Trish Spencer, mayor

Trish Spencer, mayor

Trish Spencer
Trish Spencer

What skills do you possess that make you uniquely qualified to be Alameda’s mayor?
I’m an attorney and have practiced business litigation. I’m also vice president of the Alameda Unified School District Board (my sixth year on the board) and currently serve on the Peralta Colleges Foundation Board (which provides scholarships and grants to community college students).

I was Alameda PTA Council president and am a community volunteer of many civic causes, including environmental issues; I supported the effort to protect the Mif Albright golf course from housing and currently support Friends of Crown Beach (which aims to expand Crab Cove for the public rather than new housing adjacent to Crab Cove), Harbor Bay Neighbors (who oppose new homes at the site of Harbor Bay Club), and Project Leaf, which is supporting community gardens.

I worked to keep Woodstock Child Development Center open. My four girls attended Alameda public schools, including Woodstock Child Development Center and Head Start, and they graduated from Alameda High, Encinal High, and ACLC. My daughter Stephanie graduated from UCSC, and my youngest (twins) now attend Cal-Maritime Academy and Harvard University. I was co-chair of the Alameda Youth Collaborative (which includes 35-plus service organizations).

I am not accepting any campaign donations from any entities that have contracts with the city, including unions and developers, or allowing any such organizations’ PACs to spend money on my behalf. As demonstrated by my service on the school board, I am a principled, dedicated, detail-oriented leader who welcomes public input. My decisions are unbiased and based on thorough research.

I am willing to ask serious questions for the good of the community and do not simply rubber-stamp proposals. In other words, I give all residents a voice in city government. I do this by being accessible and approachable to members of the community, who know they can find me out and about at events on the Island and shopping or dining at Alameda businesses.

What is the key role the mayor plays in our community?
In addition to representing our community, being out and about in our community, being accessible to our community, and supporting local businesses, it is critical that the mayor not allow further deferment or postponement of tough discussions, including traffic and financial concerns. City Hall must welcome public involvement and thoroughly address challenging problems.

It’s 2025 and the vision you had for Alameda when you were elected in 2014 has come to fruition. Describe Alameda.
Morning commuters are happy walking, biking, taking public transportation and driving to work in a stress-free environment. Beaches, parks, golf courses and recreational areas have not only been protected but have been improved, and Alamedans and visitors are enjoying them! Libraries are busy with readers reading books and using technology.

Business in the business districts and business parks is robust, with jobs (including green technology) that offer good wages, so people can live and work here in Alameda. Students are actively learning in local schools and colleges. Veterans are being cared for at the V.A. clinic.

Seniors are enjoying Mastick Senior Center, with access to transportation and are feeling safe and protected. City Hall is serving our residents and business partners, the public is involved in decision-making, and progress is being made to address the fiscal issues.

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?
Alameda residents have expressed concerns about the risks to public health of development at the Point due to contamination. As we know, originally the Navy had agreed to clean the water to drinking standards, and now that’s been lowered to commercial/industrial standards at some areas of the Point. It’s uncertain whether those compromised standards will be attainable.

Thus, my priorities at the Point are restoration of wetlands/parklands, along with commercial/industrial areas, including adaptive reuse of existing buildings, green jobs and other employment with good wages, including the V.A. Clinic (which could attract other medical/research organizations) and lastly residential zones, which would require careful planning to ensure that the public’s health is protected.

I’m concerned that Alameda Point will be over-developed with buildings. While I appreciate advocacy to increase people riding their bikes, walking, taking public transportation – unfortunately, sometimes these alternatives are unrealistic. There have been significant cuts to bus transportation in the past few years, and there are also pedestrian and bike safety concerns.

It is imperative that the transportation and infrastructure issues be resolved before adding development that will increase gridlock. Regionally, people are concerned about sea level rise. It’s important that this issue also be fully explored and addressed in development plans, so that our limited financial resources are appropriately expended, and that we don’t unintentionally put people in harm’s way.

Alamedans have an incredible opportunity to protect open space at the Point and improve public access to open space in this region, including a regional park with a visitor’s center, similar to Crab Cove.

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?
The development of thousands of homes in Alameda has the potential to seriously negatively impact Alamedans’ quality of life. That’s why I joined other Alamedans in opposing SunCal, collecting signatures to prevent the building of homes at our golf course and adjacent to Crab Cove, and I am a “Harbor Bay Neighbor.”

It is imperative that the transportation and infrastructure issues be resolved before adding development that will increase already existing traffic gridlock. Transportation services, such as vans and buses that will link these communities to ferries, BART and buses may help and must be considered if housing continues to be approved by City Hall.

Alameda is an Island, has four bridges and the Webster/Posey tubes. Already, especially in the morning, commuter traffic is backed up in several points from Bay Farm across the Main Island. This situation should not be exacerbated.

If elected, how will you address the city’s unfunded pension and OPEB liabilities?
For clarification, OPEB stands for other post employment benefits and are primarily health care benefits (other than pensions) that U.S. state and local governments provide to their retired employees. This must be addressed and a priority. As my service on the school board has demonstrated, I welcome public involvement and scrutiny of issues, especially serious issues like this. There needs to be complete transparency of the numbers and projections. This is a complex issue and will require serious consideration of funding priorities to start to move Alameda in the right direction on this significant issue. Everything needs to be on the table, as a review of the city’s five-year forecast through 2017-18 (presented at the City Council meeting of June 3, 2014) shows that this fiscal year (July 1, 2014 – June 30, 2015) the city has a deficit of $3.5 million, rising each year to $8.9 million in 2017-18, at which point Alameda’s reserves are exhausted. The trend is highly unfavorable. These numbers actually require a review of 10-20 years forecast, and the sooner we access this situation fully, the better for all involved.

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?
I agree with the wording of this question – that there’s a “recent proliferation of big box and other national chain stores opening on the Island.” I’d prefer the question “why are all these non-local shops being approved by City Hall?”

While some may argue that big box and national chain stores help small businesses, I respectfully disagree. I also disagree that so many are best for Alamedans, as opposed to small businesses that are unique, with their own culture, and provide higher paying jobs.

However, with all of these being approved by City Hall, you’re right – what can small businesses do and what can Alameda do to support small businesses? I intentionally frequent small businesses here in Alameda; I receive good, personable service. Like others, I share accolades about our local small businesses on social media. I attend meetings of local business groups and meet individually with local businesses regularly.

Recent business owner and employee ideas have included having regular nights out ending by 9 or 10 p.m., similar to Oakland’s First Fridays, which has had a “major, positive economic impact on the community.” (See http://oaklandfirstfridays.org/ABOUT)

Other suggestions include supporting local business associations, organizing business fairs to give more visibility to those who don’t have very visible storefronts on major streets, publishing and maintaining online business listings, and printing Alameda business guides that would be made available (for free) throughout the city.

What if anything should the city do to address rising rents? Should the city regulate rents and if so, how?
Alameda has a Rent Review Advisory Committee that “reviews complaints of significant rental increases, providing a neutral forum for renters and residential property owners to present their views. It evaluates increases, determines whether they are equitable, and, if not, attempts to mediate a resolution acceptable to all parties … Regular meetings are generally held the first Monday of each month.” (See http://alamedaca.gov/city-hall/rent-review-advisory-committee)

“The Committee was formed by motion of the City Council in November 1979 upon the recommendation of the Ad Hoc Rent Evaluation Committee. The Ad Hoc Committee was formed in response to citizens’ complaints to the City Council regarding substantial rental increases. It is comprised of five volunteer members: two owners, two renters, and one homeowner ... The Committee has had success in establishing communication between owner and renter, and in effecting compromises with regard to rent and maintenance. Through the voluntary cooperation of owners, the Committee has served as an effective alternative to rent control in the City of Alameda.” (See http://www.alamedahsg.org/hd_hsg_rrac.html)

A quick review of that site shows that the committee last met in July and meetings in August and September were cancelled. Thus, it appears that the complaints were resolved, and hearings weren’t required, which suggests the site’s contention that the committee has served as an effective alternative to rent control is accurate.

Another interesting observation is that there are only minutes for March and April of 2014 posted and audio of April and June posted. It’s unfortunate all minutes aren’t posted for the public’s review. Also, Renewed Hope (Alameda housing advocates) has a rent survey on its website that I’d encourage renters to complete. (See http://www.renewedhopehousing.org)

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.
Measure A was voted in by the people, partly in recognition that Alameda is an Island, has four bridges and the Webster/Posey tubes; many neighborhoods have very limited parking and homes from the turn of the century without driveways and usable garages. Any change in honoring Measure A must address challenges to our transportation infrastructure, including parking and traffic gridlock, before development, as more thoroughly discussed above (in the answer to Question 5).

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?
The purpose of AB 32, coupled with SB 375, is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, a mere six years from now. Recognizing that passenger vehicles are the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, California legislators are demanding that regions develop Sustainable Community Strategies integrating transportation, land use and housing policies to achieve those targets. A successful example of this policy would be high density housing near BART; however, here in Alameda, without BART, a transportation strategy that meets this charge is much more challenging and thus, additional homes in Alameda, especially thousands of new homes, actually is contrary to the legislative mandate.

It is imperative that the transportation issue be resolved prior to the building of thousands of homes. Otherwise, it is very unlikely if not impossible for Alameda to be a regional partner to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels in six years.

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?
In 2010, staff had recommended to the school board that Woodstock Child Development Center (WCDC) be closed, as it appeared the state was cutting funding. However, many community members pushed back on this and demanded monies be found to keep it open. I was confident that the state would eventually fund the child care, and, even if the funding was not restored, that our community would find a way to keep it open. Board Member Tracy Jensen agreed.

It was challenging to get the third vote, but eventually it happened. The majority of the school board kept the center open and, eventually state funding was restored. I am very proud that WCDC was kept open and that we are still able to provide preschool education for our most needy students, which has served Alamedans since 1943.

As a city leader, how would you collaborate with the school district, nonprofits and other community organizations to best address community needs?
I’ve been doing this at a high level for the past eight years, first as Alameda PTA Council president for two years, and then as a school board member for the past six years. I was also co-chair of the Alameda Youth Collaborative (35+ service organizations).

As city dollars become more stretched, we are more dependent upon the success of partnerships to meet our needs. For instance, the city and the school district partner to provide recreational facilities (i.e., swimming pools) to our community. Also, when I was Alameda PTA Council president, funding for kindergarten music was being cut. I worked with local musicians and school parent leaders, and the Alameda PTA held a live concert in Kofman Auditorium, which raised sufficient funds for kindergarten music programs at all AUSD schools; after some schools which had already budgeted for the music generously donated their portions to other schools. Alameda has a history of working for the betterment of our entire community through effective partnerships, which I’ve enjoyed being part of.

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?
While recognizing the community’s efforts to be prepared (e.g., CERT and preparedness drills), unfortunately, as Alameda is an Island with only four bridges and the Webster/Posey tubes for entry and exit, Alameda’s continued growth (i.e., the thousands of new homes referenced in these questions), has heightened the challenges that Alamedans will face in a disaster.

What assurances can you provide that campaign contributions you receive won’t impact your decisions on the dais?
I am not accepting any campaign donations from any entities that have contracts with the city, including unions and developers, or allowing any such organizations’ PACs to spend money on my behalf.