In the Council chambers
Wednesday July 02nd 2014, 10:26 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit,Politics

A member of the Mountain View City Council finally found out an hour before the meeting last night that no, he did legally have to recuse himself no matter how much he wanted to approve the project. He lived too close to it. That may well be why our agenda item scheduled for 6:30 was finally taken up at 9:00 pm.

Right there is a reason for people who don’t yet know how to knit to learn: portable, useful, gratifying, calming, and you don’t miss a thing while listening to people drone on when they’re in power and you can only hope that they hear what the community has to say.

Stitch. Stay.

They then spent three and a half hours on the Merlone Geier project that threatened Milk Pail. Geier was hoping to get final approval at long last and hoping that that guy would be the swing vote. Didn’t happen.

I wasn’t sure my 66g of Malabrigo Rios would last and it actually wouldn’t have but that my hands gave out by midnight.

When I arrived at City Hall, there was a small rally going on in front. If this passed they had a week to gather signatures to demand it be put on the ballot to try to stop it.

I said to the man addressing the group, when he said he was new at this, that I lived in the next town over and we did exactly that and we did defeat a poorly thought out development. Not only did people gather signatures but they put a copy of the petition online so that you could print it out, sign and mail it, and we won.

One of the women had made a whole bunch of signs and when she asked me if I wanted one that said I (heart) Milk Pail, I exclaimed eagerly, Yes please!

It turns out that opposition to the project had grown to include those dismayed at adding a million square feet of work space with no housing to balance it, further skewing the jobs vs housing ratio that has driven even the most modest studio apartments to $2500 rents here.  They wanted one of the proposed offices to be homes instead to at least ease some of that pressure.

And so we went in and waited.  The chambers were beyond standing room only–there was just no place left to put any more bodies in that room without the fire marshal hustling people out. The mayor asked people to be careful not to let their signs block their neighbors’ view. We were good.

The Council went over their slides and their stats endlessly. A few drawings had changed, the ten-then-eight stories were now to be six, etc.

Finally they announced that Merlone Geier’s representative would speak, followed by Steve Rasmussen, owner of Milk Pail.

The young guy with the slicked-back hair, shiny shoes and expensive suit, his face familiar by now, got up to give Geier’s spiel, trying as always to impress. Up pops a slide: a long list of all the meetings they’ve attended with the city over this.

(Well yeah dude that’s part of your job and part of their jobs. You wouldn’t still be doing this after two and a half years if you didn’t expect to make millions off it.)

But then–at the end he turned and gestured expansively towards Steve and darn if the guy didn’t smile, I mean, really smiled Steve’s way. I realized suddenly I’d never seen him looking anything but majorly stressed before.

Steve got up. He said that Merlone Geier had been helpful (while I thought, Steve, you are the salt of the earth and the nicest guy ever but that’s not a description I thought I would ever hear, not even from a saint like you) and he went on to announce that he and they had come to an agreement on the parking.

Yes it would cover the required number of spaces for his business.

Yes it would be for a long time to come. (Having his daughters inherit his business and being able to continue there for another generation had been a huge issue to the community.)

The Council sat there as stunned as the rest of us. We all clapped. The mayor reminded us we were not allowed to clap during a hearing. Okay, let’s see how loud our faces can smile, then–but the councilmen were grinning bigtime, too.

But Steve offered no details and he sat down and they had to go on debating the project while not knowing just what changes the developer was thinking of doing to make it so what Steve had just said would be feasible. Were they talking about relocating the proposed parking structure? Just rededicating some of the spots still a good hike away? Nobody seemed to ask, or if they did I sure missed it.

The planning commission days earlier had unanimously voted the project down, a complete turnaround on their part, pending the completion of the Concise Plan for the overall area. Etc.  I’m thinking surely all the public pressure in support of Milk Pail played into that.

Two hours later…

One Councilman finally asked the crowd, which at midnight was down by half and everybody could actually sit down in the seats now, how many people wanted this continued rather than put to an immediate vote. Nearly every hand went up.  And he asked Steve what everyone had been dying to know: what were the specifics of this new agreement?

Steve clearly didn’t want to endanger this shaky new truce but he tried his best. It was contingent on this Phase II being approved.

In the end, the vote: item delayed till this date.

So maybe Steve has an agreement and maybe he doesn’t now.

We poured out of the chambers at long last.

In the second picture is Jac Siegel, the one Councilman who after all this I’d vote for if I lived there. Really knows his city and a decent human being.

The senior Merlone Geier representative shook Steve’s hand, and then as he continued on by I said to the guy, with a warm smile in gratitude at their change of heart (however it happened, I’ll take it), “Take good care of him,” (motioning at Steve, now talking to another supporter.) “He means a lot to us.”

The guy went from approaching me, looking at me, to abruptly turning away and avoiding all eye contact as if I suddenly didn’t exist.

It hit me that maybe he was wondering if anyone in *his* business world would say words of support like that about him in such personal terms–maybe that’s not fair of me, but his sudden stricken change of demeanor was memorable. My heart went out to him, not that he would know that.

Steve loved my sign. I told him I really couldn’t take credit for it. The woman who had given it to me had gone home, though, so when I knew he wanted it, absolutely, I’d be honored.

He sent me a short note today thanking me for coming and saying that sign was in his kitchen now.

I took great comfort in that.

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