservation and community activism in Mountain View, most recently evidenced in his opposition to the Minton’s project.

“We have something very special in Old Mountain View,” said Jac. “I’m in favor of development, and even high-density development, but this can be done in a way that preserves the neighborhood and makes the neighborhood better. Building a massive rental apartment complex that the developer estimates will have a 50% annual turnover of residents per year does not enhance the neighborhood.”

Jac served on the Planning Committee (predecessor of the Environmental Planning Commission) from 1972–1978, overseeing projects such as the redevelopment of the Whisman area.

Parks & Recreation

Jac is an avid hiker who knows the San Antonio trails like the back of his hand. That weekend he was going to Yosemite to climb Half Dome with his 11-year old granddaughter.

With an appreciation for open spaces, it’s no wonder that in 2006, as a new Council member, one of his first priorities was to try to get 445 Calderon turned into a park. This 1.3-acre parcel, situated at the end of Velarde, contains the second oldest house in Mountain View set amid an old black walnut grove.

Council voted against this project, even though there were sufficient fees to pay for the park from the funds paid by developers. “You need the foresight to make sure you get the right balance of open spaces, services, commercial, and residential,” Jac said. “Just look at what an asset Mercy-Bush Park is to the Old Mountain View neighborhood.”
As it turns out, Jac was right. With Council’s approval of the Minton rental apartment complex, the Old Mountain View neighborhood will be below the city’s target ratio of residents to park space.

Fiscal Responsibility

Another area of concern for Jac is fiscal responsibility. “On the revenue side, our city needs a financial ‘plan’ every time something new is proposed. Would it help, hurt or have no impact on city finances?

“Our city has cash and can make some significant investments in this down market that might yield excellent returns to the General Fund in the near future,” Jac said.

As a former business owner, Jac believes that Council should never OK a budget that is not balanced. “Reserves should not be used,” said Jac. “Using reserves is like using your savings or retirement to make a car or mortgage payment.”

Jac learned to fend for himself from a young age. His father died when he was three, and after graduating from high school at the age of 16, he hitchhiked his way out to California, where he first lived in vacant houses in Berkeley. He found work in a San Leandro warehouse for Western Electric, and earned enough to go back to school, earning a degree in Mechanical Engineering.

While at school, Jac met his wife of 47 years, Sharon. They have two sons, one an Assistant Provost at UC Santa Cruz, and the other is a Ph.D wildlife biologist and CEO of the Institute for Bird Populations.

After college, Jac worked at GT Government Systems, TRW, and Lockheed, where he was the program manager of many large classified programs, including famous aircraft.

Fiscal responsibility, neighborhood preservation and liveability, and a greater number of city parks and recreational areas are the three pillars of Jac’s platform as he campaigns for another term.

Robert felt tired as we pedaled home, after listening to the whirlwind of activity that is Jac. But I had my story for Deb. And I felt sure that I had a candidate for Council whose views were aligned with my own.

Carter Coleman is the Treasurer and Robert Cox is the Secretary of OMVNA, but the views expressed here are Carter’s and Robert’s own and do not reflect the opinion of the Steering Committee or OMVNA.

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