Trish Herrera Spencer
CASA 2020 City Council Questionnaire
Candidate’s name: Trish Herrera Spencer
Candidate’s contact (email and phone): Trish@Trish4U.com
Alameda’s Climate Action and Resiliency Plan (CARP) was adopted by the City Council in September 2019. Our questions relate to your commitment to the implementation of the plan.
1. Equity – CARP recognizes that climate impacts are disproportionately distributed across Alameda and not all households have the same ability or resources to respond to and recover from extreme weather events and hazards. What three specific actions do you believe will be most important to address these disproportionate impacts?
First, Alameda’s recent General Fund 5-Year Forecast for this year through Fiscal Year 2023-2024, showed annual expenses now exceed revenues, and are projected to exhaust reserves in four years. Alameda also has $400 million in unfunded pension liabilities, which is high proportionally compared to other CA cities.
Exhibit 3, General Fund 5-Year Forecast.
Alameda’s most recent outside independent annual audit for the City of Alameda, for fiscal year ending June 30, 2019, was completed 11 months later (which is late), and identified material weaknesses and significant deficiencies in internal controls over financial reporting. I believe that is the first time in the City’s history that has occurred. Those material weaknesses and significant deficiencies increase the risk that there are errors or misstatements in the City’s financial reports. We must ensure that Alameda’s financial reporting is accurate and expenditures focus on serving our community members. Until these financial shortfalls are addressed (expenditures exceeding revenues annually, projections to exhaust reserves in four years (by Fiscal Year 2023-2024) and unfunded pension liabilities of $400 million (which continues to increase), it’s unrealistic to think that the City will have resources to recover from extreme weather events and hazards.
Second, unlike other cities with 100s of ways in and out, the main island of Alameda has 4 bridges and a Tube for ingress and egress. Bay Farm Island has one road, Doolittle Drive to Oakland, for ingress and egress. As a result of COVID-19, ferry routes Monday through Friday have been reduced and weekend service cut completely, and bus routes that I advocated for and were expanded while I was mayor are on the chopping block. MARAD (which has been part of Alameda’s disaster plan) is also considering leaving Alameda as a result of increased, and possibly cost-prohibitive, dredging fees. It is critical that additional, reliable ways on and off the island and Bay Farm occur if we’re really talking about being able to respond to an extreme weather event or hazard, such as an earthquake. Alamedans know too well that Alameda is situated between the San Andreas Fault System and the Hayward Fault Zone and that a significant portion of Alameda is bay fill and subject to liquefaction during a magnitude 7.1 earthquake on the Hayward Fault.
Alameda needs a serious plan of what to do in an earthquake. The Loma-Prieta earthquake hit on October 17, 1989 with a magnitude of 6.9, and was responsible for 63 deaths, 3,757 injuries, and collapsed a section of the Nimitz Freeway. To this day Alamedans who lived here then know exactly where they were when that life-changing moment struck and know far too well that we do not have an appropriate response for the next big earthquake.
Third, I strongly encourage all Alamedans to participate in the Citizens for Emergency Response Team (CERT) offered for free by Alameda Fire Department. I am part of CERT and in 2018 I was the only elected city official to complete that program and as far as I know still am. It is critical that every household be as prepared as possible for an emergency and CERT is a great starting point for everyone as it’s offered for free. Many Alamedans do not know that most of Alameda’s public safety (fire and police) do not reside in Alameda and thus could have difficulty coming on the island or peninsula after a disaster, thus leaving us who were here when it hits to deal with the aftermath.
2. A/26 – CARP calls for the City to consider “Chang[ing] zoning to allow more multifamily use, reduced parking requirements, and increased allowable density while shortening overly lengthy permitting timelines.” page 32. Given the environmental impact of single family housing, do you support the measure proposing to repeal Article 26 and amend the General Plan to repeal the prohibition against building multi-family housing in Alameda and the Citywide density limitation of one housing unit per 2,000 square feet of land?
I do not support Measure Z (repealing Article 26 in the City’s Charter aka both citizen initiative Measure As from 1973 and 1991). The first Measure A in 1973 was supported by 60% of Alameda’s voters and the second Measure A in 1991 was supported by an overwhelming 80% of Alameda’s voters, and both were citizen initiatives which meant they had to collect thousands of signatures to get them on the ballot. Now, a majority of City Council (not unanimous) has just placed Measure Z on the ballot, with no signatures collected to repeal both Measure As. I was not living in Alameda at the time of either of those votes, however, the fact that the percentage in favor increased 20% in 20 years as Alameda became more diverse tells me that Alamedans of all backgrounds seriously supported the new Measure A. The 1991 vote was also soon after the Loma-Prieta earthquake. I believe that Alamedans are well aware that they live on an island and peninsula community, that traffic has increased over time, and that there really is no serious plan of what happens in another 6.9 or higher earthquake, and much of Alameda is on landfill (almost all of Bay Farm, South Shore, and Alameda Point) and subject to liquefaction during a magnitude 7.1 earthquake on the Hayward Fault.
Repealing Article 26 will take away Alamedans’ limited control over new housing developments, including in their established neighborhoods, and put it in the hands of three City Councilmembers, who can override the historic preservation ordinance and design review program, and recommendations from the Planning Board and Historical Advisory Board and approve anything, anywhere, for example 12-story, million dollar condo developments in established neighborhoods, shopping centers, and South Shore, blocking our views of the Bay and light, creating shade, for many established homes, creating more traffic for everyone and making it less safe for all of us in the event of a significant earthquake. Some supporters of Measure Z are trying to sell Measure Z as being “more flexible” as in a good thing, however, sadly, developers contribute to some politicans’ campaigns and it isn’t surprising when those council members quickly support proposed developments.
Also, many new homes, including high density, have been built in Alameda post the Measure As; Article 26 does not block all new housing. While mayor, it became obvious that Article 26 is Alameda’s primary tool to negotiate with unscrupulous developers for more affordable and work force housing, who really only want to build market rate housing as that’s where they make their money. Also, Alameda has more racial diversity and a lower median household income than nearby cities, which appear to be the result of Article 26, as older housing stock is often more affordable and demands a significantly lower price than new homes, which are starting at $900,000, are unaffordable for many Alamedans and are driving gentrification in Alameda.
3. Climate Outreach and Education -The success of CARP implementation depends on everyone understanding our climate vulnerabilities, acknowledging their role in reducing climate impacts, supporting adaptation efforts, and forming cooperative resilient neighborhoods. How do you intend to educate all Alamedans, foster collaboration within our community and engender ownership of the solutions by our individual residents and businesses?
As mayor, I was instrumental in bringing The Ocean Cleanup Project from Holland to Alameda as a result of my strong relationships with maritime businesses in Alameda. I also served on Alameda County Transportation Commission (ACTC) and as a result of my collaborative relationships with other mayors, elected officials and City and ACTC’s staff, ACTC awarded Alameda approximately $35 million for transportation projects, more than every other city in Alameda County except Oakland. Through the Alameda City Council referral process and collaborating with city council members, I initiated Straws on Request, bird safe building and night sky outdoor lighting regulations, and protected heritage trees and increased pay for waste sorters. After much advocacy at ACTC and in collaboration with AUSD Superintendent McPhetridge, and as a result of my personal knowledge of AUSD student population data and needs from my years of serving on their School Board, I advocated for a free bus program at Alameda Unified schools, similar to that being offered at schools throughout Alameda County. Eventually, with the support of City staff, a free bus program at Island High was launched increasing student attendance and ACTC eventually supported my requests for ACTC to shift funding to bus programs for students in need across Alameda County benefiting students in 40 new schools across the county, and not just assigned to all students at chosen schools across the County regardless of need.
4. Funding and Staffing – “CARP requires committed and long-term staff and resources to successfully implement the plan.” page 143. Will you prioritize hiring of staff, including the Sustainability and Resilience Manager, Climate Action Coordinator and Climate Fellow during the next budget cycle? Will you support revenue measures, such as a Facility Bond (to fund adaptation projects) and an increase to the natural gas Utility Users Fee (to fund mitigation measures)?
Given that we are living in a pandemic, with extraordinary health and financial hardships on many, and that our City budget as I discussed above currently has expenses exceeding revenues annually, is forecast to exhaust reserves in 4 years, and the City owes $400 million in unfunded pension liabilities, I think it’s unlikely that such staff and measures are realistic at this time. However, as we work our way through the pandemic aftermath, address our city’s financial shortfalls, and there’s community support for these being prioritized, I would seriously consider supporting them. I brought many worthwhile, fiscally balanced green efforts to Alameda while I was mayor and strongly believe in trying to figure out how to prudently address climate action.
Also, I think it’s noteworthy that public transportation (buses, ferries, BART) are all seeing ridership declining significantly, resulting in having to reduce service. I have taken BART twice during shelter in place (SIP) and the first time in June about 80% of the riders wore face coverings correctly, so I waited until August to try BART again only to find that now only 20% of the riders wore face coverings correctly, most had them under their chins, noses, or not on at all! Thus, many don’t believe BART is currently safe during COVID-19. Thus, public transportation is not the solution at this time to encourage riders out of single occupancy vehicles that it may have been pre-COVID.
5. Implementation – CARP’s success requires turning plans into actions and a major component of this is fostering partnerships with a wide variety of groups and organizations across town, as well as engaging residents most impacted by the effects of climate change. What efforts should Alameda undertake to provide leadership on regional solutions? How will you build the coalitions and partnerships with both other local governments and Alameda residents and organizations necessary to realize CARP’s vision? What tangible results have come from your past collaborations and partnerships on these issues?
As discussed above in #3, through my 20 years volunteering across Alameda in many non-profit organizations, 15 years on PTAs and Boosters across Alameda, 6 years on AUSD School Board, and 4 years as mayor, I have developed strong, collaborative relationships with individuals, artists, businesses, nonprofits, and other city and county elected officials and staff and have been very successful working with them to accomplish many efforts that fall under climate action.