Sunnyvale City Council Discusses Rent Control
With the Sunnyvale City Council election looming, housing affordability became the key topic at a candidates forum Wednesday night where more than 100 residents turned out to hear where the rivals stood on issues from rent control to mobile home parks.
The forum included candidates Henry Alexander III, who’s facing off against incumbent Gustav Larsson for Seat 1, Joshua Grossman who’s taking on Mayor Glenn Hendricks for Seat 2, and John Cordes who is matching up against Mason Fong for Seat 3, which will be vacated by termed-out Councilman Jim Griffith.
At the two-hour-long forum, candidates touched on RVs on city streets, plans to engage with their North Sunnyvale constituents, their vision for housing families whose annual incomes are below $90,000 and what they think about Google’s development plans in Moffett Park.
The event was hosted at Adobe Wells Mobile Home Community by the Sunnyvale Mobile Home Park Alliance — a group that advocates for rent control and rent stabilization for mobile home parks.
Of the six candidates, Larsson and Hendricks appeared to least favor rent control, with Larsson saying he believes in “voluntary solutions” as opposed to regulating the solution. He also expressed interest in seeing the results of a yearlong housing study by the city before he takes a stance on the issue.
“It’s a tricky situation and I’m really concerned about it and that’s why I’m glad the city is studying how exactly we’re going to navigate this for a good outcome,” he said.
Asked whether he would support rezoning any of the 403 acres that’s zoned for mobile home parks, Hendricks answered, “I do not see an environment where you would ever get four votes on the council to do that, but I would never do that,” which drew a rebuttal from his opponent.
“They voted to close Blue Bonnet,” Grossman said, referring to a park that is officially shutting down this week after losing a long legal battle against the city and a developer hired by the park owner to replace the park with townhomes. Both Larsson and Hendricks contended that Blue Bonnet was not zoned to be a mobile home park and that the city does not have a say in the closure of its parks.
Suggesting that manufactured homes could help ease the city’s housing affordability problem, especially for teachers and low-income families, Alexander said he would be interested in exploring whether the city could expand its mobile home park acreage.
“I would say this is a major issue in Sunnyvale because most people in Sunnyvale aren’t making that kind of money,” he said. “So what is expected of them — to live in Tracy and commute to work? It doesn’t make any sense.”
Grossman opined that getting RVs off the streets requires regional solutions and working with neighboring cities, “because it’s kind of untenable as it stands right now.” Residents in the area say they have noticed an uptick in RVs parking on the north side of 101, such as at Lakewood Village.
Grossman’s said that while the city doesn’t have authority to tell people to move off the street, it should do more to direct them to resources like Sunnyvale’s cold weather shelter.
Fong said he supports adding more office space in Moffett Park as long as its commensurate with housing. His opponent argued that the challenge lies in increasing Sunnyvale’s office space without bringing in more traffic to the city.
“I think we can do more office space but we have to figure out how to do it with zero net cars,” said Cordes.
Judy Pavlick, a resident at Plaza Del Rey, one of the city’s largest mobile home parks and founder of the Sunnyvale Mobile Home Park Alliance, said she found the candidates direct in their responses to some questions, but thought they “they danced around” some of the questions. She was most impressed with Grossman and Cordes, both of whom have been longtime supporters of the mobile home communities, she said.
“I think John Cordes has done his homework,” she said. “He knows Sunnyvale; he knows the issues.”
By the end of the program, 81-year-old Gladys Van Alstyne, an Adobe Wells resident who has lived in Sunnyvale for 47 years, also had a clear idea about who she would give her votes to. She liked that Alexander “stuck to the issues instead of attacking his opponent.” She also was impressed with Fong’s background, family history and his political accomplishments.
But Evelyn You, 11, one of the few young people in attendance, said she found herself “in the middle” about which of the candidates she liked best. Evelyn and her mother, Caitlyn Shao, a 37-year-old hairdresser, live at Adobe Wells.
“I like that they are going to do upgrades, like less traffic,” Evelyn said. “I like the part that they’re going to make arrangements for children, make a better environment for families.”