2017 Wrap-Up: Progress on Priorities

Happy New Year! I hope each of you had a safe, happy and healthy holiday with loved ones.

When I began this blog a couple months after taking office, I had three goals in mind: (1) increase resident access to factually accurate and objective information; (2) improve transparency and accountability by inviting community members to participate in upcoming meetings while also reporting back the outcomes; and (3) enhance community engagement by bringing myself closer to you through direct resident and community meetings.

In the spirit of those three goals – and in the interest of bringing 2017 to an official close – I took some time to look back at the five priorities I identified when I was a candidate for this office. I have provided them for you below, along with the progress I believe we’ve made toward those goals this past year.

The five sections titled “2016 Priorities Statement” are the answers I gave as a candidate when asked what my top five priorities would be if elected. Below each of them is a section called “2017 Progress on Priority” that summarizes actions taken during 2017 on those same issues I campaigned on. As I prepare to set goals for 2018, I welcome your feedback, reflections, and thoughts on how I and the city have done this past year.

 

2016 Priorities Statement #1

Housing Affordability & Stability – We must commit to building affordable ownership housing and to providing legal protections for tenants. I will use my expertise on housing programs and policies to help stabilize housing for our resident community. This is my highest priority for the city and it is the most common issue on the minds of residents I’ve spoken with.

2017 Progress on Priority #1

This was and remains my biggest priority as your council member. I am committed to advancing solutions to housing affordability, stability and homelessness. This past year the council enacted legal protections for tenants, began construction on an all-affordable family housing project, expanded homelessness services, and created opportunities for new housing within our existing stock. Specifically, we did the following:

  • In April, the council implemented new Landlord-Tenant Anti-Harassment and Just Cause Eviction Ordinances. I dedicated part of my March 25th blog post to the details of these new tenant protections and provided residents with resources.
  • With rising rent costs, rent stabilization remains an important topic. My April 10th blog post provided details on the legal status of rent control.
  • In September, the council passed an Accessory Dwelling Unit Ordinance, helping create affordable housing opportunities in a cost-effective manner by expanding options for new units within existing homes.
  • In October, the council gave staff direction that will improve our smoke-free housing ordinance. Staff will return with the proposed ordinance in February 2018. You can learn more in my September 25th blog post.
  • In May, the council approved the financial and legal agreements for Estrella Vista, an all-affordable project that will deliver 87 multi-bedroom family housing units at 3706 San Pablo. The project broke ground in October.
  • Also in October, council reviewed how we provide services to the homeless in Emeryville. We expanded existing shelter bed and outreach contracts and contributed to the regional coordinated entry system. Learn more in my November 4th blog post.
  • Finally, on December 19th I asked my colleagues to support placing a $50 million affordable housing bond measure on the June 2018 ballot alongside a $10 million parks bond. This money would be used to build affordable rental and home ownership housing for middle and lower income working families, artists and people who need supportive housing, including the homeless. Voters were polled and 75% registered support. The council acted unanimously in directing staff to prepare these measures for June. This initiative will be my biggest priority for 2018.

 

2016 Priorities Statement #2

Public Safety Planning – As we move into a new period of rapid growth, we have to understand how increased residential density impacts our public safety infrastructure. I will put forth a long-term fiscal plan to help Emeryville sustain the same high-quality services we all enjoy without facing sudden costs in future budgets.

2017 Progress on Priority #2

I spent more time on the city’s budget and fiscal future than any other item I worked on this year. Stagnating returns from investments managed by the California Public Employee’s Retirement System (CalPERS) have the potential to decimate city budgets in the coming decade. Many cities are looking at their local contribution rates being adjusted upward by as much as 50%. CalPERS representatives stated at a recent meeting that they expect a significant number of cities to go bankrupt in the next 5-10 years. If ignored, this challenge can result in the loss of resident services, programming cuts and staff layoffs. I am proud that Emeryville has been proactive in addressing this issue. Our ability to maintain public safety services at the level residents currently enjoy depends on managing our long-term financial obligations. This past year we did the following:

  • In September, the council adopted and approved the two-year Budget for FY 2017-19. As part of that budget, the council took a strategic step to help protect the future of public safety services by making an additional one-time payment of $4 million against unfunded liabilities for public safety personnel pension obligations.
  • Council allocated roughly $9 million to a Section 115 Pension Trust. This trust will help protect us in future years if CalPERS makes sudden or unexpected changes that affect the city’s contribution rate. Read more about the city budget and changes to public employee pensions in my June 5th blog post.
  • The council moved an additional $1 million into our disaster preparedness fund, bringing us to $2.5 million total. Our goal is a $5 million reserve.
  • In November, the council updated our Local Hazard Mitigation Plan to help prepare us for a variety of disasters. My September 4th blog post outlines resources and tools to help your family prepare for a disaster.
  • In December, the council held a study session that reviewed the level of service provided by the Alameda County Fire Dept. We will use this information to consider infrastructure and service delivery changes or enhancements in the coming year.
  • In May the Public Safety Committee examined the Bay Area’s auto burglary trends. You can learn more about protecting yourself in Emeryville in my May 22nd post.

 

2016 Priorities Statement #3

Parks and Open Space – We have a serious shortage of green space. Civic engagement comes from making communities livable and enjoyable. I am committed to taking action to significantly increase the amount of useable park space in our community.

2017 Progress on Priority #3

The council took several initial steps to protect the environment and create additional green space this past year. As mentioned above, the council has studied and expects to approve a more comprehensive smoking ban this coming year – one that would include public spaces and events not covered by our current ordinance. We worked on the following as well:

  • The council modified the city’s Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) and timeline, prioritizing funding for improvements such as bathrooms at Temescal Creek Park.
  • Council addressed staff concerns related to costs and legal issues associated with operating a park outside of the city’s jurisdiction, thereby ensuring city resources are spent on projects that can be both realized and maintained. You can read more in my March 13th blog post.
  • In May, the city council approved an ordinance related to lead safety. In light of the President’s actions gutting the EPA, the city stepped up to protect children and our environment, becoming one of just a few cities in the United States and the only one in Alameda County that proactively enforces the EPA’s RRP Rule. You can learn more about the issue in my May 15th blog post.
  • The city approved the park design for nearly 2.5 acres of new park space at the Sherwin-Williams site. The park will include a children’s playground, a dog park, community garden, and outdoor recreational and open spaces.
  • The Public Market began construction on the expansion of Christie Park. When completed in the next year or so, the park will be nearly double the size of the existing space and include a children’s play area and fenced dog park.
  • On December 19th the city council voted unanimously to put a $10 million parks bond on the June 2018 ballot. Together with the affordable housing bond, this money can be used to improve, create and expand civic/park space in our city.

 

2016 Priorities Statement #4

Transit Infrastructure – As we grow, we must plan for the future of transportation. We must do this with the environment and public safety in mind. I will initiate a community conversation aimed at planning for the future of growth and development in Emeryville with an emphasis on green and mass transit.

2017 Progress on Priority #4

This past year I have had the privilege of serving as our city’s representative to the Alameda County Transportation Commission (ACTC). ACTC is a regional body comprised of all five county supervisors, representatives from all 14 cities in Alameda County, BART and AC Transit. In that role I fight to bring us as much money as possible for transit infrastructure projects in Emeryville through resources like regional Measure BB. We were very successful in 2017 and the council has set some of its transit priorities for 2018:

  • The city won its bid for $2 million in funding from ACTC to complete the South Bayfront Bridge that will connect pedestrians and bicyclists between Bay Street and 53rd Street over the railroad tracks. We intend to break ground in summer 2018.
  • In November, the council approved a pilot study to install flexible bollards between the bike and vehicle lanes down a portion of Horton Street that stretches from 53rd to 59th Streets.
  • The city began community engagement regarding the creation of a comprehensive parking management system in November. We won $930,000 in grant funding from ACTC to help us launch this new system. The money becomes available in July 2018.
  • We have almost completed the Stanford-Powell portion of the Emeryville Greenway and look forward to opening it in 2018.
  • I have had multiple meetings with AC Transit board members and staff to discuss opportunities to bring expanded transbay bus service to Emeryville.
  • On December 19th the city council unanimously agreed to prioritize quiet zone rail crossings at 65th/66th/67th Streets. In my role at ACTC I will work hard this coming year to secure us the millions in regional funding from SB 1 and MTC that will be needed to improve rail safety while also reducing noise in our community.

 

2016 Priorities Statement #5

Small Business – An important element of livability comes from supporting small, local-serving businesses that give our community character. I would like us to leverage the fees gathered from the development process to help us support and grow small business.

2017 Progress on Priority #5

The city took several important steps in 2017 as it relates to small businesses. I remain committed to expanding the opportunities and services we provide small businesses and look to build on this year’s initial successes. Things we accomplished this year include:

  • In May we held a small business listening session that close to 75 people attended. We provided resources to local business owners via a presentation from the Small Business Association and took feedback from business owners. You can watch that hearing here. Council approved funding to create quarterly networking and training events for small businesses in 2018.
  • In May the city council approved a $200,000 Façade Grant Program to help small businesses make infrastructure improvements. You can learn more about the program in my May 8th blog post.
  • In October, the council adopted our revised Economic Development Strategy, that promotes our new Cultural Arts District designation and small business.
  • In November, the council approved a 6-unit development project called the Doyle Street Mews. This project first came to the city when I was a planning commissioner. At a study session to review the proposal I asked the applicant to consider dedicating the community benefits portion of their development fees to the city’s Small Business Fund, which they did. The council’s approval of the project will leverage more than $120,000 in development fees for small business priorities.

We have been very busy this past year. While this list is not exhaustive, it also does not reflect all the things we need to do – there is much more work to be done. I am grateful to all of you who have given your time, compassion and skills to our community. As we enter 2018, I look forward to laying out priorities for the coming year and as always, look forward to your input and participation. I am humbled to serve as this city’s mayor and excited about the potential we share to do great things together.

Wishing you all a Happy 2018,

John