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Sunday, October 28, 2018

City Council Candidates Questionnaire 2018: Ken Bukowski

Presenting the Tattler's 2018 City Council Candidates Questionnaire.  Three candidates are running, Ken Bukowski, Scott Donahue (incumbent) and Dianne Martinez (incumbent) and their names were randomly selected for the order of presentation.

Ken Bukowski
Retired Businessman/Videographer

Do you favor implementing or amending Emeryville’s General Plan rather than ignoring it as a general rule?

Name the three biggest problems facing Emeryville right now and how would you deal with them?
(1) The anti-business climate of the current City Council- 
A majority of the Council voted to impose the highest minimum wage in the United States followed by a “Fair Work Week” policy over the objections of the business community. The voices of outside labor unions were more important.
It is now more expensive to operate a business in Emeryville than surrounding cities.  By taking away the competitive edge it will discourage business development.  In a small city everybody matters. Adopting increased wages and benefits for employees in private businesses circumvents the negotiation process.  It shows no respect for the concerns of the businesses who pay the taxes.  Some members of the Council consider this to be a real victory but when enough businesses decide to go elsewhere and the City is forced to cut vital services to the community and public safety employees, they will become hostile.  And once the downward spiral begins it will be a real problem.

(2) The Parking Management Plan-  
I am opposed to parking meters throughout the city.  This parking plan is unnecessary.  It will interfere with lives of everyone who lives and works here.  The plan will make it more costly to be here, an environment which has an already overpriced rental market.  The plan is one more slap to business owners. It will be more expensive for employees to work here.  For those who don't qualify for parking permits it will be more difficult to find a parking space.
It is not possible for everyone to use public transit.  It is more costly than driving, it's not a safe, and it takes much longer.  If you have to carry tools and other equipment its not feasible.  How big is the problem we’re trying to solve?  We have a complaint based enforcement because we didn't want to waste the time of the police.  Enforcement of parking should begin with the large developments where the parking approved for each project is not being used.  Most of the developers are using their parking for for their tenants.  However, the largest developer in the City is not.  That is why the North Hollis area has the biggest parking problem.  Wareham Development is in the parking business.  They ignore the requirement to use their parking for their project.  Instead it is a source of money for them.  There are no parking spaces provided for the occupants of Wareham properties.  Every parking space is $100 per month.  All of the tenants park in the street.  They don't care if their garage only has a few cars.  They will earn more money from the building if every space is paid for.  So in essence we are forcing the community to suffer because they have a greedy attitude.
The Council has no real idea how this will impact everyone.  I think this will create more problems than it will solve.   I'm considering the creation of a ballot measure to repeal this plan if it is adopted.

(3) The lack of rent control in Emeryville-  
We have too many large apartment projects with ever escalating rents.  A large percentage of the city's population are only in the city for a very short time.  At one point the council only wanted to approve for-sale housing, but a former City Manager changed that policy.  Owners with less than 4 units should be exempt.  

Our General Plan has much in it that isn’t being realized, especially in the areas generally known as ‘livability’; measurable things such as parks, bicycling accommodation, or even intangibles like the need to create a “memorable” place.  During election season, politicians sometimes demagogue the things that are wanted but aren’t getting implemented.  Acknowledging these livability issues specifically, how can voters recognize when a politician is playing the role of a demagogue?
First, you must remember it takes THREE votes on the Council to do anything.  If a Council member supports something they should show evidence of trying to get it accomplished.  There are some things in the General Plan the City can't afford. 

City planners universally measure park and open space in terms of ‘level of service’ calculated by number of residents or users per acre of park land.  Using these metrics, Emeryville is shown to be below average among cities our size or indeed for any city in the Bay Area*.  How can we get closer to average Bay Area levels of service for park land?
Establishing more parks requires money to buy the land.  The City could put a measure on the ballot seeking to establish more parks.

The General Plan calls for 26 acres of new park land to be furnished by 2029, the date the Plan expires.  However, since the Plan’s certification in 2009, Emeryville has added only approximately two and a half acres*.  Acknowledging it should reflect the desired and possible, do you think our General Plan should be amended to show less park acreage than it now proposes, owing to the reality of the large amount park land?
If the answer above can't be accomplished, the General Plan should be amended to reflect that reality.

According to the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) and its corollary planning document, the Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA), our town now has more than 200% of our recommended market rate housing.  Do you feel it’s more important to keep adding to this number than to build more park space?  Will your tenure on the City Council reflect your views on this?     
The City has a state mandate to build more housing. There is no law to require more parks.  However, the number of units assigned for Emeryville is out of balance.  There is no question there is a need for more affordable housing.  You really can't make a comparison between park land and housing.  There is a problem with adding more housing since no money is provided to pay the increased cost of providing public safety services.  I have an overall concern about adding any more development because at some point we will reach capacity.  I think we have enough.  There should be more effort on preservation. 

Over the last 25 years Emeryville has morphed from a city of homeowners into a city of renters* as developers seek to maximize profits by building lots of rental only apartment buildings.  Is this something you’re satisfied with?  If not, how will you address this issue? 
I am not satisfied with this.  As I stated above I didn't support rental housing.  It was a former City Manager and Council majority.  I would not approve any more rental housing projects and support rent control for the large rental projects we already have.

For more than 10 years, vehicle traffic on the 53rd and 45th street bicycle boulevards have exceeded the number allowed by the Bike Plan, despite its deadlines that have come and gone.  The newest deadline facing the City to calm traffic as the Plan provides is September 14th, 2019.  Will you commit to either following the Bike Plan or amending it for these two streets? 
I would agree to amend the Bike Plan.  Emeryville is not going to be able to control the volume of traffic and therefore I would amend the Plan.

What are your views on Emeryville’s parking plan?
I strongly oppose the parking plan to the point where I am considering a referendum on the plan when it is adopted.  I don't agree with making it even more expensive to live and work here.  The plan will bring a new level of daily stress to all who are impacted.  Getting a permit is no assurance of getting a parking space.  Hiring people to write citations and tow vehicles means you will have to look over your shoulder to avoid  being ticketed.  The parking problems we have can be addressed individually.  The EPD doesn't need the burden of this plan.  And yes, we do want to discourage driving, but not by penalizing propel who must drive.

In 2010 Emeryville voters authorized and property owners paid for a public library at ECCL.  The voter’s will has been ignored and the library has not been provided.  Will you make getting this library a priority during your tenure?
Many aspects of the ECCL are not being adhered to.  All of the members of both boards who supported the ECCL are gone.  After the project was approved, we discovered the $95 million bond was not feasible.  The project was modified.  The capacity of the facility was reduced and many amenities promised disappeared.  One of my arguments about the project is that property owners were never even invited to participate in any aspect of the project.  Only the city’s residents were invited.  The project needs to be re-evaluated.  We need to see if it can remain solvent with a reduced number of students.  The name of the project should be changed to reflect that it is an educational institution.  The feasibility of establishing the library should be revisited.

The General Plan provides for housing to be built in our town in certain areas.  The Plan gives guidance as to particulars for all housing; things like density, massing, etc. North Emeryville and the Triangle neighborhood have a plethora of traditional detached single family homes that the Plan addresses.  What do you think the General Plan has in mind for these neighborhoods, specifically set aside and identified as ‘Areas of Stability’ as opposed to other housing neighborhoods in Emeryville?  Why is the word ‘stability’ used and how does that differ from the other housing without that protection?
I’m not sure I understand why the word stability is used.  The General Plan as I read it says we should retain existing housing stock.

Since its certification in 2009, the Urban Forestry Ordinance has failed to protect our street trees (only two were saved)*.  Also, developers who cut down our trees are supposed to pay fees as the UFO delineates but they have almost universally not been levied*.  Would you favor amending the UFO to reflect reality at City Hall; the desire to make it easier to let developers cut down our street trees and not pay us for it?
Developers should not be cutting down street trees unless it is approved by the City and if they do, they should pay for it.

How can Emeryville get more locally serving non-formula retail (a stated goal of the General Plan)? 
Create Affordable Retail Condominiums -The City would buy commercial property or work with a non-profit entity to create  affordable retail condominiums where small merchants could enjoy low overhead.  The City investment allows the community to pick the retail stores.  What a departure this would create from the standard stores in every other community.  The small merchants would welcome the opportunity presented by the City subsidy; it would allow the merchants to pay higher wages and charge less for goods and services.  We would put out a deed restriction on the unit that could not be used as collateral for debt.   If any merchants fail, the unencumbered unit could be offered to another prospective merchant. 
Up until now, something like this has been stopped because the City Managers we’ve had haven’t wanted any interference with the deals they were making with developers.

How can we know if Emeryville’s family friendly housing policy is successful?  
The policy is a failure.  It's a foolish attempt to attract school aged kids. You have to improve the school first.  If the units are not affordable, it's a foolish policy.

If an inexpensive and easy way is found to provide both, 1) security needed for the police station as well as, 2) a California Fire Code approved fire escape for the second floor public lobby there, would you commit to a public inquiry into that with a mind to fixing what the City Manager calls a "less than ideal" situation?
I don't understand the question.  The fire escape must comply with the code or if it doesn’t, it must be fixed.  If not, and something happens, it would be gross negligence (where the City has advanced notice of an existing hazard).

Are you concerned with the militarization of Emeryville’s police forces, specifically the issuance of AR-15 Assault Rifles.  How about .50 caliber rifles or weapons with even greater lethality in the future?  Some cities have not gone down this path.  Should the public specifically be part of the debate about this in Emeryville?
The police department must be armed with at least the same amount of force necessary to combat any particular situation.

*Source: the City of Emeryville

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