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Friday, November 4, 2016

Election 2016 Candidates Questionnaire: John Van Geffen

John Van Geffen:
On Police, Bikes, Families & Density

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 this our second questionnaire save candidate Ally Medina.  

Mr Van Geffen's bio can be viewed in the first questionnaire by using the search bar.
Section 5 Police
After last year’s shooting of Yuvette Henderson by Emeryville police using a Colt AR-15 assault rifle, community members became alarmed to learn our police had quietly been issued these weapons and that they’re now routinely driving around with them as a matter of course. The City has used resources to tamp down citizens attempting to have a public debate about the wisdom of this militarism of our police department, specifically the routine carrying of these high powered rifles by contending these weapons are not assault rifles, directly contradicting the State of California’s finding that they are assault rifles. Police Departments up and down the State disagree with EPD. San Francisco PD, Oakland PD and San Jose PD among others say AR-15’s are assault rifles. The NRA agrees with the Chief that AR-15s are not assault rifles.

Tattler:  Do the people have a right to know how it is that the City of Emeryville has determined the State of California is wrong about the nature of AR-15s since they (the people) are paying for them in Emeryville?
John Van Geffen:  I think this question frames the issue poorly. We shouldn't be arguing over what model of gun the police carry, rather we should be focusing our conversation around what sort of training we can expect our officers to receive in crisis management and De-escalation so that, hopefully, we never get to a point where caliber and clip size becomes relevant.
From what I read of the public investigative report from that very unfortunate day, when the officers arrived at the scene, they weren't responding to a simple shoplifting call, rather they were responding to reports of a woman waving a gun at people in cars in an attempt carjack a vehicle to get away from police.  
Different scenarios call for different strategies--e.g., police shouldn't arrive to a peaceful protest or a domestic violence call with an AR15 just as they shouldn't show up to reports of an active shooter at ECCL with only a sidearm. 
Section 6 Bicycling Transportation

Tattler:  Do you support Emeryville’s Bike Boulevard metric of no more than 3000 vehicle trips per day (vtd) for all bike boulevards west of Hollis Street?
John Van Geffen:  I believe the Bike Boulevard issue and the Sherwin Williams project discussions need to be approached in tandem since each will affect the other.
We need to learn more about the Sherwin Williams development plan as it progresses so we know what the ingress/egress routes will be for the 500+ new tenants (not to mention the proposed West Oakland BART shuttle service). Only after we know how people are getting in and out of Emeryville can we decide what, if anything, should be done to Hollis. 
Section 7 Families
Emeryville is the least family friendly city in the whole East Bay and, distressingly as we continue to grow, becomes less family friendly over time; this even as we conspicuously build an ambitious new school campus. Developers, insisting over the years family friendly housing “won’t pencil out” economically (but their books are closed), have pushed back against the odd City Council member that has called on them to fix this problem. Notably over one crucial ten year period ending a few years ago, Emeryville actually lost families (in real numbers, not just as a ratio), even as the town doubled in population during the same period.

Tattler: To catch up with neighboring cities (and to erase a source of municipal embarrassment), Emeryville will need to provide virtually 100% family friendly housing from here on out, especially when one considers that our town is almost completely ‘built out’ at this point. Do you feel the ‘family friendly housing ordinance’, recently passed by the City Council, is up to the task of reversing this trend and delivering a city on par with our municipal neighbors?

John Van Geffen:  First off, you need to preface statements like "Emeryville is the least family friendly city in the whole East Bay" with "In the Tattler's opinion" so that readers do not get confused since your site continuously jumps back and forth between 'local news' and 'personal blog'. It is safe to say that a great number of people, myself included, disagree with this preface and are happy living with their families in Emeryville. But, I do believe there is room to make family life in Emeryville even better and I absolutely want to see more families moving to Emeryville.
Regarding the 'family friendly housing ordinance' that mandates new multi-unit residential developments with 10+ units have a minimum number of multi-bedroom units (again thank you Tattler for pointing out the exact Ordinance Article Subsection you wanted addressed in this question), I think that this clause is important to ensure that developers do not build honeycomb apartment complexes filled with static studios simply to maximize their return on the price per square foot. 
To answer your question more precisely, No. In my opinion, this ordinance, by itself, is not enough. It will take more than having some new 2 or 3 bedroom apartments in large complexes to incentivize families to move to Emeryville. 
If we want to entice families to Emeryville we need homeownership opportunities, construction of single family residences, new Below Market Rate housing options, raised testing scores at ECCL, enhanced bicycle and pedestrian paths, increased community participation in neighborhood events, etc., etc., etc.... 
Editor's Note: Data inference concerning families in this question comes from the US Census Bureau.  It is not based on opinion.

Section 8 Density
With the advent of ‘smart growth’, city planners have recognized the advantages and even the desirability of increasing housing density in urban areas. This is well documented and developers have taken advantage of this new paradigm. However, as with all fads, in the rush to embrace it, sometimes critical former knowledge becomes lost. Problems associated with too much density are being disregarded and a new ‘supply and demand’ axiom has taken the place of our formerly near universal acknowledgment that there can be too much density.

Tattler:  How much density is too much density? What are the warning signs that too much density has been foisted upon us?
John  Van Geffen:  There is no right answer to this. Everyone has an opinion and a personal preferences when it comes to community development and the scientific research on 'ideal density' varies from city to city and block to block.
My answer to this question can only be a reflection of what I personally believe is ideal. But, since you asked, my preference is for what architect Lloyd Alter dubbed the 'Goldilocks Density'--i.e., dense enough to support vibrant main streets with retail and services for local needs, but not too high that people can't take the stairs in a pinch. Dense enough to support bike and transit infrastructure, but not so dense to need subways and huge underground parking garages. Dense enough to build a sense of community, but not so dense as to have everyone slip into anonymity.
How do we find this magic middle ground? By working together and coming to a general consensus on new developments.  
Section 9 General/Miscellaneous

Tattler:  Emeryville’s business pay taxes to City Hall based on gross receipts. The largest businesses pay taxes at a much lower rate than smaller businesses because a former City Council majority placed a cap on taxes for all receipts higher than a certain amount, meaning those receipts are tax free; a classic regressive tax. Would you continue this regressive business tax structure, make it flat or make it progressive (larger businesses pay at a high rate than small business)?
John Van Geffen:  In order to provide a concise answer to this question, I need more information on how Emeryville's tax code compares and contrasts with the codes in Berkeley and Oakland and then I would need an opportunity to speak with city staff about the costs associated with changing the tax code and then approach those businesses that would be affected to ask for their input.
But, what I can say without hesitation is, I do not want the Council to pass any resolution or ordinance that will make it more expensive or complicated to do business in Emeryville. I want jobs coming in, not businesses going out. 

Tattler:  What Council members do you hold in high esteem, now and in the past? What Council members have done a poor job?
John Van Geffen:  I hold all the council members in high esteem. I do not agree with the current council on many issues but I respect them for the commitments they have made to this city.  

Tattler:  Conservative City Council members have long conflated business interests with resident’s interests as they have gone about forwarding their pro-business agenda. This governing philosophy has led us to where we are now leaving so many residents are clamoring for change. Do you feel a need to conflate business interests with residents interests? How do you see the two groups interests as disparate insofar as you do?

John Van Geffen:  To start, I believe every premise in your question is false. Emeryville's businesses pay taxes to City Hall which then in turn use the funds towards the city's streets, police, firefighters, etc. To say that business interests and resident interests don't connect, is to ignore the clearly symbiotic relationship between businesses, social services and local culture.
Second, just because I understand what is involved in running a business does not automatically make me "conservative", just like being liberal doesn't automatically equivocate with being "anti-business." 
Third, I do not believe "residents are clamoring for change" (at least as it applies to the FWO and MWO). At the October 18th City Council meeting, for every Emeryville resident in attendance there appeared to be at least six or seven non-Emeryville citizens who had been brought in from neighboring cities by EBASE, ACCE, SEIU, and CPD in order to fill seats and grab headlines. 

Simply put, I do not believe the City Council's "priorities" are in line with Emeryville residents. Rather, I believe the Council has effectively handed over the agenda to labor groups that will always put the interests of their members ahead of the interests of Emeryville and its residents. Where we disagree over issues is irrelevant, my concern is that the council has handed control of the city's self-regulation to people outside of Emeryville. It is dangerous.   

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