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Ross Maza is ready to address balanced development if elected to City Council

Ross Maza is running for the Alhambra City Council's 2nd District. Photo courtesy of Ross Maza.

Location

Alhambra , CA United States

Since childhood, Ross Maza has dreamed of running for City Council in order to make a difference. He’s worked as a real estate broker and just finished a six year stint on Alhambra’s planning commission. In both roles, he’s talked to numerous locals about their concerns with development, traffic and public safety and is ready to address those issues if he’s elected. “With three seats open, now is the time,” he said of deciding to run. He’s the only candidate running for the City Council’s 2nd District. Read more about where Maza stands on key issues and the ideas he has for solving them.

What are some challenges in Alhambra that you want to work on as a City Council member?

Residents feel like there may have been overdevelopment in the city in past years. There’s a challenge of balancing that development out and really just having a positive meeting ground between developers and the residents, where everyone’s happy.

Traffic, of course, is another challenge in the city. The 710 would’ve been the obvious option. With that being off the table for the most part, I think we have to work with and improve what we have to try and minimize traffic.

Public safety isn’t necessarily a challenge, but it’s something that we have to take a look at and pay attention to going forward, so that we minimize the crime within the city and the fear of some of the residents.

What would balanced development look like to you? What would you take into account as a City Council member when you’re considering a development?

I think we have to consider that development isn’t going to stop altogether. I think if we’re going to balance it, I think there has to be good communication between the residents, City Council commissions and the development team. I think before a project even incepts, I think we have to get together with both sides, and have a developer be aware or residents’ concerns. If we’re talking about residential development, high-density for example, we have to try and see if we can implement some affordable housing within those developments. We can learn from some of the past developments moving forward, but the main thing is opening up lines of communication between the residents, City Council and the developers.

Would you be in favor of mandating set-asides for affordable housing or anything like that?

I don’t know that I would support a mandate per se. But I would definitely push in future developments moving forward for developers to just be aware and be conscious of that in order for those projects to move forward. But as far as a mandate, I would have to look more into that.

What about historic preservation?

I support preservation, preservation of our heritage, preserving our structures as much as we possibly can, making people aware of that. I think the Alhambra Preservation Group has done a good job getting people involved and making them aware. As a matter of fact, there was a property that I remodeled in North Alhambra maybe 15 years ago. And they rewarded the property with one of their Alhambra Preservation Group awards, which was obviously an honor, and I just think it’s great. If I’m fortunate enough to be on City Council, I would love to collaborate with the Preservation Group to put something in place that’s a little more formal, in terms of preserving structures going forward.

You voted against the Lowe’s development on the planning commission. What lessons from that would you take to the City Council?

Overall, I loved the project. It was very well thought out. I think it would’ve been great for a very blighted area. It would’ve been a hundred times improved upon what was there before, obviously. I think the main concern for me that at the time I felt that we couldn’t get past was the traffic that it would’ve created.

I think it goes back to making clear the concerns of the residents, with regards to traffic. I can’t say that that area was overdeveloped, because that site really was — it was ideal for the project. What it wasn’t ideal for was the traffic that it may have created. So again, if we go back to that traffic, how do we mitigate that situation and the traffic coming from these projects?

What are some ideas you have in terms of alleviating traffic?

The expansion of our existing ACT program would be one. Potentially, how likely or realistic it may be, I don’t know. Once I have the opportunity to be on City Council, we have to see. I think possibly the creation of maybe a shuttle system within the city. If that were to become a reality, that, along with the ACT bus, would have to be almost advertised a little bit more to the residents so that more people are aware of it. Because I know residents that aren’t. I think it’s a great program. So I think the expansion and the improvement of what we already have is key. There isn’t much we can do to minimize traffic in the city instead of obviously to stop development, which is not going to happen, per se. So I think making people aware that we need to minimize car trips. How do you minimize car trips? You walk, you bike, safely. Or you take the city transit system.

Would you support policies that institute bike lanes?

I would, within reason. That’s something that would have to be looked at for safety. If you were to say, “Can we create a bike lane on Main Street? Or Valley or Garfield or Atlantic?” I think that would be unsafe. It would be irresponsible for us to do that. So safely, yes, I absolutely support bike lanes in the city. I don’t know that there are too many options for that. But where it’s safe, I would definitely support it.

What about air pollution and other environmental issues in Alhambra, which is very related to traffic?

That goes back to — what I’d love to see is the use in the city of more local public transportation, safety for pedestrians so people feel like they could walk to places safely. I want there to be lighting at night so it’s safer, it’s more walkable. And of course, just minimizing the car trips in the city. I think that’s a very realistic possibility. If we’re going to make a trip from the supermarket to the post office, if there was a way to productively take public transit or bike there or walk there, I would support that.

What are these fears that residents are having about public safety that you’ve heard of? What are some ideas that you have to address those?

There are fear of burglaries, vehicle break-ins, package theft in the middle of the day. We should make people aware that those things are happening and of course, cooperate with our local police department, so that there is some more awareness with the residents. We should also create better communication and response time with police. I think one of the big things would be neighborhood watch programs. I think at some point probably in the late 80s and mid 70s, I think there were more community watch programs. In terms of raising awareness, I think would be key.

What do you think of the measure that might make it onto the 2020 ballot to change voting for City Council from at-large to by-district?

I wouldn’t support voting by-district, because if I’m going to run for City Council and be part of a five-member council, I want to use my voice for the interest of the entire city, not just a particular district. So I feel that if I have to speak or if I have to vote on parks for the city or anything that might affect the entire city, services or whatnot, I want us to all have a voice and I want to be apart of that voice. So I support at-large voting.

The measure also calls for capping campaign contributions. What do you think of that?

I’m ok with capping. I never thought of an amount per se, but it could be $500 or $750. It could be $1,000. I think we would have to look more closely at the amount, but I’m ok with capping. In my case, my plan is and has been to self-fund as much as possible. So I’ve never really been part of seeking out contributions per se.

What do you think of a recent student campaign to lower the voting age for school board elections to 16?

I think it’s great that students are willing to become more involved and more engaged at a younger age. I think kids today — I have two daughters, and they seem to be more involved and aware than I would’ve been when I was 16. At least in regards to local elections and school board, I would be supportive of that. I think it’s great. Obviously, we’d have to educate these kids as to what it takes and what they’re doing and the responsibility that comes with it, but at least for something local, I think it’s great that they’re wanting to get involved.

Are there any last words you want to say about your run for City Council?

I’m just hopeful that I have the opportunity to serve on City Council and move the city forward productively.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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