Tag Archive for City of Mountain View

City of Mountain View Expands Prevailing Wage Mandates to Private Affordable Housing Developments Receiving City Funds

Construction unions and allied organizations continue their campaign to stop California’s charter cities from exercising their constitutional right to adopt their own city policies concerning wage rates on purely municipal public works construction contracts or on private construction receiving government financial assistance only from the city.

On October 8, 2013, the council of the City of Mountain View (in Santa Clara County) voted 6-1 for a resolution to end its policy of not requiring affordable housing developers receiving city funds to impose state prevailing wage rates on construction trade work or professional construction services.

While not explaining how the State of California actually determines “prevailing wage” rates, the staff report was fairly blunt about the increased cost of the proposed resolution:

…to get a better understanding of the impact, staff contacted BRIDGE Housing, a major nonprofit developer constructing affordable housing throughout California. BRIDGE Housing’s Vice President, Tom Earley, stated that the cost increase due to prevailing wage averages about 10 percent. His figure is based on actual projects and direct experience and not from estimates or studies. This is consistent with ROEM’s estimate for the Franklin Street Family Apartments, shown in the table below, which compares the prevailing and nonprevailing wage budgets for the recently constructed Franklin Street Family Apartments. In this case, a prevailing wage increased the project cost by 10 percent.

Among the members of the Mountain View City Council, only Mayor John Inks voted against the government mandate for state prevailing wage rates. You can thank him via e-mail.

Two city council members cited the support of prevailing wage by Congressman Paul Ryan (the 2012 Republican candidate for Vice President) in defense of their votes. Advocates for California’s prevailing wage law like this “bipartisan” argument: it was used at the San Diego City Council meetings earlier this year.

Staff noted there weren’t any pending affordable housing projects on which this new policy would apply. It’s likely this vote was a political stunt orchestrated by union officials as additional momentum to convince Governor Jerry Brown to sign Senate Bill 7, which would withhold state funds for construction from any charter city that establishes its own policy concerning prevailing wage on city projects or city-funded projects. The Governor has to make a decision on this bill by October 13.

News Media Coverage

Council OKs Union Wages for Affordable Housing: Policy Will Add about 10 Percent to Cost of New ProjectsMountain View Voice – October 10, 2013

Mountain View: City-Funded Affordable Housing Projects to Pay Prevailing WageSan Jose Mercury-News – October 10, 2013

This article reported the following:

The discussion drew a large and mostly supportive crowd Tuesday. Among those who addressed the city council was Mountain View resident Matt Savage, who said he works multiple jobs but still struggles to pay his rent.

“Prevailing wage helps preserve the middle class here in Mountain View,” he said. “It’s not just Google employees at the top and the people who wash their cars and mow their lawns at the bottom.”

I posted a comment in response to the article:

Mountain View resident Matt Savage struggles to pay his rent? You would think the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local No. 5 would pay more money to its organizers/political consultants.


Few ordinary citizens know that emotional anecdotes made at public meetings are usually manipulative distortions for political effect.

Exclusive: Copies of the Two Appeals of the Conditional Use Permit Approved for a Proposed Chick-fil-A in Mountain View, California (San Francisco Bay Area)

I predicted in a July 30, 2012 post that Chick-fil-A is about to become very familiar with how the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) can be an unpleasant and costly obstacle to building and operating anything in California. The first test of this prediction may occur in the City of Mountain View, near San Jose in Silicon Valley. 

On July 11, 2012, the Zoning Administrator for the City of Mountain View approved a Conditional Use Permit for a Chick-fil-A to replace a Sizzler restaurant (that refused to pay the rent) after receiving a recommendation from the city’s Development Review Committee and after holding a public hearing, as required under the Mountain View Municipal Code Section A36.60.040.

According to the Mountain View Municipal Code Section A36.60.010, “Conditional Use Permits allow for activities and uses which are not routinely permitted within the subject Zone District and need to be reviewed on a case-by-case basis to determine whether the activity or use is appropriate for a particular location, including its compatibility with existing uses. Any Conditional Use Permit granted may be subject to conditions that will ensure that the use as proposed and conducted will be compatible with the intent of the applicable Zone District and other uses in the area.”

Section A36.80.100 of the Mountain View Municipal Code allows someone to file an appeal of the Zoning Administrator’s decision within ten days after the decision is mailed. The Chick-fil-A controversy broke on July 16, and this routine zoning approval on July 11 suddenly received a lot of scrutiny.

Two parties filed appeals. Failing to find these appeals posted anywhere, I asked the Planning Division of the City of Mountain View (near San Jose in Silicon Valley) to email me copies of the two appeals of the Conditional Use Permit. Links to the appeals are below.

The first and primary appeal that will be considered by the Mountain View City Council was filed by David Speakman, a resident who acknowledges to the news media that his appeal is motivated in part on his opposition to Chick-fil-A corporate activities and statements concerning same-sex marriage. His appeal does not mention this motivation, but it lists the typical issues that have also popped up in objections to In-N-Out burgers in several locations in the state: cutting down of heritage trees, garish signage, traffic congestion, greenhouse gas emissions from cars idling in drive-through lanes, failure to confirm with the city’s general plan that encourages bicycle use, noise, and trash. The appeal concludes with a derogatory reference to “junk food.”

David Speakman Appeal of Mountain View Chick-fil-A (Appeal No. 1)

A second appeal was filed by resident Bruce England, who asserts that his objections are based on his concerns about the environmental impact to the neighborhood, particularly to renters in multi-tenant apartment buildings nearby. His appeal also cites greenhouse gas emissions from idling cars, traffic congestion, noise, the glare of headlights at night, production of waste, cutting down of heritage trees, and failure to conform with the city’s general plan, a specific neighborhood plan, and the plan developed by the city’s Environmental Sustainability Task Force. 

Bruce England Appeal of Mountain View Chick-fil-A (Appeal No. 2)

It will be interesting to see how the Mountain View City Council handles these appeals and if these appeals ultimately result in the need for the City of Mountain View to work with Chick-fil-A in the development of an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) under CEQA.


Groups Set to Appeal Chick-Fil-A – Mountain View Voice – July 18, 2012

Opponents Can’t Stomach Chick-fil-A’s Plans in Mountain View – San Jose Mercury-News – July 20, 2012

Gay Marriage Supporters File Chick-Fil-A Appeal – Mountain View Voice – July 27, 2012

Chick-fil-A’s Plans for Mountain View Draw More Opposition – San Jose Mercury-News – August 2, 2012

Prediction: Chick-fil-A Will Soon Become Acquainted with How the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Is Wielded for Purposes Unrelated to Environmental Protection

As someone who has spent 15 years tracking and exposing how labor unions exploit the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to block proposed projects in pursuit of objectives unrelated to environmental protection, I predict Chick-fil-A is about to join Wal-Mart and large solar power plant developers as a favorite California target of “greenmail,” or environmental permit extortion.

Based on the latest developments outlined below, one can conclude that the days are over of city planning staff in California quietly granting routine zoning variances for Chick-fil-A. Soon the company will be dealing with lawsuits demanding lengthy and costly Environmental Impact Reports (EIRs), and after those reports are completed and the projects are approved, then there will be more lawsuits challenging the adequacy of the reports and the steps for environmental mitigation.

Obvious weak points for Chick-fil-A are traffic congestion and greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles idling in drive-through lines. In-N-Out Burger has dealt with these issues in recent years (recent examples being neighborhood resistance in Studio City, Santa RosaPleasant Hill, and Seaside), but Chick-fil-A will surely provide ripe new opportunities for environmental law firms to test their theories and hone their skills in blocking proposed fast food restaurants.

Chick-fil-A and Wal-Mart: Two Southern-Based Corporations Destined to Face Resistance in California

The Chick-fil-A venture into California is similar to the experience of Wal-Mart as it expanded out of the South and began moving into the very different political, religious, and socio-economic culture of the major metropolitan areas of California and the Northeast. Wal-Mart entered California quietly in the 1990s, but as it began operating in the cities and seeking approval for “Supercenters” that sell groceries, it started to get hammered by a broad coalition of unions, environmental groups, academics, and activists who represented innumerable “progressive” interests. Underlying these interests were subtle class connotations: California’s elite recoiled from the values, priorities, and business practices of the South.

In the mid-2000s, Wal-Mart frequently dealt with environmental objections backed by the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union. For example, William D. Kopper, an attorney based in Davis, took various actions to block approval of Wal-Marts in several California cities, including in Oroville, Stockton, Galt, Santa Rosa, Redding, Ukiah, and Gilroy. (Kopper also did the same kind of work for construction unions seeking Project Labor Agreements from developers.) The UFCW found local allies among a variety of community groups and local activists determined to keep Wal-Mart out of their town.

Now Chick-fil-A has moved into the same regions and invited the same responses. Like Wal-Mart, it moved in quietly, opening its first Southern California locations (eight of them) in 2004 and its first Northern California location in Roseville (a suburb of Sacramento) in October 2005. Since then outlets have been popping up throughout the state. It is finally daring to move into the San Francisco Bay Area, and people are taking notice.

Chick-fil-A in the San Francisco Bay Area – It’s Going to Be a Tough Road Ahead

The Mayor of San Francisco – Ed Lee – received national news media attention last week for jumping on the Chick-fil-A commentary bandwagon with his back-to-back Tweets on July 26:

Edwin Lee @mayoredlee

Very disappointed #ChickFilA doesn’t share San Francisco’s values & strong commitment to equality for everyone.

Closest #ChickFilA to San Francisco is 40 miles away & I strongly recommend that they not try to come any closer.

This Chick-fil-A location 40 miles from San Francisco and referenced by Mayor Lee is the corporation’s current equivalent of Fort Ross, the southernmost frontier post of the Russian Empire in Alta California. Fort Ross was founded in 1812 as Russia penetrated deep into Spanish-claimed territory in what is now Sonoma County.

You can visit Fort Ross today (it’s a state park), and you can also visit the only operating San Francisco Bay Area Chick-fil-A in Fairfield, just off I-80 at the Travis Boulevard exit next to the Westfield Solano Mall.

This is the closest Chick-fil-A to San Francisco: 40 miles away, in Fairfield.

It opened in September 2011. San Francisco Bay Area TV news crews (such as Channel 7 and Channel 2) have showed up there recently for local visuals and interviews with customers.

According to the Chick-fil-A web site, an establishment will open in San Jose on August 16. There will be protests. Another one will open in Walnut Creek on September 20, and a protest is already being planned.

There is likely to be disruption if the planned Chick-fil-A ever opens in Santa Rosa, according to an article in the July 25 Santa Rosa Press-Democrat newspaper. That proposed restaurant had already generated controversy: the Santa Rosa City Council had voted 5-2 at its May 22 meeting to grant approval to build the Chick-fil-A at the site of a vacant Burger King after the Santa Rosa Planning Commission had rejected it on a 3-3-1 vote at its April 12 meeting. Opponents cited the greenhouse gas emissions of vehicles in the planned drive-through lane and general objections to fast food. (See the city staff report here.)

One Santa Rosa City Council member who voted against the Chick-fil-A was Susan Gorin, who is in a highly-competitive race for a seat on the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors. I’m guessing she’ll be trying to ride this high-profile issue to victory in November.

Note that the Chick-fil-A planned for Santa Rosa “is also proposing to incorporate Public Art in Private Development and is currently working with the City parks department to find an artist.” This may become another interesting angle: who will be the artist, and will a subversive message be expressed through the public art?

Meanwhile, in Mountain View (a suburb of San Jose), two citizens raised $1000 to challenge a “routine zoning variance” from city staff to allow a Chick-fil-A to build an outlet there. This article from the July 20 San Jose Mercury-News indicates that they intend to use traffic-related concerns to stop it:

“We need to make our city better – more sidewalk and bicycle friendly – not worse by increasing the number of cars driving up and over our sidewalks to speed in and get fast food,” the appeal states. “The convenience of drive-thru junk food is not worth the increased danger the traffic poses to our citizens.”

This campaign in Mountain View has a fundraising site and is reportedly receiving support from former city councilmember and State Senate candidate Sally Lieber, who is best known for introducing a bill to ban (child) spanking when she was in the California State Assembly. Lieber has a highly competitive race against another Democrat for this seat.

Chick-fil-A in Southern California: Potential for Trouble There, Too

A Chick-fil-A operating in West Hollywood was profiled in this article in the Los Angeles Times on July 28. Meanwhile, a Chick-fil-A opened in Laguna Hills (in Orange County) on July 26 and experienced an opening day protest, as reported here in the Los Angeles Times and here in the Orange County Register.

According to the Chick-fil-A web site, Chick-fil-A outlets will open in Westlake Village (in Los Angeles County) on August 30, Buena Park (in Orange County) on September 13, and Encinitas (in San Diego County) on September 20.

An Unexpected Opportunity for the Public to Learn About Misuse of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)

One of the frustrations of trying to educate the public about CEQA abuse by labor unions is that many reporters completely miss how the fundamental issue at play has nothing to do with environmental concerns. They take the comments, data requests, and lawsuits at face value.

Of course, the legal arguments on the surface are simply a public charade, while the real underlying issue (pressuring the developer to sign a union agreement or trying to block non-union competition) stays hidden from the public. With the upcoming environmental objections to Chick-fil-A, the underlying issue will never be mentioned in the legal documents, but the objective will be apparent and understood by all observers.