Monday, October 20, 2014

Vote YES on Measures U and V!

Measures U and V are critical for the financial well-being of the City of Emeryville going forward. We are still adding new residents and new commercial spaces with a reduced budget due to the loss of redevelopment.

By voting YES on Measure U, we will make Emeryville a Charter City, which will keep our town exactly the same, except for ONE THING - the ability to put in place a Property Transfer Tax when a property is sold/bought.

By voting YES on Measure V, we can collect from each property sale a one time tax ($12.00/$1,000 value) that is less than what Berkeley or Oakland collect, but significantly more than the $0.55/$1,000 we are currently allowed to collect (as a General Law City). Most of the funds will come from commercial property sales. We are losing out on this revenue now.

Please help Emeryville to maintain police and fire services, maintain our parks and think about how to pay for public works projects for our streets, sewers and other projects going forward. This money cannot be taken by Sacramento.

And the realtors are the ONLY organization opposing these two measures.

The Chamber of Commerce supports them; every council member supports them, every city council candidate supports them. You can support our town, too!

Don't let the outside lobbyists buy your vote or fool you. Wow. They sure do have a lot of money to spend on our little city. (More than $85,000 I heard.)

For more info and facts, go to the City Website and read up on Measure U and Measure V.

Let me tell you why I support Scott and Dianne...

I have been honored to serve the City of Emeryville for the past 5 years as a council member. I have worked hard to ask tough questions and communicate with you, my constituents. I have sent regular email updates, asked for your opinions, chatted with you at the grocery store, come to your communities, and responded to emails.  I have valued public participation and transparency, raising the expectations for our city to respond to your needs. We have accomplished a lot, but there is more to be done. It is time for me to pass the torch to folks I trust.

I endorsed both Dianne Martinez and Scott Donahue for city council because I am impressed with the skills and talents they would bring to the city council. They have different skills, and I would like to highlight how they would balance each other as leaders in town.

Dianne is an intelligent and personable candidate with common sense. I think Dianne will follow my path of bringing people together, creating and strengthening partnerships that are so essential in our ever more regional world. Spanning business and resident interests, Dianne will continue to create an environment for strong collaboration and connection. She will be a person who will work well with all council members.

Scott has been my advisor while I served on council. He has a strong history of all things Emeryville that I have relied on, and he is willing to listen and thoughtfully consider other people’s ideas, and share his own. He is passionate about quality of life issues, since he has seen the growth Emeryville has achieved, and values the possibilities for smart development with a practical side. 

Better bike connections, parks and public works projects will be priorities for both candidates.

The two candidates complement each other well, and as a team, both in their campaign and on the council, will bring a cohesive, dynamic energy that will carry on the work I have done.

Please join me in voting for Scott Donahue and Dianne Martinez on November 4!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Election recommendations

Absentee ballots will be coming your way soon. I wanted to share my recommendations on the various measures and candidates you will find on the ballot.

Vote Yes on Measure U

Vote Yes on Measure V

Vote Yes on Measure BB

Vote for Scott Donahue for Emeryville City Council

Vote for Dianne Martinez for Emeryville City Council

Vote for Christian Patz for Emery Unified School Board

Vote for John Affeldt for Emery Unified School Board

Horton St. Bike Boulevard thoughts

Tuesday morning, September 30, was the second community meeting to hear from residents and businesses about the proposed temporary and experimental traffic calming on Horton St. bike boulevard. The goal of traffic calming on Horton is to reduce the number of cars and reduce the speed of cars.

It was great to see 30 people turn out at 9:00 am, and we had a lively hour and a half of sharing points of view. I listened and learned from the people who came. Here are my take-aways.

Follow the Bike/Ped Plan. At this time, what is called for is Level 4 traffic calming. Level 4 means that there are additional measures put in place to slow car traffic down, with either horizontal (meaning side to side, weaving) traffic calming, like chicanes or narrowing, or vertical (up and down) traffic calming like speed humps. By slowing cars, we can hope some drivers will choose other more efficient routes, and avoid Horton. How many of you avoid roads with speed bumps when possible?

Provide more data. We don't really know where all the cars are coming from and where they are going. We are not trying to trick drivers or add to their frustration levels at traffic congestion in town, but we are trying to say this street is being protected for bicyclists. Staff suggested putting up speed signs by Thanksgiving that tell drivers what speed they are going, and will also record the number of cars and their speeds. Sherwin Williams' Environmental Impact Report (EIR), which is on the October 7 city council agenda, will be completed over the next 9 months or so, and will provide additional data on this area and the impacts that that development project will bring, including on traffic. It includes a traffic study.

Don't pit neighborhood against neighborhood. I think that some feel that a Level 5 diverter (which would close Horton to through car traffic either at 45th/Sherwin and/or at Stanford) would benefit some and hurt others. I disagree, in that the overall goal is to reduce ALL traffic on Horton, and I think that it would be effective in that, but I heard very clearly that others are concerned about "dumping" confused cars into the Park Ave district. With proper signage posted, we would hope to alert drivers to any closures or otherwise persuade them to find another route.

Safety is critical. This is one of the reasons I have been concerned about the proposed Level 4 traffic calming possibilities. Some of the Level 4 options narrow the road and put cars in conflict with each other, rather than with bikes. There are other options for Level 4 that I think would be safer options.

There is history here. Apparently, when the Chiron/Novartis/Grifols campus was being approved, Horton was considered an alternative route and pressure release for the traffic impacts on Hollis St. Now, we are reversing that goal by putting the Horton cars back on Hollis. There is no doubt that Hollis will be impacted.

Do it right and don't chicken out. Let's think this through and NOT repeat what happened in the Triangle neighborhood a few years ago. In that case, diverters were put in and then taken out within a few weeks, as the neighborhood reacted. The Level 4 traffic calming in the Triangle has NOT decreased vehicle counts on their streets, but it has decreased speed. As critical as it is to get some kind of traffic calming put in (since Horton has long had more than 3,000 vehicle trips per day, the maximum for a designated Bike Boulevard in Emeryville), it is o.k. to gather this kind of input and plan it out accordingly.

The real goal is to decrease vehicle trips in Emeryville in general, in my opinion. I think we will have to look at this overall for the city, not just for one street. Making driving in Emeryville less attractive is important, along with improving alternatives to driving. This includes looking at parking, Emery-Go-Round, bike and pedestrian connectivity, and thinking more globally about how these policies interact.

Keep access for local use. We need to look carefully at the places people need to get to and how they can get there now and with new measures put in place.

The Plan calls for Level 4 traffic calming now and in two years, Level 5 diverters, if the numbers are not sufficiently reduced. That coincides with the Sherwin Williams development - with construction starting in 2016 or so. We can plan for that and decide not to go that route if Level 4 has the impacts we hope for.

Please stay engaged on this topic, as it is an important part of our city's overall plan for changing the dominance of the car in town, at least on one street. When some asked why we need to worry about this at all, I put forward my ideas about the need to recognize "complete" streets, that support all modes of travel, and the "bike boulevard" which elevates the bicycle over the car in terms of priority and treatment.

Horton is a special street in many ways. It is not predominantly residential now. It is wide and has long blocks between stop signs. There is not parking on much of it. All of this contributes to fast driving, without the "natural" traffic calming that comes with greater pedestrian activity or narrowing.

One person bravely said, and I agree, that this is not something that can be worked out by studying alone. There is a certain amount of trial and error with these attempts to change behavior. I am glad that we have a grant to pay for the engineering and design work, and that it will be relatively inexpensive to put in "temporary" and "experimental" measures, so that we can really try out a few things. Let's be open to ideas.

When I was in Minneapolis last week for a national conference (RailVolution) on public transit and bike/ped issues, I was very impressed with that city's bike supportive culture. They are trying things that other places have not tried. Let's be bold and try something on Horton, and let's make it Level 4 traffic calming for now. Thanks again to all who have attended a meeting, or sent in an email with your thoughts. There will be more opportunities to engage!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Development Impact Fees

Emeryville has put in place new fees to be charged to development projects as they get permits to build. These impact fees will pay for three things: transportation improvements, parks, and affordable housing. The staff report from our July 15, 2014 city council meeting are available for you to read here. These fees help to replace some of the funds we lost when redevelopment was dissolved. Some redevelopment funds (20%) were required to be used for affordable housing before 2012.

Putting these fees in place first required nexus studies to be done, showing how new development will create an additional need for transportation improvements, parks and affordable housing. The nexus studies took a year and a half to complete, and they are available for you to read. They are very interesting, both in the methodology and the statistics shared. All are available on the city website at http://emeryville.org/index.aspx?NID=971.

Transportation Impact Fees
The transportation impact fees are supported by this study completed by Fehr & Peers. Originally established in 1998, the transportation impact fees have already paid for many improvements from our previous list, and are based on new trips generated by different land uses. There is a new list of approved projects that the fees can go toward on pages 11-15 of the report, totaling approximately $100 million. Many of these projects will improve transportation not only for cars, but for transit, pedestrians and bicyclists as well, as we continue to improve our multi-modal transportation elements. The fee can be adjusted by the council from time to time. We set the transportation impact fee at 20% of the maximum allowed by the study.

Park and Recreation Impact Fees
The park and recreation impact fees are supported by this study completed by Willdan. These fees cannot pay for facilities that fix our existing deficit of parks, but can pay for new parks needed based on the new development. Right now Emeryville has park acreage of 1.32 acres per 1,000 service population (which includes people who work in town and use the parks now, but at a weighted or reduced number). Parks are very expensive to develop in a place like Emeryville, with limited open space, often requiring the removal of other uses first. We set the park impact fee at 25% of the maximum allowed by the study.

Affordable Housing Impact Fees
The affordable housing impact fees are supported by this study of residential development and another study of non-residential Jobs-Housing nexus for development, both completed by Keyser Marston. These fees will go toward new affordable housing units developed in Emeryville, recognizing the need for units affordable to all who work in our community. Every new market rate unit in Emeryville increases the need for affordable housing as well, since the future residents will eat at restaurants, buy things at retail stores and get their cars fixed. Each new unit will cause a fee of $20,000 per unit to be paid toward future affordable housing, well below the $35,600 allowed by the study. For commercial, the council established the fees at $4/sf, instead of the $66.00 to $244.00/sf fee maximum allowed by the study.

Here is a table showing projected fees from future developments in town.
This table compares Emeryville's proposed fees with other nearby cities.

The fees adopted for affordable housing were higher for commercial and office use than the staff had initially proposed. Instead of $2/square foot, the council voted to raise it to $4/sf.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Emeryville Center of Community Life (ECCL)

At our special council meeting on Wednesday, August 6, 2014, the city council will be considering our agreement with Emery Unified School District (EUSD) to move forward on the Emeryville Center of Community Life (ECCL) project you can see starting construction on San Pablo Ave at 53rd. This project is the culmination of years of planning, and will create a single K-12 school with a Recreation Center, Library and health and community services, all under one roof. The staff report for this item is here. The supporting resolutions and contracts are quite long, but can be found on the agenda, item number 6.1.

The council has two items to consider:

  1. the Joint Occupancy Agreement, which covers 
    • Project Lease
    • Finance Agreement
    • Governance
    • Operations, Maintenance and Shared Use Agreement
    • Design and Construction Agreement
    • General Conditions
  2. The construction contract with Turner Construction, which came in at $58.6 million.
Please attend the meeting if you can make it to hear updates on the project and share your opinion on the ECCL project. City Hall is at 1333 Park Ave.

Minimum Wage

At our special meeting this coming Weds, August 6 (starting at 6:00 pm), the council will be considering whether to direct staff to bring back an item on setting a minimum wage for our city. You have likely heard lots about this topic recently, as Oakland and Berkeley both are in the process of considering this as well -- Berkeley by ordinance, and Oakland by ballot measure. The Bay Area is an expensive place to live (just look at our recently submitted Housing Element), and workers earning the lowest permissible wages are not able to get by. A report analyzing the Lift Up Oakland ballot measure that will be on the ballot in November said that the measure would bring an raise to 40,000 workers in Oakland alone, 79% of whom are Latino or African American workers, with a vast majority in their twenties or older (not just teenagers). This is a social justice issue.

I am eager to hear the staff presentation and listen to my colleagues discuss this important issue as well. Please join us and bring your thoughts and comments!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014 at City Hall, 1333 Park Ave. starting at 6:00 pm!