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Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Election Districts - Part 6: Number of Candidates

Got Candidates?
How Many Candidates?

When Sunnyvale goes to district elections, will there be enough candidates to fill open seats?  The concern arises because if the 57,000 registered voters in Sunnyvale are divided into 7 districts, then each district has only 8,500 registered voters.  Will even one candidate run in each district?

Link to this post:
Possible district borders of Sunnyvale
In short, yes.  As we see in the following, small districts can have quite a few candidates.  This is because smaller districts lower the "barriers to entry" to being a candidate.

The smaller geographical area makes it easier to visit a greater percentage of homes and meet each resident.  The smaller number of voters makes it less costly to mail out fliers.  This results in money becoming much less important than in political entities with large numbers of voters.  In effect, what we see are more people saying to themselves, something like "Hey!  I can do this!  Talk to my friends and neighbors and they might let me represent them on the city council!"
By looking at the 2018 SF Bay Area results we will see that smaller districts have a plethora of candidates.

This is part 6 in the series on "District Elections" in Sunnyvale.  Links to the other posts are listed at the end of this post.

Enough Candidates?

The fear of too few, or no candidates for election is groundless.  Just a look at the results from Santa Clara County as seen in:

Morgan Hill's District B (below) shows only 3,225 voting for one seat yet there are three candidates.  (Click image to enlarge).
Morgan Hill's District D (below) shows only 3,581 voting for one seat yet there are three candidates.  (Click image to enlarge).
Morgan Hill's school district also went to districts with again about 3,000 voting in each voting district as we see in the following (click images to enlarge):

District 5 had 2 candidates, and only 3,106 voting.  District 1 had three candidates with 3,818 voting.

District 2 had four(!) candidates with only 3,359 voters and district 4 had 3 candidates with only 2,973 voters.

The City of San Mateo district 1 had only 1,097(!!) votes cast yet had 3 candidates to choose from:

Menlo Park's district 2 had only 2,666 votes cast among two candidates.
Next is Los Altos Hills.  The 6,022 votes cast for two candidates means there were a little over 3,011 people voting if everyone voted for two candidates. Just over 3,000 voters yet again, three candidates!

Similarly, in Monte Sereno, there were a small number of voters.  2,861 votes were cast but every voter could cast up to 3 votes.  Most likely there were about 1,000 people who voted implying under 2,000 registered voters in Monte Sereno yet they had six! candidates to choose from.

In Albany, CA (adjacent to Berkeley) we see two seats open, a total of 12,090 votes implying a little over 6,045 voters (each could cast two votes).  That is not too different from what we would expect in a well attended Sunnyvale district of 8,500 registered voters.  With three candidates on the ballot, we see again that there is no shortage of candidates in a small district or city.

This concludes the analysis of small district candidate possibilities.

Other Posts on District Elections

Part 1 - Announcing with details the September 5th, 2018 special city council meeting to consider going to district elections:

Part 2 - Considering some of the implications of the move to district elections:

Part 3 - Sunnyvale gets a letter saying we must move to district elections (most popular):

Part 4 - California Code #34886.  The way the City Council could (likely will) go to district elections.  Why was it not presented by staff as an option?  Also, "Cumulative Voting".

Part 5 - Analysis of potential districts and the representation of minorities.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

District Elections - CVRA - 5

A Letter From

We Get Letters


The Sunnyvale City Council received a letter from "" on the potential lawsuit from the Asian Law Alliance regarding Sunnyvale's possible violation of the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA).  The letter from examines how district elections might be effective in responding to the potential lawsuit.

Link to this post is:

In this post we look at a sample district map, an analysis of the minority subgroups in Sunnyvale, and how those subgroups might fare in districts.  Included is a discussion of Ranked Choice Voting (which FairVote advocates for) as part of the resolution of the issue.

The letter from the law firm GBDH representing the Asian Law Alliance is available here:

FairVote's 13-page letter may be viewed/downloaded here:

Their website is

Click graphic below to enlarge:
From an Excellent summary of At-Large vs. District elections in South Pasadena City's website

Other Posts on District elections:

This is post #5 on district elections.  Links to other posts below:

Lots of Posts!
(Part 1 has been removed for now)
Part 1 - announcing with details the September 5th, 2018 special city council meeting to consider going to district elections:

(Part 2 has been removed for now)
Part 2 - considering some of the implications of the move to district elections:

Part 3 - Sunnyvale gets a letter saying we must move to district elections (most popular):

(Part 4 has been removed for now)
Part 4 - California Code #34886.  The way the City Council could (likely will) go to district elections.  Why was it not presented by staff as an option?  Also, "Cumulative Voting".

Still relevant
Part 6 - Will there be enough candidates to fill city council seats when we go to district elections?

District Map:

From the letter: "FairVote used Auto-Redistrict, an automated redistricting program which uses a genetic algorithm to design districts that meet multiple redistricting criteria. FairVote did not attempt to manually construct a district plan."  That district plan is shown below.

The map is not what Sunnyvale will go to.  It has several "issues" from a "neighborhood character" viewpoint.  For example, the "heritage district" will likely be more unified rather than split among several districts.  Also, districts 2, 4, and 6 might be more compact.  However, it is the only potential district map we have for the moment so it will serve as a point of discussion. (click to enlarge map).

Potential District Map
About 8,500 voters per district
Some acronyms used in the following discussion:

AAPI - Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders - ethnic classification
ACS - American Community Survey - US Census estimates of population
CVRA - California Voting Rights Act - California law requiring elimination of barriers to effective representation of minorities in voting.
CVAP - Citizen Voting Age Population.

In the following discussion, "Asian" is used very broadly to include people from China, India, Vietnam, Pakistan, Japan, etc.  Of course, there is very little in common culturally or linguistically between many of the subgroups but in the US they often unite because they face similar problems related to their ethnic origin.

Ethnic Composition of Sunnyvale

Here is a breakdown of ethnic groupings in Sunnyvale.  (I used the colloquial word "White" for Caucasian because it fits better in the graph label.  I am well aware that many Asians have very pale complexions and many Euro-ethnics have dark complexions):

All Residents
Men, women, children, noncitizens and citizens.

Residents Eligible to Vote
AKA, Citizens of Voting Age Population (CVAP)

Actual Voters 2016
Presidential Election so turnout is higher than in elections for governor.

FairVote's Analysis

FairVote's analysis of their district map (for discussion purposes only) is shown below.  CVAP stands for "Citizen Voting Age Population".  Click on table to enlarge:

The percentages from Table D above are presented graphically below, with "Other" added into the Asian sub-group. (click to enlarge):

From the "Table D" above we see the maximum and minimum percentages for each major subgroup as shown below ("other" is not included with Asian):

From the Table D data we see that whites are the only subgroup to get a majority district.  That occurs in districts, #4 and # 6.

Asians (excluding "Other") hit a maximum of nearly 40% in district #1.  In that district they form a greater bloc than any other group, including whites.  Any person elected from such a district, Asian or not, needs to pay attention to interests of their largest voting group - Asians.  Even with "Other" included, that does not change.

In district #5, at 34%, Latinos are the largest single voting group, greater than whites or Asians.  As with Asians in district #1, any person elected from that district needs to pay close attention to the concerns of the Latino group.

Some people keep insisting we can keep at-large elections by some combination of voting systems and multi-member districts.  We can't.  It will not be acceptable to a judge.  Only single member district elections satisfy the CRVA - with one exception which would not apply to Sunnyvale.

Mission Viejo, Orange County, CA
Exception to district elections - for now.
The one exception to district elections is in Mission Viejo in which a lawsuit was temporarily settled with cumulative voting but that is subject to revocation by the suing attorney if the situation does not work out.  A neighboring city, Santa Clarita, was denied the same remedy.  The particular situation in Mission Viejo is that only about 1 in 7 voters is a minority so the only possibility of their obtaining representation would be cumulative voting.
District map for Torrance, CA
City of Torrance is almost exactly the same population as Sunnyvale.

By going to district elections, the voting area in Sunnyvale would become small enough (around 8,500 voters) that an individual candidate could walk to every house, and afford mailers to everyone because there are far fewer voters to walk to and mail to.  This is very important.  It is not just a matter of making sure a minority has a large concentration of voters in a district, it is a matter of removing "barriers to entry" for disadvantaged groups.

Major Subgroups

The major groups in FairVotes' analysis are White, Latino, Black, Asian, and Other - Miscellaneous Pacific Islander.

FairVote's table A, below, shows that "white alone" (i.e., not "white Latino") makes up 47% of the Citizen Voting Age Population (CVAP), followed by Asian - 32%, Latino - 16%. (click graph to enlarge).

From 2010 to 2016, looking solely at resident population, not voting population, the percentage of Whites has significantly increased, the percentage of Asians has increased a little comprising the single largest population group, while the percentages of Latinos and "Other" have decreased significantly.

While Asians are the single larges group of residents, Whites are the single largest group of voters (last column in table above).

All Kinds of Asians

Not all Asians are the same.  Within the general Asian grouping, languages are completely different and cultures and customs vary widely.  From the FairVote letter we see the "Asian Subgroup" registered voters in Sunnyvale are 13% Chinese, 7.5% Indian, and each of five other subgroups below 3%, as seen in the table below.  Click on table to enlarge.

Economics is another confounding factor.  Chinese engineers may have more in common with white engineers than with Chinese restaurant workers.   Still, members of each ethnic group share some common interests regardless of economics, and discrimination based on external appearance takes no note of economics, or of language subgroups.

FairVote's letter also includes some maps of the two major groups reproduced below:

After a number of tries, FairVote's analysts were not able to generate a majority Asian or Latino District.  They were able to generate plurality districts for Asians and Latinos, as noted above.  Further complicating factors are that East Asians from China may vote differently than South Asians from India or Pakistan.

There is much more in the 13-page letter but this covers the highlights.

At-Large Voting - US History

"...1788 the first states elected their members of Congress At-Large, or statewide. Most soon saw how this left significant regions of their states without local representation and so they started using regionally based districts. By 1842, 6 of the 28 states—the ones typically dominated by one party—clung to the At-Large voting method to control all the seats. That year, Congress banned this voting method, a ban that was several times canceled and then reinstated until the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act..."

After the Civil War, the former confederate states successfully used at-large voting to suppress the black vote.  It was finally outlawed with the Civil Rights Act of 1965.  More here:

The San Jose Mercury News had a very good article on district elections titled "Where Power is Shifting..." here:

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Sunnyvale City Council Member - 2018 - Michael Goldman

After three candidates for Sunnyvale City Council answered questions I thought I'd give my perspective on the same questions, as a sitting city council member (not up for re-election until 2020).

Link to this post:

Question 1 - How are you going to help us to work on the airplane noise pollution issue in Sunnyvale?

Answer: Sunnyvale needs to establish a permanent commission for airplane noise just like we have for Parks & Rec, Planning, Health and Human Services, etc. Airports are going to be around here for the foreseeable future so we need a permanent structure to deal with it.

Right now the 'cause' is carried by a few dedicated individuals. If they leave or get tired, there is no one to replace them because there is no official organizational structure. Even the best city council member with the best will in the world has to juggle many, many issues.
Click on image to enlarge
A dedicated commission of interested citizens can focus on the single issue of airplane noise and pollution, providing continuity and city representation. The commission structure allows for access to the city council on a regular basis, provides a meeting room, and the ability to recommend study issues, among other things.
National association of communities like ours fighting airplane noise
Every city in the US has airports and airplane noise. We need to join forces with all these other areas and work together. A national association of cities and neighborhoods with similar issues already exists called "N.O.I.S.E." (National Association to Insure a Sound Controlled Environment) with Sunnyvale and other nearby cities listed among current or former members ( We need people representing the residents to be active in that (or a similar) organization.

If every congress-member with an airport in his or her district worked together to present the residents' issues, the FAA would have to listen and act if they wanted funding (which they do). Right now, the FAA listens to whomever shows up - which is mostly the airlines. We need to be at the same table.

A commission would provide experience to those just getting into city govt. and enable them to influence city council decisions. If any of the 3 candidates l support were to get on the council, we could make this happen. I was able to get a study issue co-sponsored with council member Russ Melton, but it did not get enough support from the other city council members to go anywhere.

Question 2 - There are two major projects for the city now, the water project and civic center project, how to fund them?
The Water Pollution Control Plant (WPCP) project is huge. It will cost between $700M and $940M and will be completed in 2042. By comparison, the Sunnyvale General Fund Budget is about $300M. The WPCP is being funded by bonds paid for through increases in water rates. It is a necessity. It no longer meets the requirements of stricter environmental regulations. Our water rates go up because we absolutely need to do this. The costs are laid out below.


See also,

The Civic Center is a big deal and I have a lot of problems with it.
found at:
It is slated to cost about $200M for only the city hall and a small addition to the Public Safety Building. That cost keeps going up and we have no current backup plan for a simpler, cheaper version if we can't get the money.

We have never had a vote of the residents as to whether they want a new city hall or not. To me this is crucial. We don't want every line item in the budget to go to a public vote, but something this big, and this expensive absolutely should have a vote of the people to move forward. Whether it comes from sale of land or bonds, or park funds, it is our money and it is a lot of money. We need to have a public vote on whether to go ahead with this.
We also need a requirement that it takes a vote of the people of Sunnyvale to sell public lands. Right now it is just an ordinance that can be repealed by a 4-3 vote of the city council. In 2012, the city council voted 5-2 to proceed with looking at a plan for 99-year leasing away over 60% of the Civic Center. That could happen again with a different city council.
2012-2015 plan to "99-year lease" away 2/3 of the Civic Center.
What I am afraid of is that the city will not be able to get the money and will vote to "99-year lease" away much of the civic center as they voted to in 2012. That plan and the Raynor Park Building sale sparked Measure M. The city is more circumspect now, but everything they do points to opening up that space for easy acquisition by an outside developer. See my short video of the 2014 council meeting to discuss this. Just the first 3 minutes of the 9-minute video tells you most of what you need to know. C.f.,

A much simpler and less costly plan for an addition was presented over 15 years ago (see image below).
Simple add-ons for library, city hall, and public safety building in 2003
Cost then = $90M = (approx.) $180M in 2018 dollars for all three buildings
The Public Library in the above plan expanded from 60,000 sq. ft. to 100,000 sq. ft. For comparison, Cupertino's public library is 50,000 sq. ft. and Santa Clara's main library is 85,000 sq. ft. I have often been in the libraries in Sunnyvale, Cupertino, Santa Clara, and Mountain View. Since the internet took off, the number of patrons using the space has gone down dramatically. This has happened all over the country. It used to be difficult to find a seat in Santa Clara's library, any day of the week. Not a problem now. You can get an entire 3-seat desk all to yourself. Same in Sunnyvale.
About 2X Dollar inflation in building costs since 2003
The City hall in the "add-on plan" of 2003 also expanded - demolishing 42,000 sq. ft. and adding 149,000 sq. ft. However, there were more city employees then (even though there were fewer residents) so probably a smaller addition would be adequate now. Personally I would prefer a lower building addition - 3 stories not 5 stories.

The Public Safety Building is still intended to get a simple expansion as it was then. But it is ultimately planned to be completely torn down and replaced with a building away from El Camino leaving that entire El Camino strip open. I have no idea why it is planned to be moved to the other end of the Civic Center unless it is to clear out space along El Camino for later sale/lease to a big developer.

Question 3 - What is your view on the RV Parking?

Answer: If we allow it, we run into "the tragedy of the commons". ('s_pamphlet). At first it is just one - not a problem - and then a few - a small problem - and then a lot - a serious problem.

Mountain View takes a very tolerant attitude and saw RVs grow from 126 to 300 in less than a year and a half.

We want to be compassionate, but we also need to keep Sunnyvale from becoming an RV park.

It is a public health issue. Where do they get water for cleaning? What do they do with their human waste if there is no sewer connection? How does their trash get collected? It becomes a traffic issue as too many large vehicles block traffic. Will it attract criminals who can avoid arrest by living in no permanent location? Even very liberal San Francisco has enacted bans on RV parking.
If an area is too expensive to live in, don't move there. This area has been turned upside down by spectacularly financially successful companies who are either oblivious to, or don't care about, the economic distortions they are bringing to the area. This may very well come to a bad end as every company but a few giga-companies relocates to other places and leave the entire area in the thrall of a few gazillionaires. When those few giga-companies stop growing and start laying off, will we have lost the eco-system of small startups and niche companies to replace them?

According to the US census there are 51 metro areas in the US of population 1 million or more. Housing is cheaper than here in every one of the other 50.
Can't afford a $3,000/month rent?
Buy a 5 BR house for less than $1100/month in Charlotte.
Some argue that low wage/skill workers need a place to live. They do, but if there are too many here, they will never get good wages. There are jobs everywhere in the US in this economy. If most low-skill workers leave for lower housing-cost areas, that will result in a labor shortage here for low skill jobs. This will cause wages to rise. Then those in low skill jobs will earn enough to afford housing without living on the street.

Question 4 - What's your opinion on Homeless Issue in Sunnyvale?
Answer: I wish there were a simple answer to this but there isn't. Homelessness is a big issue all around the world. I've known several friends and relatives who worked in social work professionally. There are many reasons for homelessness - drugs, terrible family situations, alcohol, medical problems, mental problems, birth defects, war traumas, etc. I have even known a few people with good jobs and degrees in STEM who get hooked on drugs and lose everything.
Sunnyvale Community Services
We need to help them both out of a sense of humanity but also in our own self interest. People who are in desperate situations can do desperate things. The city contributes to Sunnyvale Community Services ( but it could contribute more.

Sometimes, a little help can turn it all around and they can re-establish themselves and help others get out of the same situation they were trapped in. Sometimes it is just a normal family or an elderly person who lost their apartment and needs some temporary help to get settled in a new place, maybe a much more affordable place.
Homeless couple - London
"In the last year in the UK, the number of people sleeping rough rose by 7%. In Germany, the last two years saw a 35% increase in the number of homeless while in France, there has been an increase of 50% in the last 11 years."

Finland has made great strides, as seen here:

However, there are limits to what one city can do. If all the homeless in California came here we would be overwhelmed - we need to work with other cities, the county and state. We also need to protect ourselves from those who are mentally unstable and possibly a danger to themselves and others. I hope the US and California can do better.

Question 5 - Everyone agrees traffic is a huge problem. Seems like it would help to bring back school buses. Why is this never even mentioned?

Answer: This is really a question for the schools which is a separate organization. The City Council has little if any influence on the public schools. My guess is that it is expensive having a lot of buses sitting around most of the day and trying to hire drivers who only work a few hours a day is probably a challenge.

Question 6 - Do we need to limit the maximum money to a candidate from a business or association? Will going to "District Elections" help?
Answer: Much of the money spent on political campaigns is from "Independent Expenditure Committees" (IECs) which the US Supreme Court has ruled is free speech and cannot be limited. Anyone who wants to can form an IEC - rich or poor. But the rich have more money.

As for district elections, since I have had several meetings with city attorneys on the subject I am not permitted to say or write anything more about district elections. However, before I met with the attorneys I wrote some blogs on the issue and those are still available:

On District elections: part 3 is most popular:

Part 2 explains my view of how it affects candidates:

Part 4 describes what other districts have done:

Question 7 - What lesson have you learned from the garbage bin change program in Sunnyvale last year? Or what do you think Sunnyvale can do better in the future?

Answer: The new food recycling program with the split garbage bins was approved before I got on the city council. I didn't even know about it until just before they started rolling them out and the complaints started coming in.

I have since re-examined it. It appears we chose one of the least effective methods from a GHG emissions standpoint.

As I understand it, there are certain state mandates every city has to comply with in terms of waste reduction and this was Sunnyvale's way of doing it. At the time it was rolling out I wrote a post on it here:

We definitely should explore ways of modifying the food-cycle part to be easier to clean.

As of now, the garbage collection company Sunnyvale uses has spent $millions on buying special garbage trucks to handle it so we are stuck with it until it is time to retire those trucks in about 5 to 7 years. At that time, we definitely should revisit it. Other cities do things differently and we should see what the other options are at that time.

Question 8 - What would you like to do to improve the transparency of the city council and operations?
Answer: I would like more interaction between the city council and staff and residents. I have done a few "Town Hall Forums" where I just talk with residents about whatever is on their minds but I reach a very few at a time. I enjoy them because it gives me insights into what concerns people.

One thing I would like is phone-in or walk-in Q-and-A sessions. I think on Tuesday nights when there isn't a council meeting we could have 1 to 3 city council members and a few staff just answering questions from the audience or people phoning in questions. This would be recorded and available for watching later.

Also, I would really like the city council meeting agendas to come out 2 weeks in advance instead of the Thursday before the Tuesday City Council meeting. With more time to review the agenda and accompanying documents it would enable people to prepare better.

Question 9 - What is your position on rent control?
San Francisco's Rent Control Laws
(Click image to enlarge)
Answer: I wrote a very, very long answer to this, but then realized I couldn't say much at all. I may need to vote on it and cannot give an opinion until it comes up before council or I might need to recuse myself and be unable to vote.

If there are two sides arguing a situation in front of the city council I need to remain neutral until both sides have made their case. If I say in public I am for or against something, one side can say my mind was made up before they had a chance to present their views. Then I cannot be an impartial judge of the situation and must recuse myself - leave the room and not vote on the issue. More on the law on this here:

What I can say is that from a practical standpoint, rent control will not happen as an ordinance passed by the city council because it could then be repealed by the next city council. And reimposed by the council after that - back and forth. No one wants that. If rent control were to become an issue, it would need to be as a ballot measure, probably as a citizen's initiative, as happened in other cities. In that case, the city council has little say in the issue.

We do have a form of rent control called Below Market Rate (BMR) apartments. These apartments are reserved for those with incomes below certain levels. New apartments are required to either provide a certain percentage of apartments at rents that are below market rates or pay into a fund that is dedicated to building new 100% BMR apartments. There is about a two year wait to get such an apartment - prospective renters undergo background checks.
Below Market Rate housing in Berkeley
This provides living space for those who work in the area but can't afford market rate rents. They can live near work and don't need to commute as much. Sunnyvale will be moving to a rate of 15% of new apartments required to be BMR, like Santa Clara and some other cities. The maximum any city can impose is limited to between 20% and 25%. This is not by any law but simply that above 23% it becomes uneconomical for a builder to construct new apartments. The highest rate I am aware of is Berkeley's at 20%. More here:

Question 10 - What is your position on marijuana retail sales in Sunnyvale?
Marijuana brownies vs. regular brownies.
"Many young children who consume marijuana edibles require hospital admission due to the severity of their symptoms"
Answer: Personally, I am opposed to it. I think the best thing to do would be to put up a ballot measure that would prohibit the opening of a marijuana retail store without a vote of the people of Sunnyvale. This will make it much harder to open a store. Otherwise, at the next financial downturn city staff (who often don't live in Sunnyvale) will insist that the only way to get more tax revenue is to open a marijuana store. Cities always want more revenue.
Will kids be tempted when someone brings some home?
I think we will regret legalizing it. Marijuana has many bad side effects, especially when started in adolescence. C.f., the following article first published in the very prestigious New England Journal of Medicine.:

We don't know a lot about the effects of marijuana's active ingredient THC on people. There is more and more evidence that it results in schizophrenia manifested in criminal violence as discussed in Malcolm Gladwell's New Yorker article here:

We have known for years that tobacco causes cancer but big money tobacco companies make it impossible to ban it. Marijuana companies are going to get just as rich - maybe richer - and buy lots of support in government bodies. It will be impossible to dislodge it once it enters a city.
Will marijuana retailers have money?
It takes a really long time for the human body to recover from the effects of marijuana and reaction times are significantly slowed. Do we really want a lot of people driving in and out of Sunnyvale on marijuana highs? How many kids will be hit by cars driven by someone eating marijuana brownies they just bought?

In the list of violations of Washington state laws on Marijuana we find about 9% were "sale or service to a minor"

Question 11 - As the population is growing fast, there is a heated debate on "growth". What is your take on the current council's actions and prospects on city growth? 

Answer: The analogy I use is of a 2 gallon bucket. You put in one gallon and no problem. Put in another gallon and no problem. But now its full. Put in one more drop and it overflows. Or in our case, traffic will gridlock, and people leave the area because they can't stand the traffic. We are already seeing some of that.
When it fills up, it overflows.
What happens when a city fills up?
The Golden gate Bridge reached capacity several years ago. If the state forces more housing in Marin (to "solve" the "housing crisis") those new residents will commute to San Francisco and we will need a second Golden Gate Bridge. It won't be cheap. The Bay Bridge cost $10B - and prices have gone up since then.

Sunnyvale has the same problem only not as dramatic. There are only a few streets that can be used as through streets. Most of Sunnyvale is cul-de-sacs and little streets that go nowhere. Trying to get to Mountain View from south Sunnyvale you only have Homestead, Fremont, and El Camino. When they fill up (which they are doing) we're done.

There are limits to growth. Cities fill up just like buckets. I have a blog post on the limits (with a little mathematics) of population growth here:
Could this happen here?  Maybe it already has.
Been to Wolfe and Homestead around rush hour?
What I have asked for - which went nowhere - is for a study with a traffic simulation that determines how much housing and office space we can accommodate before traffic becomes unacceptable. At the moment, we are just winging it. This is no way to run a city. What happens when you get non-stop gridlock at major intersections? Do you UN-build the last three apartment buildings?
Solution to traffic woes?
San Jose city planners have told me they blocked off certain parts of San Jose as not suitable for further development until somehow traffic improves (flying cars?). We need to do a study-simulation and decide where we need to do the same thing.

Question 12 - How will the city limit its budget exposure to pensions?
This is up to 2016.  It hasn't gotten better since then.
Answer: Pensions for teachers, and other employees of government are not financially sustainable as one city and state after another is finding out. The Republicans have run and won on this issue in other states like New Jersey and Wisconsin with drastic over-reactions to the detriment of teachers and public safety officers.

CalPERS (California Public Employees Retirement System) was 100% funded at the height of the housing bubble about 10 years ago. Then they sank to just over 60% funded at the bottom of the "Great Recession". Now, after the longest stock market boom in the history of the US, pension funds have only slightly recovered. If they go below "50% funded" in the next recession (or the one after that) it is pretty much over for them.
History: In 1999 after a spectacular rise in stocks (the "Dot-Com" bubble) CalPERS convinced the legislature to significantly increase pensions. They said that CalPERS was such a good investor the state would never, ever need to add any extra money to make up any shortfalls in investment returns. The ink was hardly dry on the governor's signature when the "Dot-Com" bubble burst. Since then pensions have taken more and more tax dollars. That is why UC and CSU tuition went from almost nothing to very high. The money that used to go to universities now goes to pay pension obligations.
This is though 2016.  It is worse now.
Many of those who will benefit from pensions are in such deep denial that there is no chance of meaningful reform until it becomes critical. That will happen when cities start filing for bankruptcy because they can no longer pay the increasing demands of pension funds to make up for their investment shortfalls. This will likely start happening in a few years into the next recession (coming soon).

The good news is that some states are in worse shape than California, and some cities are in really bad shape. Chicago, Dallas, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles are likely to file for bankruptcy long before it gets to us. States aren't able to declare bankruptcy but some will have trouble paying the bills before California does. When they need to choose between paying their highway patrol and their pension bills, something will give and a compromise will be found.

Many California cities are already struggling to pay their CalPERS bills, and they too will reach compromise solutions with their employees. Sunnyvale has a pension fund to help tide us over the difficult times. This will give us more time than most to use the compromise solutions other cities and states arrive at as models for our own solutions.

"Did CalPERS Use Accounting Gimmicks..." and lots more here:

Little video on pensions I made here: