Lafayette City Council Candidates Speak at Inclusivity and Sustainability Forum
On Friday, September 25, Inclusive Lafayette and Sustainable Lafayette held a virtual candidates forum where the four Lafayette city council candidates (there are three open seats on the council) spoke on topics of inclusion and sustainability. Questions from Inclusive Lafayette and Sustainable Lafayette came directly from the respective Boards and did reflect current and future interests—ranging from climate change to bike safety to social justice to housing and zoning. The forum has been viewed by close to 200 Lafayette citizens, hopefully providing additional information needed to make a decision come election day.
This post will paraphrase the candidate’s answers to Sustainable Lafayette questions. If you’d like to watch the forum in its entirety, you can find the recording on YouTube here.
Q: Biking and walking are environmentally friendly modes of transportation. How would you make Lafayette safer for cyclists and pedestrians?
Gina Dawson: We’ve had 4 traffic-related deaths in the past 10 years, which is unacceptable. It’s most important to make safety a priority and to line up resources behind that. Ideas include green-striping major bike routes and enforcing traffic rules at busy intersections.
Farschad Farzan: I am an avid runner and cyclist who knows first-hand the dangers with traffic. We need to have education for folks who live in Lafayette to be careful when driving around bicyclists and pedestrians. We need to mark off our bike lanes, make them wider and continue walkways where they end and people need to get on the road before getting back on the walkway. I’d make wait times at lights longer so people don’t feel rushed crossing the street. And then I’d encourage more people to walk and take bikes instead of getting into their car.
Carl Anduri: There are two main approaches to this, the first is updating the Bikeways Master Plan documentation from 14 years ago, we can bring in a consultant to do that; if it’s not financially possible to do that, we need to keep bicycles in mind for any issues discussed.
Cam Burks: We need to change the culture of Lafayette, because the city doesn’t have the money to put brick-and-mortar to this. And those culture changes need to come through the various commissions and groups in town. Holding the government to this, right now, isn’t going to work.
Q: What role should Lafayette play, if any, in being a good regional contributor to sustainability for the San Francisco Bay and an ally to the Bay Area's broader Communities?
Carl Anduri: First and foremost we need to provide our fair share of housing. We are part of a broader community, we have a BART station close to an urban area and we need to provide our share of housing and we need to be proactive. We need to change the narrative and perception of Lafayette and show that we are positive about adding housing. In 2007, Sustainable Lafayette and the Environmental Task Force was formed—we need to keep that moving forward.
Cam Burks: When you look at land use and affordable housing, high-density units near public transportation, we have done much better, based on our culture and character than some of our surrounding cities and that to me is discouraging. A lot of cities around us should do a better job. I would take a cautious approach to using their strategies. The monthly Mayors Meeting is a great forum to discuss this topic.
Gina Dawson: The first thing we need to do is our part in creating inclusive housing, it is a state-wide problem, we are doing our part but we can do more as a leader. We need to continue working with groups like Sustainable Lafayette and all the projects they do, like the community garden and removing harmful chemicals from the schools. Continue collaboration and providing leadership and counselling to other communities and bring them along. Contra Costa County recently adopted the climate change declaration of emergency and we should definitely seek to support those resolutions and see if there are aspects we can adopt for Lafayette, and if not, then create our own.
Farschad Farzan: We don’t live on an island, everything we do is related and will have an impact. We have some of the smartest people in the world living here, so I agree with Gina that we need to lead local communities in the right direction.
Q: If you could change one thing in our zoning code, what would you change and why?
Cam Burks: I wouldn’t change anything right now, we need to wait and see how this pandemic changes things. Right now, the current zoning makes sense for our community.
Farschad Farzan: There’s an opportunity to address wildfires with our zoning plan because that is an upcoming issue. More specificity with traffic and evacuation plans should be laid out and how they are interrelated with the zoning code.
Gina Dawson: One thing I would change is to clean up the policy around the developer’s alternatives to inclusionary housing, specifically the off-site development ordinance. I don’t agree that developers should have that option to put their low-income housing options separate, off-site from the plan development, it lends to a perception of income-zoning, or even segregation, and that’s certainly not a standard that we would want to set as precedent, so that should not be an option. If off-site development had to be considered, then I would recommend policy to make sure that it’s new construction off-site and not just rehabilitation of existing low-income housing inventory, because that does not add to our overall inventory.
Carl Anduri: We should wait and do anything with zoning until we get to the General Plan update. Although I do feel we can move forward with putting a higher priority on accessory dwelling units. In terms of off-site affordable housing, that is an option that is open to the council, that’s not something the developers can say, “I want to do it” and they do it, it’s something the council can consider. If the developer does ask for that, the council can then require up to double the amount of affordable units to approve that, and the council has done that in respect to the off-site affordable housing with the Woodbury project. We got twice as many units as we normally would have and that has worked out very well. There is a proposal that would not allow that, but I think that should be something that is an option.
Q: Senate Bill 1000, “The Planning for Healthy Communities Act”, requires Californian cities to adopt an Environmental Justice element, or integrate Environmental Justice-related policies, objectives, and goals throughout other elements of their General Plan. What are the top policy priorities you would like to see in the General Plan to promote environmental justice in our community?
Gina Dawson: I do suggest that we incorporate environmental justice policies throughout the General Plan and route out any policies that hinder inclusivity. My top three priorities include internet-for-all, so that everyone has access to the internet, especially during pandemic times and how that impacts equity. I would monitor the mitigation of air pollution and air quality, particularly around the transit corridors. And I’d put a priority on downtown parks, because parks provide opportunities for physical activities and community building with the added bonus of bringing in revenue and commerce to downtown.
Cam Burks: I do not want to taint the ideas of the Evironmental Task Force. The council should be brought ideas and solutions through community input.
Carl Anduri: I would agree with Cam that we should turn to the Environmental Task Force to advise on this and I agree with Gina on downtown parks, I don’t see this as environmental justice, but we do need a park downtown; it’s been on the list of things-to-do and I’d like to move that higher.
Farschad Farzan: SB 1000 was not meant for Lafayette, but what I will say is that we need to bring everyone to the table for the General Plan—that is the future of the city.
Those are only some of the highlights of the candidates forum. The entire forum was close to two-hours in length. If you’d like to watch the forum in its entirety, you can do so here.
This is an exciting time in Lafayette, we have four superb candidates willing to volunteer their time to better our community and work alongside many of Lafayette’s community groups that continue to grow in number. Among those are Sustainable Lafayette—whose board members are actively involved in the Environmental Task Force and the General Plan—we also continue to work with Lafayette schools on projects like No Idling and Safe Routes to Acalanes.
Sustainable Lafayette is currently looking for new board members to volunteer their time to work with City Council, the Chamber, the schools and the community at large to make this an even better place to live. We, as a city, will lead by example so that surrounding communities can view us as a role model and leader in moving the entire Bay Area forward.
If you’d like to be considered for the Sustainable Lafayette board, or if you’d like to contribute to the Sustainable Lafayette blog, please get in touch with us today. You can write to us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.