Belmont’s continued search for an identity for its community and businesses was at the heart of a debate Thursday night at the Belmont Library — a fitting topic for the forum, presented by the Belmont Chamber of Commerce and the Friends of the Belmont Library.
The four candidates running for City Council — longtime Planning Commissioner Christine Wozniak, Carlmont High School teacher David Braunstein and new residents Broderick Page and Jason Born — all share the goal of turning Belmont into a vibrant destination for Peninsula residents and companies, but differed on how to get there.
“In my mind, what would be great is for the next Google to be born here in Belmont,” Wozniak said.
Moving development east toward U.S. Highway 101 and away from Belmont’s hillside residential areas was promoted, and while Page suggested building multiuse hotels of more than a dozen stories, Born said a four- to five-story limit would better suit the existing two- and three-story buildings already in town.
Attracting businesses — large and small — was at the focus of much of Thursday’s discussion, and all four council candidates said they would work to provide incentives — including better public transportation — to employers looking to move to the city.
And at a time when students at Belmont’s Notre Dame de Namur University are accusing city leaders of not caring about them, a need for places for young people needs to be included in city plans.
Braunstein said many of his students have told him that they travel to San Mateo or Burlingame to spend time and money, because there are simply no stores or locations that interested them in their hometown.
But the candidates are all careful to temper their calls for increased development and tax revenues with statements speaking to the protection of the quiet neighborhoods that Belmont residents pride themselves on.
“Ralston [Avenue] really has become a much-travelled alternative to [Highway] 92, and we need improvements to slow traffic — not stop it, but slow it,” Born said.
Braunstein, who recently returned to the campaign after dropping out for personal reasons, used his introduction period to assure the crowd that he was “100 percent committed to being in the campaign.”