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Thursday, October 6, 2016

Election 2016 Candidates Questionnaire: John Bauters

Parks/Open Space &
Sherwin Williams Project:
John Bauters

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 John Bauters 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?   
John Bauters:  Much like my views on housing, I believe we must think about our future and look for opportunities to engage in smart development that delivers new parkland for the community. The city must make a concerted effort to produce new green space as we move forward. Public space is a major part of improving community livability. The General Plan calls for a number of additional parks in the community and I support taking affirmative steps to fulfill that vision. Impact fees will be insufficient for financing the acquisition of property intended for park space. I would like to examine the viability of several options including a park bond to help us bring green improvements to our community.

Tatter:  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?
John Bauters:  Like most residents of Emeryville, I want additional park space - useable park space in particular. I have no intention of deleting parks from our General Plan and I can commit to working with the other members of council to help us fulfill the General Plan's vision for green space. The General Plan is only a failure when the community no longer holds that vision for itself. I believe that many residents still share those goals for our community's future and I am committed to helping us realize them.

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?
John Bauters:  I sincerely disagree with the way you've characterized the value of the proposed park at Sherwin Williams. The Park Avenue District is a neighborhood development overlay that is bounded by Emery Street on the east, the railroad on the west, 40th Street to the south and just north of 45th Street to the north. This overlay accounts for a large, central region of the city that represents the historic center for the community in many ways. Ironically, the Park Avenue District has no parks whatsoever. The opportunity to create a large, unified community park in the heart of a neighborhood that has hundreds of residents but no park space is a meaningful one that at a neighborhood level, even by your metrics, will dramatically improve the ratio of parkland to resident for that neighborhood. While it is helpful to use metrics in our evaluation of overall progress, doing so without a qualitative examination of the added value from a community benefit such as a park can be counterproductive. It can deter community engagement and undermine the opportunity to build community pride. If we allow 2 acres of new park space to be framed as a detriment to the community because of ratios we abandon our pursuit of the goals outlined by the General Plan. The Plan promotes opportunities to create park space. While it is completely within your right to disapprove of the city's resident to park acreage ratio, I support a more holistic view of and qualitative approach to evaluating the value individual projects and their components hold for our community.

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?
John Bauters:  Your raise a number of very legitimate points about the opportunity to acquire fallow land at a comparably cheaper rate than land with improvements on it. However, you've noted repeatedly that you would like the city to fulfill its commitments to the General Plan - a principle I share. This site is zoned to be part park space and part mixed-use residential development. Broadly speaking, the current proposal is consistent with the General Plan in that regard. As previously mentioned, I support exploring a park bond for additional park development across the city, consistent with the General Plan.

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?
John Bauters:  I was fortunate to be included as part of the team from the Park Avenue Residents Committee (PARC) that negotiated a community benefits agreement with Sherwin-Williams developer, Lennar. This agreement included a lot of mitigations and concessions related to traffic mitigation. It is important to remember that residents stepped in on a voluntary basis to secure these benefits for our community in a first-of-its-kind agreement for Emeryville. Holding the developer accountable to all the terms of that agreement ultimately lies with the city. The developer has agreed to submit the agreement we reached as conditions of approval for the project. The specific traffic mitigations we obtained through the community benefits agreement, among other things, included the following:

* Private shuttle from the Park Avenue District neighborhood to West Oakland BART that will be open to all Emeryville residents; 
* 10 car share spaces, including 7 within the project site and 3 in the surrounding neighborhood, all of them open to all Emeryville residents, to increase car share options that can reduce reliance on cars within the community;
* Additional bike lockers and bike infrastructure, including secure bike rooms within buildings, cargo bike lockers and bike repair stations.
* Bike share provided by Bay Area Bike Share, aligning our bike share infrastructure with BART's program.
* Implementation of optimized shared parking within the project, allowing for fewer spaces to be proposed for construction during the Final Development Plan (FDP) process by having parking spaces that are available to the commercial office space employees during business hours become resident and guest spaces in evening and overnight hours.
* The developer will fund a parking management program that will enforce 2 hour parking for our community, helping keep spaces outside small, local-serving businesses free for use, decreasing the effect of cars circling through the neighborhood.
* A bicycle-pedestrian-only pass-through of the existing building at Horton and 4th Streets that will extend west from Horton into the community park, linking the neighborhood with both bicycle boulevards and making a direct route from the east side of town through the site and up the greenway to the South Bayfront Bridge that will connect to Bay Street, creating a complete east-to-west bicycle-pedestrian transit route for our community.

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?
John Bauters:  The city does not necessarily "need" Sherwin-Williams to be developed. The reality, however, is that without it we do not currently have the resources or plans to build over 2 acres of additional park space, add over 75 units of family-oriented affordable housing, provide a free mass transit connection to West Oakland BART, install new bike/ped connectors and infrastructure to build out our bike routes and greenway, and finance many other community benefits and features residents have been trying to obtain. We must pursue development with a focus on the ideal but understand that obtaining community benefits requires negotiation. In the end, it comes down to effort - you must be willing to fight hard in pursuit of the ideal and not simply accept what has been offered. I will always fight hard for our ideals to ensure we maximize the potential for our community by negotiating on behalf of our resident base when new development is proposed.

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?
John Bauters:  The developer has significantly scaled down the commercial retail space proposed by this development to 8,000 sq. ft. from an initial proposal of 20,000. Discussions PARC has had related to parking have included allowing for minimal parking for these commercial developments. This can have the effect of only attracting tenants who want local customers that will walk or bike, helping us further reduce traffic demand by delivering retail that is supported exclusively by a local customer base.

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