Parks/Open Space &
Sherwin Williams Project:
The Tattler presents the 2016 election candidates questionnaire. Candidates for elected office will answer questions broken down into topical sections that effect Emeryville residents. Responses will be released section by section rotating through all the responding candidates representing the City Council and School Board hopefuls.
The order of presentation was chosen randomly. Regular Tattler stories will be interspersed in the 2016 election questionnaire. Readers wishing to peruse all the answers by an individual may use the search bar function by entering ”Election 2016 Candidates Questionnaire” with the name of the candidate and all of that candidate’s sections will be presented. Alternatively just typing in the name of the candidate will also work.
There are six candidates running for three seats and all answered our questionnaire save candidate for City Council Brynnda Collins.
Section 2 Parks/Open Space
Our General Plan says Emeryville is dramatically under-served in parks. The 26 acres we have now (includes “linear” parks, essentially glorified sidewalks) must be increased by 21-26 acres within twelve years if our General Plan is to be honored. However something must change in Emeryville if this is to be achieved because with each passing year, we drift farther away from our goal. Our park fees obtained from developers have not kept pace with our needs.
Tattler: City planners use the metric of residents per acre of park land to measure how well a city’s residents are being served. Oakland is well served with park/open space at approximately 67 residents per acre. Emeryville currently has about 500 residents per acre. After peaking in the late 1970’s, Emeryville’s ratio of residents per acre of park/open space has gone down every year since then, despite a few small parks having been built. This disturbing downward trend has actually accelerated over the last 10 years. Increasing developers park fees is unlikely to help much moving forward owing to the limited amount of developable land left. Acknowledging all this, what can be done to build the amount of park land we say we want?
Ally Medina: As a city, we can look to policies that mandate street level parks (much more usable by residents) be built in all new developments if the park fee fund exceeds the current amount of park space left to develop. We can also refuse to allow any new projects that lower our proportion of residents to parks/open space, which would automatically increase the proportion (albeit by very small measure).
Tattler: Our General Plan is very clear on parks/open space; we need more than we have, twice as much. But the disconnect between what the people say they want and what they’re getting is extreme in Emeryville. There seems to be no political will to follow the General Plan once politicians get in office. Politicians routinely say they’re going to turn this around but they have not yet done so. And yet the voters keep voting for these politicians. Several council members have been re-elected over and over again. Does this tell you the people don’t really want parks, regardless of what they say? Are you willing to consider amending our General Plan to delete parks if you can’t or won’t deliver on your promise to build more so at least our guiding document will accurately reflect reality and not be a pie-in-the-sky fantasy meant to elect dishonest politicians? Considering all this, at what point should the General Plan be considered a failure?
Ally Medina: I believe that our leaders are concerned about the amount of parks and open space, but there are significant challenges to reaching the goals outlined in the General Plan due to our size and density, and there are other pressing issues (economic, housing, etc) competing for prioritization. I am personally committed to taking the lead in working with my colleagues on the council, city staff and community leaders on tackling these challenges, which I realize is not going to be easy, but is possible with someone focused on driving solutions. Community feedback and support on this issue is key in moving forward - the council must be responsive to our constituents’ concerns and the more support we have from the community, the more power we have in working with developers and large businesses to ensure parks and open spaces are included in new developments and other urban planning projects.
Section 3 Sherwin Williams Project
The Sherwin Williams development project is a mostly residential proposal earmarked for the last large piece of fallow land left in Emeryville. This single project could easily increase Emeryville’s population by more than 10%. At 540 all rental residential units planned as well as some office space and a small amount of retail, this project promises to be very consequential for our town for better or worse.
Tattler: The Sherwin Williams developers propose to add 2.08 acres of public park on the site. Using the standard formula of 2 people per unit (more if the project attracts families as the developers say it will), the project will come in at about 520 residents per acre and help bring down Emeryville’s already deplorable residents/park acre average. Should negative skewing of our park/residents ratio like this be a disqualifying condition for this project?
Ally Medina: This project has already gone through extensive public input and review by the planning commission and city council, and will likely be approved before the election. I would support a policy of not allowing new development that brings down our parks/residents ratio in the future.
Tattler: The Sherwin Williams site is relatively cheap since it is fallow. Because our General Plan requires us to build many more acres of parks within 12 years and because it’s cheaper for the City to buy fallow land than land with buildings already on it for this purpose, and because the City of Emeryville has the capacity to pass a park bond to raise revenue for this, is making the Sherwin Williams site a large park a rational choice?
Ally Medina: Again, the project has already undergone extensive community review. We need to look toward future developments with a critical eye with regard to the ratio of parks to residents.
Tattler: With more than 500 parking spaces, this project can be fairly called another Emeryville ‘drive-in drive-out’ residential development. Do you see adding this many cars to our streets as being offset by any benefits to existing residents by the project’s amenities?
Ally Medina: I understand that there will be extensive community benefits in terms of a bike/pedestrian pathway as well as bike parking and increased affordable housing. I do not necessarily support designing developments with cars as the primary mode of transportation, studies have shown that putting public transit by affordable housing is a best practice in city design and I hope that we can increase alternative transportation options to this site to decrease the number of residents who rely on cars for their primary mode of transit.
Tattler: Is Emeryville right now not up to snuff, a less-than-desirable place to live that can only be improved by the Sherwin Williams project going in as proposed? Do we ‘need’ the Sherwin Williams development?
Ally Medina: As stated above, I think there are significant community benefits that will come out of this project. Instead of debating the drawbacks of a project that has already gone through the public process, we need to look at how we can make future developments prioritize affordable housing, public transit, pedestrian safety and parks.
Tattler: The project is hemmed in on the west by the rail road tracks and on the north by land slated for future development by Novartis, to the east is the Horton Street Bike Boulevard that our General Plan forbids adding more traffic to. How will the retail there be viable with these constraints let alone the office space and the residential units?
Ally Medina: By adding a dense population of new residents and bike/pedestrian infrastructure, we should see an influx of pedestrian traffic that is more likely to shop at small local businesses.