Defunding the EPD, Family Flight, Ghost Malls: Emeryville’s ‘Echo’ Chamber on Display at Candidate Forum
Three Emeryville City Council members were sworn in at the December 1st council meeting following the November “election.” Election is in quotes because Emeryville did not actually have a local election after no challengers filed to oppose the three incumbents.
This was the first time since 1995 that a council race did not appear on our local ballot and the second straight election that no new candidates failed to materialize.
Despite this, the three incumbents agreed to participate in a candidate forum hosted by the local chapter of the League of Women Voters.
Sparse turnout and viewership
It’s worth noting that none of the candidates bothered to promote the evening through their own social media networks and viewership was sparse. In a city of over 12,000 residents, only 12 people pre-registered for the event and only about half of those attended (two of those were local journalists). At the time of publication, the YouTube replay had only garnered 60 views.
League board member Adena Ishii moderated the event and asked Emeryville-specific questions to the candidates provided by The E’ville Eye. These questions touched on their personal accomplishments, our growing homeless population, their tense relationship with our School District and controversial subjects like “Defunding” the Emeryville Police Department.
“I will echo what my colleagues said.”
Unlike forums in neighboring cities or districts, there was no sparring or attempt to distinguish themselves with policy differences or experience. Instead, the hour forum was spent agreeing with, complementing and “echoing” each other. In fact, the three incumbents “echoed” or agreed with each other at least fifteen times over the course of the forum.
Emeryville’s current leadership is like no other in the East Bay. All five Council members are amicable, campaign for each other and even participate in coordinated Halloween costumes.
Disagreements among them on any substantive policy issues is rare. Votes for or against items are frequently unanimous with fellow councilmembers generally rubber-stamping each others’ policies. Other than a quibble over pausing Emeryville’s highest in the nation minimum wage for local restaurants, dissent among them is rare.
No Competition, No Accountability?
Election time is one of the few opportunities for journalists and residents alike to challenge candidates on their record. A time to hold them accountable for results and vet their personal priorities for their next term.
“How well any government functions hinges on how good citizens are at making their politicians accountable for their actions,” noted in this Princeton University academic paper detailing the relationship between political accountability and the quality of government. “Political control of public officials depends on two factors. First, free and regular elections allow citizens to discipline politicians—the credible threat of losing office in the next period compels policy makers to respond to the voters’ interests. Second, and equally important, the degree of citizen information curbs the opportunities politicians may have to engage in political corruption and management. The presence of a well-informed electorate in a democratic setting explains between one-half and two-thirds of the variance in the levels of governmental performance and corruption.”
In 2018, the incumbents Dianne Martinez and Scott Donahue declined to participate in our regular candidate questionnaire citing the time constraints of “campaigning” despite a lack of competition and a decisive outcome. Also in 2018, Councilmember John Bauters refused to answer questions regarding the Measure C $50M housing bond he was pushing.
Without the fear of losing an election or competing ideas, it seems there’s little to compel candidates to address criticism and answer questions that may undermine their narrative.
“How well any government functions hinges on how good citizens are at making their politicians accountable for their actions.”
A One-Way Conversation?
Even during the ongoing pandemic with meetings accessible online, Council meetings are sparsely attended. Comments from the public are infrequent other than one “regular.” Even if you do attend a council meeting and have an inquiry, it is unlikely the councilmembers will address your comment (discussion of non-agendized items can be a Brown Act violation).
If you want to engage in any political discussion with local elected officials, you’ll need to turn to the Twitter platform where they are the most active. Only 1 in 5 U.S. adults are on the platform and it is the least used of the major social media platforms. Our personal estimates of engaged Emeryville residents on Twitter number in the low 100’s.
Twitter is also a well-documented eco chamber that rewards those that pick sides. The platform allows users to insulate themselves in similar ideas and are greeted with mostly adoration for their tweets.
While Emeryville Nextdoor group has seen steady growth and engagement and has grown to a few thousand members, none of the five elected officials are active on the platform.
A Progressive “Royal Flush”
Long gone our the days when our city tapped the local business community for leadership. Our current political braintrust now consists of two lobbyists, an artist, a charter school administrator and a part-time videographer. All five councilmembers self-identify as “progressives.”
Emeryville, like most local governments, will face some tough challenges and decisions this year with a steep reduction in revenues. Potential decisions on service cuts, layoffs and capital improvement prioritization. What’s next for Emeryville is unclear but it will apparently come with a lack of thought diversity.
This meeting has been transcribed using automation so there may be grammatical errors. Speakers were given one minute to respond to questions.
1). What do you feel your biggest accomplishment has been over the last four years and explain to Emeryville residents how this has benefited them and/or our city [6:26]:
John Bauters: If I was to look back at the biggest policy achievement, if I was to quantify it that way, I would say it would be measure C. Measure C was a $50 million affordable housing bond that the voters passed in 2018, by 73% margin of support in favor of having the city have the authority to build up to 500 additional units on the leveraged state, regional and federal funding to deliver affordable housing. The city has been working on the expenditure plan coming up with how to spend $50 million in make sure you can leverage as much other money as possible is a very lengthy process, but we’re nearing the end of that process. And I look forward to the city making investments in a number of projects. We already anticipate that 3600 San Pablo, which will offer us about 90 units of permanent supportive housing will be one of the first recipients of those funds. And I’m very proud of the fact that the city of Emeryville is able to deliver housing to people of all incomes because of it.
Ally Medina: I think the accomplishment I’m proudest of is our council’s incredibly rapid response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The weekend that it first hit councilmember Bauters and I spent a ton of time over the phone drafting an emergency eviction moratorium ordinance for renters and for businesses and engaging with our business community immediately. We’re also able to put in some infrastructure changes to offer social distancing, including shutting down part of Doyle street to allow for more community open space. I think that the fast changes had a lasting impact on the community.
Christian Patz: I will echo what my colleagues said. I think those are the two big things. I’ve been serving as mayor this year during both the pandemic crisis and the racial unrest. And knowing that we’ve been out ahead of these things has really shown the ability of this council and the councils before us to really be out in front and do things. So having passed measure C working on housing, I had the pleasure of being at the opening for Estrella Vista, which while not part of measure C, still shows our commitment to housing. And I’m looking forward to seeing what we do with 3600 San Pablo the COVID response, and really just being there during all the being mayor during all the recent racial unrest and having the conversations that we’re having both in public and behind the scenes with the police and dealing with you know, keeping the public safe while still keeping the public itself safe as well. So those are the things that I would list.
2). Over the last 4 years, property crime has gone up dramatically, affordability has gone down, small businesses are struggling and our city’s percentage of black residents continues to drop (down to 14% in latest census figures). What metrics do you point to to indicate Emeryville is going in the right direction? [9:42]
Ally Medina: You know, one I think fantastic metric we can point to is the state auditor’s report. That shows that Emeryville has made significant progress towards the financial health of our city amid severe economic challenges. With CalPERS economic hit, I think we have increased the minimum wage, held high labor standards and have to work to increase active transportation throughout our cities. I think there was metrics increasing the amount of people who can move and walk through our things safely are ones that I used to rate our safety.
Christian Patz: I think as we track these metrics, they tell varying stories. They have to be taken in a regional context. We have become one of the most expensive areas, not just Emeryville, but the Bay area in general, whether it’s Berkeley or Oakland and, you know, we are a nexus point. And so that brings things in, I was looking at the property crimes yesterday at the public safety meeting and they’ve dropped precipitously because we don’t have out-of-towners using our hotels. So we’ve solved the property crime thing in absolutely the wrong way, you know, it’s that these things happen because of our location. And we have done exactly what it remember, Medina just listed as the incredible ways to help deal with these things, whether it’s maintaining our minimum wage, whether it’s looking at affordable housing, whether it’s improving our transit and infrastructure, that’s, what’s makes Emeryville desirable. And that’s what makes us, you know, in our location is why we’re all here. It’s the nexus of the Bay area. So we have these regional challenges.
John Bauters: The housing question we, as we’ve mentioned, we’ve done measure C we have three different fully one hundred percent affordable housing projects in process. We did a tenant protection ordinance that just cause eviction ordinance, a smoke-free housing ordinance, a lead of abatement ordinance that’s been recognized by the EPA. We’ve done a lot to improve the livability of housing. The city doesn’t have much say in the way of rent control, but thankfully, a new state law that caps the amount that rent can be increased will hopefully help temper the unpredictable nature of rental changes.
As the Mayor noted, we are part of a greater region and Emeryville is not in isolation here. And the same is true for property crimes. There’s a regional issue there. And our city has collaborated with about 15 other cities in the East Bay that are collectively facing this problem to identify and work together to deal with the organized crime rings that have been targeting vehicles and people who are from out of town along our freeway corridors, and as for small business, we’ve been very responsive during COVID. We put in 12 months worth of rent and eviction protections for small businesses. And we’ve done other things to lift the small business programs up during the recent months.
3). Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty recently suggested that small cities like ours should consider “merging” with neighboring cities to avoid economic hardship amid the pandemic. This seems unlikely but do you see any benefits to shifting any policy decisions and administrative roles to the county or even state level? [12:58]
Christian Patz: I think there is a lot to be said for partnering with our neighbors. And I mentioned earlier that we just opened Estrella Vista four different regional agencies were involved in that project and it allowed us to leverage resources, whether we also have the family resource center, a family housing in my neighborhood that is an Emeryville property, but an Oakland program. And so I think there’s a lot of collaboration that can go as for the supervisor. I’m just going to say, ‘bye bye.’ That was a nice idea, but no, thank you. I think we had some decisions we had to make this week at council that showed the state really tied our hands as to what we can do. And I think there’s a lot of local things that are really important and that the city needs to be able to have the flexibility to develop and grow in. We can partner with our neighbors. That’s a nice thing. And again, I’ll compliment my two colleagues here who work really well with our cities and neighbors, and are really part and connected to that community to the, our regional community. And so I don’t think that that’s a good idea.
John Bauters: I think the question speaks to broader issues, which is the fractious nature of governments and the idea isn’t limited to city governance, right? There are 29 transportation agencies across the Bay area, and there’s a movement through seamless, Bay Area to unify those. And it doesn’t necessarily mean the full consolidation of them. It means coming up with a uniform language and system for people to access transit seamlessly. The same is true for housing applications. There are 29 sites in the city of Emeryville that have below market rate housing, but you have to apply individually to each of them. And the city went and applied for a grant from HCD to try to create a uniform application process so that people who want to find affordable housing, don’t have to literally apply to every single place in the city. They can do a uniform application and apply to each building through one click and so I think cities are similar and counties need to work together. And there are examples of where we do that well but I think the notion that cities are going to consolidate that that’s actually a very complicated issue as it relates to labor laws and taxation. And so I don’t think that’s probably going to happen anytime soon.
Ally Medina: I agree with my colleagues that I don’t think that’s a particularly viable or popular idea. And in addition, I think, you know, we should turn this back on the County Supervisors and say, Hey, you guys have a giant pot of money for mental health care for homelessness issues. And we have cities. Don’t feel like we’re getting the level of coordination we need to adequately address those concerns. I’d love to see more leadership coming from the County level to address these regional issues because they are not isolated and siloed city to city. I would love to see the County step up on those two topics and they have the money to do so.
4). Defunding the Police has become an anthem of progressive activists across the East Bay and the country. Does this apply to our Emeryville PD and to what degree would you support this? [16:14]
John Bauters: I think the question about how to allocate resources between different departments within a city is a prudent question to ask and there’s an appropriate time to have that conversation. As we go into budget review with COVID, I think it’s just one dynamic that you have to consider when you’re looking at the full budget of the city. The city’s budget picture has been evolving pretty rapidly as the chair of the budget committee, we did a budget allocation, augmentation and amendment in may to confront the quarter of losses that we sustained when the pandemic began. And those have continued different revenue streams have stabilized. Some of them have returned to close to normal, some have a very long timeline before they return. And I don’t think it makes a lot of sense to have a conversation about what we can and cannot fund until we know what money we have. And so, I’m open to having conversations about what the appropriate funding and structure of all departments in the city is, but only after we have a full understanding of what it is our revenues are.
Ally Medina: Thanks. I think a lot of the rhetoric I’ve heard about people discussing to defund the police is quite reductive. I don’t think what the movement is asking for it simply to slash police budgets and get them off the streets. I’ve done a lot of reading on this and what people are asking for is a more holistic approach to city budgets to make sure that the problems that cause crime are being cut off by providing more access to affordable housing, better career opportunities, more transit-oriented design, those kind of things that can actually do that. So again, this is a complex vegetarian question. And you know, again, back to the County, if there was a rapid response, mental health care crisis, we probably have less police force responding to those calls. And that would be a great place to start looking at. How can we shift some of the burden out of those departments to appropriate healthcare professionals?
Christian Patz: I mentioned earlier that we passed a public safety measure and when we passed that measure, I about when we, we put it on the ballot, people passed it. So about a year ago, just a little over that. I said, let’s not just look at adding more officers to the street, but let’s talk about putting social workers on the city payroll so that we have people who can interact with our community, who are the ones that are struggling and who are having different issues that are not necessarily criminal. And so for me, when we talk about the different the police movement, I think it goes to what member of Medina and member boundaries just said. It’s about allocating resources that we know, or that are effective in ways that are important. You know I can’t tell you the number of calls I get to arrest people because they’re not wearing masks. And right now during COVID, and that doesn’t solve the problem that doesn’t help us, we need to do education. We need to do support. We need to do counseling. Putting people in jails has just shown how it makes problems worse, worse. And so when we talk about defendant police, it’s really about putting resources to help find solutions.
5). When it comes to homelessness, what strategies would you say are working and which are not, and are you considering any different tactics and policies to reduce homelessness in the area of Emeryville? [19:25]
Christian Patz: I think homelessness is one of the biggest failings of our nation. When I leave my house, there’s a gentleman who is unhomed, who frequents my neighborhood. And I saw him the other day as to all of this was going on. And he happens to be a man of color. And he was wearing a brand new crisp black lives matter t-shirt that somebody had clearly given him, but he didn’t have shoes and his pants were torn up. And I saw him and I thought to myself, if we’re going to say lives matter, whether they be black lines or all lives, why is it that his life isn’t important and why aren’t we doing more to help support him? And we need to do this in a regional approach. We need to increase our mental health services. As Allie has said, the County has funds for this. We need more supportive housing, you know, and I cannot thank Mr. Bauters enough for his active efforts on this. We need to restructure our criminal justice and we need to deal with these situations. So I don’t know that I answered the question as much as I talked about sort of my overall philosophy on this, but it is just a central issue.
John Bauters: I think that there are some things that we’re doing well, but I would like to note that the council member Medina, I think really spoke to this. When she talked about County investing in mental health services, that’s an important component. A lot of people don’t understand the differences between local government and County government responsibilities on addiction and mental health service funding. But the city of Emeryville has done several things. In 2018 we tripled the amount of funding that we provide to our contract workers from Operation Dignity to do street outreach work. I personally meet with them. I’ve gone and done visits at encampments. I’ve talked to people, I volunteer regularly at ECAP. And through those conversations and partnerships in 2018, I had a conversation with mayor shaft. We devised a plan together to help basically provide services to people who were at the Home Depot encampment, which was one of our largest encampments and provide them access to the compassionate cabins. And in return, we took our property at the Rec Center at 4300 San Pablo and turned it into the family front door to household homeless, Oakland families. And those are the types of solutions that we need right now when you partnership between cities in order to continue the work to address housing need.
Ally Medina: I’m at the point of sounding like I’m just echoing my colleagues, they’re saying the right things. There’s some data backs, things that help solve the homelessness crisis. That’s providing housing, providing supportive mental health care and coordinating with our other cities because this is a regional issue. And we’re actively working on doing those things. We have a $50 million affordable housing bond that we’ve passed and we have some developments coming online where we can make it further done. I think one of the biggest things we can do is continue to call on our role, people who have worked with our fellow elected officials across the region and called for more funding and more active investments for the homelessness crisis from the state and County governments as well.
6). The next couple of questions, touch on those points exactly about affordable housing. And so I’d like to give you all an opportunity to speak a little bit about measure C and what you expect that we’ll do in terms of building affordable housing. You know, how can you make sure that that money is used efficiently and that’ll be able to provide the housing that’s needed essentially. [22:48]
John Bauters: Measure C has an oversight component and the, the city housing committee will be one of the committees along with the budget advisory committee, resident based committees who will provide oversight measure C is going to be used to help take off the books. A number of redevelopment purchased city owned parcels that are restricted to affordable housing. So we purchased during the redevelopment era properties on the Christie corridor up there by Christie park. There’s three parcels there. We own 4300 San Pablo. We are in an agreement where we’ve given a $2 million, zero interest loan to RCD for 3600 San Pablo. There were a couple other small, smaller sites in the city that are owned by the city, for which when redevelopment went away, the city had no funding source to do anything with, but under redevelopment law and wind down law, we have obligation to still put something on the property. So measure C is going to first go to helping make sure that we build housing there. And that will allow us to draw down section eight vouchers, federal grants, low-income housing tax credits, and other types of finance to basically build as many units as we can on those properties. First. Thanks.
Ally Medina: In addition to looking to use Citi on parcels, which is a fantastic strategy we have also up zone and San Pablo to make sure we can provide density in that kind of housing, which again, reduces the cost per unit and allows us to create transit oriented development, which is incredibly important for getting people to work. Another important thing we’ve done is removed parking minimums, parking minimums, lower the cost of building housing, because now we don’t have to build one parking space for every housing unit. So we’ve done some really proactive things around affordable housing and make sure that this money will be used the absolute right way. Our city has actively worked with other agencies in a story of ***** in 3600 San Pablo to find matching grants and funding. We will be doing that with Measure C funds as well, to really leverage as much as possible and get as many units of housing as we can.
Christian Patz: I’m going to echo what my colleagues said. I’m going to say it’s about leveraging the funds that we have identified and the properties that we have. And I just want to commend John, one of the things that we have talked about at the 4300 San Pablo site, which we have ups owned is making sure we’re not only serving our seniors, but also looking at foster youth who have aged out. So when we talk about reducing crime and we talk about reducing homelessness, we are talking about kids who turn 18 and have very little support. We California’s gotten better on this, and I don’t want to get into the weeds on all the wonderful watches, but this idea of finding housing for adults who have no family that have resources is one of the more important things that we can do. I’ve been working with HACA, the housing authority of Alameda County to make sure that they have vouchers for aged out foster youth as well. So as that project comes online, we’re able to support their kids to me cause I’m so old, but as they become adults …
7). The pandemic has ravaged revenues of local governments that rely on sales tax, occupancy tax and car room taxes what sacrifices and services or tax increases should Emeryville residents be prepared to make during the economic recovery. [26:39]
Ally Medina: I keep this question was obviously tailored for Emeryville cause those are three of our key tax revenue sources. Well, what we can expect is that we’re walking into a structural deficit. So for this year, we’re looking to use one-time funds to plug some of the holes and moving forward, we’re going to need to look at revenue raising measures. If we’re going to maintain the same level of services, looking at budget allocations and how we structure our budget. Perhaps looking to take some staff positions and finance through our capital improvement plan for those large scale public works projects, you know, I don’t want to be alarmist and say, we’re going to have the kind of positions we’re going to work really creatively as we have in the past to make sure that we are not going to cut the services that our residents reliant. We provide a high level of service and we want to keep doing that. That’s a high priority for our city. It’s going to take a lot of creativity. And I think the five of us are going to be working very diligently this year on that budget.
Christian Patz: I think this is going to be the biggest issue facing us over the next year, but to echo what member Medina said, one of the things that we don’t talk about enough is the city council has put in place a staff. And not only we work well as a team, the five of us, but we work really well with the city staff. And so we’re looking at this in a very proactive way. We have had some reserves that we’ve been able to use. We’ve had some one-time funds. I’m also looking at the projections for our sales tax revenue. And while the sky is falling, it’s not falling as much as we thought it was. I can’t speak to card room and hotel taxes on the same way of that. So we’re going to be very creative and very thoughtful. And I want to echo what member Medina said. We’re not going to go in and slash slash slash we’re going to be very surgical and very thoughtful. And I think we will weather the storm very well.
John Bauters: I agree with my colleagues and I’ll add the following things. So the city of Emeryville is very fortunate. It’s the only city in Alameda County that got an “A” from the state auditor for its financial practices. And we’re the beneficiaries of a couple of things. Councils before us and through us have upheld a practice of keeping a 50% general fund reserve for uncertainty periods. And since the three of us joined the council, we’ve had, we’ve adopted additional practices that have resulted in us creating a section one 15 pension trust, which puts money aside for us to be able to pay against unfunded liabilities during a rainy season. We’ve also created funds from our corporate transfer tax or commercial transfer tax to sock money away. And so when you look at the revenue streams, the sales tax looks pretty resilient, actually, surprisingly, the hotel tax is the one that’s going to really struggle for a longer period of time. And our goal is to build a bridge between now and when the recession ends. And so that’s going to require us making diligence, small amounts of reserves, coupled with some changes to contract practices, coupled with some changes to services and very incremental steps annually so that we can get from here to the other side of the recession.
8). Bay Street has been hit especially hard by the pandemic with many closures and vacancies. What can the city do to ensure this doesn’t become a “ghost mall” and preserve it as a resident amenity and contributor to our tax base? [30:20]
Christian Patz: I think this is one of the things that we see regionally and nationwide and, you know, retail itself has become the most impacted by both COVID and the changing economy. So when we look at Bay street, we, I talked about this at a council meeting the other day, we’ve got to be very thoughtful as we go forward. I know our community, our economic development team has been working with them very closely, and we have to look at their zoning to make sure that they’re able to adapt to the new economies that are coming. We need to look at keeping it going and being supported as best we can, but there are going to be challenges at Bay street. You know, when the new bridge, the new pedestrian bike bridge opens up that will help, but it’s going to be, you know, the death of retail was accelerated by COVID, but also overly exaggerated. It’s just about adapting to the new economy and making sure your business model fits, you know, the the Apple store is thriving there and businesses like that will continue to do that. So we should have to make sure that we support them.
John Bauters: I think my colleagues and I probably have all at different points had conversations with the ownership of Bay street. I think they recognize that the model they have and the client base that their recurrent tenants attract is not going to be something that is probably as successful as they’d hoped in the long-term. And I know that they are an active discussion with us and others in private about what they can do to modernize the site and to make it adaptable as the mayor said to other uses and things that would help make it economically successful and a vibrant part of our community. And you know, I know that the city council is generally supportive of that. There’s we have zero desire among all of us. I think it’s fair to say, to see empty storefronts in our city. But we understand that the economy is changing rapidly and the consumer market is also changing rapidly as the mayor noted. And so, as long as we remain the flexible and nimble city that we’ve been in responding to these types of issues, when commercial property owners come to us, I think we’ll be able to adapt.
Ally Medina: We’re building an enormous bridge there. And so we’re certainly hoping we’re not building a bridge to nowhere or to go to town. Fortunately on the other side of that bridge Sherwin-Williams development is also building a lot of housing. So there’s going to be more people living just a five walk across the street from that. And phase three, personally, I hope that that does a lot to bolster it and that they’re able to find local serving retail options that will attract people in our increased density in that area. We could have potentially other large scale business developments in that same region. And that could also bolster the economic forecast for base rates. It’s going to be difficult. We’re in a pandemic recession and listen, I think I graduated high school, right when the first recession hit, I saw a lot of ***** close, but I believe Bay street. Isn’t a great location. I think we’re going to work with them. And ultimately I have a lot of optimism that there’ll be able to adapt.
9). Many parents that speak with The E’ville Eye that don’t have the luxury of owning a single family home are actively considering leaving Emeryville when their children reach school age. The reasons are our housing stock, deteriorating public safety and an underperforming school district. Do you have concerns over the family-friendly direction of our city? [33:54]
John Bauters: I share some of those concerns, not all of them. The single family housing stock there’s not going to be new single family housing stock, so to speak outside of the footprint that currently exists, this is a one square mile city. The general plan makes most of it multi family residential. So the single family neighborhoods that we have are small. That’s just the reality of the city by way of its geography. The school district, I do not like the school district. I do not think the school district has done a good job. I do not feel that the school district has the leadership it needs to be competent. I’m not an educator. So I won’t pretend to know everything about it, but from the meetings I’ve had and the things we’ve worked on together, the school district has a lot of challenges of its own, that it needs a better leadership to address. And as to public safety I disagree with the general assessment that public safety is bad here. In fact, if you were to compare public safety metrics between us and our neighboring cities, you might be surprised to see that we don’t have the violent crime counts that other communities have. And when you consider that this is largely a city where people come to work or visit it’s explains through some of that as well.
Ally Medina: Yeah, I’m going to act out. I’m not sitting here coming to actually fly from a single family house. I’m coming at, you live from a loft because that’s, what’s in Emeryville because we have a lot of converted warehouse space. There’s not going to be a sudden resurgence of knocking down apartments and building single family homes, but simply not the city that this, however, there is going to be, as we increase our density, more, two bedroom, three bedroom houses available given our current ordinance for two and three bedrooms for certain sizes of development. That is a family friendly ordinance. This school district. Yeah. I mean, they’re not here tonight. You know they’re not here to talk to the public about their test scores. And I think that’s a conversation that could be had publicly as for public space. The, I agree with council member Bauters, our metrics are different because our daytime population until the pandemic hit 12 to three times already, same population.
Christian Patz: I am coming from a single family home and I think I’m the only parent on the, on this panel is the council members. There is another council member, two other council members who are not here. And also parents. I bought a single family home in Emeryville. I think I might be one of the last people to do that. I don’t even have an ADU on my property. I’m that old school. But that said, that’s, this is not that town, you know, public safety numbers. If you want to talk about our public safety numbers, you have to realize we’re Las Vegas. We have more people who don’t live here than do at any given moment. And so our numbers are when they’re reported out, sound worse than they really are. I’ve lived in town for 15 years, and I can tell you, my street is safer now than it was when I bought my house. My neighborhood is safer now than when I bought my house. I’ve lived here for 17 years while I’m old. As for the school district, I think this is the exact opposite of the city. We’ve shown how being a city that it’s small and nimble and able to adjust as great schools need student population. We don’t have one to support the district and the district struggles to support the kids. It does
10). Apparently you’ve had a challenging relationship with the school board. And so the question is what would you like to see, even though you don’t have of course control over the school board itself. [37:32]
Ally Medina: The last election cycle. I spent a lot of time working for school board candidates that I had hoped would change path. You know, we threw them a joint fundraiser. I knocked doors, I phone bank because I deeply care about the quality of education that students are getting in Emeryville. My mother is a teacher. She has taught in some low income school districts in the past, and I have attended similar principals districts in the past. I’ve seen the difference in educational quality and it saddens me that we were providing such poor quality education to our children. You know, I would think, I wish for our school board is that people who really care who will enact data back policies, not just saying we should have a cop on campus cause that’ll make kids learn better. It doesn’t, there’s no evidence for that. People who are serious about leading our school districts, I would encourage those people to run. I would encourage those people to contact me. I will help them,
Christian Patz: The city has reached out and bailed out the school district on numerable numerous, numerous, numerous occasions, and every council I’ve talked to has really put their hand out and say, how can we help you? What do you need from us? And as I think about the economic times, we’re in now, and I look at what’s going on until there’s some significant changes. That’s not going to happen for awhile. And so we’re in a partnership with them. I’d love to see it work, but it hasn’t, I don’t trust their leadership as a member outer set earlier. I don’t know the next steps. I’ve been an educator for a long, long time. And until you’re willing to admit you have a problem and that you’re not doing your job, you’re not able to fix it. And so there’s some really difficult conversations the district needs to have with itself about saying, you know, I served on the school board for two years and I couldn’t do it because the dysfunction was so great and they have money. They have facilities, they have quality teachers. I don’t understand. It’s clearly a leadership gap.
John Bauters: Yeah. I would point to three things that I would cite as my frustrations, as mayor has said at numerous of our joint meetings with them. He refers to me as the diplomat to them. But even diplomats lose their patients over time. And when we put measures, C4 measure C was designed to build affordable housing, affordable housing brings families and, and the school district needs families because the local funding formula for schools depends on families yet. They refuse to endorse measure C the school district has a budget crisis and the school district has asked for two parcel taxes in six years. Yet they came and asked us to fund police officers in an entire school district of K through 12, that has less than 780 people. They do not understand fiscal priorities and what the needs of their own student body are. And then finally they they came and they said they wanted us. They wanted me as the representative to ACTC and the liaison to the Emery ground to bring Emery ground services directly to the school yet Emeryville after I got or unified into the first group of schools for the safe routes to schools program and the free transit bus pass has the lowest bus use. The school does not promote it. It does not support it and did not pay the PBID for 15 years.
11). Would you support rent control in Emeryville? Why or why not? [41:47]
Christian Patz: Yes, I would support rent control in Emeryville. The cost of renting in Emeryville has greatly outpaced income and most people who end up in rentals for longterm end up eventually being on a fixed-income. And so until we have a mechanism in place to help keep them in their homes we talked about families leaving, you know, if you have a place and it is rent controlled, it allows you to stay in there longer and grow your family. Otherwise, if your rent goes up, you’re going to go cheaper places in the suburbs that have more amenities for families. So when we talk about rent control, yes, I support it. And I can say that because I am a landlord myself and haver a house that I rent and I don’t raise my rent until my tenant leaves.
John Bauters: Yes. I support it with a nuance. I support rent control, and I believe everybody should have rent control as an option in their cities. The challenge is that there are some legitimate issues with being able to build new housing, which the city does a lot of and do that at the same time that you have a rent control statute. So for me, it just depends on when rent control obligations attach. And I think that there’s a point where housing ages into being rent controlled, and that should be somewhere between 10 and 15 years after construction. So current rent control statutes basically say if your house, the house wasn’t built before 1995, and it wasn’t, it’s not a multi-unit building and a bunch of other conditions it’s not eligible less than 10% of housing in Emeryville is eligible right now. But I actually believe that having a phased in approach where housing consistently evolves and moves into being eligible for rent control is the proper way to ensure that we are building on rent stability for our community and preventing displacement longterm.
Ally Medina: Thanks. Yeah, I agree with my colleagues. I support rent control. I think Costa Hawkins has done a lot of damage. However I agree with councilmember Bauters, this is a nuanced issue. I spent a lot of time reading studies of the impact of rent control on various cities. And it’s pretty obvious that it’s not a silver bullet, how you implement it does matter. Emeryville has a history of being nimble and flexible. And I think a councilmember Bauters mentioning a phased approach would be something we’d consider because sweeping rent control tends to help existing tenants and cause more difficulties for future tenants as cities increase density and population growth. And so we need to make sure that we were building for the future and our policies predict what’s going to be happening in 10, 20 years down the road. So, you know, I hope that voting goes a way where we can have the rent control conversation and results on time.
12). Some residents have concerns about the cleanliness and safety of the area under the freeway were homeless encampments now exist. Although I’m not positive that this area is part of Emeryville property, how do you think that this concern should be addressed and what services can be provided to assist these people? [44:00]
John Bauters: I’ve been to this encampment not less than a dozen times. I have met with staff at least a dozen times. I have met with Caltrans and the city of Berkeley and just as I offered Mayor Schaaf in 2018 and she accepted my offer to deal with the Home Depot [encapment], I made the same offer to the city of Berkeley. The city of Berkeley declined our offer to partner and join resources together and work on that. Berkeley believes it’s a Caltrans problem. And the reality is that about 90% of the encampment is on Caltrans jurisdiction based on parcel maps and Caltrans. There, there is going to be a development at the Nady site. It is set to break ground sometime in January. And Caltrans has very strict rules for the removal of people from their property. We have to develop a housing plan for them. And so the city has been working to meet Caltrans obligations. We cannot simply remove anybody. Even though they’re not in the city limits in order to be prepared to do demolition and site dredging for the construction, the city has to work with Caltrans to come up with a plan because Caltrans doesn’t provide housing services. And that requires us working with Berkeley as well.
Ally Medina: Yeah, I agree. I’m sitting here. I’m trying to picture all off-ramps which camping might be referring to you and I think it is that one. Yeah, it is. I think, I think I ended up saying a lot to residents when they ask like, how come the city doesn’t do something about it. It is mostly within Caltrans jurisdiction. We have repeatedly reached out to Caltrans. We have asked for plans to clean up and it is difficult to work with such a large agency that is overstretched. They have a lot of responsibilities. I do think they are far behind on dealing with keeping our roadways clear ancestry and walkway space. And so I look forward to coming up with a plan when the Nady site is developed. I also would continue to, I think we need to continue to reach out to Berkeley for a partnership, because this is a border issue. We’ve had success on these regional partnerships before, and I think this could be a really excellent chance for us to work together, to clear out [inaudible] and help our neighbors get into the supportive housing needs.
Christian Patz: You know, I can really only echo what my two colleagues have said and talk about my experience dealing with this issue. You know, I, as mayor, I sit on the mayors, the, all the mayors get together monthly to talk about regional homelessness and trying to work with the County to leverage their services, but I’ve run into the same issues. Both with talking to staff about our negotiations with Caltrans, talking to Berkeley, even though Berkeley’s mayor is one of the ones leading the homeless subcommittee meetings. It has just been such a challenge to get this regional approach together, but it’s coming with the development. I know our staff is doing what they can, and I’m just going to echo what my colleagues said is we’re dealing with the county’s large bureaucracy, Berkeley. Who’s got its own challenges and Caltrans statewide. Who’s just all over the place on this. So, thank you.
13). What is your vision for a more sustainable resilient Emeryville in the face of the climate crisis? How does housing and transportation fit into this vision? [47:34]
Ally Medina: Well, I’d be doing my colleague, Scott Donahue a disservice. If I didn’t say cross laminated timber it is a development choice that is more sustainable than concrete, it’s cheap, and it’s beautiful and I can’t wait to update our city reach codes reflect the state’s recent change. The building commission has now issued in allowance principle that the 18th stories and cross-laminated timber. And I hope we get one of those to the limits in Emeryville and we’ll actively work to do so. In terms of sustainability, you know, I’m gonna say this cause I hear it brought up a lot. Electric vehicles are not the answer we need to provide. Multi-Modal transit access. You can put a ton more electric vehicles on the road and you’ll remove a lot of the carbon emissions problems, but you’re still gonna have 85% of the PMC 0.5 emissions. That’s still causes different health outcomes for low income communities who are placed near highways. And we’re still gonna have the problems of inadequate space for all these private vehicles on the roads.
Christian Patz: You know, Ally took my cross-laminate timber because I just was talking to Scott about that. When we opened up a Estrella Vista, he cornered the architect to have that conversation and the architects are ready. We are waiting for the state to get behind it. And I know these projects will come online. The environmental and the economic impact will be huge. I’m going to echo what Ally said. We need to move towards transit. I’m really excited to have the bus only lane on the Bay bridge. I’m really excited as a Sherwin Williams comes online, the Park district did a really good job negotiating a shuttle to BART. I think as we’ve removed the parking requirements, you know, this thoughtful development process that we as a town have taken particularly current council will, is the only thing that we can do. I am an electric vehicle driver and my footprint from that vehicle is not significantly smaller because of the challenges of all the infrastructure things. So it’s just being thoughtful in our process and we do a really good job with that.
John Bauters: Thank you. Yeah. On the sustainability component, the city has done a number of things to make the community more sustainable. You’ve heard some of them already from my colleagues other things that we’ve done, you know, we are looking we’ve we want to stay grant for quiet zones in terms of livability and sustainability that’s a huge deal to improve railroad safety and in that quiet zones, the city has been a leader on energy and moving towards better energy choices. Renewable energy choices has opted into city facilities and given residents a movement away from traditional sources of power, which is going to be important to sustainability. And I think the transit piece is a really key part of both addressing climate change and also addressing our long-term sustainability needs. As the mayor noted, we have the shuttle that will go from the Park Avenue district to BART. We have upcoming cycle track on 40th street with bus only lanes Allie and I working with the AC transit board. We’re going to have optimized readers. We’re just going to be an on ramp to Powell street. That’s going to be HOV only. There’s a number of things coming to reduce impacts.
14). Why do you feel that there aren’t more candidates running for office and do you feel it’s an issue that this race is running uncontested. [50:58]
Christian Patz: I can’t speak to why other people didn’t choose to run. I think it saddens me in these days that we don’t have enough people running for school board. I know we have struggled to fill some of our committees. Others, we have to turn people away because we have so many applicants, but you know, I could sit up here and say, nobody is running against us because if the three of us are so amazing I have a hard time talking about how wonderful I am, but I can tell you, I wouldn’t want to run against my two colleagues, because they are both brilliant and share my values and are just leaps and bounds ahead of anybody else. And I’m going to say that about Scott and Dianne as well. I think I opened this debate, talking about how wonderful the council is and so when we talk about it, you know, we are, we are progressives in a progressive town and we support the values of Emeryville and we work hard and have worked hard. And so that is the only guess I have, but I don’t have a real answer.
John Bauters: Yeah. Similar to the mayor. I can’t speculate as to why other people would not run. That would be speculative on my part. I will say why I think people support us. I do a weekly town hall, pre COVID, at least it was easier to do. I go somewhere else in the city every week I have anywhere from 30 to 150 people who show up at the town halls. The feedback I get is, is very valuable, very insightful. And as recently as last week, and as long ago, as two years ago, I’ve had people say, I really hope you’ll run again. I really feel like I have someone in city council who listens to me and who is supportive of our community values. And I know that those values extend across the five people who are on the council. And when you look at 2016, there were six candidates, there was an open field and a lot of people put their platform forward and gave their best shot. The three of us were elected and, you know, for as long as those of us who were here wish to continue to serve here, I hope that people don’t feel disincentivized to run if they want to run, but I’m happy to know that people feel like we’re doing a good job. That’s the feedback I receive all the time.
Ally Medina: I have since run a lot of campaigns for other people, I’m gonna go ahead and start speculating here. I do actually think that being in a global pandemic does disincentivize some people from running. You cannot do your traditional door-knocking. I mean, I don’t believe that door knocking right now would be a safe thing to do. It just seems much more daunting to run a first-time campaign. So I do feel very weird about this. I got to say, I actually love campaigning. It’s what I used to do professionally. And so I almost missed the opportunity to do it this year. I do admire and appreciate the free time though. And I can think two things. I think it’s hard to run as a first time candidate right now against incumbents. And I also think, you know, we have a high favorability rating. I think if anyone really, really hated the job we were doing, they probably find a candidate to run against us. So I think it’s a combination of those things. I think we’ve done a lot of community outreach and every time we put a ballot initiative on, I take that time to go out door knocking and speak to my neighbors. And that is a great way to continue Community engagement.
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