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Saturday, October 8, 2016

Election 2016 Candidates Questionnaire: Christian Patz

Parks/Open Space &
Sherwin Williams Project:
Christian Patz

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 Christian Patz answers questions on parks/open space and the Sherwin Williams development proposal (please check the previously posted section 1 answers for this candidate's bio):

Section 2  Parks/Open Space
Our General Plan says Emeryville is dramatically underserved 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?
Christian Patz:  As we increase our density, this is going to happen. Sometimes we are going to sacrifice park space for housing and sometimes we are going to sacrifice housing for park space. 
If we have 26 acres of parkland,  that means that 3.2% of land in Emeryville is parks. We can increase population density by building up, we cannot do this with parks. Focusing on the person to park acres ration will not work. We should look to add as much park space as possible by looking at what land the city currently owns or can acquire. We will then need to identify funding sources for developing the land.

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?
Christian Patz:  This is an historic election in Emeryville. No matter the outcome, every council member will be in their first term. Dianne [Martinez] and Scott [Donahue] are committed to working toward a better city. I will work with them to align the city with the general plan or the general plan to the city. Doing so will not be an overnight task and may not happen in the way some people expect. No plan as broad and ambitious as the city’s general plan is ever a failure or complete success. Given the number of people that worked on it and the quality of the plan, it is a success. Making it a reality will take time and adjustment.

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?
Christian Patz:  Would I prefer to see a nice central city park on that parcel, yes. The current plan includes green / park space. Unless the city purchases the land, conversion to a park is not going to happen. The city needs to look at the land it currently owns, parcels that are becoming available, and any surplus land the entities in town have. We need to budget and plan for acquisition and development. This may mean partnering with members of the community or looking into bond funding.

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?
Christian Patz:  City staff should look at every parcel to present options to the council that includes affordable housing and parks. If the past council had been more forward thinking, this would have been a good use of the land. I am running to make sure we are no longer a developer first town. I will work with Scott and Dianne, who have endorsed me, to make sure we look at the long term future and benefit in Emeryville.

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?

Christian Patz:  No. We need to look at the transportation needs of the area. More cars will not help. A local resident suggested closing Hollis at 40th, I would be interested in seeing what impact that would have on traffic.

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? 
Christian Patz:  As I said, the proposed project is not one I hoped for. That said, I am not nor can we be blanketly anti-development. The proposed project, based on the EIR, is a weak but reasonable compromise. It is what we can expect with the current composition of the planning commission and council. As the project progresses, there will be a new council and we can adjust aspects to make ensure Emeryville gets the most it can from the project.

Tattler:  The project is hemmed in on the west by the railroad 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?
Christian Patz:  With most retail businesses, location is the single most important factor. I can think of several businesses that could thrive in that location and multiple that would fail. I am excited to see what opens there. Viability will depend on a strong business plan, awareness of the neighborhood, and community use of the new spaces that will be created. 

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