Opening statement and why are you the best candidate for this office?
I’m Paul Beusterien and you can learn more about my campaign at paulb4alameda.com.
I moved to Alameda in 2001 when I was working at Wind River. I now commute by bike and ferry to Google in San Francisco where I’m a software engineer.
The city of Alameda, just like the Bay Area and the rest of the country, has challenges ahead: Addressing the housing shortage; public safety, climate change, and polarization in society and government. I want to make progress on all of these while keeping and enhancing the things about Alameda that we love: Our recreation and parks, our neighborhoods, our libraries, and the Park and Webster Street corridors. I want to bring a fresh perspective and apply my data driven leadership skills to bring collaborative solutions to Alameda.
Do you support the current draft of Alameda’s Housing Element, and will you work to ensure its certification by the state? Why or why not?
I support Alameda contributing to the lack of available and affordable housing in the Bay Area and support building the 5353 units required by the state. For the most part, the Housing Element does that. 24% of the allocation is at Alameda Point, 15% on other vacant federal lands primarily in the West End, 24% along the Northern Waterfront, 19% at Shopping Centers, 8% at Park and Webster and 10% in existing residential districts.
I support increasing affordable housing across Alameda as specified in the Housing Element, like building the approved all-affordable 586 housing units at the North Housing Site.
I do not support the housing element’s unlimited upzoning of the transit corridor. I believe that city council should do its best to represent its citizens while following the law:
- Alameda citizens made their views clear about density in the 2020 Measure Z vote
- SB-9 and ADUs already significantly increase density across Alameda
- The Housing Element proposes adding 6424 dwelling units (5353 required by the state plus a surplus buffer of 1071 units) spread across the city
- The widespread distribution of the proposed 6424 units implement Affirmatively Further Fair Housing principles
Adding 6424 units will already be very disruptive for Alameda, impacting traffic, infrastructure, parks, and schools. There is no compelling reason to add in an undemocratic and unnecessary upzoning program.
I’m open to solutions to fixing the unlimited upzoning part of the housing element, but not at the cost of losing state certification. City staff and the current council did a thorough job of baking the upzoning into the certification process, after ignoring Alameda voters and ignoring evidence of successful Southern California certifications without similar upzonings.
As a result, the next council may need to be limited to mitigation actions, like providing support for tenants displaced by the resulting gentrification resulting from the unlimited upzoning.
Describe your personal leadership style. Tell us about an inspiration or hero that led you to stand for office.
My leadership includes the following:
- Vision: Defining an improvement, why it is important, and inspiring others to support and contribute
- Mentorship: Teaching and helping others to participate
- Execution: Defining a plan to achieve the vision, implementing the plan, measuring progress, and adapting as new information indicates
- Celebration: Celebrate achievements, recognize contributors, and assess adjustments for future projects
I would call out two 2020 presidential candidates as inspirations for my city council run:
Andrew Yang’s book Forward advocates for modernizing our democracy on several levels, including breaking away from the dysfunctions of our current two-party system via mechanisms like ranked choice voting, to get to a more representative, and solution-oriented government. The themes resonate while watching Alameda city council meetings that can be divisive between extremes, can spin interminably without much progress, and lack civility.
Pete Buttigieg’s book Shortest Way Home includes several inspirational stories about how impactful local government can be in describing Pete’s South Bend mayorship. Examples include a measurable “1000 houses in a 1000 days” goal to reduce urban blight, data driven sewer system changes to end pollution and EPA fines, and collaborating with Governor Mike Pence to bring economic development to South Bend.
What is your view of how City Council should work with the City Manager?
Ideally the city council should set policy and the city manager should be responsible for city operations.
Before that can happen we need a city manager with the right level of institutional knowledge and expertise. Going through city managers as fast as Alameda does is bad for city employees and bad for the city. We’ve had four so far this year, with a fifth due to start in November.
Council should hire a city manager that will last much longer. I would support changing the number of votes to fire a city manager from three to four to make it less easy for council members to pressure city managers and less likely to lose city managers over short-term controversies.
Alameda’s departments have good plans for future directions like Homelessness and CARP, but do poor reporting of ongoing progress. I’d like to see a city manager drive much better progress reporting, so the council and public can get a better understanding of our actual progress on various initiatives.
Do you think Automated License Plate Readers are effective in fighting crime? Do you support increased or reduced automated surveillance?
Yes. They’ve been proven successful at crime deterrence, enforcement, and stolen item recovery. We should give our police force the tools they need to do their jobs, especially as they continue to be understaffed. We should follow the data for how to proceed further. Alameda is behind several other cities in ALPR adoption, so we can learn what works and doesn’t for determining additional or reduced surveillance.
What is your knowledge of Alameda’s public art program? In which ways do you think public art is important to our city?
The art community is one of the special things about Alameda. Before the pandemic, I went to several Studio 23 events and Second Friday Art Walks. It’s great to see more and more public art across the city, and I’d like to see as much as possible of it come from local artists. Public art can help to bring a shared sense of identity for our community while simultaneously celebrating all of the diversity we have.
How has climate change affected Alameda beyond rising sea levels? What would you do to protect Alameda from further climate change?
While sea level rise is the most direct impact of climate change on Alameda, since we’re just a few feet above sea level, we’re seeing indirect effects like bad air quality from wildfires or even this year’s toxic algae bloom caused by the combination of treated sewage and warm bay waters. Globally, climate change is likely to increase political and economic disruptions, which affects everyone including Alameda.
Alameda’s Climate and Hazard Mitigation Plan provides a comprehensive summary of climate risks and solution paths. Flood risk is the hazard that will increase the most with climate change.
Sea level rise and storm surge put much of Alameda at flood risk. In addition, increasing numbers of Alameda property owners are required to pay expensive flood insurance for being in the FEMA hundred year floodplain. The limited capacity of Alameda’s stormwater system adds the risk of flooding to the rest of Alameda as well. According to the Plan, “most of the neighborhoods prone to flooding in the near term are among the 14 (out of 57) most socially vulnerable block groups identified.”
As a result, we need to fund a citywide storm water system upgrade, as well as other flooding risk mitigation measures, such as converting all publicly-owned surface parking lots to permeable surfaces, and perimeter areas into bioswales, to reduce runoff.
Let’s invest to upgrade our storm water system now, as prescribed in the city’s Climate Action and Resiliency Plan. Foster City recently approved a bond measure to pay for a levee system to protect their city from flooding and exorbitant flood insurance premiums. Let’s follow their lead and invest in a robust storm water system to reduce both the elevated flood risk and the high ongoing insurance costs.
What strategies would you like to employ to address homelessness in Alameda?
We have comprehensive and ambitious strategies, like the Five-Year Strategic Homelessness Plan. I’d like to get better metrics in place to help the council and staff be more effective at budget and personnel allocation. The city of Alameda has spent millions of dollars on homelessness in the past years, but it can be hard to see the results. Despite spending over $10 million since 2019, the Alameda unsheltered count has gone from 231 to 264.
Homelessness is a Bay Area wide challenge and Alameda should work with the county and state on solutions and I support efforts like the Wellness Center to provide housing for County homeless seniors. However, there is little evidence efforts like this have much impact on Alameda City homeless. Similarly, some of the other homeless initiatives using city funds combined with county or state funding that comes with requirements to support the county wide population.
Since the county and state have much bigger tax bases, I’d like to see Alameda City funds more focused to addressing Alameda-specific homelessness issues.
The city is spending an initial $5.8 million dollars, along with millions more in recurring costs on Dignity Village to provide 46 units of transitional housing. With so many homeless and on the verge of homelessness, I would like to see that much money be better spread out to help more Alamedans.
How will you keep the cost of living in Alameda affordable to prevent long-time residents from being priced out and forced to move?
The generationally worst inflation of this year is hard for everyone, but especially for those on fixed incomes. The biggest expense and potentially most life disruptive is housing costs becoming unaffordable.
Alameda needs to execute on the Housing Element which specifies that over half of the 5353 new housing units be affordable. We must take advantage of Alameda’s certification to actively secure state and other funding.
As we build out the housing, we need to focus on the “missing middle” like teachers and other Alamedans who make too much to qualify for some affordable housing levels.
While keeping rental protections in place, we need to identify and address the root causes of many Alameda’s mom and pop landlords removing their rentals from the market, thereby exacerbating the housing shortage.
As a city, we need to think about more systematic solutions with our limited funds than performative ones like the Guaranteed Basic Income program which spends $4.6 million dollars to provide 150 households monthly $1000 for 24 months.
Guaranteed Basic Income(GBI) is a variation of Universal Basic Income(UBI) that loses most of UBI’s benefits. UBI takes advantage of federal or state scale to have low administrative costs. Alameda’s GBI is not universal. It only helps 150 of 11,000 Alameda households with less than $75K of household income. It has $1 million in administrative costs.
That $4.6 million could go a long way towards helping long-term residents stay here.
I have lived in Alameda for over two decades and am keenly aware of the complex issues facing our city. And now I’m ready and willing to step into a leadership position.
I will represent all of Alameda, all the various areas and projects, and the many aspirations to maintain and improve our unique city, if I’m elected to the council.
Balance is a theme of my campaign:
- We don’t have to choose extreme YIMBYism or extreme NIMBYism. We can add housing and limit disruption to existing neighborhoods.
- We don’t have to favor cyclists or drivers. We can improve routes and safety for both, along with pedestrians, buses and ferries.
- We can support and fully staff the police force AND hold the police accountable.
We need to make our city more functional. Senior staff turnover is a problem. Just this year, we’ve had four different city managers. Let’s attract quality leaders, enable higher levels of constituent participation, and work more collaboratively. For the long term, we should update our elections to Ranked Choice Voting encouraging more representative and cooperative government.
As a council member I’ll dig out the facts to drive increased consensus on how to improve the city. Along the way, I plan to keep listening to the community both before and after the election so please follow up on anything at paulb4alameda.com. Thanks for your consideration and I look forward to your support!