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.
City Council Candidate David Mourra
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’ve lived in Emeryville’s North Hollis neighborhood for 14 years. During the time I’ve lived here, the neighborhood has changed a great deal. More housing developments have gone up and with the additional people, I’ve enjoyed seeing new bars and restaurants open up; there have been some closures but new businesses have quickly opened in their place. With improvements to bike lanes and the building out of the Greenway, I’ve noticed many more bikes, kids, families and strollers out. The ability to bike and walk just about everywhere in the city convinced me that Emeryville is a great place to raise my two boys and call Emeryville our home.
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?
Professionally, I work in the biotech industry as an engineer and project manager. I also serve on the city’s planning commission reviewing new proposed developments. Additionally, I’m the treasurer for my HOA. All of these roles require a focus on practical, cost-effective solutions with a focus on addressing the root cause of problems. I think the current city council will value my observations and ideas to improve the city. Similarly, I expect to learn a lot from them about the history of the city’s government and how to best implement my ideas.
3). Bullet-point for us what you see as the city’s Top-5 priorities.
- Build housing that connects the city
- Bike and pedestrian infrastructure and safety
- Parks and green space
- Support for small businesses and local workers
- Efficient city operations and sound financial investments
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?
Horton street is a crucial North/South bike boulevard however improvements are still needed. The protected sections are helpful but insufficient. I often bike along Horton to Target with my 4 year old riding behind me and I see the street through his eyes. I’ll just say we spend a lot of the time riding on the sidewalk. Other areas that need attention are San Pablo and 40th. I’m excited for the upcoming improvements to these streets. Also, near Christie and Powell bike lane improvements have the potential to better connect the parts of the city separated by the I-80. The new bike and pedestrian bridge planned for the Ashby interchange will also provide a much needed additional route to provide access to the Bay Trail.
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?
The West Oakland BART is a great addition and I would look for any opportunity to see this line merged into an Emery Go-Round Route. Regarding other route adjustments, I think it would be worthwhile to review ridership following the pandemic and remote work changes to see what makes the most sense.
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?
My vision for a walkable, bikable vibrant city relies on people feeling safe when they go outside. This means that the police and other city services should be sufficiently staffed and responsive to the needs of the people. From personal experience and discussions with the neighbors, I’ve found the police to be quite responsive and helpful. Based on this observation and the fact that the police department comprises over 30% of the city’s budget, I don’t think the police force is understaffed.
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 agree that incidents like this are not good for the city or businesses and not good for the juveniles involved. These are young children who apparently don’t feel like they have other outlets for social interaction and don’t yet have the maturity to understand the harm that they do to themselves and their community. I am very interested to know what kind of measures would discourage this behavior and provide other outlets for our youth to be outside and enjoy themselves. Coming up with ideas should be a collaboration between city staff, schools, social/youth service organizations, and law enforcement.
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’ve had 3 bicycles stolen from a private garage in my building during the first few years I’ve lived here. Fortunately, these incidents have not recurred in recent years. Each time I called the police they arrived within minutes and diligently took down my information. They appeared to take the occurrence of property crime very seriously and even managed to recover one of the bicycles and a bike bag. I can’t comment on society overall, but I think in our City, the police force are doing their best to serve the citizens. This shows the priorities of the City’s government.
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?
I personally know several families who have left Emeryville because they could not find homes with 3 bedrooms to accommodate their growing families. Developers respond to economic incentives. We should look closer at how the city allocates development bonus points and look at potentially more favorable weighting of family friendly units.
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?
As mentioned in the previous response, the economic incentives for building family friendly housing need to be evaluated to improve the stock of 2 and 3 bedroom units. The economics of housing has favored rental construction in recent years. There are different explanations for this including the favorable economics of rentals due to the difficulty of affording a down payment amid record high home prices. Increasing the overall stock of housing, rental or otherwise, will reduce housing costs across the board and bring balance to housing options. After decades of under-building housing in California, we are finally starting to address the housing crisis in a meaningful way– by building more housing.
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?
The large number of people experiencing homelessness is a complicated regional problem. At its core, a lack of housing regionally has made this problem more acute. People need to be matched with short term and longer term housing solutions that keep them off the streets. This should be a guiding principle for the City Council and its staff. We should also look to the county and state for any funds that are available to help cities like ours provide resources for addressing the needs of people experiencing homelessness. This also includes rent stabilization funds that might be available to keep people in their homes in this time of record high rent increases.
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?
The city is currently seeking a California’s Pro Housing designation which in addition to qualifying for state funds for various infrastructure programs, this will signal to developers that Emeryville is a good place to build. As a pro-housing City, we work with developers in good faith to build housing in areas where zoning and density goals permit it. But we can also expand the available land for housing construction. California’s SB6 law allows housing construction in areas zoned for commerical use. Emeryville can expand this concept to areas zoned for industrial use. Industrial zoned areas in the city are already adjacent to residential areas and upzoning to permit housing will significantly incentivize residential construction.
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.).
Emeryville has a rich history and I could envision some kind of marking of landmarks or historical notes at various locations throughout the city. This is a good idea.
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’m not familiar with the background or discussion behind this name change. However I expect the city council would be receptive to any suggestions for applying the former Mayor’s name.
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?
The pandemic was a tremendous hardship for many local businesses. In particular, risks of indoor dining discouraged people from eating at local restaurants. Encouraging outdoor dining is very much in the interest of the city and local restaurants. The Planning Commission met a few weeks ago and we voted to recommend making permanent the ordinance for outdoor dining. We also made some updates to make parklets and sidewalk dining more accessible including removing restrictions on alcoholic beverages, outdoor food preparation and removing physical separation between dining areas and sidewalks. I am convinced that changes like this will make it easier to for local bars and restaurants to attract new customers and our city will be better for it.
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?
City planning staff routinely meet with new and expanding businesses within the city and provide guidance for them. I see this as incredibly beneficial because the businesses are in direct communication with the staff responsible for evaluating their permit applications. We should look to improve this interaction by sending followup communications for businesses that have previously reached out for expansion opportunities.
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?
In the last 8 years, I’ve seen many new restaurants open and significant improvements to bike and pedestrian infrastructure including the Greenway and the south bay front bridge. New housing developments have also brought more people who support the local businesses. These changes are noticeable and represent a welcome improvement to the overall quality of life in the city. I consider this a tremendous achievement. One notable disappointment for me was the failure of the new grocery store to open at the Public Market. I think this had more to do with the difficult economics of grocery stores than anything the City council could influence, but it was disappointing nonetheless. I’m cautiously optimistic about the new grocery store at Bay Street.
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.
During my experience campaigning people have not been shy about sharing their views for how to improve aspects of the city. People reach out to me to provide their thoughts over email, phone and in person. I expect they will continue to do so if I am elected and I welcome such input.
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?
Fortunately, nobody has asked me to “kiss” their ring and I have no interest in doing so. Each endorsement I’ve received was simply the result of sharing my views during a conversation. My current endorsements include the Democratic party and the members of the current city council. Unfortunately, nobody has offered to send a glossy mailer on my behalf– this would have been nice! I’ve designed my own mailer to get my name out to people who might not be aware of my vision for the city.
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?
My campaign is funded by people I’ve spoken to who share my vision and priorities for the city. I’ve received donations from friends & family, neighbors, and local small business owners. No other groups have offered financial support for my campaign.