It's not what we say, but it's really what we do that matters. I am very principled and always vote my values.
Our district is populated with working families, and safety is always a chief concern. A rise in home values has led to adverse incentives for property crime like car theft, package theft, and break-ins. Small businesses have been vandalized.
As President Biden has said, “When it comes to public safety in this nation, the answer is not defund the police, it's fund the police.” Here is the slogan I stand behind: "Residents should be respected by law enforcement, and residents should respect law enforcement."
A reduction in the police force is not the answer. Instead, I will go in the opposite direction and see how police, fire, and emergency response services can be maintained at a level that ensures adequate public safety and prompt response times. I will support funding for officer training on responding to reports of emotionally distressed individuals. And I will work with the police department to expand community policing initiatives, facilitate neighborhood watch groups, and enhance community-police relations and communication through popular platforms like Nextdoor. I want to make sure our residents and our law enforcement are connected on key issues that are most important to them.
The police have been overburdened with expectations to solve problems beyond the scope of their core function. For example, if a mentally ill individual is having an episode, then the first responder should be a mental health professional rather than a police officer. Of course, this may not always be feasible, such as if the individual possesses a deadly weapon. But my overall approach is that law enforcement should be supplemented with other first responders who may be better suited to handle certain situations.
This is perhaps the most visible change in our district, and certainly the most troubling. According to a recent survey, 89% of Bay Area voters view homelessness as an extremely or very serious problem. I am one of them.
In the past few years, the unhoused population in the South and East Bay spiked by over 40%. It's estimated that there are about 30,000 homeless persons in the Bay Area.
A significant portion of the homeless population suffers from mental illnesses and/or substance use disorders. There have been reports of unhoused individuals with substance use disorders leaving behind drug paraphernalia, which is a grave concern of many of the voters I have talked to, especially those with families. The litter strewn alongside freeway ramps, creeks, and neighborhoods has only added to the unease. As a resident has observed, "the build-up of garbage around our area is a health hazard as well as a visual blight."
The unhoused population is not monolithic. Some folks ended up living in their cars, on the streets, or near creeks because their rent payments exceeded their ability to pay. Others who worked two or three jobs abruptly lost one of them and could no longer afford rent.
Because individuals become unhoused for different reasons, the solution cannot be a one-size-fits-all approach. I will rely on a comprehensive analysis of the problem that examines its roots, its consequences, and feasible solutions. I will work with a broad coalition of stakeholders that encompasses community organizations, municipal officials, county officials, state legislators, and public-private partnerships. Only then can we develop an approach that balances compassion with fiscal prudence.
Soaring property values have dramatically transformed our district from the way it was just a generation ago. Many parents are faced with the stark reality that if their grown children want to get their own place, they must move out of the Bay Area entirely. Seniors on fixed incomes are feeling pinched.
The statistics reflect what we all feel. A decade ago, about 45% of Bay Area families could fit a home purchase into their budget. Now, just 22% can afford it. To put that into perspective, roughly half of U.S. households nationwide have enough income to buy a home.
Here's another way to look at it. In the 1960s, Bay Area homes cost twice a typical family income. Now, it's nine times.
There is no magic bullet, but there are steps to make it easier for working families:
More ADUs. I will work to incentivize the installation of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) to increase the available supply of housing. I will also reduce unnecessary regulations on their construction and constitution. Residents should not have to navigate through a bewildering obstacle course of permits and clearances in order to install and rent out an ADU.
Incentivize developers to build more affordable housing. Fremont assesses in lieu fees on developers who don't include enough affordable housing units in their building projects. The fees are deposited into a dedicated account that can only be tapped for affordable housing projects. I will take a closer look at the fee structure, so incentives are properly aligned toward the construction of more affordable housing units as part of larger building projects.
More community bridge housing (tiny homes). These structures can be constructed cheaply and speedily as transitional housing for individuals who need a roof over their head. They are not meant to be a permanent solution, but they are a sturdy bridge from homelessness to housed.
Remove artificial barriers to housing construction. I will judiciously cut through the thicket of government regulations that unnecessarily restrict the efficient construction of new housing. We need more shovels in the ground as soon as possible.
Zoning flexibility. There should be a wider distribution of housing than the status quo. We can and should have more multifamily units. This approach would not necessarily lead to a reduction in the quality and character of neighborhoods. In fact, living in denser housing can often lead to a greater sense of community among residents. With that being said, zoning changes alone will not solve the affordable housing crisis. And there are legitimate concerns about increases in traffic congestion, greenhouse gas emissions, parking difficulties, and noise. This approach can be effective in moderate doses but has diminishing returns if applied excessively.
Beyond SB 9. Senate Bill 9, which came into effect at the beginning of this year, allows homeowners to split parcels zoned for a single home in half so as many as two housing units can be built on each. For example, a detached suburban home can be split into two separate units. There are exceptions to SB 9, such as single-family parcels in historic districts. San Jose is considering a proposal that would go beyond SB 9 and put an end to single-family zoning restrictions in historic districts. Another proposal would go beyond duplexes and allow for triplexes and fourplexes. If these proposals pass, I will closely monitor their effects to determine if similar measures should be introduced in Fremont.
Dense, mixed-use housing near public transit. This approach has the advantage of increasing the supply of housing while mitigating concerns about aggravating traffic congestion and air pollution. Having visited several east coast cities, I've been amazed by how easy it was to get around without needing a car. In fact, it was more of a hassle to have a car than to use public transit. Bay Area neighborhoods were built with a car-centric approach decades ago, and shifting to an environmentally friendly model would require lots of changes, such as greater availability of public transportation. But overall, I see lots of promise in this approach.
Innovative approaches. I'm a supporter of infill housing, which is defined as housing that is constructed on unused or underutilized land. Such housing should be located close to public transit if possible. Vacant lots are an eyesore, and can lower the value of surrounding properties. They are often owned by deep-pocketed corporate speculators for the purpose of future flipping without serious efforts at development in the interim. A couple of years ago, Oakland passed a vacancy tax that would apply to these empty properties. I will look closely at how it's faring in order to see if a similar measure should be introduced in Fremont.
None of the above steps will definitively vanquish the problem of affordable housing in our district, let alone our city. Any politician who tells you otherwise is making false promises. The chief cause of the affordable housing crisis is a geographical concentration of wealth generation that is unprecedented in the history of the world.
Nevertheless, there is much we can do to mitigate the strain on working families in our district. I will work closely with state lawmakers, county supervisors, other councilmembers, and community groups to chart a way forward.
I understand the value of entrepreneurship because I have been an entrepreneur for over twenty years. I know what it's like when a permit takes too long to get approved, or when foot traffic drops over local safety concerns.
Small businesses are the backbone of our community. It is especially important not to place too many burdens on businesses that are just starting out. We should encourage folks who want to start a local business and give them guidance.
Infant businesses should be nurtured, not smothered, by City Hall. When small businesses are allowed to grow and flourish, more jobs are created and the entire community benefits.
Research has shown that for every dollar we invest in education, we receive three dollars back in increased economic output. Spending should be coupled with performance metrics and other accountability mechanisms.
There are creative ways in which we can increase funding. I will work to make it easier for residents to book school facilities for community events. The rental and use costs will translate into greater revenue for our schools. I will also introduce vocational training programs in high schools, which will prepare the students who enroll in them for jobs with immediate, real-world demand. The same goes for courses in such high-demand areas as coding.
Bringing young people into our (system?) introduces them to the reality of our future and ensures the success of the next generation. We have a variety of committees and resources for our city that can benefit from insight through the lens of the youth. (I will advocate) for more involvment within our processes for the younger generation to enable them to be involved in their communities.
Many debates about government center around whether it should be bigger or smaller. I think government should be smarter. Government should be lean and efficient. Government should accomplish more with less. Instead of raising taxes and fees, our city should do everything it can to make better use of each hard-earned taxpayer dollar.
As a member of the Citizens Access Committee, I have seen the status quo in Fremont. The annual city budget duly documents expenditures in various categories, but these categories are often very broad. We need a more granular breakdown of spending in specific areas in order to enhance fiscal responsibility, transparency, and accountability.