LocationAlhambra , CA
Housing issues emerged as a principal concern at the Community and Candidates Forum this week as residents asked about affordable housing, homelessness and the proposed The Villages at The Alhambra development.
Mayor David Mejia, the incumbent City Council member in the fourth district, said the homelessness issue is “very important to [him]” because it is not just Alhambra, but also a regional and state issue. The city should look for Housing and Urban Development funding, grants and advocating for the cause. “Everyone should have a place to stay,” he said.
Chris Olson, the challenger in the council’s third district race, was the most vocal about additional services to battle homelessness; supporting housing that has onsite services like substance abuse counseling to help the “most vulnerable.”
The Villages at The Alhambra has not come before the City Council yet for approval so Mejia and Jeff Maloney, the incumbent in the third district, said they could not take a position on the development itself.
However, when considering any big housing development, Maloney said he wanted the development to have sufficient affordable housing, at least in line with the city’s recently passed inclusionary housing ordinance along with “meaningful traffic mitigation, walkability, and that any new development is contributing to open space, not taking away from it.”
Mejia said his biggest concerns are traffic and greenspace. Mejia cited the affordability housing ordinance and the applicability to a development. “We can negotiate to get what we want,” he said.
Both Olson and Sasha Renée Pérez, who is challenging Mejia, said they oppose The Villages for various reasons, including lack of affordable housing and traffic impact.
Questions of environmental issues were also of concern in the discussion with questions about the lack of parks, environmental sustainability and preservation.
Pérez said that the city should create “pocket parks,” especially in areas that are dense with renters. She said she also wants to pursue designated bike lanes to get people out of their cars and has a climate action plan. And she suggested a composting program for those who have begun to grow their own vegetables and reduce waste.
Olson agreed composting would be “fantastic” and suggested other environmentally friendly activities for the community, like a city-wide recycling event.
Olson, a past president of the Alhambra Preservation Group, was particularly enlivened by the historic preservation topic, saying a preservation ordinance is “not to stop change,” but is to celebrate the history of the city through its built environment. She called for the city to create a dedicated staff and designate historic districts.
The City Council candidates’ forum was sponsored by the League of Women Voters, moderated by former Alhambra teacher Bonnie Skolnick. The Alhambra Latino Association, Alhambra Preservation Group, Alhambra Source and VISA Boosters co-hosted the event over a Zoom webinar that drew 365 participants.
The League of Women Voters picked from nearly 160 submitted questions and chose to address residents’ concerns on police department and public safety, transportation, fiscal planning and city services, and the candidates’ stance on ballot measures.
The candidates are running for City Council seats that have four-year terms. Though they are representing districts, candidates are elected at-large, meaning voters across the city decide the district representation.
Although mostly about the candidates’ positions on the issues, Mejia and Pérez took the opportunity to take small jabs at each other with Mejia highlighting his experience and Pérez highlighting her support system.
All candidates supported updated public transportation focusing on environmentally friendly options like biking and walking, a historic preservation ordinance and agreed that local businesses will need help to recover from the economic depression.
Another fourth district challenger, Karsen Luthi, a retired civil servant and businessman, was not there but had an opening statement that focused on small business revitalization, saying he had the most experience with Alhambra’s small business community, finishing with, “Choose wisely, Alhambra.”
This article will be updated with a link to the recorded event when made available.
The Board of Education forum, Kids and Candidates is Thursday, Oct. 8. RSVP here.