Candidate’s name: John Knox White
Candidate’s contact (email and phone): John@johnknoxwhite.com (510-545-9384)
1. Transportation: As a city council member or mayor, what specific early actions will you take to get people out of single occupancy vehicles?
We need to provide better options for people to travel around—more convenient, more reliable and safer. At commute hours, the buses that serve our island are over capacity. Our ferries are nearing capacity, and until recently BART has focused its efforts on shiny new extensions while letting the core system fester. We need our City Council to start advocating effectively for better transportation for Alameda.
I have already begun pushing AC Transit to initiate a long-term planning process for local and transbay bus enhancements that can be used to pursue funding, which I will advocate strongly for as a council member. I will continue to work to fast-track an update to the city’s Bicycle Master Plan, ensuring that it becomes an actual master plan for creating a dense network of safe bicycle paths and lanes and working to get people across the estuary to downtown Oakland and the inner East Bay, where 78% of commuters currently drive alone; without safe and convenient options, people will not choose to do otherwise. I will start working on day one to ensure we have the policies, plans and staff support for moving the city forward in these areas.
Currently the council sets priorities at an annual priority setting workshop and then often, almost immediately, starts adding priorities the next month. As transportation issues and climate/environment issues are a priority in Alameda, I will work to ensure that they are identified as such when priorities are set and then continue to remain so throughout the year.
2. Sustainable Development: What does sustainable development mean to you as applied to Alameda? What are three specific measures that the City can undertake that you would endorse?
Sustainable development: development that doesn’t deplete natural resources. The term covers economic and social areas, but in the space of climate action and the environment that CASA inhabits this is my definition. A more ambitious definition can include resource regeneration, which I think is warranted in areas, for instance wetlands regeneration at Alameda Point.
Three specific measures that the city can undertake:
1) Development that is zero-net-SOV trips: Require new development to reduce the number of single occupancy vehicle (SOV) trips that it will generate and off-set enough existing SOV trips from outside the development to limit the emission output of vehicles while also tackling congestion, safety, noise and livability issues. Updating the city’s land-use element to focus
development on corridors that already provide mixed-uses and transportation options reduces costs as well as the need to build more infrastructure to serve new developments in new areas.
2) Carbon neutral development: require that developments are carbon neutral through both site and building designs.
3) Reduce resource consumption through recycled water programs, rain capture, on-site wind and solar power generation, electric appliance requirements and others.
I would push for this discussion as a part of the general plan land-use element update that the city is in desperate need of doing. Working with the community, the City can build off the work of the Climate Action and Adaptation Plan, the Transportation Choices Plan and the Economic Development Strategic Plan and identify goals for what the city would like achieve. These goals would support specific policy implementation to address both land-use, which is a huge driver of sustainability (or lack of it), and other factors that are linked to sustainability.
3. Resilience: What does resilience mean to you as applied to Alameda? What are three specific measures that the City can undertake that you would endorse?
In the context of this questionnaire, resilience is the ability for the city to both avoid environmental and climate damage and to bounce back from it when it occurs. But it goes broader into economic and other areas. For example, as the Chair of the Economic Development Strategic Plan Task Force, I worked to ensure that our strategic goals for economic development will result in a broader, more resilient tax base that can better withstand market fluxuations.
From a climate standpoint, prioritizing resilience means that we need to reduce our city’s impact on climate, aiming for carbon neutral as quickly as possible. Based on the best possible science, we need to ensure that our city is able to reduce the impacts of climate change as it continues and we need to plan to adapt to the coming changes early enough that we limit any damage from sea level rise, increasing heat, smoke from forest fires, etc.
To this end, I fully endorse the idea that we need to reduce our number one source of carbon emissions which is the tailpipe. I will continue to work on reducing pollution, greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) through efforts that also increase street safety, provide active transportation options and increase neighborhood livability by reducing traffic passing through residential areas.
I will continue to push for and fully support the development of a climate adaptation plan that reduces the damage from sea level rise and sets the city up for success in taking action to address it in the future. As discussed below, I will prioritize wetlands and non-hardscape solutions where they make sense.
I will continue to work to ensure that any new development in Alameda not only is built to reduce single occupancy vehicle trips and eliminates its carbon footprint, but also that it supports a more resilient and adaptive city, not just for that specific project, but also in the surrounding neighborhoods. To this end, I would work to include the Climate Adaptation plan in the city’s new development nexus study to ensure that we are capturing funds to help cover the costs of future
adaptive strategies. This will help ensure that new developments are covering their full fair share of costs related to sea level rise needs.
4. Sea Level Rise: In order to protect Alameda from sea level rise, are you more in favor of further hardening or armoring the perimeter of Alameda or a soft living edges approach?
No, I do not support further hardening. Alameda’s first line of adaption should be more natural wetlands and other strategies that bring benefits to the Bay. However, there are areas where seawalls, etc are likely the only solution, especially along the estuary shipping canal. As a part of the planning of the Climate Adaptation Plan, I will be looking for policies that set “soft living edge” priority as the first solution for implementation. Only in cases where such implementation is problematic (from the City’s point of view) should other harder treatments be considered.
5. Energy: Would you support a city ordinance that requires new construction to include electric vehicle charging facilities or be EV ready, and comply with solar net Zero Building Standards? Would you support energy efficiency standards beyond those required by CalGreen? How would you address our existing buildings to reduce their carbon impact?
The State building code will make most of this moot in January as it will require this in all new construction. I support moving new and existing buildings towards a zero GHG footprint. To that end, I first support designs and programs that remove traffic and tailpipe emissions and after that, EVreadiness for those trips that need a car. I personally drive a plug in hybrid for that reason. It allows our family to drive electric in Alameda when we need to drive. Alameda Municipal Power’s 2020 carbon neutral energy plan will mean that all homes in Alameda, new or old, will be carbon neutral when using electricity. We should be identifying programs and policies to start phasing out gas appliances over the coming decades. Water reduction, insulation and window requirements should also be prioritized. Currently, historic preservation issues around minor molding pieces can be the difference between a project adding highly efficient windows or not. We need to ensure that we have our priorities straight and be clear what they are.
6. Zero Waste: How would you enforce the City of Alameda’s Mandatory Recycling Ordinance (Alameda Municipal Code Section 21-2.1(b)) ? Would you support siting a Center for Hard to Recycle Materials/Education Center in Alameda (similar to the El Cerrito Recycling Center)?
I would support such a center in one of our many hard-to-develop industrial areas. Despite the fact that it’s been around for many years, many people find recycling difficult to comply with. China’s recent banning of US paper for recycling due to the fact that there was too much non-recyclable materials in it is an indication that we are not recycling as well as we could be. A center could be a piece of that education.
In terms of enforcement, I think that first we should ensure that garbage/recycling/organics are priced to encourage less landfill waste. Enforcement, when needed, should focus on people and businesses that are gratuitously using the recycling bin to avoid higher landfill fees, but only after
education and outreach efforts had occurred. Landfill fees should be used to help households avoid citations and to decrease their fees by reducing their waste footprint and increasing their composting and recycling ones with the remainder of their refuse.
7. SF Bay Ecosystem: Alameda may soon be designated as a HOPE spot by Mission Blue. What specific actions can Alameda take to protect and restore the life of our bay and waterways?
As an island/peninsula city, we have a unique place in this discussion. We both have a special stewardship responsibility for ensuring that we do not further pollute the bay and also an economic interest in maintaining the bay as a place for maritime-focused recreation and industry. As Chair of the Economic Development Strategic Plan Task Force, I helped write the strategies for maintaining our maritime industrial spaces through a reexamination of our existing commercial/industrial zoning. As a part of this process, we should ensure that any businesses that open along our waterfront do so in a zero-impact manner. The health of the Bay is also highly dependent on waterflow from the Sacramento Delta; Alameda could be a stronger voice in ensuring that the ecological impacts of proposed Delta water use are reduced and prioritize a diverse bay ecosystem. Lastly, as mentioned in answers above, I’m supportive also of looking to restore and create wetlands that can help to support a diverse bay ecosystem while also providing storm and sea level rise protections.
8. Climate Action Plan: Given the recent California wildfires, extreme weather events and rising global temperatures how will you support the increasingly urgent funding and implementation of the measures identified in the Climate Action Plan update?
Passing a plan is not enough. I believe in outcomes-based decision making and that a city’s budget is where it displays its values. I would be a strong voice for ensuring that we are funding strategies to reduce Alameda’s participation in exacerbating global warming. The plan, when approved, needs to identify funding or likely funding to ensure that there is an actionable path to implementation. The plan will hopefully identify actions based on effectiveness and long-term cost efficiency. We don’t want to find ourselves saving money short term and needing to spend a lot more in the future because we ducked hard decisions. I would also ensure that the City continues to convene experts along with the community on issues identified in the plan to ensure that we are continuing to pursue an effective and meaningful direction on greenhouse gas reduction. If elected to the City Council, I will continue to be a strong and effective voice in support of climate action.