Stewart Chen, City Council
Stewart Chen, City Council
It’s 2025 and the vision you had for Alameda when you were elected in 2014 has come to fruition. Describe Alameda.
It's 2025, and Alameda is an even more desirable place to live. We still have our well-kept public parks and tree-lined streets where our residents can comfortably and safely enjoy themselves or take walks without any concern. The development of Alameda Point is complete, with exciting new homes and businesses along the waterfront town center. The business districts on Park Street and Webster Street are vibrant and flourishing, with many pedestrians browsing through the shops. Residents are more transit oriented, utilizing all the different modes of public transportation that are offered by the city, such as water taxis and ferry services. This is in addition to the buses that run along our city's main streets, providing service to our local business districts and shopping centers. Buses reliably shuttle both residents and tourists as they go to work, visit local attractions, shop, or dine. Traffic between Oakland and Alameda is smooth and free-flowing due to the successful design and development of the Broadway-Jackson project.
What is your vision for Alameda Point? What proportion of the Point should be developed with housing, businesses, services and open space? How many people should live at Alameda Point, what type of housing should be built and how many jobs should development there produce?
There is a current cap of 1,425 units and I believe that is a healthy number that can sustain the mixed-use development planned for Alameda Point. Site A with 68 acres of prime real estate is located within the waterfront town center (WTC) and should be reserved for the residential/commercial mixed-used development project. The council has limited the residential units on Site A to 800 high-density units and the other 625 units should be spread out to the rest of Alameda Point. The actual development work would produce job opportunities in the city and the region. Once the area has been successfully developed and has attracted high level companies, it may produce hundreds if not thousands of office, service and tech jobs. I believe we should continue to encourage clean tech energy companies like Makani (now Google) and Natel Energy to set up shop here in Alameda, especially at Alameda Point.
Thousands of homes are being considered at Alameda Point and along the Northern Waterfront. What should developers offer to the community to alleviate the impacts of new development?
I believe that the new development will provide many benefits to local businesses and help to create a vibrant living environment for residents, ensuring better services and bringing new energy to the area. However, I have also been working to ensure that any negative impact is reduced. The numbers of homes to be built are restricted to 1,425 units, of which 800 units will built along the WTC. The developers will be charged development impact fees of about $1 million per acre to help offset infrastructure costs. New residents will most likely be assessed transportation demand management fees and community facility district fees to help alleviate impact to our city services and general fund.
If elected, how will you address the city’s unfunded pension and OPEB liabilities?
We need to start paying down our liabilities and, at the same time, reduce our current level of liabilities. The council approved the OPEB trust fund, which will allow the city to start contributing money into the trust fund to help build a reserve. We also need to go back to our labor units and renegotiate a better rate of contribution from all of our public employees.
Given the recent proliferation of big box and other national chain stores opening on the Island, what is your plan to keep small businesses viable in Alameda?
The presence of "big box" stores is not necessarily a disadvantage. They bring more business to the area, and therefore potentially to local small businesses. In order to protect existing small businesses, we are making agreements with the larger companies to form alliances and partnerships to benefit the community. For example, Alameda Landing has agreed to join West Alameda Business Association and to promote businesses along Webster street with banners and signs. All the stores in Alameda Landing will pay the WABA business district fees. Target and Safeway will not only pay the WABA fees, but will also pay several thousands of dollars in special assessments on top of their WABA fees. The infusion of funding will help the WABA board increase awareness and promote local small business owners along Webster Street.
What if anything should the city do to address rising rents? Should the city regulate rents and if so, how?
On September 16, staff will present to the council a recommendation on establishing a task force to study the impacts of rising rents on the housing market.
In recent years, the City Council has implemented an ordinance permitting developers to apply for permission to build multifamily housing using the state's density bonus and a new housing element for the city's general plan that permits multifamily housing on several properties. Alameda's 1973 Amendment XXVI, known as Measure A, prohibits all types of housing except single family homes and duplexes. If elected, would you maintain these exceptions to Measure A, expand them or eliminate them? Please explain your answer.
We should maintain the current exceptions to Measure A.
We had to include density bonus to comply with state law. The same thing happened with the multifamily housing overlay. By adopting these state required provisions, the council avoided legal action against us, while maintaining what we could of the Measure A protections supported by Alameda voters.
A density bonus has been applied for in connection with the Collins Boatworks project (not yet approved by the city); the Tim Lewis Del Monte building project (not yet approved by the city) and the Alameda Landing Tri Pointe project.
A pair of California laws – AB32 and SB375 – outline specific steps intended to address climate change. Which (if any) of the steps outlined in the bills should Alameda carry out locally?
SB 375 (reducing GHG from cars and light trucks) and AB 32 (Global Warming Act of 2006) outline specific steps for California cities to carry out.
Here in Alameda, AMP is developing a plan for more electric vehicle chargers (one is currently installed in the downtown parking garage), utilization of EVs in its vehicle fleet, and programs to encourage customer adoption of EVs. Here are some more projects that are in the works: To replace 3,300 high pressure sodium (HPS) street light fixtures in the City of Alameda with more energy efficient LED streetlights and to provide rebates to commercial customers for building retrofits and LED applications.
Provide a specific example that demonstrates your leadership skills and your ability to work with others. What was the situation, what were your objectives and what was the end result?
Last April, when the council was discussing residential units on the 68-acre lot now referred to as Site A, the members were divided on the number of high-density units required to have a healthy residential-commercial mixed-use environment. After a careful analysis of the situation and the impacts of several options, I proposed an 800-unit ceiling and a $50,000 surcharge above and beyond the ceiling. My objective was to provide a balance of commercial and residential units throughout Alameda Point. I was able to relay and explain my ideas successfully, leading the council to accept and approve my proposal. I am the only council member who has introduced three resolutions, of which all three, including a resolution to protect open space/a nature reserve, were unanimously approved by the City Council.
As a city leader, how would you collaborate with the school district, nonprofits and other community organizations to best address community needs?
Our past interaction with the school district speaks for itself. We have collaborated with AUSD regarding the swimming pool issue and, again, we collaborated with the school district regarding the tideland property. The Alameda Museum and the Alameda Animal Shelter are two other prime examples that show public-private partnerships can work. We continue to work with the community and community members to address our local issues and concerns.
Is Alameda doing enough to prepare for a disaster? If yes, please describe what efforts are satisfying the need to prepare. If not, what else should the city do?
Yes, I believe that Alameda is doing enough to prepare for a disaster. An emergency operations center and Fire Station Three are in the works and should be up and running in the very near future. We also currently have thousands of CERT volunteers and we are training more volunteers to increase our resources.
What assurances can you provide that campaign contributions you receive won’t impact your decisions on the dais?
The issues I talk about in my campaign are issues that I really care about and not just things that I say to garner votes. I appreciate the campaign contributions but I do not let the contributors affect me. I always vote for what I believe is right. For example, in the last election, my campaign contributions came from many varied sources; however, during my two years on the City Council, I consistently voted for issues that I believe in, such as open spaces and affordable housing. These are two issues that benefit all the people of Alameda, and my votes are clearly not the result of any particular vested interest or campaign contributions that I have received.