John Van Geffen
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.
Today, candidate for City Council John Van Geffen, who answers questions on affordable housing:
John Van Geffen
Section 1 Housing Affordability
John T. Van Geffen, Esq. is relatively new to local politics having recently moved to Emeryville in 2014 with his family. John's campaign platform is about three things, making Emeryville a better place to raise families, cultivating the city's unique character by supporting local business, and ensuring the City Council direct its energies towards projects that help Emeryville residents, notspecial interest groups. For more information, his website is http://johnvangeffen.striki ngly.com/
Section 1 Housing Affordability
With each passing year, Emeryville becomes less affordable, regardless of the epic residential building spree over the last 20 years here. Emeryville has never built housing at a pace even close to what we have done recently. And yet, affordable housing remains Emeryville’s most intractable problem most people agree.
John Van Geffen: Regardless of any action taken by Emeryville's City Council, local housing costs will not stop rising so long as the economies of San Francisco, Berkeley and Oakland continue to grow. Currently the only realistic option for small cities like Emeryville to do their part in increasing "affordable housing" is to mandate that developers set aside BMR units. But unless the city is offering some form of incentive for setting aside BMR units, developers will simply consider moving their projects to otherwise viable locations with less restrictions. More over, we need to come to a consensus on how much density we want in Emeryville and take steps to cultivate home ownership.Tattler: Emeryville’s affordability rate right now is approximately 11% city-wide according to City Hall using their metrics. We had more than 30 years of the Emeryville Redevelopment Agency (RDA) who’s primary function was providing affordable housing and 11% is the sum total we could muster with all the largess that agency could bring to bear. How do you see us raising the 11% average appreciably in the post Redevelopment Agency era?
Tattler: Emeryville, formerly an industrial wasteland with lots of abandoned warehouses and factories in the 1980’s has been almost completely rebuilt now with lots of housing and shopping centers. Seeing so little fallow land left and the housing stock that we have is mostly less than 25 years old, where will we build the affordable housing that we need?
John Van Geffen: If Emeryville were to green light every development in the pipeline, we would increase our housing (all housing, not just affordable housing) by nearly 20%. But, I do not believe that the majority of people living in Emeryville want the resulting congestion, strain on our city's infrastructure and the multitude of other problems that will inevitably result from such rapid density growth. We (Emeryville and surrounding cities) need a regional approach for increasing affordable housing and we need to make sure that high density development is targeted for neighborhoods with the available resources, public transportation and infrastructure to handle it.
Tattler: Urban density is generally recognized as a net positive thing. However, increasing density also comes with its own problems, overcrowding of parks and traffic being among them. Emeryville right now has more than 200% of recommended market rate housing according to the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG). How do you suggest we increase affordability without increasing our existing 200% of market rate housing more? Is ABAG wrong?
John Van Geffen: According to www.bayareacensus.ca.gov/ the Bay Area population is over seven million people. While it is important for Emeryville to do its part to ensure Bay Area residents can afford to live in the cities where they work, we need to acknowledge that Emeryville's population and size is less than a percent of one percent of the Bay Area. Increasing affordable housing needs to be a regional issue so construction can be targeted towards neighborhoods that can best implement large scale projects, provide sufficient incentives to lure developers, and have the infrastructure to absorb the increased population.
While I believe Emeryville should maintain BMR requirements to ensure a vibrant community, I also believe that Emeryville should not try to tackle this problem by itself. We should instead be pushing for development around existing BART stations to ease the strain and congestion these developments create.
Tattler: 'Supply and demand' is central to classical economics as everyone knows. Here in Emeryville, developers and some others are using this argument to forward a position that the problem in Emeryville is that we haven't been building enough housing and that's why its so expensive here. Yet at 200% ABAG recommendations for market rate housing (and going higher), the more we build, the higher the housing costs go. Neighboring cities have built less than 100% of ABAG recommendations. Does Emeryville have to be a sacrifice zone for the greater region to satiate the supply and demand axiom posited by some?
John Van Geffen: No. The regional demands of the Bay Area for more housing does not trump our fellow Emeryville citizens' desire to control our cities growth, density and design. As I mentioned above, increasing housing costs are not unique to Emeryville and continued development should be focused in those cities and neighborhoods that can afford to incentivize BMR unit construction and have existing infrastructures (like BART Stations) capable of incorporating a higher population density.