Midpeninsula Post

(Courtesy Ellen Kamei)

Ellen Kamei is running for Mountain View City Council.

Born and raised in Silicon Valley, Kamei has served in various roles for the city for over 10 years, most notably as mayor in 2021. She previously served on the Environmental Planning Commission for six years, before being elected to City Council, where she’s served for the past four years. She also serves as chair of the council’s Youth Services Committee. 

“I think it’s really important to have the perspective of seeing our community change firsthand,” she said. “We’re talking about a lot of issues relating to climate change [and] housing and I’m really invested in trying to see some of the projects I worked on in my first four years through.”

Kamei said that many issues the council prioritized had to go on pause due to COVID-19 and that she’s excited to continue pre-pandemic projects.

“I love our community and I want to make sure that it’s a great place to live, grow up, come back to, [and] retire,” Kamei said. “And part of that is hopefully being on council.”

Environmental Sustainability

Kamei said the council is exploring a bike and pedestrian master plan so that city transportation is less “car-centric.” 

“Part of that is having bike lanes that feel safe and sidewalks that feel open,” she said. “So that’s something that is coming back to council that I’m passionate about.”

In 2019, the council adopted Sustainability Action Plan 4, which included recommendations from over 100 community members. As a part of that, the council created an Office of Sustainability and team to tackle “resiliency projects and plans,” everything from addressing sea level rise to planting more trees. Kamei said she wants to continue implementing the plan.

While she was mayor, Kamei signed the Mayors’ Monarch Pledge, commiting the city to create sustainable habitats for monarch butterflies and educate residents on how they can make a difference. To do this, the council worked with Google on a grant to create native habitat zones for monarch butterflies and encourage pollination.

“We’re going to be around for a while,” Kamei said. “We need to be thinking about what we’re doing to make sure that our planet, our community, can sustain the changes that are happening.”

Housing

During the pandemic, the city’s eviction moratorium protected residents from eviction, and the council created a rent relief program. But Kamei said that keeping residents housed remains a concern even after the pandemic.

“The most important part that I’m thinking about is how do we make sure people are housed and how do we make sure we’re giving them options for that housing?” Kamei said.

She said the council has been working to make a “suite of options” available for residents, from interim housing to affordable housing and safe parking lots. Kamei pointed to the newly passed mobile home park rent control, which acts in addition to existing city rent control to make residents feel “stably housed.”

Mountain View has one of the largest safe parking programs in all of Santa Clara County and over 100 parking spaces for those who are living in recreational vehicles or oversized vehicles.

“Over the years I’ve been on council, we realized these vehicles are people’s homes,” Kamei said. “They actually need access to parks and forests for what are called accessory vehicles.”

She said that realization prompted the council to make changes to its program and allow residents to park any vehicle that they need in order to live their daily lives.

“Whether you are housed or unhoused, you’re a resident, you’re my resident and I represent you,” Kamei said. And when it comes to housing, what I feel really lucky about is that I live in Mountain View, because people care.”

Livability & Community Participation

Kamei said she got a lot of feedback from residents who appreciated new city services like movie nights in the park during the pandemic and wants to ensure the continuation of these activities and programs.

“People want to be able to have somewhere where they can go with their families, where you can go after school, where you can get out of the heat,” Kamei said.

Kamei said events like concerts in the plaza and outdoor movie nights, in conjunction with annual events like the Holiday Tree Lighting gather hundreds, if not thousands of residents together, and allow residents to have a high quality of life.

“I thought that [having events] was helpful for residents, and then they could see their neighbors, and they could meet new people or have that sense of community that I think is what people were really missing,” Kamei said.

Another aspect of quality of life, Kamei said, is the city’s public safety response. For example, she cited how during the pandemic, the fire department assisted with COVID-19 vaccinations for people who couldn’t leave their houses.

“I think in a lot of ways these services, these departments that we have, help make Mountain View really special,” Kamei said. “We can provide these activities and programs that people know and love, but we can also in emergency instances, be there and still be able to make sure that people are protected and safe.”

To learn more about Kamei, visit her website here.

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