“God bless our Milpitas hills.”
That was a Facebook post put up by former Mayor Rich Tran on Tuesday night, in support of our radiant Milpitas foothills.
Shortly before Tran wrote it, the Milpitas City Council had voted 2-1 to deny resident Sanjay Muppaneni’s request for a zoning exception at 1339 Terra Vista Court, up in the great hills, where zoning codes prevent new homes from being too visible. Mr. Muppaneni sought to erect a home 25 feet in height and 5,900 square feet in overall size. But since 1998, such developments have been prohibited by law (and the laws were reinforced in 2016).
Councilmember Anthony Phan denied the property. Ditto Vice Mayor Evelyn Chua. Ditto former Mayor Rich Tran (philosophically if not officially). Mayor Carmen Montano, sensitive to Mr. Muppaneni’s pursuit of the American Dream, voted against the project’s denial. (Councilmember Hon Lien abstained and Councilmember Garry Barbadillo was not present.) At which point Tran, who watches Milpitas Councilmembers’ votes the same way Ace Rothstein observes wind patterns during sports games, moved in to stand up for the hills while essentially opposing the current mayor. His finger’s on the pulse. He garnered support.
People love our Milpitas hills, and I am one of them.
When my friends from out of town stop in to visit Milpitas, they don’t comment on The Great Mall, or The Minute Man statue. They look off into the distance and say, “Wow, this is beautiful.” And they don’t mean the sky, the grass, or the trees.
They’re talking about the hills.
Tran’s a moderate. Phan, a progressive. Chua, an independent. This is not a partisan issue. Indeed, as all humans know in their bones, the land belongs to everyone.
As of this writing, “Killers of the Flower Moon,” a blood-soaked colonialism epic, is hitting movie theaters. Meanwhile, needless to say, a brutal war is unfolding between Israel and Palestine. Apparently the land is on people’s minds; the collective unconscious is focused on what land belongs to whom and where.
People steal land and kill for land. Land is sacred; it binds our feet to the Earth. It whispers up to us, “Here now you stand.” It is an elemental and eternal aspect of the life experience. No traveler avoids it. All Earth dwellers know the land deeply.
Emotions ran high at the Council meeting. This is understandable, I think, when land is at stake. I draw no parallels between colonial episodes and what is happening in Milpitas; that would be morally obscene. I do declare, however, that our emotions run high when it comes to land because it is such a non-negotiable component of how we live.
Who gets the land, then? Mr. Muppaneni, to live out his dream? Or the people at large, who wish to gaze out upon unadorned, ancient nature?
It’s not just nature. It is the heart and soul and very character of Milpitas. Bare land is beautiful, but neither the bareness nor the beauty of any land can be guaranteed. Both must be fought for and protected. The fight ties us to nature. It allows us to not just look out at the hills, but look into our own past.
I do sincerely hope that Mr. Muppaneni can revise his plans and strike a compromise with Milpitas; he is no doubt a hard-working man who deserves all the fruits of his success. In the meantime, however, the land persists. The hills are bare, and they’re beautiful. Go look out at them. Tell me I’m lying.
Tell me that our hills are not worth fighting for.