Pop Quiz: How Much Did Mountain View Grow?

by Robert Cox & Deb Keller

Pop quiz: How much did Mountain View’s population grow over the past 20 years?

Answer: We won’t know for sure until the census figures are released at the end of this year. But we do know that during the boom decade of the 1990’s our city grew by 4.8%. And four independent
estimates have the growth rate for the past ten years coming in at 2-3%. That adds up to about 8% for the last 20 years. Surprised? We were too.

So, why should anyone care about these statistics?

One of the most important issues under discussion in our city today is the revision to Mountain View’s General Plan, which will guide the city’s growth over the next twenty years. After discussions
between the city staff, council members, and members of the Environmental Planning Commission (EPC), plans have been narrowed down to two options for the “target areas”: 16% growth Option A, which largely parallels input from neighborhood group meetings, and a more aggressive 31% growth option B, favored by some Council and EPC members.

Let’s take a look at how these 16% and 31% estimates compare to a few ways of estimating how Mountain View might grow from 2010 to 2030:

The chart shows the 10% growth accommodated by the current general plan (GP2010) as well as the 16% Option A and 31% Option B. It also shows what would happen if Mountain View’s growth rate from 2010 to 2030 were the same as that from 1990 to 2010 (8%) and if it were to grow to aggressive levels requested by the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG: 18%).None of us can be sure of what the future will bring. While the Bay Area remains a world leader in innovation and quality of life we enjoy here is equal to none, the existence of a virtual Internet-based world workplace has slowed the local employee growth of Bay Area companies. This leads us question whether even that 8% growth can be repeated in the next 20 years.

So what is wrong with setting aggressive, albeit perhaps unrealistic growth goals? Why stop at five-story buildings? Why not 10 or 20?

The controversy over the Minton’s parcel, no matter which side you were on, was a healthy discussion to have. And we had the discussion precisely because there was realistic zoning in the last General Plan.
Just as with a diet, you could decide to set your calorie limit at 10,000 for the sake of “flexibility.”

On the other hand, if you kept your calorie count at 2500, and a particularly delicious dessert came along, you could still have it. But perhaps you would have to give something else up, or at least make a case that the calories in the dessert were really worth it.Changing zoning to accommodate very high density is like having no zoning at all. Like a 10,000-calorie diet, it may not lead to the result you’re looking for.

Robert Cox is the Secretary of OMVNA, and Deb Keller is the OMVNA Newsletter Editor. The views expressed here are the personal views of Robert and Deb, and do not reflect the views of OMVNA.

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