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Know Your City Council Candidate: Chris Olson

Image courtesy of Chris Olson

 


The Alhambra Source reached out to each candidate, asking for a biography, platform statement and a few reader-generated questions. The Source does not endorse any candidates nor statements.


 

Biography

I was born in Pasadena, attended public schools, and am a lifelong resident of the San Gabriel Valley.  I earned a B.A. in Sociology from CSULA, and after some graduate study began my career in the non-profit sector. This included several years’ experience in organizations advocating for the empowerment of women and girls. Through that experience, I learned a lot of valuable lessons about nonprofit management, and I opened a consulting firm with my wife Lisa — advising nonprofits on fund development and grant writing.  In 1989 we moved to Alhambra and bought a home.  Over the years, our nonprofit clients included a variety of education, arts and culture, healthcare access, housing, environmental and social justice programs.  After losing my wife to cancer in 2015, I continue to do this work today as an independent consultant.

I was appointed to Alhambra’s Design Review Board and serve as its President.  My community service also includes membership on the Board of Directors of Grassroots Alhambra.  A passionate advocate for historic preservation, I was a founding board member and former President of Alhambra Preservation Group.

Platform

My run for City Council is about accepting the responsibility to work for change in Alhambra – to do what I can to help create a more inclusive, equitable, transparent government that addresses the needs of its people in the 21st century.

  • Increased civic engagement — There are too many who have little say in the planning and decision-making processes of our community. I will work to ensure that Alhambrans are engaged in civic life – so that effective systems can address the inequities that exist in the distribution of resources, and better unite us as a community of diverse people and needs.
  • Affordable Housing — I will support a range of policies, including the development of supportive housing and rate-stabilized units, and will work with non-profit developers to incentivize the construction or rehabilitation of housing for low- and moderate-income households.
  • Development that is focused on meeting the needs of Alhambrans — and mitigates the negative impacts of increased density. I believe that City Hall has a responsibility to ensure that development is beneficial to the City in all aspects – not just profit.  That means the creation of affordable housing, park and green space, effective transportations systems, and jobs that pay a living wage.
  • Sustainability Planning – It took the shocking destruction of hundreds of mature trees at a site currently under development – and citizen activism – for the Council to establish a tree protection ordinance. I will advocate for the adoption of a long-range strategy to increase the urban canopy and development of a Climate Action Plan for Alhambra.
  • Historic Preservation – I have long championed the need to establish a comprehensive set of policies that will allow our city to finally enact a historic preservation ordinance.  I will take a leadership role on the Council to ensure its adoption.

Responses

The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated small businesses in Alhambra. What is your plan to help these businesses and reinvigorate the local economy?

Over the last 15 years, Alhambra has invested much of its business identity upon the food service and hospitality industry.  This sector – including its owners and workers — has been severely impacted by the pandemic, putting many out of work entirely.  I will work with local restaurateurs and leaders in the SGV food service community to explore alternate ways of operating their businesses, including pivoting to shared kitchens, home delivery, open-air food halls and outdoor dining.  I will also explore the possibility of direct grants to local small businesses.

How will you help Alhambra reach its affordable housing goals?

I will work with nonprofit developers and social service providers to encourage the creation of permanent supportive housing, affordable housing units to meet the needs of low- and moderate-income households and the rehabilitation of existing older homes with historic character (non-landmark homes) for affordable units.

How do you plan on increasing the city’s green space and tackling sustainability issues?

I have advocated for the creation of a second community garden to be located in the area adjacent to the Joslyn Senior Center in Story Park.  This could be operated as a program pairing older adults with high school students to reduce social isolation and food insecurity.  I will also support the creation of pocket parks, a requirement that large developments include public park space onsite, and examining the possibility of converting a portion of the city’s golf course to park and recreation space open to the public without a fee.

What is your plan for improving the air quality for Alhambra residents?

I will work for the establishment of protected bike lanes that will enable safe routes for commuting to work and school, an increase in clean-air public transportation, incentives for installation of EV charging stations and development of a plan to increase the city’s urban forest.

How will you improve traffic safety for both drivers and pedestrians?

There are several intersections throughout the city that have been identified as posing an increased risk to pedestrians, cyclists and motor vehicles.  I will bring together the Alhambra Police Department, traffic engineers and the people of the community for meetings to discuss ways of addressing these hazards.  In some cases, they may include flashing lights at stop signs and crosswalks, longer signal length for pedestrians, construction of traffic islands to provide “safety zones” for pedestrians or increased traffic enforcement.  We have done a poor job in the past of asking for and listening to public input.  There is a great deal of experience, skill and creativity in our community that is a largely untapped resource.

Visit Chris’ website.

 

Return to the main page for the other candidates’ biographies, platforms and responses.

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