Friday, October 24, 2014

Got Mosquitoes?

I hope you don't have mosquitoes... but in Alameda County there is a Mosquito Abatement Agency that monitors and responds to mosquito problems because it is a public health issue. Emeryville's member who represented us on that agency no longer lives in town, and the Council is looking to appoint a new resident to serve. The monthly meeting pays $100/meeting, and you would be greatly appreciated. This is for a person who enjoys serving the community and is interested in these issues.

Affordable Units at Parc on Powell

My family and I have watched with anticipation as the scaffolding came down from in front of the huge construction project down the block. Yes, the first portion of the new apartments at Doyle/Stanford/Powell/Hollis are nearly done. The second phase should be near completion by 2015.

There are 21 affordable units included in this project, and those units are available to household that qualify based on income. The applications for these units are due next Friday, October 31. Generally, there is a lottery system after all applications are received.

For more information, please go to the Parc on Powell website which also has the application and the qualifications.

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 residents and workers with newly constructed apartments and new commercial spaces in town, all with a reduced budget due to the loss of redevelopment (in 2012 we lost our $30 million/year redevelopment funds). Emeryville was unusual in losing such a significant part of our budget as 95% of our town was in a redevelopment agency.

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 plus the current $1.10/$1,000 that is currently assessed and split with the county --  less than what Berkeley or Oakland collect, but significantly more than what 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. It will vary year to year, but we missed out on nearly $10 million over the past few years, not having this one time tax in place. Large developments sold can mean potential improvements to parks, streets, or other capital projects -- Bay Street recently changed hands as well as Novartis.

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.

Also, I simply have to refute the inaccurate information on the mailer I got this week:
  1. Becoming a Charter City means it will be harder for citizens to put charter amendments on the ballot than it currently is for putting ballot initiatives on the ballot. Charter cities require 15% of voters' signatures when gathering, rather than a 10% of voters' signatures threshold in place as a general law city.
  2. The Council deliberately put a very narrow and simple charter together so that only one thing is changed by Measures U and V - the Real Property Transfer Tax. We think our current form of government is working nicely, and there is no need for salary increases for council members beyond what is allowed as a general law city. Excluding and legalizing businesses may require a charter amendment and any amendment would have to go to the voters. Now, as a general law city, the city council can do much more just by ordinance... Council members and residents can place ballot measures on the ballot now, it will only be harder when we are a charter city.
  3. Most residents will be completely unaffected by Measures U and V. About 66% of residents are renters. Only those who own property will pay a portion of the new Real Property Transfer Tax, and that will only be at the time a property is sold.
  4. If you do not own property in Emeryville, these measures will not impact you at all, except that your city will continue to be able to fund the valuable services and maintenance that you enjoy.
  5. More sales in terms of numbers might be residential in Emeryville, but in terms of the amount of the Real Property Transfer Taxes collected, most of the funds will be from the larger commercial properties, but only when they change hands. Most residential properties are lower in value than the commercial properties -- after all, about 75% of land use in Emeryville is commercial.
  6. These funds are critical if Emeryville is to keep our streets maintained, our police and fire first-rate, our parks nice and if we are to be able to pay for capital improvements. I know you value Emeryville for these reasons. We just need to find new ways to keep our standards and pay for improvements now that redevelopment is gone.
Thanks for your attention to this very important set of ballot measures. Vote YES on U and 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 K

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

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.