Sukhdeep Kaur

2022 Emeryville City Council Candidate Questionnaire: Watergate Resident Sukhdeep Kaur

10 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.

Sukhdeep Kaur

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 14 years. I reside in the Watergate HOA. I chose Emeryville as “home” for two reasons:

  1. For the easy commute to San Francisco where I was working when I moved to the Bay area.
  2. For Allegro Ballroom where I began ballroom dancing in 2004 when I was living in Walnut Creek.

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 a Senior Trial Attorney by profession. I leverage my negotiating abilities and advocacy skills to the advantage of my clients and will use these skills and abilities for the advancement of our city.

In our housing element, we are doing better than average in meeting our housing requirement set in the Regional Housing Needs Assessment criteria. I hope to add a more rounded perspective by focusing on attracting quality personnel in all departments that are currently short-staffed, improving the quality of life that will make Emeryville more ownership friendly, find ways to boost small businesses that are still struggling post pandemic shut down and in the middle of a recession, focus on cleaner and safer streets.

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

  • Consider Environmental and Ecological balance with RHNA.
  • Cleaner and Safer Streets to incentivize long term home ownership. I would like to see it as the safest, cleanest, most livable city while maintaining its rich diversity. We are a sample of what the world looks and talks like, right here, in our 1.2 square miles of a city.
  • Encourage small businesses as they are the backbone of economies and the middle-class.
  • Affordable, livable spaces.
  • Improved mobility for all income levels and across all demographics with an infrastructure that takes into consideration that Emeryville is planning to be a biotechnology hub with a lot of people in the region coming to our city solely for employment.

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?

Powell street and Christie need improved bike/ped safety. I would like to see the city focus efforts on either making it more safe for bikes and pedestrians or given that this is a freeway on ramp intersection street, there be available, an alternative route that bikes and pedestrians can use to get to the places they use these streets for as it will help ease the congestion and make it safer for everyone.

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?

As the city grows, these considerations are factored in along with the budget in the city’s plan. I am sure this is something that can be factored in.

The pandemic shift to remote work doesn’t seem to have much of an effect on the Emery Go-Round. The last time I rode the Powell Street Emery Go-Round, it was still packed around 5:00 PM. This was a few months ago and more places have opened up since then.

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?

Catalytic Converter thefts are still a huge concern. The PD is currently short staffed based on my conversations with the Sergeant Mayorga and Police Chief Jennings. Many of the officers are working overtime. As the City grows, the PD will have to grow just because of the way we are situated, in the middle of major cities. Most of the criminal element that comes to Emeryville is from out of town. Our PD needs to be fully staffed with quality personnel unless we can somehow explore alternative cost-effective ways to prevent or reduce crime.

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?

The most cost-effective method was the forced quiet hours during the pandemic but that also hurt the retail business as it reduced the foot traffic into these retail businesses. Perhaps, the businesses can make it a policy to have adults accompany the juveniles during certain times of the day. Less policing and increased foot traffic and adult supervision may be an all win situation with the buy in of businesses.

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?

Yes, it is unfortunate but true. The recession is a likely factor that has increased theft & property crime.

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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?

It could be a viable solution as most families prefer to live in Sacramento, Dixon, Tracy, Antioch, in more spacious single family homes to raise a family rather than raise their children in a studio or one or two bedroom apartment.

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?

If we are to make Emeryville more family friendly even in terms of rental property, there has to be an improved housing stock than just studios and 1-bedroom units.

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?

Provide the necessary social services and processes to expedite the unhoused to be self-reliant and even productive members of the society. Perhaps, we can borrow from the models in Scandinavian countries without the tax-effects by partnering with local non-profits. Now that the State is focusing on this issue with a huge budget for it, the stake-holders should come to the table with every viable solution so we can implement the most cost-effective one.

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?

Perhaps, more options of affordable projects like the Artists Co-op in Emeryville can be explored.

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.).

Yes, history is important to me and I would like to see the city do more to capture and promote it within the city in its landmarks, exhibitions, monuments…I would like to see the history of our city narrated or reflected in works of our many talented local artists.

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?

It would be respectful to ask his family. Perhaps, his contributions can be recognized through another dedicated building, garden, or memorial.

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?

There is definitely an opportunity for our city to support our small businesses. I would very much like to see grants or other incentives given to our small business to keep them afloat.

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?

Yes, this is a huge opportunity for our city, art community and small businesses to come together to help revitalize the city in safer and healthier ways.

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?

While reading the Housing Element, transportation plan, climate action plan, I was impressed not just by the last eight years but all the years that we have been better and ahead of so many bigger cities in terms of our local government here in Emeryville. There is room for more participation in the region and I hope we will continue to be a leader in many ways in the region.

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 have a website with a contact form, I am available by email and by phone. This information is available on my website. I encourage residents and voters to reach out to me. Most of my time will be spent outside of council chambers. I plan to continue to interact with our community outside of council chambers to solicit resident input. During my campaign, I have gone around to small businesses and individuals in the Emeryville community to obtain their ideas and solutions on any issues that are important to them. I hope to keep the conversation going.

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 am unable to open the East Bay Times Opinion Piece that you have linked to this question. However, as of answering this question, I don’t have the endorsements that ensure my name and photo will be included in glossy mailers sent to every mailbox in town. I sent my own mailers from the contributions received from friends and family. The most valued endorsements by me were those of my own community members in Emeryville and I am deeply touched by the support of all those who came forward out of their own volition to endorse me or support me by contributing their time and money. Also, I am grateful to the small businesses and organizations who have endorsed me. Endorsements are a part of the process and definitely influential. It is up to the candidate what interests they wish to promote or align themselves with. I align myself with our community and their interests are paramount to me. I am grateful to have received Emeryville City Council Member, Scott Donahue’s endorsement earlier today. Also, I learned yesterday that Mayor Bauters is casting his second vote for me but he endorses only one candidate. I am grateful for all the votes that will be cast for me and I’m actually moved that Mayor Bauters would make a public statement about it even though he acknowledges policy differences. Neither Mayor Bauters, nor Mr. Donahue have asked me for pledges of allegiance and I have not kissed any rings. In fact, unwittingly, I may have refused certain rings due to calendar conflicts and deadlines.

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 my family, friends, myself and community members. I have not taken or been pledged money from any PACs, business interests, lobbying organizations, or other special interest groups as of submitting this response. There is one PAC that I will consider taking money from as we have aligned thoughts.

Learn more about Sukhdeep by going to her website or contacting her via Email.

Read other candidate questionnaires include David Mourra, Kalimah Priforce, Eugene Tssui & Brooke Westling.

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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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