2022 Emeryville City Council Candidate Questionnaire: Christie Core Resident Brooke Westling

9 mins read

Emeryville voters will be tasked to fill two open seats this election with incumbents Dianne Martinez and Scott Donahue opting to not seek third terms. Five candidates have filed to fill the four year term.

Whomever is elected on November 8 will join John Bauters, Ally Medina (both with two years left on their second terms) and Courtney Welch (elected in 2021’s Special Election and filling out the remainder of resigned councilmember Christian Patz’ four year term).

We have provided each candidate 20 questions relevant to Emeryville to help voters determine which candidates align with their personal priorities. The League of Women Voters candidate forum replay can be watched online.

Brooke Westling

Introduction & Priorities

1). First off, how long have you lived in Emeryville, what neighborhood do you reside in and what led you to choose Emeryville as “home”?

I have lived in Emeryville for over 10 years. Emeryville was the first place I lived when I moved to the Bay Area in 2009 and I returned after having my son in 2012. I live in the Christie Core neighborhood, near the Public Market. I chose Emeryville as home because of its convenient location, ease of access to grocery stores, and other community amenities, affordability, and smaller size among Bay Area cities.

2). Tell us what you do professionally. What skills and different perspectives would you bring to Emeryville’s City Council that might be currently lacking?

I am an asylum lawyer and law professor. I serve as the Legal Director of the LGBT Asylum Project, a pro bono legal services non-profit that I co-founded in 2015. I also co-founded and co-direct an asylum legal clinic at Golden Gate University School of Law.

In addition to the skills I’ve developed at my current positions, I also bring with me experience in Alternative Dispute Resolution, state level government, at-risk teen diversion programming, and victim empowerment. I have experience advocating for the best interests of people of all ages, cultures, and communities and hope to use my experiences to better serve the citizens of Emeryville.

3). Bullet-point for us what you see as the city’s Top-5 priorities.

  • Long term resident retention
  • Increasing community engagement
  • Education/Emery Unified
  • Staffing police
  • Affordable housing for public servants working in Emeryville

Transit & Bikeability

4). Bikeability and Pedestrian access in Emeryville have improved markedly with the completion of the South Bayfront Bridge (a nearly two decade long project) and gradual expansion of the Emeryville Greenway. Where would you like to see the city focus its efforts on improved bike/ped safety and access during your term if elected?

The intersection at Christie and Powell remains problematic for pedestrians and bikers. Also, the area by Target and Home Depot on 40th is not easily accessible by pedestrians and bikers. Increasing walkability/bikeability to the area may help alleviate some of the struggles the shopping center has been facing.

5). The E’ville Eye used its platform to help advocate that a free shuttle from The Emery development to West Oakland BART be included in the CBA after polling riders. When their obligation ends, would you like to see this line merged into an Emery Go-Round Route somehow? Do you see any other adjustments to the Emery Go-Round routes or schedules that the pandemic shift to remote work might necessitate?

Yes, a West Oakland Bart shuttle should remain, as the West Oakland station is a much more convenient transportation hub than MacArthur station, whether the rider is traveling to another place in the East Bay, South Bay, or San Francisco.

Public Safety

6). Despite some high-profile shootings and surges in crime in neighboring cities, violent & property crime levels in Emeryville are slightly lower than pre-pandemic levels. That said, what do you assess as the general concern with public safety from your conversations with neighbors and do you believe the Emeryville Police Department has sufficient staffing levels to keep the city safe?

Property crimes still matter. Even though we have low levels of violent crimes, the pervasive property crimes prevent residents of Emeryville from feeling safe and secure in their homes. The police do not have sufficient staffing, as they have publicly stated. We should prioritize fully staffing and funding our police force so that they have the ability to follow up with property crimes, investigate, and assist with prosecution.

7). Bay Street has been the target of looting, violence and massive brawls mostly by unaccompanied juveniles. Are there any programs, policies or technologies you would consider exploring to deter this behavior that ultimately hurts Emeryville and the resident amenity and retail tax revenue this shopping center generates for the city’s general fund?

I personally find myself avoiding Bay Street, especially during the evening hours. What could be a great community asset (looking back at pre-pandemic live music, dancing, holiday events, etc…), is lost to us because patrons do not feel safe. Bay Street needs to implement increased security that will stop in-process robberies. We cannot entirely solve the problem through increased security though. In order to prevent these incidents, we have to focus resources on community programs for those unaccompanied juveniles committing these offenses. Some ideas include: community movie nights, sports programs, STEM programs, and any number of other social, educational, and/or recreational programs to get our youths focused on positive and productive community building.

8). The San Pablo Avenue CVS abruptly closed in September leaving several neighborhoods without a walkable pharmacy. While they did not state specific reasons for closing, many have observed the location was the frequent target of theft and harassment of their employees and much of their inventory was behind locked cases (an anti-theft measure that Target has also recently implored). Do you believe we’ve gotten too permissive as a society with theft & property crime?

I do believe we have become too permissive. I think that we also need to address the underlying motivation of people committing crimes such as shoplifting food or medicine. We need to alleviate that need and desperation and also prosecute those who commit the property crimes. Target on 40th is a great example of what we do not want to resort to. The locked-up goods create an atmosphere that feels unsafe and unwelcoming and creates the exact environment that they are trying to combat. It prevents people who want to patronize the store from being able to conveniently do so and will drive down profits.

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Homelessness, Housing & Affordability

9). Despite efforts to incentivize “Family-Friendly” housing over the last decade, Emeryville has the second lowest percentage of youth population in the Bay Area according to 2020 Census Data (up slightly from 10.2 to 10.8% over this span). Is mandating two and three bedroom units in large, multifamily apartment projects the right way to approach retaining families beyond children’s preschool years?

Mandating 2 and 3 bedroom units is a part of the solution. However, new developments cannot simply build larger units and rent them out for 2-3x the rate of a 1 bedroom. These units need to be affordable to a family, which often has the same income as a single person or a childless couple. We need to see the value of having families in Emeryville beyond the tax and rent revenue that they can generate. In addition, we need to mandate ownership opportunities and improve our school system if we expect families to stay here.

10). As detailed in the key findings of the city’s 338-page Housing Element draft, 64% of Emeryville’s housing stock consists of studio and 1-bedroom units. The City has not built any significant ownership housing in well over a decade and ⅔ of the units in the city are rentals. What are your other takeaways from this document that will guide your housing priorities if elected?

The expansive Housing Element Draft confirms much of what I have personally witnessed within our community. It confirms that the current state of housing in Emeryville is prohibitive to families for many reasons. We lack adequate housing with enough bedrooms to accommodate families, we lack affordable housing, and we are not on track to realistically solve these challenges. According to the Draft, “As of 2019, only 8 percent of Emeryville homes had three or more bedrooms and there were no homes with five or more bedrooms. During outreach activities for the preparation of this Housing Element, community members and Housing Committee members expressed concern that the style, size, and cost of housing in Emeryville is forcing out existing and potential family households.” We need to be actively working to reverse this trend, rather than exacerbate it.

11). The number of people experiencing homelessness in Emeryville has dipped following some lengthy legal battles. However, at a regional level, the problem remains staggering and feels by many to be intractable. What would you like to see done at the local and state levels to compel the unhoused suffering from addiction and mental illness into services and fast-track affordable housing for the working poor?

I support Gavin Newsom’s effort to instate CARE court, mandating treatment for homeless Californians struggling with addiction and mental illness. However, we have all witnessed the breakdown in mental health services available, even to those who seek them out, within our communities. This will require partnerships between healthcare providers (including mental healthcare) and city/county/state governments to adequately serve the needs of those referred to the program. We also need to make mental health and other supportive services readily available to anyone seeking them out, regardless of involvement in CARE court.

12). Despite the perception, Emeryville’s housing pipeline appears to be closing other than three city-funded affordable projects that have yet to break ground. How can Emeryville meet the ambitious 1,815 housing units quota established by RHNA over the next decade?

RHNA has allocated a need for 1815 new housing units to Emeryville. Additionally, the RHNA has stated that at least 50% of these units should be made available to those with moderate income and below. If we take the Emery as an example, they have pledged 85 affordable units out of 500 total. Their efforts to provide affordable housing have been widely praised, yet still fall short of the need stated by RHNA. While we may be able to find the space for 1815 new housing units, my concern is first and foremost with the affordability of all new units entering the market in Emeryville.

Art & Culture

13). History is what binds together generations of Emeryville residents and is among the most popular subject matter with our readers. Yet this has been a low priority for our current leadership. Is History important to you and would you like to see the city do more to capture and promote it within the city (i.e., Landmarks, Exhibits, Monuments, a city committee, Art Center History room as originally envisioned, etc.).

One of my main goals in running for city council is building a true and lasting sense of community among our residents. The history of our town is integral to our culture as a city.

14). Pioneering Black councilmember & former Mayor Robert Savage’s name was stripped from the former Rec. Center when it was converted to the Family Matters Shelter. How can we rectify this slight to him and his family?

I would want to speak with Robert Savage’s family directly to see what they feel an appropriate recompense would be.

Local Business

15). Small Businesses in Emeryville were struggling before the pandemic and the lock-downs and reduced foot-traffic wiped many of them out completely. Is the city doing enough to support them and if not, how will you work to change this if elected?

It is going to take time to recover to our pre-pandemic ways. In California, I believe we did a fairly good job at preventing as much loss as possible by implementing everything from covid-related payroll funds to freezes on evictions. I cannot think of anything specific we could have done better, but I would love the chance to meet with small business owners to get their perspective on this issue.

16). Emeryville does not have a Tourism body and its Chamber of Commerce was dissolved in 2015. Is it time for the city to make an “investment” in promoting itself to spur local businesses and attractions in the city and boost city revenues in the process?

I do not see an immediate need for a Tourism body to attract more visitors to our city. Our infrastructure already struggles to handle the morning and evening commutes and will only be put under more stress with all of the new housing soon opening. Our priority should be on improving the quality of life for our residents.

Leadership & Accountability

17). What would you point to as the biggest collective achievement of Emeryville’s current city council over the past 8 years they’ve been in office and conversely what was their biggest failure?

Biggest Achievement – Instating our admirable minimum wage increases.
Biggest Failure – Not taking the opportunity to meaningfully increase the amount of affordable housing through development contracts with new builds.

18). If elected, you’ll need to balance the loud, persistent opinions of a few activists & lobbyists who do not necessarily represent the views of the median resident/voter. Talk to us about how you will solicit resident input outside of council chambers.

I would make myself regularly and routinely available to constituents at events outside of city hall meetings. I would attend community events, provide my contact information, and schedule regular town halls in different areas of Emeryville so that anyone could express their needs, concerns, and opinions without braving the city council meetings.

19). As recently spotlighted in this East Bay Times Opinion Piece, the candidate endorsement process that ensures your name and photo will be included in glossy mailers sent to every mailbox in town requires compliance to organized labor and “kissing the ring” of current electeds and insiders. What has your experience been with the endorsement process?

I entered this race because I truly think I bring a valuable perspective to the Council. I chose early on to self-fund my campaign and not seek endorsements from political parties, PACs, or major politically-affiliated groups. I hoped that I could run a campaign based on an earnest desire to represent the best interests of the citizens of Emeryville. It quickly became apparent that there are many powerful external and internal forces vying to have their candidate of choice instated.

20). How will you fund your campaign? Have you taken or been pledged money from any PACs, business interests, lobbying organizations or other special interest groups?

I have accepted no money from PACs, business interests, lobbying organizations, or other special interest groups. I did this intentionally because I want to run a campaign free of monetary influence. I want to represent the people of Emeryville, not outside interests.

You can contact Brooke via Email.

Read other candidate questionnaires include Sukhdeep Kaur, David Mourra, Kalimah Priforce & Eugene Tssui.

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Rob Arias

is a third generation Californian and East Bay native who lived in Emeryville from 2003 to 2021. Rob founded The E'ville Eye in 2011 after being robbed at gunpoint and lamenting the lack of local news coverage. Rob's "day job" is as a creative professional.

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