Alex Fisch responses to Endorsement Questionnaire

 

  1. What is your single greatest reason for wanting to serve on the Culver City City Council?

I believe that Culver City is at a fulcrum moment and that I can contribute a great deal right now. Some parts of the city have received huge public and private investment that some worry is changing the character of the city, while other neighborhoods feel left out. We must harness this change as a force for the common good.

To retain the diversity that makes Culver City strong, we must find ways to preserve and expand housing for people of all income levels, while maintaining the livability, sense of place, and community that people treasure about the city.

We must also begin to take seriously at the local level the need to prevent climate breakdown, and begin to adapt to the warming that we have already made inevitable.

I believe that I have skills needed to guide Culver City toward a future that is diverse, inclusive, and sustainable, environmentally and fiscally. If we try to keep things the same in superficial ways, we will lose the things—and the people—that make the city special.

  1. What in your experience prepares you for serving as a Culver City city councilperson?

I currently serve as the Chair of the Culver City Committee on Homelessness. I have been a member of the Committee since 2015.

The Committee on Homelessness has been very active over the past three years. When Los Angeles County promulgated the 47 strategies that originally comprised the regional plan to combat and prevent homelessness (the “Homeless Initiative”), I took a leading role in researching and analyzing the opportunities for Culver City to partner in implementing the Homeless Initiative. The Homeless Initiative incorporates numerous strategies designed to reduce the number of people experiencing homelessness, coordinate among jurisdictions for efficiency and effectiveness, and create an integrated system for delivering vital resources and abating the crisis.

On the recommendation of the Committee on Homelessness, the Culver City city council adopted a resolution, which I drafted, to partner with the County in the Homeless Initiative. The Committee on Homelessness then obtained funding in the 2017-18 city budget for pilot programs in rapid rehousing, homelessness prevention, and grants to provide life safety upgrades for seniors, and reallocated a portion of its Housing Choice Vouchers to provide permanent supportive housing.

I drafted an ordinance to provide more economic opportunities for people transitioning into the workforce, disabled veteran-owned businesses, and small local businesses that city staff is currently reviewing. Additionally, the Committee on Homelessness recently won a $50,000 grant of Measure H funds to update its homelessness plan.

I helped spearhead a campaign against a local measure that would have taken the authority to hire and fire the police and fire chiefs away from the city council members and given it to the city manager. That campaign was very successful and the electorate voted the measure down by a wide margin.

I am a member of the steering committee for BikeCulverCity (formerly Culver City Bicycle Coalition) and have been a vocal advocate for Vision Zero and enhanced pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure.

I am a founding member of the Rancho Higuera Neighborhood Association and currently serve as a member of its board of directors. We have developed a traffic plan for our neighborhood, secured $1.1 million of private funding to calm traffic and improve pedestrian and bicycle safety, and are presently working with city staff to realize the street improvements that we have proposed.

In 2014, I left a successful career as a corporate bankruptcy lawyer to work in the Natural Resources Law Section of the California Attorney General’s Office representing the Air Resources Board, the State Water Resources Control Board and Regional Water Boards, the Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, and several other agencies changed with managing and protecting the state’s natural resources.

I do not mean to suggest that the office or the Attorney General in any way endorse my candidacy; instead, I believe that my choice to leave a lucrative career to work as a civil servant on issues that are important to me—both professionally and civically—demonstrates my values. I made this transition, in part, because I am confident that the people of California will continue to prioritize the protection and preservation of our natural resources. I am proud to be a part of that effort in my career.

I am an active member of BikeCulverCity and have assisted other organizations like Ballona Creek Renaissance when I have seen opportunities to provide specialized assistance. In the past, I have worked with CalPIRG and supported myriad environmental organizations.

I am currently working with professionals from the Center for Biological Diversity and local advocates to prepare comments to the Draft Environmental Impact Report for the Inglewood Oil Field.

  1. Describe your vision for Culver City by sharing your top three goals for the city.

a.) I want to ensure that the Inglewood Oil Field is closely regulated to protect human health. That includes establishing a 2,500 foot buffer zone between oil production facilities and homes, parks, and schools; banning fracking and other enhanced well stimulation techniques; permitting no net new wells (i.e., for each new well permitted, an existing well must be safely plugged and abandoned; and creating a fund to cover cleanup at the end of the oil field’s life.

We must also begin the process of winding down the oil field and planning for future uses of the land that are beneficial to the public and restorative to the environment.

b.) As Culver City embarks on a once-in-two-generations general plan update, I would like to guide the process so that residents; local businesses; staff; experts; environmental, social justice, housing, and transportation advocates; and other stakeholders are deeply engaged in a democratic process. If the general plan is the result of a truly informed and pluralistic process, it will be an effective and useful blueprint for an evolution that maximizes shared prosperity and public and private good.

c.) I will continue the work that I have begun with the Committee on Homelessness by implementing programs, in coordination with the County, that prevent and combat homelessness. Culver City must play a meaningful role in addressing the homelessness crisis.

  1. Explain and describe one of the challenges facing this city and its residents. What policy proposals do you have for meeting that challenge?

Although housing affordability is the most pressing challenge, regulating and planning for a future without the Inglewood Oil Field should be the top priority because the Draft Environmental Impact Report is nearly complete and the next council can complete new regulations in the near future. My policy goals are set forth in section 3(a).

  1. Do you believe that the City of Culver City can play a role in improving the affordability of homes, in particular rental homes, in Culver City? If so, describe that role. If the city cannot play that role, explain the reason.

Increasing the supply of diverse housing stock along with securing funds and approving the construction of below market housing is the only way to provide affordable housing in the mid to long-term. Culver City is about to embark in a once in two generations general plan update.

With the guidance of the right council, the general plan update process will present an opportunity for the public to better understand the link between land use and affordability, while considering transportation opportunities and challenges. Throughout the process, which is already underway, I will emphasize the need for housing and the reality that the State will legislate local land use (planning by the metaphorical hammer) if we do not act responsibly to provide homes commensurate with the crisis-level need (planning with a scalpel).

I will also advocate for rules that will foster incremental development and allow the “missing middle” of housing, such as increasing the maximum size of permitted accessory dwelling units. I will fully support the creation of below market homes using the approximately $2 million per year of repayment that Culver City is receiving from the wind down of Redevelopment, and any other federal, state, or county money that is provided for below market homes.

  1. What step/s, if any, can the City take to better protect renters from ever-increasing rent?

I have concerns about certain forms of rent control, but I would encourage a public dialogue about various already existing and possible alternative market interventions. Past councils have actively sought to silence advocates, which simply encourages housing legislation by citizen initiative, which is unlikely to represent the best public policy.

At a minimum, we should consider requiring a lengthy notice period, perhaps 6 months, before any rent increase above the rate of inflation. We should also require landlords to provide a variety of notices at the commencement of a lease, informing tenants of their rights. Finally, we should consider pairing a just cause eviction with other tools that will provide security for tenants.

I am open to any sound policy that respects the rights of lessors while providing security to tenants.

Fundamentally, however, the current rent explosion reflects a failure to build homes for people. Building more places for people to live in a way that does not displace those who currently live in less expensive housing is the single best hope to constrain rents and address poverty in coastal California.

  1. What are your views regarding drilling in the Inglewood Oil Field? If you see drilling there as problematic, what are a few or all of the concerns you have?

We need to end neighborhood oil drilling in the long term. It is inherently dangerous and unhealthy, and it further pushes us down the path to climate breakdown. It poisons the air, endangers our water, and induces seismicity. We need to regulate the oil field closely and begin to plan for its retirement.

  1. What steps, if any, should the City take to protect its residents from oil and gas drilling on the Inglewood Oil Field?

In addition to the regulatory proposals set forth above in paragraph 3(a), we should consider imposing an extraction tax to pay for regular inspections and training for our fire department. Culver City should promote its stringent regulation in neighboring residential areas in LA County and the City of Los Angeles so that action is taken regionally to end neighborhood oil drilling.

  1. Some residents have stated that they would like to see the oil field used for purposes other than oil drilling. Do you agree? If so, how would you like to see the oil field used?

Absent an overwhelmingly clear and compelling empirical demonstration that the land within the oil field is safe for daily contact by people of all ages and all sensitivities, the oil field should be reserved as either open space after habitat restoration or alternative energy production.

After nearly 100 years of continuous oil production, there are surely some unknown dangers on the property, which emphasizes the need for a bond or other financial guarantee costs of closure and post-closure costs of remediation.

  1. Name and describe two opportunities afforded the City by creation of a new General Plan.

The creation of more housing for all income levels and better transportation options! Housing and transportation are intimately linked. The general plan update offers the opportunity to garner support for the creation of diverse housing, linked by people-friendly streets to places that meet the daily needs of residents as well as high quality regional transportation options.

When housing and transportation are discussed together, it is easier to envision how a more affordable, diverse, and sustainable city might look.

Equally as important, the general plan update will ensure that changes to the city are equitable. The current tendency to produce only massive projects that dramatically change neighborhoods sparks justified neighborhood backlash. This tendency has been repeated throughout coastal California for the past four decades, which is the single largest contributor to today’s crisis of affordability and homelessness.

In the general plan update, we can revisit some basic rules that have prevented incremental, sustainable, human-scaled growth, while ensuring that major projects are equitably distributed and built to serve residents.

  1. What are your views regarding the value of election consolidation?

Democracy works best when all voices are heard. Government therefore should not create barriers to participation, least of all in the electoral process. The evidence is overwhelming that the single factor that has the most positive impact on voter turnout in local elections is scheduling elections so that they coincide with state and national elections. The average turnout in our four most recent statewide general elections was nearly 40 percentage points higher than the average turnout in our last four municipal elections.

Culver City’s experience is consistent with the conclusions of academics who have studied this issue. One study of California cities found that turnout in off-cycle city elections averaged 36 percentage points lower than in city elections held during presidential elections. In fact, the single largest predictor of voter turnout is whether city elections are held at the same time as state and federal elections.

Recent research also shows that it is organized interest groups that benefit most from low turnout, off-cycle elections. Organized groups will, in any election, be disproportionately effective in advocating for their interests.

Additionally, I believe that a court would agree with the attorney general’s recent opinion that increasing turnout by consolidating elections goes to the integrity of the electoral process and serves as a way to lessen discrimination against marginalized voters. If Culver City were to be sued for refusing to consolidate elections, the city would be responsible for the plaintiff’s attorney’s fees under the California Voter Participation Act.

I have great respect for the arguments against consolidation. Consolidation will present new challenges. I believe, however, that consolidation would be a positive step toward building a more participatory and democratic future.

  1. What means do you suggest for encouraging residents from all areas of the city to participate in civic life?

The city should continue to expand its digital outreach. The city must use every means available to engage the community in the general plan process, and special attention must be paid to engaging groups that do not usually participate, such as renters and lower-income residents. The city council should help organize neighborhoods that do not presently have active associations, and should regularly hold community meetings throughout the city.

  1. Describe any policy you would want to create or support that would improve the quality of life for the City’s children.

I believe that implementing Vision Zero and making our streets safer is one of the most important things that City Council can do for both children and seniors. Approximately 37,000 people were killed by cars in the US last year. Nearly 6,000 of those killed were pedestrians. The pedestrians who are killed are disproportionately seniors and children.

Second to providing homes for our lower income and unsheltered neighbors. we must stop this dull drumbeat of preventable deaths and embrace safe, sustainable, and livable streets.

I also want to make sure that the City works closely with the schools to ensure that there are affordable, high-quality programs available for children after and outside of school. Finally, we need to consider how to provide safe public space that serves the needs of our teenagers.

 We should consider providing wifi in public parks, along with study space and play spaces that are appealing to teens and young adults.

  1. Describe any policy you would want to create or support that would improve the quality of life for the City’s seniors.

I will preserve and augment the Culver City bus system, which is vitally important to seniors who are no longer able to drive.  

I will work to expand the life safety grant program that the Housing Administrator revived this fiscal year, which helps seniors pay for repairs that keep them in their homes.  

I will continue the Senior Center’s services and explore opportunities and needs to expand those services or move location specific services throughout the city.