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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Election 2016 Candidates Questionnaire: Louise Engel

Housing Affordability: 
Louise Engel

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.  

Today, candidate for City Council Louise Engel, who answers questions on affordable housing:

Louise Engel
Experience: I have been an owner of a small business, as a Consultant and Project Manager, with an Emeryville City license for 20 years. In other jobs, I achieved cooperative resolution on Bay Area developments with land use and environmental planning issues: mixed-use with housing, industrial, airport, and seaport developments. I am a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners (A.I.C.P.) and the Association of Environmental Professionals (A.E.P.). My skill sets give me hands-on knowledge for balancing stakeholder interests in civic affairs.

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.
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? 
Louise Engel:  The ability to afford housing in this region burdened with a high cost of living effects all of us who live in Emeryville. High living costs effect, for example: rental rates; the ability of “first time” home buyers to buy; and escalating association fees in residential complexes for those who already own. Pooling resources through county wide measures is one way for Emeryville to work together with other East Bay cities. For example, during the upcoming November 8, 2016 General Elections, voters in Alameda County will vote on whether or not to approve an affordable housing bond ballot measure. If the measure passes, funds for the homeowner programs and rental innovation program funds will be allocated countywide. Emeryville would have a share in that pool of funds.
On May 4 this year, Mayor Dianne Martinez attended the 20th Annual Affordable Housing Leadership Awards ceremony of the Non-Profit Housing (NPH) Association of Northern California. Mayor Martinez received a Leadership Award on behalf of the City of Emeryville. NPH granted the award to Emeryville because of the City Council’s policy of setting aside 20% of our “boomerang” funds (the portion of the former Redevelopment Agency tax increment that flows to the City) for affordable housing.

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?
Louise Engel:  The City owns a site at the corner of 43rd and San Pablo Avenue. A city recreation center occupied the temporary structure before the activity moved to the newly opened Emeryville Center of Community Life (ECCL). Emeryville is currently reviewing the site for an affordable senior housing project.

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?

Louise Engel:  Single, detached housing is often out of the reach of first time home buyers who then look to alternative ownership. For example, residents discuss how they might make the financial change from a rental to condominium ownership. Emeryville’s “down payment assistance program” is available for the purchase of market rate units by people with a moderate income (or below) who are first time home buyers. That’s how my niece became a condominium owner through a similar program in Portland, Oregon.

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?
Louise Engel:  The Sherwin Williams development project is a mixed use proposal that galvanized citizens within the surrounding neighborhoods: the citizen initiated committee, PARC. This collaborative group is working within the City’s proposal review process. The project proposes residential, office and retail/restaurant uses. The developer seeks a change in the number of residential units. City rules allow 260+ units. The project proposes 520+ units.
The City review process allows the neighborhood people to join together with a united voice. Citizens can achieve leverage to influence the developer. The developer did respond to many to the neighborhood concerns. If approved and developed, the hours and hours of hard work together would shape this evolving neighborhood.

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