The Silicon Valley Voice

Power To Your Voice

Annual Mayors’ Breakfast Deals with Affordable Housing Issues

The Silicon Valley Central Chamber of Commerce’s (SVCCC) annual Mayors’ Breakfast was packed full of lighthearted fun and good-natured ribbing between mayors. Five South Bay mayors attended the breakfast, and each had a chance to extol the virtues of their cities.

Santa Clara Mayor Lisa Gillmor jokingly referred to it as a meeting of her “sister” mayors.

“This event has grown and I’m pleased to see all of my sister mayors here from other cities…and Larry [Klein],” said Gillmor, referencing the only man in the group, Sunnyvale Mayor Larry Klein.


Gillmor’s comments were an example of the banter all of the mayors engaged in throughout the morning as they vacillated between sharing a vision of the future of their cities and comparing the square footage of their affordable housing and tech company office space.

The mayors from Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, Mountain View, Cupertino and Milpitas were each allowed opening remarks and then were asked to participate in a roundtable discussion about issues affecting their cities including transportation and affordable housing.

On the topic of affordable housing, the mayors had similar messaging but differed on how to achieve the end goal.

“Here’s what we’re hearing from the state standpoint: ‘We need to build faster.’…They’re, let’s say, blaming us for not building housing fast enough,” said Sunnyvale Mayor Larry Klein. “We can help that with permitting; we can streamline that to a certain degree, but at the end of the day, the cost of building houses is the biggest portion here.”

“The state, with their housing element, they are making it really difficult for a lot of cities because we’re not the builders. It’s the developers. And again, this is a free enterprise country. Everybody, they have to have a profit margin,” said Milpitas Mayor Carmen Montano.

Because of the costs, Montano says achieving very low (30% to 50% AMI) and low (50% to 80% AMI) affordable housing is difficult.

Mountain View Mayor Pat Showalter would love for cities to advocate for increased caps on state tax credits for building affordable housing. She says that from a city standpoint, the cities help ensure that zoning and building inspection allow for new, safe housing but cities cannot force developers to build.

“We also help subsidize it with development fees and that sort of thing. But that’s really a very modest thing. We provide the money that is leverage, and that’s valuable, and it provides an incentive, but it’s just a trigger. It doesn’t really accomplish the task,” said Showalter. “Particularly, we’re hearing from developers now that with higher interest rates, things just don’t pencil out and they’re kind of waiting to see what’s going to happen for a couple of years.”

Gillmor expounded on what her fellow South Bay mayors said with what she’s seeing in Santa Clara.

“Usually either the city costs are higher, interest rates are down and that pencils out for developers and it’s not happening now. They’re both high,” said Gillmor. “So, we have to take a really good look at what our costs and fees are for development.”

It was the kind of conversation that the SVCCC was hoping to inspire by hosting the event. As SVCCC CEO, Harbir Bhatia pointed out that just because there are city borders, the business of each city does not stop at those borders.

Cupertino Mayor Sheila Mohan agreed.

“We don’t really recognize borders. We recognize that we all share the same challenges or problems,” said Mohan.


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