Jim Oddie, City Council

Jim Oddie, City Council

Jim Oddie
Jim Oddie

It’s 2025 and the vision you had for Alameda when you were elected in 2014 has come to fruition. Describe Alameda.
Our city has made tremendous progress over the last four years. Due to the leadership of our current mayor and City Council, the acrimony and divisiveness that once plagued city government has been replaced with an era of transparency and collaboration. I am running for City Council to keep moving Alameda forward and to continue to make Alameda a special place for families, seniors and working people.

I want to keep Alameda a safe place for generations of families to live. We need to continue providing excellent schools and high quality police and fire protection. We need to expand recreational opportunities and protect open space. We need to ensure Alameda Point and other underutilized properties are planned sensibly, focusing on attracting innovative new employers.

Alameda in 2025 will be known for our great public schools, more abundant open spaces, a vibrant local economy, safe neighborhoods, and our small town quality of life.

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?
The MIP (master infrastructure plan) and reuse plan outline the proportion of acreage to the various subareas and the amount of housing units and number of residents, as well as the number of jobs estimated to be generated. The plans include 291 acres of open space, 129 acres for the town center sub-area (including 500 residential units), 140 acres for the Main Street sub-area (including 268 existing and 760 proposed residential units), 207 acres of adaptive reuse (including 165 residential units), and 111 acres for the enterprise sub-area. In total, the plan calls for a cap of 1,425 new residential units housing approximately 3,240 residents and generating approximately 8,900 jobs.

As for individual projects within this plan that come before the council for approval, I will evaluate any proposed project on three criteria. First, it needs to generate revenue for the city to pay for the infrastructure at the Point and the services our community depends on to keep our streets safe and our schools strong. Second, it should be green: any project – both retrofitting and new construction – needs to be zero net energy in order to help us meet the AB 32 GHG emission reduction goals; and the Point needs to contain abundant open spaces for all of us to enjoy, including wetlands to help mitigate sea level rise. Third, any project should have a concrete traffic mitigation component.

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?
On transportation, I will engage in a conversation about creative transit alternatives. These are not easy solutions.

Ferry service on the bay is underutilized. By making Alameda a water-transit hub, we can connect thousands of people to jobs in the South Bay and the Peninsula and take their cars off the road. This will require collaboration with WETA and the state to expand ferry service.

Measure BB includes funding for two BRT (bus rapid transit) lines in Alameda – through the tube to downtown Oakland and to the Fruitvale BART.

The city’s transportation system management (TSM)/transportation demand management (TDM) plan was put in place to attract transit-oriented developers and homeowners to Alameda, and provide strategies to reduce the use of single-occupant automobiles for work and travel to and from Alameda.

The city also has development impact fees to offset some of the infrastructure costs required for development projects and maintain critical city services. Developers along the Northern Waterfront should finance a bus/shuttle system in Alameda that serves not only the new residents along the Northern Waterfront, but also existing residents who live adjacent to the new developments. This shuttle service can service BART stations, the ferry station, and carry passengers to and from destinations on the Island.

If elected, how will you address the city’s unfunded pension and OPEB liabilities?
Clearly, one of the biggest challenges facing Alameda in the next decade is the cost of post-employment retirement benefits – OPEB (other post-employment benefits) and the impact of new PERS contribution rates. The estimated funding gap over the next 30 years is approximately $244 million. Like a mortgage, we are not required to come up with the entire $244 million right now, but the situation needs to be addressed in the next couple of years before it becomes impossible to solve.

Unlike four years ago, the city enjoys a collaborative and constructive working relationship with our bargaining units – important as police and fire make up about 70 percent of our general fund budget. This has helped us make tremendous progress over that time in addressing costs, and is critical to moving Alameda forward on this key challenge.

At the state level this year, we were faced with a similar issue with STRS – the teacher retirement system. We were able to solve the problem by bringing all of the stakeholders together and share in the solution. In the STRS solution, teachers contributed their COLA increase, the state increased their contributions, and districts also fund a significant portion of the solution (with a phase-in). San Francisco’s approach to its unfunded liability issue can also serve as a model.

It will take a similar collaborative approach here in Alameda, and I am ready to build upon the strong foundation we have in place and my experience working for Assemblymember Bonta on the teachers’ retirement solution to address these issues. The bargaining units understand we all need to work together collaboratively to keep our city solvent. The solution starts at the bargaining table, as case law is clear that vested rights can only be modified in exchange for something else of value.

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?
By pursuing sound economic development at Alameda Point, our business parks, our business districts, in West Alameda, and elsewhere, we can support a thriving Alameda business community and substantially preserve and strengthen the quality of life for all Alamedans while also generating important tax revenue to support the services we care about most in Alameda, such as our public schools and our public safety. Some of the “chains” are our top sales tax revenue generators (Bed Bath & Beyond, Target, CVS, OfficeMax, Old Navy, Walgreens, etc.) – In-N-Out is expected to generate $250,000 in annual sales tax revenue. But we have attracted “chains” while still maintaining a vibrant Park Street business district and a much-improved Webster Street. We need to continue finding effective ways to make it easy for potential businesses to “do business” with the city. Proposals like the town center sub-area at Alameda Point and adaptive reuse at the landmark Del Monte building, which includes mixed housing, retail, and commercial, are creative solutions to attract small businesses near housing.

What if anything should the city do to address rising rents? Should the city regulate rents and if so, how?
In my law practice, I represented both tenants and small property owners, so I have witnessed some egregious behavior by both landlords and tenants. I also know that the vast majority of tenants and landlords behave reasonably. For many years, the marketplace in Alameda has done a fair job of policing itself. While an increasing rent burden is the most important issue for many households, the city hasn’t seen a significant increase in the number of rent review cases before the City’s Rent Review Advisory Committee.

Of all of the housing units in Alameda, approximately 52 percent of them are rental-occupied. I myself am a tenant and have a very good landlord. But, like all costs, rents in Alameda have risen over the past decade. The average studio rents for around $1,000 per month with two bedrooms twice that amount. According to the city’s draft 2015 housing element, while median rents are still considered affordable for low and moderate-income households, it’s not always the case for extremely low and very low-income households.

San Francisco, which has rent control, has seen a number of high profile cases of long-term tenants being evicted, and local rent ordinances are very popular with attorneys, so we have to be thoughtful in how we approach this issue. I am eager to see the report from task force and will work together with landlords, tenants, affordable housing advocacy groups, and Realtors, on an approach that balances the need to maintain affordable rental stock, protects existing tenants from unreasonable rent increases, and recognizes the rights of small property owners.

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.
As I walk door-to-door through our neighborhoods in Alameda, it is easy to appreciate the impact and success of Measure A in preserving historic homes.

A discussion of housing units and Measure A must address affordable housing. As housing prices rise in the Bay Area, homeownership becomes more elusive for many households, even those earning above moderate incomes. Alameda and the Bay Area are not alone as affordable housing is a major issue statewide. I worry that my children, who are just starting out, will never be able to afford a home in Alameda. Although I am a renter now, I would like to be a homeowner again someday here in Alameda. So, this is an important issue to me.

We have a 15 percent citywide and 25 percent Alameda Point-specific affordable housing ordinance to insure we meet our obligation to provide affordable housing. We have two Priority Development Areas (PDAs) – Alameda Point and the Northern Waterfront – available to meet our Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) of 1,723 units by 2022.

The state density bonus law exempts low-income housing construction from Measure A, so the City Council cannot eliminate this state law. As for the other ordinances adopted by the City Council, they are narrowly focused and targeted to Alameda Point and infill developments necessary to meet our affordable housing requirements. Any expansion of these ordinances to projects outside of the Point and the sites identified in the housing element should be brought before the voters.

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?
One of the best parts of my job is that I have the opportunity to meet and work with some of the best and brightest minds. A few months ago, we met with professors, including a Nobel Prize winner, up at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. They told us that the key to meeting the AB 32 greenhouse emissions reduction goals is construction – both retrofitting and new construction – thus, development projects, including retrofitting at Alameda Point, needs to produce zero net energy sites.

The long-term solution to traffic (and GHG reduction) is getting people out of their cars, reducing single occupancy automobile trips, and into more environmentally friendly transit such as public transit and bicycles. While intermediate-term solutions such as carpooling, ridesharing, and electric vehicles reduce GHG emissions, to truly address climate change and traffic, we need to get more cars off of the road and into public transit, walking, and bicycling. The city’s plans for some of the Northern Waterfront projects to limit the number of cars per household is a step in the right direction to reducing single occupancy automobile trips.

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?
As Assemblymember Rob Bonta’s district director, I am privileged to work hard every day for the people of the Alameda. In the last two years, when the Newark school district was trying to wrongfully take BTSA (Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment) grant money away from Alameda USD, I worked with the school district, teachers, and my colleagues in other legislative offices to persuade the budget chair to include a fix in this year’s budget to stop this. The objective was for Alameda USD (and other local districts) to receive their fair share of these funds, and this objective was met. In another specific example, when Alameda Health System wanted to acquire San Leandro Hospital and affiliate with Alameda Hospital, it was not financially feasible if the two hospitals’ employees were required to join the Alameda County pension system. I worked directly with all of the bargaining units to get them to support legislation drafted by our office to both keep the employees whole vis-à-vis their retirement benefits and allow these two hospitals to stay open.

As a city leader, how would you collaborate with the school district, nonprofits and other community organizations to best address community needs?
As a proud parent of two young adults who were educated in Alameda public schools, I understand the importance of our public schools. The education my daughters received – from Bay Farm Elementary to Chipman Middle School to ACLC to Lincoln Middle School and finally, Alameda High School – allowed them to achieve entry into two great universities – Sarah at Wellesley and Linnea at Willamette University in Oregon. It was Alameda schools that helped them become independent thinking young women and prepared them for successful lives.

As your councilmember, I will work with the school board and continue the spirit of collaboration developed over the last few years, most notably with the agreement to renovate the Encinal Swim Center. I am endorsed by four members of the school board and have collaborated with them on issues such as helping bring the parties together in what ultimately resulted in a contract settlement mediated by our Assemblymember, gathering support for legislation to allow districts to raise much-needed revenue (AB 59), protecting BTSA funds (noted above), and putting the school bond measure on the ballot.

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. The city is currently building an emergency operations center that will house a centralized communication center in case of a disaster. They have purchased a fireboat from a federal grant that gives the city the ability to have a saltwater pump if we were ever to lose the water mains. The command staff and police and fire have been going through tabletop exercises which has helped them with ongoing training to prepare for a disaster. Our citizens’ emergency response team is fully staffed and has ongoing monthly training. We have a fully funded disaster preparedness officer (the position had been lost in 2010). Lastly, our police and fire equipment and apparatus are compliant and within their service periods – for the first time in 20 years.

What assurances can you provide that campaign contributions you receive won’t impact your decisions on the dais?
First, connecting campaign contributions to policy decisions is illegal. Despite a few well-publicized exceptions (e.g., Leland Yee), most scholarly research fails to establish a direct connection between money and legislative outcomes as contributions typically follow ideology and partisanship. Second, if elected to the council, I will be a councilmember for all of Alameda, and during the campaign have demonstrated a willingness to meet with and listen to anyone, even those who may not be naturally inclined to support my candidacy. I will continue that openness if elected.