Alhambra residents meet local politicians over ice cream

Residents mingled with local leaders Sunday at the Alhambra Preservation Group's (APG) 8th Annual Ice Cream Social. Alhambra City Councilwoman Barbara Messina, City Council candidate Eric Sunada, and U.S. House of Representatives candidate Jack Orswell joined dozens of residents for a Fosselman's ice cream flavor contest and meet-and-greet.

Residents attend the ice cream social

The group organized the event at The Alhambra so that residents could speak to local politicians before the November election, said APG President Chris Olson. "An effective democracy is really based upon an informed and engaged electorate. And Alhambra Preservation Group is doing its part to help make that happen in our community," Olson said. "We do this for three reasons: To build community, make new friends, and to build support for historic preservation. We try to do something fun and relaxed."

Sunada, who is challenging incumbent Councilman Stephen Sham in the election, told the crowd why he is running for the 1st District seat on City Council. "I want to bring a more equitable return to the residents here," he said, adding that he believes the city should implement a historic preservation ordinance. "One of the things to do is incentivize investment into the neighborhoods. We've incentivized commercial development for years and its time to bring it to the neighborhoods as well.

Sunada was happy to see residents engaging with their local government at the ice cream social and said that two-way communication is crucial for an effective city. "No city can develop without public engagement, transparency, and outreach. Part of a councilman's duties is to take time to meet with residents and meet their needs," Sunada said.

Eric Sunada addresses the crowd on why he is running for City Council

Sunada's supporters were also in attendance, wearing "Vote Eric Sunada for City Council" t-shirts. Caj Birur, clad in a Sunada shirt, pushed for his election. "I support him running for office because he's passionate about public service and passionate about the city treating people justly,Birur said, adding that "everyday citizens would get what they're due" if Sunada is appointed.

Messina also took the stage to stress the importance of preservation and wish the City Council candidates well. "I've always appreciated and supported Alhambra Preservation Group because I do believe in preservation. I believe in preserving the history." Messina said. 

"Everyone is entitled to an opportunity to run and I believe that," she said. "I wish Mr. Sunada the best of luck."

Messina was glad to speak to residents on Sunday. "It's very important for people to engage their local government. People need to know what's going in the community, that they can talk to elected officials and give their input," she said, adding that she belives the city offers adequate transperancy of its activities, including open study sessions that she encourages residents to attend. The next study session is Sept. 29.

Councilwoman Barbara Messina addresses the crowd in support of historic preservation.

Olson was grateful to Messina and Sunada for their preservation efforts. "[Messina] has been a member of APG every year since 2008 and she has supported APG and historical preservation," Olson said. "And it's been a plank in Sunada's platform. I'm glad they both came."

APG is a nonprofit organization that identifies and fights to preserve culturally and historically relevant sites in Alhambra, the APG website states. Olson believes that preserving Alhambra's history is critical because it also preserves its culture. "Preservation of historic architecture in our society supports our culture," she said. "They tell the stories of the people who came before us. We believe that's important."

Alhambra resident Joe Stadler agreed and encouraged Alhambra city government to take an official pro-preservation stance. "The city will hopefully include something in their charter to protect historic sites," he said.

Residents who attended the meet-and-greet enjoyed the opportunity to speak to local leaders. Alhambran Antoinette Morales was invited through an email from APG. "I thought it would be a good opportunity to talk to the council members," Morales said.

The dedicated ice cream scoopers served dozens of residents generous scoops of ice cream

Vi Nguyen attended at the request of a friend to learn about local politics. "I came to support friends and family," Nguyen said.

While the election is not until Nov. 4, residents did vote on Sunday for their favorite Fosselman's ice cream flavor. Four flavors were renamed after historic Alhambra sites or people: "Don Benito Butter Pecan," "Jacob Coffee Bean Chip," "James DeBarth Shorberry," and "Rocky Ramona Road." Jacob Coffee Bean chip won by one vote.

10 thoughts on “Alhambra residents meet local politicians over ice cream”

  1. Here is just one question I invite Ms. Messina, Mr. Sham and Mr. Sunada to respond:
    What would you do to protect pedestrians and motorists from bicycles, rollerblades, skateboards, and etc travelling on sidewalks?

    1. Thanks for engaging.  Walking and biking in Alhambra can be hazardous to one's health.  First, we need to provide better pedestrian safety provisions.  Specifically, we need crosswalks with blinking path lights that are commanded on with the push of a button by the pedestrian.  We also need better signage and lighting, especially in many high traffic/high speed areas, which are numerous in Alhambra.

      We also need to to embrace dedicated bike paths.  This would protect bikers, pedestrians, and motorists alike.

      Development should also be done to promote a walkable city.  We have multi-story, dense buildings with high walls and no set-back from sidewalks.  It's like walking along a 50 ft wall where you're isolated to the bad air and traffic. It doesn't make for a pleasant experience to say the least.  Imagine a city with more open space, pocket parks, dedicated bike paths, enough set-back to accommodate people walking, sitting, standing.

      1. Ordinany citizen

        First, blinking path lights have nothing to do with what I asked. Second, you cannot install dedicated bike paths on every single street. Third, there always are narrow streets for cars, bikes, and pedestrians. Narrow set-back from sidewalks won’t change in the near future. I am very surprised that you did not mention a single word about telling the police to enforce the law that forbids bikes, rollerblades, and skateboards on sidewalks. One can always talk about one’s dream or vision, but let’s deal with what we have now.

      2. Nothing is more real than public safety, and that's primarily what I was dealing with in my previous response.  What we have now are streets that are at times hazardous to walkers and bikers, and the low-hanging fruit is to get cross-walk lights installed and better signage.  Equally vulnerable are our bikers who need bike paths.  Of course you cannot install them on every street, and that is a primary reason for a regional bike plan that implements bike paths on major coordinated arteries.  It helps bikers and pedestrians alike.

        It goes without saying that we are a city of laws and they need to be enforced.  Our police do an excellent job in that regard, but they need more resources.  Street patrol on bikes is one way to address your question, but they need upgraded bikes badly.

        This isn't a dream, it's reality and it needs to be addressed now.

      3. Ordinany citizen

        I think I have said all I need to say and have nothing to add. People can make their own judgement as to whether a regional bike plan is an effective solution to the problem of bikes, rollerblades, skateboards, etc putting pedestrians on sidewalks, big and small, in harm’s way as well as whether police is doing “an excellent job in that regard.” Thank you for your response, which certainly reveals much about your thinking and helps me, and hopefully others, a lot in making a choice in the upcoming election.

  2. Ordinany citizen

    These politicians should read Alhambra Source (or even respond here) in addition to going to an ice cream party. There are so many problems in the city government reflected in posts here.

  3. APG President Chris Olsen said that “people need to get more involved in a Democracy” which I agree 100% – BUT how, where, when can we be made aware of such activities as the ice cream social. I believe this is a major problem in Alhambra – that activities such as the ice cream social have no way of advertised to keep us informed, so we can attend and ask questions of our elected representatives. Occasionally there might be some information in The Alhambra Source, but other than that – nothing else to inform us of political events that we can attend.SAD!

  4. These are some questions being asked by Bike San Gabriel Valley (BikeSGV) members and friends.

    We invite Ms. Messina, Mr. Sham and Mr. Sunada to respond to these questions. They are welcome to post here or at the the http://www.bikesgv.org website.

    Vincent Chang
    President, BikeSGV

    CANDIDATE QUESTIONS FROM BIKESGV

    How do you usually commute to work?

    What are the City’s most urgent transportation needs? How would you address them?

    What can the City Council do to reduce and prevent collisions involving pedestrians, bicyclists and other vulnerable road users?

    Forty years ago over 60% of school children in the United States walked or rode a bicycle to school. Today, that figure is less than 10%. This decline in bicycling and walking (and physical activity in general) has been mirrored by dramatic increases in childhood obesity in California and across the country. What do you think the City Council can do reverse this trend, and encourage families to walk and bike to school?

    AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, calls for the reduction of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by 2020. Passed two years later, SB 375 requires the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to reduce emissions from passenger vehicles and requires regional metropolitan planning organizations to develop “Sustainable Communities Strategies” that integrate transportation, land-use, and housing policies that plan to achieve the emissions targets for their regions. Given that almost half of emissions in LA County come from motor vehicles, what specific policies or plans do you think local cities should implement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector?

    The City of Los Angeles has hosted almost a dozen CicLAvia’s – temporary closures of streets to motor vehicles to allow families and friends to exercise, socialize, and appreciate the City and its public spaces from a new perspective – to date. The events have received tremendous support, and Cities across LA County are now planning on hosting their own events. If elected, would you be willing to partner with the City of LA and/or other nearby cities to bring an open streets event to town?

    Do you use a bicycle in the city? If so, how often and for what purposes (commuting, recreation, errands)?

    A growing number of local cities have either adopted or are in the process of adopting bicycle and pedestrian master plans, including the Cities of Los Angeles, South Pasadena, San Gabriel, Pasadena, Monterey Park, Rosemead, El Monte, South El Monte, Temple City, San Dimas, Baldwin Park, Claremont, Pomona and Los Angeles County. Do you support the adoption of a local bicycle master plan? Why?

    In the early 1900’s, Los Angeles County constructed a watershed management and flood control system using box channels, rivers, and creeks. These waterways currently criss-cross the San Gabriel Valley and provide an opportunity for creating linear park space, regional connectivity to attractive destinations (downtowns, shopping centers, schools, parks, etc.), and safe routes for alternative modes of transportation. What role can the City play in advancing the development of existing, underutilized waterways into community greenways?

    1. Thanks, Vincent.  My responses are below. I will also post them to http://www.bikesgv.org:

      1. How do you most commonly commute to work (drive, Metro, walk, carpool, bike, other).

      In general, I use my car with a few occasions where I used my bike.  Sometimes I used my bike in combination with the bus system under a grant program back in 2007.  But I felt unsafe without bike lanes.  We desperately need more of them and they need to be coordinated among the different cities.  Transportation is regional and doesn't stop at municipal boundaries.

      2. What are the City's most urgent transportation needs?  How would you address them?

      We need to provide efficient and economical transportation for our residents.  Providing connections to the Gold Line through public transportation and safe bicycle routes is key. So is reducing traffic congestion by following the General Plan guidelines for development in our downtown areas. Recent developments have been allowed to bypass the General Plan requirements for parking and density. This overdevelopment is adding to our traffic problem.  Earlier this year my wife and I took public transportation from our home to San Francisco.  The largest delay was right here in Alhambra when our bus took 25 minutes to travel less than a mile at 2:30pm.

      3. What can the City Council do to reduce and prevent collisions involving pedestrians, bicyclists and other vulnerable road users.

      The Alhambra City Council must revisit their bike plan draft and make it stronger and safer. The current draft is clearly inadequate and sorely lacks needed provisions for safe bicycling. It has been sitting in city hall with no support from the council to either correct it or vote for implementation. This is unacceptable on many levels, including the need to properly coordinate with our neighboring cities.  Again, transportation is regional and doesn't stop at municipal boundaries. The rest of the San Gabriel Valley is moving forward on connecting with the regional network, but nothing is happening here. San Gabriel reached out recently to the City of Alhambra to work with them on connecting their network with Alhambra. They received no reply from our city. This is not acceptable. We must work with all of our neighbors to build a regional plan.

      Pedestrians crossing streets are injured or killed every year in Alhambra. Flashing strips to allow safe crossing should be installed immediately.  Let's take a moment to reflect on our current situation:  walking as a mode of transportation is unpleasant at best and biking means risking your well-being.  This has got to change.

      4. Forty years ago over 60% of school children in the United States walked or rode a bicycle to school. Today, that figure is less than 10%. This decline in bicycling and walking (and physical activity in general) has been mirrored by dramatic increases in childhood obesity in California and across the country.  What do you think the City Council can do reverse this trend, and encourage families to walk and bike to school?

      I believe most children and families would love to walk and ride their bikes, both for recreation and transportation.  But the fact is that our thoroughfares are some of the most unpleasant and unsafe to walk or bike.  And an increasing number of our residential streets are also unsafe.  A friend of mine who lives on 6th Street in a beautiful home into which he has deeply invested is subject to an almost constant surge of cars.  His young son has absolutely no chance of riding in those streets.

      City council needs to focus on what's within its purview to fix this.  This includes a real bike plan that implements regionally coordinated bike lanes.  It includes responsible development that focuses on the residents to provide a more walkable city.  We need to build for the future, and that includes walking and biking.  But what we have going is completely antithetical to that.  Our current model is one that trends toward a consumer-spending mecca that hurts our small businesses.  We need to focus on making Alhambra a great place to live and work.  Everything from more open-space and pocket parks to things as simple as providing racks to lock your bike are missing.

      5. AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, calls for the reduction of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by 2020. Passed two years later, SB 375 requires the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to reduce emissions from passenger vehicles and requires regional metropolitan planning organizations to develop “Sustainable Communities Strategies” that integrate transportation, land-use, and housing policies that plan to achieve the emissions targets for their regions. Given that almost half of emissions in LA County come from motor vehicles, what specific policies or plans do you think local cities like Alhambra should implement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector?  (e.g., Incentives for city staff to carpool, use public/active transport or other non-motorized modes of transport.)

      The city has been incentivizing commercial development by allowing waivers to density, parking, and open space requirements and by giving cash to developers without an equitable focus on infrastructure and the residents.  We need a more balanced approach that incentivizes a healthy environment and community building, such as programs to promote biking, walking, and public transportation. About eight years ago I took part in a project funded by the MTA, City of Pasadena, and the Federal Transit Administration to get people to utilize biking and public transportation for their commutes.  It subsidized bike purchases by 50% and built a secure bike storage facility at the Del Mar Gold Line station.  We need this sort of thinking here in Alhambra.

      6. The City of Los Angeles has hosted almost a dozen
      11.0pt;color:black”>CicLAvia’s
      – temporary closures of streets to motor vehicles to allow families and friends to exercise, socialize, and appreciate the City and its public spaces from a new perspective – to date. The events have received tremendous support, and Cities across LA County are now planning on hosting their own events. If elected, would you be willing to partner with the City of LA and/or other nearby cities to bring an open streets event to town?

      Yes, absolutely!

      7. Do you use a bicycle in the city? If so, how often and for what purposes (commuting, recreation, errands)

      From 2007 to 2012, I made a conscious effort to use my bike for all errands, to attend city meetings, and even commuted to work on a few occasions.  But I found Alhambra to be far from bike friendly.  It was an unpleasant and often dangerous experience.  I would spend a lot of time mapping out my routes beforehand that involved finding calm streets to use, which added a lot of extra time.  Also, most of the stores and businesses did not have provisions to secure my bike. My wife and I invested in bikes for recreation, but don't feel comfortable riding on the streets of Alhambra.  Instead we transport them to other areas. I look forward to using my bike in Alhambra under a comprehensive bicycle plan.

      8. A growing number of local cities have either adopted or are in the process of adopting bicycle and pedestrian master plans, including the Cities of Los Angeles, South Pasadena, San Gabriel, Pasadena, Monterey Park, Rosemead, El Monte, South El Monte, Temple City, San Dimas, Baldwin Park, Claremont, Pomona and Los Angeles County. Do you support the adoption of a local bicycle master plan?

      Yes, absolutely.  And the longer we wait, the more we adversely affect not only our community but those in the surrounding area.  Transportation is regional.

      9. In the early 1900's, Los Angeles County constructed a watershed management and flood control system using box channels, rivers, and creeks. These waterways currently criss-cross the San Gabriel Valley and provide an opportunity for creating linear park space, regional connectivity to attractive destinations (downtowns, shopping centers, schools, parks, etc.), and safe routes for alternative modes of transportation. What role can the City play in advancing the development of existing, underutilized waterways into community greenways?

      Projects like that should be part of every city's vision.  Alhambra should be taking a serious look at how it can contribute to such regional projects.  My wife and I recently rode along the L.A. River and it has brought new life to that region.  Art studios, pocket parks, and eateries right off the path that cater to bikers has generated a great dynamic. Alhambra needs to expand its vision.  Wild ideas should be encouraged.  They may or may not be implemented, but it spurs other ideas and gives us direction. Imagine the re-structuring of our washes or even the daylighting some of those buried over, dedicated bike paths along them that swirl over to connect to those along streets.  Pie in the sky?  Maybe, but you'd be surprised what can happen with good people working toward a common cause.  We need to make better use of our talent within the city, including our various commissioners who should be focusing on the long-term vision.

      By developing for our community, by making Alhambra the place where people want to live and work is what I'm betting on.  And I think it a better use of our community block grant funding than the current approach that focuses so much on a consumer-based model.  We need a better balance.

  5. And some people believe in preserving the status quo.

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