What do you see as the biggest issue for Milpitas in the next 2-5 years and how will you address it?
Timothy Alcorn: The biggest issue is kind of a strain. We’re in a huge housing crisis right now in a lot of areas. There’s plenty of housing but it’s all very expensive, it’s all market rate; not many people can afford to live there and there’s too much housing and too much housing causes a lot of traffic which is already a huge problem here. It causes a lot more students to go to our schools which are already overcrowded. And it’s a strain on our resources and our park and recreation and is really just a strain on Milpitas right now. And when all these new houses are built and completed and occupied, that’s going to add a lot of people to our already overcrowded schools; it’s going to add a lot of traffic to our roads which already have a ton of traffic and more people entering our parks. We build all these houses but we haven’t added any more parks. We used to have a very good ratio between housing and parks and that kind of just got forgotten about. And we added an elementary school, a small one, which is good; it’s a step in the right direction, but we’ve added all this new housing. And there’s no high school, there’s no middle school to be added to it. So, I think that housing would be the biggest issue that’s going on right now. For one, the easiest thing, voting “no” on all market rate housing. That’s the easiest thing to do. Only looking into affordable housing or senior living. We’ve got to take care of our seniors, that’s the first and that’s the easiest one. The past administration approved all housing and that’s kind of set in stone. We need to look into ways to alleviate the clutter of traffic and the clutter of our schools in a sense. We need to look into actually adding more schools, a new high school, a new middle school; we need to look into ways to solve the traffic issue. The Mayor actually said that he will be coming out with a Traffic Plan over the next two weeks. If it’s a good plan, I want to be on the City Council to support it, 100%. Anything we can do to alleviate the traffic is a step in the right direction.
In regards to residential development, which is still a very sensitive issue, my thoughts on that is responsible development. Unknown to most, which I only came to know when I was in office, there has been a plan for the last few years on how Milpitas will be. This is the General Plan, the TASP [Transit Action Specific Plan]…there is the Midtown and each of these plans were products of think tanks at that time of how Milpitas will grow and develop in years. So, the changes, the only relative things about those plans is you have to add to stimulus. Stimulus that a decision-maker would have to incorporate in a responsible development. So it’s not a blanket prohibition, if I may use that word, in regards to development; but make sure that zones are preserved. Like we have ample parcels for commercial, for industrial…and residential has its own positions in that map. And it’s responsible meaning that this development needs to have a social justice on it…Affordable housing which is the current bandwagon all over the state, make sure that thinking people that will live there will enjoy the safety by making sure that they are code compliant, making sure that these are friendly to the city, which will bring us to the next hot issue…which is traffic…
Streets are not getting any bigger. And I am a member of the advisory board for VTA and I participate hearing what Milpitas is experiencing with regards to the issues of traffic. 237, one of the goals is to improve the portion where Milpitas is with VTA funds to allocate traffic. We are making sure our local streets are pothole-free so we don’t contribute more to the traffic. We make sure that every development there is traffic is considered in that decision-making practice. There’s enough circulation, we are diversifying policies as to possibilities of shuttles and anything that would alleviate traffic.
Residential means more people, we are very aware of that. We continue to work with the Milpitas Unified School District to make sure that projections for future students are considered in our decision, with regards to the expansion and development of the city.
We continue to make the atmosphere of Milpitas — regardless of its fast development — a family-based community. Milpitas started as a family-based city. I proposed and hopefully comes that we will have a downtown. I was proposing Main Street in the guise of making it purely commercial, so we have those moms-and-pops stores for us to enjoy. We have developed family-friendly parks, family-friendly programs to continue that atmosphere of being a family-based city. We continue to support and devise policies for the seniors, which is a way of thanking them of their contribution. Make sure that they are taken care of. For the last budget, I was able to incorporate a budget to revive the shuttle for seniors. I got that from the community, and it was budgeted and hopefully it is up and running. We continue to support the youth. Parks and recreation department are well-encouraged to make programs for the children and the youth, to help them [stay] active, physically, mentally — and away from bad habits and drugs.
Karina Dominguez: Some of the bigger issues I know we’ll be having is growth. With that comes traffic. We have seen the developments rise in our city. We have population growth happening that is oversaturating our schools; that includes the high school. I think traffic is a number one concern. From speaking to community members, the second concern I find is affordable housing. And being able to stay in Milpitas.
I’ve talked to seniors who feel they have to sell their home because it’s at top value right now, and they no longer want to take 15 minutes to get to 237 or 880. So they’re exploring other places to live. A lot of them are selling and moving to other cities, other states, where the cost of living is less. Not only that, for seniors, transportation is a big issue. So a lot of them no longer drive. We are definitely lucky to have BART come in, but with that there are other concerns that the community has like safety. That’s a conversation that is getting brought up to my attention constantly as I’m knocking on doors and talking to community members. Safety also comes in the sense of the resources our police department has, and their ability to take care of the issues of BART coming into our city. But I also speak of safety as an infrastructure. That’s another concern. Are pipes too old enough? We’re getting into the state where things are starting to need to get replaced. Our roads, our pipes. Our parks need maintenance, our trails need maintenance. Going out into our community, I feel those are going to be some of the bigger issues for Milpitas, particularly for working families. With that comes a lot of other challenges.
We live in the most expensive place to live in our nation. Families are no longer working one job. They’re working multiple jobs, or working their traditional job and picking up consulting jobs on the side; or something else on the side and they no longer have the weekend open to spend time with their families. To me, the quality of life I’m seeing in Milpitas is changing for families and for individuals. And I forsee that that will bring a lot of different challenges that I am ready to bring solutions to. To make sure we have good quality of life and are able to stay in the city that we love. And that we can raise our families without additional stresses that affect the whole entire family, and the individual as a whole.
Marsha Grilli: The biggest issue that we have right now is the housing shortage and we need to focus on our affordable housing. We need to work on preserving the affordable housing inventory that we have. And as you know we worked on that this last year when we almost lost Sunnyhills, and we need to be working with our regional partners and bringing more affordable housing into Milpitas. And even working with our school district and addressing some of their issues on aiding to provide affordable housing for their teachers and their staff.
Robert Marini: This is the water, this is exactly the same thing. It’s the water fund. We’re losing, it’s costing, let me put it this way. A year ago, two years ago, we lost about $377,000 each year. Now it’s more like $666,000 each year. What that means is the cost two years ago is like $1.5 million now; the cost of lost water is $3 million. And the city is not going to take it on their budget. They pass on all the lawsuits to the residents of Milpitas. So basically the residents are being taken to the cleaners on this. If the costs are transferred to the residents in Milpitas the city has no motivation to reduce the water loss. In fact the water their urban water management report shows that we are way ahead of losing water from what they predicted a year ago. So I think that’s the biggest problem…term limits 8 years…fix this water problem because that’s a precious resource and there’s a double standard on it. The double standard is, the city keeps expanding the population but they tell you to conserve water.
Carmen Montano: Milpitas is in the crossroads of 237/680 and 880, and everybody is going to the big tech companies in the west side over there in Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Santa Clara…So what’s happening is they’re impacting our traffic lanes. So now people are taking shortcuts going into neighborhoods and it’s not a good thing; it’s affecting whole neighborhoods. The calm, peaceful neighborhoods are getting a lot of traffic congestion. I mean, just to get to Point A to Point B in a neighborhood from Milpitas is only six square miles, so it’s not that big and it takes people an half an hour just to get on the other side of town. So I think traffic is a big issue. One of my goals is to form a traffic commission, a traffic circulation commission and what they will do is they will look into what areas…it’s just a problem solving just to see how we can alleviate some of the traffic congestion and also to look into other traffic issues, like street lights that are out, and to be on top of the traffic concerns in our city. And then the other thing to alleviate that traffic is I’d like to form a shuttle service for the seniors and the disabled because they have a hard time getting around in town and also from my understanding, with VTA, you have to make an appointment. And it just takes weeks for them to get to go where they want to go. So that’s the other thing I want to do. The other one is I want to advocate for a new high school in Milpitas. I’m not on the school board anymore but if we can help the school district somehow, for example, do a joint use; I want them to re-open Ayer High School…that is the most cost efficient way to go to open up a new high school. It already has the infrastructure there. They can build up, they could move the district office to another site, perhaps to one of the properties that they own. They can do a joint use agreement with the city, using the sports fields and the swimming pool and so forth.
Van Lan Truong: I think the biggest issue is around affordable housing. Because as we grow in population, the standard of living here in the South Bay Area has become more expensive. People have less opportunities to own their own homes. Working class families tend to have to work more hours to take care of their families to be more self-sufficient. How are we going to work together to take care of working class families? How are we going to address that issue? Because land is so limited. When you have limited resources, you have to look at other alternatives. If we build some buildings, will that affect transportation, the streets, the bus stops…? How will we then address the school issue? We have to think about a better channel of communication between the school board and city council, so together, we can really find the best practices and policies to support every family. We all deserve to have the same benefits as everyone else. When I sat on the GPAC Committee, I was just so grateful because it helped me to have a bigger picture to think of how every is affected with every policey, every decision we make; and not only that, we have to find the fairest solution for everyone. We’re going to run into issues that are more difficult. For me, a community that prospers does so when everyone prospers. The more self sufficient and the more families can take care of themselves, the more successful our community is.
Suraj “Sun” Viswanathan: The biggest issue that I see for part of the community for the north part of Milpitas is the odor. I’ve done some research about it. The issue is caused by 7 major causes. And each cause can be tackled by doing a study on each of them. But also some of the causes associate our neighbors, neighboring cities.
And it is about working together at the end of the day for a common cause which is to eliminate the odor smell in the long run or at least limit it. So I think this will be the main problem for North Milpitas and the solution is to establish a taskforce with these cities and try to find solutions for each individual problem and go after it. But at the end of the day we have to find solutions for all of the 7 issues with all the 4 or 5 associated cities that also have to agree with what we are going to say.
So that is the first one. The second one is affordable housing. Affordable housing is more for me…I’ve been affected by it. I wouldn’t say rent control is a solution. Rent control can indirectly damage the economy of the cities so we don’t want to do that. We want to stay away from rent control. Why aren’t we having enough units? It’s another problem. So we have about 19,300 approved housing here, total housing. Out of that we have only 1280 units available as affordable housing units. Recently in the last two terms of whoever has been Mayor…they have approved a lot of housing. And it equals to 3300 units once it’s built. From 1260 to 3300…1260 was 6.1% and is what we had built as affordable housing. After the 3300 comes in we will be at 15.8. That is still not sufficient enough because the REI wants us to be at around 20%. We will still be 5% shy…I think the city needs to start negotiating with builders very strongly before approving new units, because we have a lot of issues…we don’t a ratio of the right units with the ratio of affordable units.
Note: Some of the candidates’ responses have been lightly edited for clarity.