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The Sierra Club Questionnaire

1.  Please state your background and experience (including your past history on environmental issues) and why you are running for office.  Included in this response, please list and explain briefly your top three environmental accomplishments that you believe qualify you to earn the Sierra Club endorsement.

I am the Chair of the Santa Monica Recreation & Parks Commission and have been a city Recreation & Parks Commissioner since 2003. In addition, I am the immediate past President of the California Parks & Recreation Commissioners and Board Members and I am the California Parks & Recreation Commissioner Of The Year for 2013. I am a native of Santa Monica and have always resided here.

I have been an advocate for green space, the urban forest, and decreasing urban run off, green streets, community gardens, dog parks and preserving nature in our city for many years. I helped lead the fight to ban smoking on Santa Monica Beaches and voted to ban smoking in our beaches and in our parks as a Commissioner. I have supported the implementation of SMURRF, advocated for LEED Gold & Platinum buildings, pushed for catch water basins and permeable pavement in our park parking lots and more use of grey water throughout our city. And, yes, I fought the killing of squirrels in Palisades Park!

Santa Monica is the 6th most densely populated city in California and it lags far behind other comparable cities in our state for park space. In fact, we have now risen to 1.45 acres of park space per 1000 residents. That’s still dismal. That’s why I am pushing every day for more additions to our city’s green space. From major parks to pocket parks and parklets I want Santa Monica to aggressively seek more park space. In a city that is composed of over 70% apartment and condo dwellers there is a tremendous need for our residents and visitors to touch, feel & experience nature.

I am currently advocating that Franklin Reservoir be turned into a view park, helping with final direction for our 2.2 acre Buffer Park, trying to keep the green space promised in the Civic Master Plan, looking at ways to utilize vacant lots as temporary parks and trying to turn around the first time decrease in our urban forest. Our tree cover already lags far behind other major cities. In fact, our urban tree canopy is 15% whereas the national average is 27%. I have long advocated the capping the Santa Monica Freeway between Ocean Avenue and 4th Street and again between 14th to 17th Street in order to add a greenbelt through the middle of Santa Monica that would also unite our neighborhoods. I am obtaining grants to help remodel Ozone Park at the south end of our city. I’m also an advocate for more park land at our Santa Monica Airport.

Our city has opened or remodeled the following parks while I have been a Commissioner. I’m proud that I have voted and advocated for each of them. Tongva Park, Ken Genser Square, Euclid Park, South Beach Universally Accessible Playground, Beach Green, Annenberg Community Beach House, Virginia Avenue Park, The Cove Skateboard Park, Reed Park & Airport Park.

My approach to enacting policy is to work with my fellow Commissioners to read consensus first and then be bold advocates for the position that you take. In Santa Monica that often means cajoling both public and private entities to understand how park land is good for the community. I have also been a fierce opponent of projects that would degrade the quality of life for Santa Monica residents. A case study in 2014 was the Hines Development/Bergamot Station. The project was too large for our city. Traffic was too great and could not be mitigated. It was the wrong project for Santa Monica and I fought it. I’m happy to say our residents won.


2.   On which areas of public policy could you foresee being in conflict with environmentalists? 

None. I want a green city that is sustainable, values
nature, eases pollution and lives within our means. There cannot be an area of public conflict over the health, wellbeing or outdoor activity levels of our residents.


How do you plan to address those conflicts?  

There will not be a conflict.

When confronted by environmental issues that are controversial and that you know little about, whom will you call for advice?

Sierra Club, Santa Monica’s Office of Sustainability and the Environment, The EPA, The Nature Conservancy, Heal The Bay, California Coastal Commission, Sara Wan, former Chair of the California Coastal Commission, Former Rep. Henry Waxman, Professors at area universities, Our residents!

YOUR POSITIONS ON KEY ENVIRONMENTAL
ISSUES WATER:  3.a. Some city officials talk about increased reliance on local water
sources.  Is this goal in conflict with many proposed new development which will increase the need for water?

Yes.  The City is dangerously risking our sustainability. It is on a course to rely on water rationing, severe price hikes, and the purchasing of water from outside sources in order to ensure enough water for too many new developments that are already in the pipeline for approval.  According to the City's own numbers, we will not have a sufficient cushion in case of an extended drought or other events that could degrade our supply virtually overnight such as earthquakes and contamination of the aquifers. We have approximately 16,000 acre feet of renewable water in the aquifers we draw from. We are presently processing 9,000 acre feet per year in our water treatment plant and are purchasing the remainder from the MWD. In essence, we are already stealing from other cities who also need water.

We need to add a 2nd water treatment plant, add another reservoir under Memorial Park and live within the approximately 13,000 acre feet we now consume each year. New development must never stress our infrastructure.

We should look at Santa Barbara’s use of water meters to control development. In addition, we already have a law on the books that demands that new construction of rental units have individual water meters yet our Planning Department routinely grants waivers. Individual responsibility goes hand in hand with civic responsibility.

 b.Is it fair to be contemplating higher water rates for residents who don’t cut their water use by 20%, but not mandate the same level of reduction by businesses such as large hotels (which use more water per person)?

No.  The strange twist is that the City is now claiming that commercial users will be required to conserve and suffer to the same degree as residents.  The truth is yet to be known. However Tier 1 commercial users have been receiving discounts of up to 20% on their water bills. If we must conserve water then every business, hotel, apartment house and house must share an equal burden.

c. What measures/policies would you proposed for the City of Santa Monica in dealing with the current drought?

 First:  Cease all new development projects until or
unless the projects can prove they can provide sufficient water exclusive of our City's existing supply. Each project must also pay their fair share for the connections and use of our civic infrastructure.

Second:  Prepare modifications to our budget, immediately, where possible, to fund the development of our treatment plant to process the additional water available to us in our ground supply. However, just because we have our own water sources available does not mean that we drain every available drop. It must be managed well. We are only a city because of our forefathers’ wise management of our water. We must continue to watch over our water supply judiciously.

TRAFFIC/TRANSPORTATION: 4.a. How will Santa Monica fulfill its stated goal in the LUCE of “no new net PM car trips” when there are 30+ development agreement projects in the pipeline, each of which will increase traffic to some degree despite some aggressive TDM plans? (Discuss this in terms of increased gridlock and difficulty in regards to entering and leaving the city, as well as higher emissions.)

 It won't fulfill the goal.  TDM plans are nothing more than "plans," and they do not adequately factor in human nature – quest for convenience. Like water running downhill, people will seek the path of least resistance.  TDM plans consist of two realities: a) businesses will choose the least expensive and the least annoying plan; b) employees will choose the least expensive and the least annoying plan. RESULT:  Businesses and employees reach opposite conclusions.  They conflict.  What is least expensive for the business is likely the most expensive for the employee. NOT one of the city’s TDM plans has worked as advertised. I have little hope for the next TDM proposed either. Two case studies are the Hines Project and Agensys.

The least annoying choice for employees is often the convenience of personal transportation.  Why?  Because this is southern California. The entire backbone is based on roadways to accommodate personal transport.  Change is coming, we welcome it, and we work to achieve it.  But reality is that it's not yet here; it is far from dominating the basis for moving around southern California. RESULT:  All new development in Santa Monica will inevitably yield an increase in traffic.  And traffic yields higher emissions of pollutants.  Gridlock?  We suffer from it every single day.  Is it getting better?  No.  So are current TDM plans working?  No.  We must do something different.  We cannot approve plans that will bring more “creative office space” and the resulting traffic to our town. In addition, we must hit a “pause” button to see what the positive effects of the Expo line may be. We must govern intelligently, with common sense.  I'll do something about it.

b.  What is your transit vision for the City of Santa Monica and Westside in general, and how would you seek to contend with the first mile/last mile” around rail stops so that there isn’t endless circling (increased emissions!) looking for a parking place as a prelude to getting on the train, and so that train-riders can more easily get to their destinations?

This is a classic boondoggle.  If we can't get to the Expo rail, how are we going to ride it?  If we can't exit the Expo rail and get home, why would we ride it?  First: Our Big Blue Bus system is woefully inadequate to get riders to and from the rail stops from points north and south.  Second: There are no known plans to resolve that BBB mess.  And there are no plans to add parking at the stops.  Adequate parking eliminates circling and increased emissions. I will immediately stop all development
activity until we resolve the first/last mile issue.  Mass transit must be the primary fix, and common sense demands that parking must be considered as well.

We need to consider a DASH system for Santa Monica and demand that Santa Monica’s bus system serve the Expo line from the first train to the last train each day. We must provide great north south transportation from our neighborhoods to each train stop. The transportation needs to be frequent, safe and have great bus benches not our “stupid” bus stools for citizens to use. Natural shade (more trees) are also needed at the bus stops.  We’re sending the wrong message right now to our residents about using the bus and the coming Expo line.

A Bike sharing system with many pick up/drop off points, a bike lane system with protected bikeways, well lit streets for pedestrians and parking at the light rail stops is essential.  I helped spearhead the effort for a citywide Bicycle Action Plan, advocated for a Bike Sharing system and pushed for a Pedestrian Action Plan. MANGO was also discussed extensively in our Commission.

SANTA MONICA AIRPORT: 5.a. Explain your positions on the two competing Santa Monica Airport ballot initiatives – the City-backed Measure LC, and the aviator-backed Measure D.

 YES on Measure LC.  NO on Measure D. 

 Measure LC is a resident-centric measure.  Its
ultimate goal is local control and anti AOPA/Federal Government control. Ultimately, the future of the airport and its vast lands are too important for the decision to be left in the hands of seven Councilmembers, especially when the current majority is far too pro-development.  As your Councilmember, I will demand that the voters decide the ultimate fate of our land.

Measure D is an AOPA-centric measure.  Their goal is to maintain control of the airport by the FAA, thus blocking Santa Monica residents from hindering in any manner AOPA's desire to continue utilizing the airport regardless of all safety and local residents' concerns.  Measure D is deceptive, plain and simple.

b. What is your vision for the Santa Monica Airport after the 1984 settlement agreement
with the FAA ends on July 1, 2015?  Would you favor: A. ending the sale of leaded fuel; B. terminating leases with aviation businesses such as flight schools; C. reclaiming the western 2000 ft.of the runway in order to eliminate most of the larger, faster jets; D. starting the process to completely close the airport; E. replacing the airport with a park; F. other uses for the airport site?

 My vision for that point in the future when local residents of Santa Monica have 100% control of the airport is this:  No jets. No planes. No take-offs or landings. No more safety hazards to the surrounding residents. 

Utilize the land to enhance the quality of life for residents:  Green space park.  Recreation sports.  An Arboretum. Cultural activities for children and our parents.  Into all of this, create awareness of our rich aviation history. But, in any case, do not destroy the vast openness of this last, large area of land.  It's all we have.  And there is no alchemy science known that can create more of it.  This is it.  If we fail to govern it wisely, we fail our children, our parents, our pets, and we fail the test of integrity.

The FAA believes its control ends in 2023. We should pursue any legal dispute with caution and not waste the people's tax dollars to continually grandstand in never-ending court battles that we continually lose. In 2023 I favor a vote by our residents on whether to close the airport or retain it. It’s the residents’ choice.

We believe that by 2016 we can reclaim the western 35 acres of the runway.  We should do that.  That will reduce the amount and size of jets that are able to use SMO. Then until we retake 100% control from the FAA, we must govern wisely. 

Not all planes use unleaded fuel.  Safety requires access to leaded & unleaded fuel. We should emphasize the use of cleaner fuels at SMO.

After July 1, 2015, we should operate SMO with short-term leases at market rates. There is no reason to operate flight schools in an airport that is as close to homes as this airport is. Let’s not renew flight school leases. If elected as your Councilmember, I will demand that the residents ultimately decide the future of the airport land.  

DEVELOPMENT: 6.a. Please comment in regards to the Hines proposed development site, and in regards to how Council approval of that proposal has invigorated residents to resist not only that project, but various large developments which they see as detrimental to quality of life in Santa Monica.

Hines never should have been approved. The fact is that the Bergamot Area Plan never should have been approved because it opened the door to fast-track approval of Hines. 

Common sense dictated that the approval of the BAP would be a mistake Our City Council didn’t listen. They approved the Bergamot Area Plan. Then the Council approved the Hines Project. Both were grave errors.

Beware: There are those who will seek your endorsement who voted to approve the BAP. Only one Planning Commissioner voted against the BAP and only one Councilmember voted against the BAP. There are Planning Commissioners and City Council members who did nothing to help reverse the approval of a project that was detrimental to our quality of life. 

I embraced the Residocracy referendum to defeat the Hines Project. Why?  Because it was the right thing to do.  How?  I personally walked the streets throughout our neighborhoods and parks and collected 369 signatures. I hosted signing parties in our neighborhood parks, appeared in every neighborhood, used social media extensively to conduct community outreach, carried petitions daily, encouraged signature gatherers and made this my crusade. Our residents did have power. The City Council Person who had told me repeatedly “neighborhoods don’t matter” found out he was wrong. Our neighborhoods do matter. I was so happy that the signature gathering effort was not only successful but it also empowered 13,510 residents. We cannot approve projects that degrade the quality of life in this city!

The Sierra Club should ask all candidates these three questions:  (1) Did you vote for the Bergamot Area Plan?  (2) Did you vote for Hines?  (3) What did you do to help collect signatures on the Residocracy referendum petition?

The impact of the Hines / Residocracy battle ignited resident anger and interest in how we are being governed unlike anything I've seen, and I've lived in Santa Monica my entire life.  Its aftermath is already is stirring resident voices against the massive development project at 4th/Arizona, the same size as the Santa Monica Place Mall.

Those voices against the 4th/Arizona project are demanding a green space park on the 2.78 acres, and they are gaining traction. That speaks volumes for people who treasure green parks more than green money.  And together we will continue to fight, intensely, against the over-developments planned along Ocean Avenue. 

I am the only candidate who has been brave enough to be straight forward, loud and clear about where I draw the line: I am on record and well known for supporting a 30-40-50 zoning concept.  30ft, 40 ft, 50 ft height limits.  Downtown = 4 stories.  Main boulevards = 3 stories. Residential areas = 2 stories.  Higher, denser is destructive.  It lacks vision.  Preserve our Santa Monica "beach community."  Don't destroy it with metropolis high-rises. 

As Chair of the Recreation & Parks Commission, I am deeply committed to fixing an inequity: We have a sub-standard inventory of parks in comparison to other cities in the state. That must be fixed. I'll get it done.

b. Please comment on the proposals for a number of skyscraper hotels on Ocean
Avenue that appear to be in conflict with Coastal Act requirements for
protecting coastal views.

I oppose each one of the three development proposals in question: The Miramar, the Gehry Tower, and the Wyndham.  We only have one coastline.  We only have one shot at preserving it. We'd better get it right.

TREES/WILDLIFE/BEACHES: 7. TREES: What is your position on long-established trees?  The mature trees that the City removes are being replaced with very young ones that lack foliage during part of the year, and it will take decades to replace the mature trees’ ability to absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen, help cool buildings naturally, absorb rain to avoid excessive urban runoff, and provide habitat for wildlife. If the city decides to again cut down healthy, mature trees, what would you do to protect these environmentally-beneficial trees?

The previous urban forester and the Urban Forest Task Force chose trees on many streets that will not provide the year around tree canopy that we need in Santa Monica. That’s a mistake. The downtown ficus tree debacle is a symbol of business desires triumphing over resident needs. I will be asking the Urban Forest Task Force to re-evaluate its tree inventory and replacement plan. As a City Council Person I will resist any efforts to remove trees that are healthy and provide all of the benefits that you described above. I will be an advocate for trees, both public and private, in our city. By the way, this is not only a Santa Monica issue. It’s an issue statewide. Armed with the proper tools I can pursue this on a statewide basis as well.

8. WILDLIFE:  Santa Monica was aggressive in its efforts to protect the Ballona Wetlands and its surrounding natural, wild open spaces from the massive Playa Vista development, including engaging in litigation.  The 600+ acres saved are now threatened again with a mechanized habitat alteration (excavation of at least 2 million cubic yards, demolishing levees where an equilibrium has become established), and bulldozing/clearing the entire reserve.  If elected, what would you do to support the Sierra Club’s position to have a bulldozer-free genuine restoration (bulldozers ONLY to remove asphalt on parking lots), and to prevent a big foundation (Annenberg) from essentially privatizing a significant portion of the ecological reserve to build the center
that they want for dogs & cats there? 
 
Allowing the Playa Vista development was wrong.  Since its inception, and continuing to today, they tell us they've created more/better wetlands for the wildlife. That's laughable. Again, we can't make more land. The small amount of wild wetlands we still have should be preserved. Hands off. I will join with the Sierra Club in opposing the Annenberg Plan. This is not the place for dog and cat rescue. It’s the spot (one of the few) that birds can use as a respite where we can still observe nature and see what once was the norm in that area. It’s wrong, plain and simple.

9. BEACHES: More and more, there is recognition that “beach grooming” – using big machines that use fossil fuel and drip oil onto the sand, while often churning Styrofoam, plastic and other trash into the sand to bury it, is not the best way to clean our beaches, especially since the “wrack” at the water’s edge is important for migrating birds and some marine life.  What would you do as a City Councilmember to help change the paradigm for beach cleaning that is more sustainable?

I want to learn more about this problem, as I was not aware of this issue. Thank you for informing me about it. I will bring this up in staff meetings next week and start a discussion on what we can do to mitigate this issue. I would also encourage the Sierra Club to give me back up information so I can be more informed on this issue. This may be an issue I can pursue as the immediate Past President of the California Association Of Parks and Recreation Commissions & Board Members (CalParksBoard) as well.

RENEWABLE ENERGY 10.a. Residential rooftop photovoltaic solar panel installation is one way that homeowners can avoid increasing electric bills, while also decreasing their carbon footprint. Decentralized power generation can also decrease the need to construct new centralized power plants and new transmission lines.  Costs and requirements for permits to install residential rooftop solar vary from one city to another, and can be one of the greatest barriers to installing solar panels. Project Permit has gathered information from various cities and made it publicly available at www.projectpermit.org  The data can be viewed at http://projectpermit.org/toolkit/download-scorecard-data/# According to Project Permit, Santa Monica receives a score of "GOOD". What changes, if any, do you think Santa Monica should make in the way it permits residential rooftop photovoltaic solar installation to improve your city’s score?

I never want Santa Monica to receive a “good” score. That’s not good enough! We need to make sure that it’s easy to install solar panels and that the permit process is expedited. I have also advocated that we begin to install our own micro power grid to back up power to our downtown. In addition, we have to push Edison much harder to have them upgrade our power vaults and transformers in Santa Monica. And, frankly, we may want to examine the strides Boulder, Colorado, and other cities have made in power production and consumption. We are following right now instead of leading. That shouldn’t be Santa Monica’s way. I have to add one more thing. I have been a great advocate for greening alleys, greening roofs and the walls of buildings. The staff have ignored these serious recommendations. As a Council Person they will not be able to ignore my wishes to have a greener city.

 b. What can you do to help your constituents decrease their dependence on petroleum?

Provide great, green transportation choices in our city. If it becomes faster and easier not to drive because we provide stellar green public transportation, then the use of petroleum will decrease. As a city we need to make sure our fleet is the greenest it can be. We can also be more innovative in our approach. A year ago, I advocated the use of electric golf carts to provide block to block free transportation on our shopping boulevards. The CVB has adopted them. However our Big Blue Bus system balked. I’ll change that.

11.  a.  Do you support or oppose fracking? 

I oppose it.  There is too much to learn about its long-range impact on our aquifers.

b. If you oppose it, does it disturb you that some of the LNG used to power the Big Blue Bus operation is from fracked natural gas sources? 

It does, naturally.  But we don't want to return to the more air-polluting option of diesel fuel.  As a council person I will direct staff to contract with LNG suppliers that are not using “fracked” sources. We need to discourage fracking in all areas of our nation.

c. If so, what will you do about this?

I will continually monitor technological advancements that will power our mass transit and personal transport. I will work to reduce our dependence from all hazardous forms of energy. This is a very big problem, and this is a very general answer.  But, as a City Councilmember, rest assured that I will continue to be bold enough to let Sacramento know where we stand and what we expect.

 YOUR CAMPAIGN 12. a. How is your campaign proceeding? 

This is a grassroots campaign.  This is about issues, not political opportunism.  Our campaign is being waged by hundreds of my neighbors and friends across the city, including several with professional experience in campaign politics.  Our campaign office is around the kitchen tables and in the living rooms of dozens of volunteers.  We are dedicated to knocking on more doors, and speaking with more people, than any other candidate in the race.  City Hall needs a shake-up.  We are asking a simple question:  WHAT DO WE DO ABOUT IT?


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