BY ALLISON LEVITSKY
Daily Post Staff Writer
Mountain View Mayor Lisa Matichak made a digital faux pas yesterday (March 7) when she accidentally hit “reply all” on an email, appearing to say that she wants to “thwart” former Mayor Lenny Siegel’s advocacy for building housing in the North Bayshore area.
It all began at 12:38 a.m. yesterday when Siegel wrote a mass email to the members of the pro-housing group Balanced Mountain View, inviting them to a meeting Tuesday evening to strategize about “getting the North Bayshore job done.”
Plans for Google and Sy-West to develop the area around Century Cinema 16 with housing, office, hotel and entertainment have stalled,
and Siegel is concerned that the so-called “gateway” area to North Bayshore won’t see much housing.
Later in the morning, Matichak responded from her personal Gmail account to the whole email list with one sentence: “How are we going to thwart him?”
The email appeared to be in direct response to Siegel’s message because his was the most recent email listed underneath hers.
North Whisman neighborhood resident Barry Burr responded with the word “Yuck” and asked whether the issue needed to be so divisive.
“I’m no (former Mayor) Mike Kasperzak, but I’m sure we can all agree that the first part of solving where parties have their differences is to grant that other side’s view is just as legitimate to them as our views are to ourselves,” Burr wrote at 1:01 p.m. “However distasteful the opposing opinions may be, let’s get the show on the road to get the plan built. OK?”
At 1:19 p.m., Matichak responded to the Balanced Mountain View list, explaining that the email was an accident.
“I made an honest mistake this morning and thought I was responding to a different email on a different topic,” Matichak said. “We have a precise plan in place for North Bayshore and we are working with the property owners in North Bayshore to implement the plan.”
Matichak declined to say who she was hoping to thwart, if not Siegel and his housing advocacy in North Bayshore.
“That was my personal email that that was sent to, and it had nothing to do with city business, so I’m not going to say,” Matichak told the Post. “I kind of feel like I’m surprised that my email error would cause such an uproar.”
Siegel removed Matichak from the Balanced Mountain View email list yesterday because it appeared that she had been “lurking” on it “to kind of keep an eye on what her political adversaries were doing.”
But he said he wanted to “let the dust settle” before he took a position on whether Matichak was telling the truth about the email.
“People make mistakes, but her disclaimer would be more credible if she would say who she was trying to thwart. That’s not a word that I use,” Siegel told the Post. “If I were to write that, I would be able to explain who it was about, so either she’s hiding something else that she’s uncomfortable about or she’s not telling the truth.”
And Siegel said it was suspicious that Matichak waited several hours to send a followup email explaining that the “thwart” email was sent in error.
It wouldn’t be out of character for Matichak to want to weaken housing in North Bayshore, Siegel noted. He said she was “weak” on housing, though not totally against it.
In Palo Alto, both Matichak and Vice Mayor Margaret Abe-Koga would be considered pro-development, but in Mountain View, where elected officials tend to support more housing, both are on the slow-growth side, Siegel said.
Matichak’s record on housing
In June 2017, Matichak, Abe-Koga and Councilman John McAlister voted to slash a plan for 9,850 units to between 1,500 and 3,000.
Matichak later voted to strengthen housing in North Bayshore when it was clear that the pro-housing council members had secured the majority, Siegel said.
On Feb. 26, both Matichak and Abe-Koga saw Sy-West’s proposal for developing the “gateway” area of North Bayshore as the starting point for the area’s master plan.
Siegel said he disagrees with that idea because Sy-West’s plan was “very out of balance” with between 517 and 742 housing units for 885,000 square feet of new office space, 330 hotel rooms, 285,000 square feet of retail, entertainment and services, including a movie theater complex.
But, Siegel pointed out, Matichak worked constructively as a planning commissioner on housing in North Bayshore before she was elected to council.
Ultimately, Siegel said, everyone has sent an email to the wrong person. But it remains unclear whether Matichak meant to send an email about “thwarting” Siegel to someone off-list, or whether she was really referring to something unrelated.
“We all make this kind of mistake. I do,” Siegel said. “It’s clear she made a mistake. The question is: What mistake was it?”