In an effort to help residents of the San Gabriel Valley make more informed decisions when selecting their local representatives, and provide insight into candidates views on transportation issues, BikeSGV developed the following candidate survey for local contested races in the SGV. Responses are posted in the order they are received. Here are responses from Eric Sunada, Candidate for the City of Alhambra District 1.
1. How do you usually commute to work?
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 should implement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector?
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 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?
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? Why?
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.