Vinnie on the Environment

Instead of preparing a separate statement on my environmental positions, I decided to just post the questionnaire that I filled out for the Sierra Club (below).  I’m proud to announce that they have indeed endorsed me.  I also prepared a brief video on my history as an environmentalist.

Sierra Club Endorsement Questionnaire 2020

Candidates for Alameda County Board of Supervisors, District 1

  1. Why are you running for the County Board of Supervisors, and what is your environmental record (both in public and in non-public life)?

While I have enjoyed my seven years as a Fremont City Councilmember, I would like to address the issues such as regional planning at the County level.  I believe that some of the key issues that we face in Fremont (i.e. affordable housing, long commute times) must be dealt with at a regional level. As an Alameda County Supervisor I would be more able to participate in these regional issues.

I’m very impressed with the social services that the County provides.  I would love to be involved in making sure that the current level of services is not only maintained but improved upon.  The recent COVID-19 crisis has shown the importance of publiclly funded healthcare systems. 

  1. What is your political background (e.g., elected or appointed offices held)? 

I was elected to the Fremont City Council in 2012 and re-elected in 2016. My term ends in December 2020.  As a Fremont City Councilmember I have served on the following regional agencies:, East Bay Clean Energy, StopWaste, Liaison Committee to the East Bay Regional Park District, Housing Authority of Alameda County, Alameda County Transportation Committee, AC Transit Technical Advisory Committee.

I was elected to the Alameda County Democratic Party Central Committee and was re-elected in 2016.  My term expires in January 2021.

In 2014, I was appointed by ABAG as a board member of the San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority.  I am currently still a board member.

  1. Do you currently hold a political office? If so, what do you see as your major successes?

Fremont City CouncilI was disaapointed in many of the development decisions made by the Fremont City Council.  These decisions favored suburban oriented, sprawling residential development without mixed land uses. In short, developers got what they wanted.  I campaigned on a platform of not accepting campaign contributions from developers.  I was the first candidate I know of to do this.  This trend caught on and we now have a majority of Councilmembers that do not take developer money!  The Council has flipped from one that used to approve developer’s proposals without objection to one that pushes back on their requests.

I have brought forth referrals on denouncing oil car rail traffic through Fremont, rent stabilization, minimum wage increase, and establishing a sanctuary city status.  All of these were successful with the exception of rent stabilization which only resulted in expanding the existing non-binding mediation program.

Alameda County Democratic Party Central Committee – I’ve often been a voice for environmental matters that come before the committee.  For example, I spoke to the group in support of Measure AA in 2014. 

  1. What are your five top environmental concerns for areas within District One?
  1. Regional Planning – This might not seem like an environmental issue but it most definitely is.  The huge jobs/housing imbalance in the SF Bay Area has resulted in horribly long commutes for many residents.  We need more jobs in the housing rich areas of southern Alameda County. Of course, auto transportation accounts for the largest generation of greenhouse gases.
  2. Affordable Housing – Again, this IS an environmental issue.  Lower income employees in the County can often only afford housing well outside of the County resulting in long auto trips.  We must work to provide affordable housing closer to our job centers.
  3. Locally Generated Renewable Energy – I am proud to be an early supporter of East Bay Community Energy before it became an official entity.  I have served as Fremont’s representative since its first meeting.  I am a strong believer in locally generated renewable energy.  We need to focus on building more local solar, wind and other renewable energy sources, as well as acquiring clean energy from non-local sources.

At an EBCE meeting earlier this year I spoke out against the proposal to acquire nuclear energy as part of our portfolio.  I will gladly vote against this proposal when it comes to a vote of the EBCE (currently scheduled for 4/22).

  1. Recycling / Waste Control – The environmental impact of waste is enormous, not just from the standpoint of having to dispose/recycle the waste, but there is significant GHG generation in making excessive plastic, etc. Given the change in China’s policy towards taking our recyclables, we need to work hard to reduce, reuse and recycle.
  2. Improved Public Transit / Transit Oriented Development – The percentage of people using public transit is woefully low in southern Alameda County.  The main traffic pattern here is people from San Joaquin County, the Tri-Valley and the Fremont area to The Peninsula and Silicon Valley.  While BART serves traffic to SF and Oakland, the bulk of this traffic has no viable transit option.  (ACE is effective in what it does but it can only serve a small amount of this traffic.)

We not only need large transit expenditures, we need transit-oriented development. 

  1. What environmental issues have you supported in the past? Please be specific but no need to go on at great length.
  • Patterson Ranch – Worked with the Sierra Club to oppose a large development right next to Coyote Hills Regional Park.

 (See question 8 for more issues I’ve worked on.) 

  1. Do you belong to any environmental groups? If so, which ones?
  • Sierra Club, life member
  • Greenpeace
  • Nature Conservancy
  • Audobon Society
  • California Bicycle Coalition
  • Bike East Bay
  • League of Conservation Voters
  • Bay Area Ridge Trail Council
  • Regional Parks Foundation
  • Tri-City Ecology Center
  1. Have you ever held a leadership position in an environmental group? If so, please describe.
  • Executive Committee, Southern Alameda County Group, Sierra Club  – 2002-2004 (dates approx.)
  • Chair, Southern Alameda County Group, Sierra Club  – 2004-2012 (dates approx.)
  • Executive Committee, Sierra Club SF Bay Chapter – 2008-2012 (dates approx.)
  1. What environmental victories that you were directly involved with do you consider the most meaningful?
  • Measure AA – As a member of the SF Bay Restoration Authority I was a proponent of the parcel tax measure with funds specifically slated to restore the Bay.  I’m proud of the many projects that we’ve approved so far.
  • As a City Councilmember, I’ve successfully argued for higher percentage of electric vehicle chargers, and for solar installation on new developments.
  • The Patterson Ranch development was ultimately a loss given that Measure K failed in 2006.  However, we did delay the project significantly and got them to bring down the number of homes.  Most importantly, we motivated many people in Fremont to get involved in environmental politics which ultimately led to getting a Sierra Club leader, ME, elected to the Fremont City Council.
  • Working with the Sierra Club and local activists in Niles, I was part of a group that opposed Caltrans efforts to widen Route 84 in Niles Canyon.
  • Kimber Park – I worked with local residents to get a 12 acre parcel permanently declared as private open space.  A developer was trying to get two dozen homes built on the site.
  • Oakland A’s – The A’s tried to develop a ballpark and 3,150 (!) homes near the wetlands on the west side of Fremont.  I worked with many residents to oppose this development.
  • Tesla – When the NUMMI plant closed the existing city council was considering numerous plans including more housing.  I argued that we lost manufacturing jobs and that we need to replace those with more jobs.  I argued that this was an ideal location for the budding green jobs industry, and that we should be patient and not just develop homes because it could be done quickly.  Ultimately, Fremont now has several thousand more green jobs.
  1. What environmental losses that you were directly involved with do you consider the most disappointing?
  • Patterson Ranch, see above.  The resulting development that did get approved is typical suburban sprawl, is not at all walkable, and is well away from the city center.
  • Warm Springs BART – This was a once in a generation opportunity to develop a truly mixed-use transit village.  Instead, the developers got their wish and got 4,000 homes with little other uses.

 Measure D was a citizen initiative passed by the Alameda County electorate in 2000. Its purpose was to preserve agriculture and open space lands in the county. Measure D established an urban growth boundary (UGB) to clearly separate areas suitable for urban-type development inside the UGB from areas outside to be used for agriculture, rural recreation, and natural resource protection. The Sierra Club was a key supporter of Measure D,  

Recently, proposals to amend Measure D have been discussed. Amending Measure D would require a countywide vote, and we seek to discover your views: 

  1. Do you believe Measure D should be amended? If so, why? What specific parts of Measure D do you believe need to be amended? As Supervisor, will you vote to place an amendment to Measure D on the ballot thereby indicating your support for the amendment, or should those who support amending Measure D seek to do so by initiative?

        In general, NO!  However, I would be open to considering small, specific changes on a case-by-case basis, especially if there can be a land swap where any reduction in open space taken is replaced in some other area.  As a general principle I would be open to considering small improvements to businesses such as wineries to allow them to expand their business.  I would not be in favor of auto-oriented housing developments. 

Any proposed changes should be decided by a vote of the people.    

  1. Do you support efforts to keep the Alameda-Tesla expansion area of Carnegie State Vehicle Recreational Area free of off road vehicles? Would you support legislation at the State level to buy this piece of property using Alameda County Open Space Funds?  Why or why not? 

Yes to expanding the area.  Yes to trying to purchase the property.  Off road vehicles are very damaging to the environment. 

  1. Do you support large-scale solar facilities on undeveloped rural lands in the County currently designated for agriculture or open space? If so, where is the best placement for these facilities? If not, what are your alternative proposals? Please be specific.

Generally, no. Solar is not an agricultural use and these lands should not be used for solar. We should be targeting infill areas like large warehouse buildings and parking lots for solar installation as opposed to using open spaces. I began my political career fighting for open space and will continue to do so.

However, there may be times when this is a viable alternative. I would defer to some of the best practices for locating these facilities that have been developed by groups such as Defenders of Wildlife.

  1. The County Supervisors voted to reject renewals of three permits for E & B oil drilling in Livermore due to health, safety and water concerns, as well as a finding of incompatible land use with surrounding vineyards and ranches. E & B still holds a remaining drilling permit. Would you vote to renew this remaining permit? Why or why notE & B Natural Resources is suing the County over the above decision. The County has hired outside lawyers to defend its decisions. How vigorously would you defend this decision?

I would not vote to review the remaining permit.  We need renewable energy not more drilling for oil in Alameda County.  I would encourage the County counsel to vigorously defend the decision to not renew the permit. 

  1. What efforts would you support to reduce waste at the source and encourage recycling?

I served for several years on the board of StopWaste and am very supportive of StopWaste’s recent comprehensive update of the Countywide Element of the Integrated Waste Management Plan.

As Supervisor, I would prioritize the following efforts, in addition to the excellent work that is already being done by the County: 

  • Phase out disposable food ware through partnerships with fast food outlets and ban the use of PFAS in compostable food ware and fast food containers – support the enactment of a county-wide reusable food ware ordinance.
  • Active market development for materials recovered from the waste stream and support for a modernization of the bottle bill to incentivize recycling.
  • Foster infrastructure for repair and reuse e.g. repair clinics and grants for creative materials reuse programs.
  • Adopt policies that require the internalization of costs associated with the full life-cycle impacts of materials.
  1. Would you support a transformation of PG &E to a customer-owned utility as currently proposed by the Mayor of San Jose? What is your position concerning PG&E’s obligations and organization, including undergrounding in the unincorporated areas.

Yes, I have signed onto the initiative that Sam Licardo initiated on this.  

  1. Do you think that $400 million in Measure BB funds should be redirected to Valley Link rail to facilitate commuting from San Joaquin County? If so, why? If not, how should the funds be used and why?

Yes, with reservations.  On the one hand, I am generally opposed to spending large amounts of money to provide transit to the ex-urban areas as it can induce sprawl.  On the other hand, there is already an enormous existing traffic problem in that corridor and few transit options for the people driving that corridor.  I would need to study the issue in more detail before being fully in favor of the idea.  I think any project of this size deserves a lot of scrutiny before committing to it.  Some of my concerns are: 

  • There is concern that ridership estimates don’t warrant the cost of the project. Some have suggested transit-oriented development near one of the stations to increase ridership.  Transit should serve existing neighborhoods, not be an excuse to create new neighborhoods well away from existing job centers.
  • The project is essentially a replacement for BART to Livermore. It would move people to jobs in SF and Oakland, but would not provide access to Silicon Valley (until BART is extended there) and would not provide an option for anyone commuting to The Peninsula.
  • Other options such as a dedicated bus lane on I-580 have not been fully considered as less expensive alternatives.
  • The commute times for someone taking BART from San Joaquin Countiy to SF would be on the order of two hours each way. Is that realistic?    
  1. Supervisors sit on different regional boards and commissions. If elected, on which regional bodies would you be interested in serving? Why?

I would be happy to serve on almost any regional body.  Given my background in city planning and transportation engineering, I think the regional boards associated with these issues would be where I could contribute the most. 

  1. If you become a member of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, how would you work to reduce climate change and vehicle miles traveled (VMT)? If not a member, how would you hold your colleague accountable for good environmental decisions on behalf of the entire County?

In short, better regional planning.  We have a massive jobs/housing imbalance in the SF Bay area.  We need to implement better planning to mitigate this.  Instead of blanket measures that are basically gifts to developers, we need to strategically ask what new development (i.e. jobs / market rate housing / affordable housing) should go where.  Better planning is a far cheaper, and far more environmentally friendly, alternative to very expensive road construction projects.

We also need to get more people into transit.  Of course, part of this is spending to provide more transit options.  Just as important is planning dense, mixed-use communities around transit hubs.  We should not keep approving more sparse, auto-oriented, single family detached neighborhoods.

Finally, I believe the coronavirus has shown us that many more jobs can be performed from home, at least part of the time.  Many meetings can be done remotely.  We should work to incentivize companies that are willing to explore more remote working opportunities.

  1. What accomplishments have you made to date to reduce climate change, traffic congestion, and VMT?

As a Fremont City Councilmember I have consistenly advocated for many of the things mentioned in the prior question. 

  1. Union City is currently working to purchase roughly 37 acres of Caltrans Surplus property (part of the former SR-84 / EWC) to construct Quarry Lakes Parkway, a roadway that will connect Decoto Rd/ Paseo Padre Pkwy in Fremont to Mission Blvd. This project stands to facilitate commuting from the Dumbarton Bridge to I-580. Should this surplus land sale be supported to facilitate a roadway? If so, why? If not, why not?

Around 2010, I was part of a group of residents that opposed the east/west connector project.  We provided comments to the EIR and spoke at Council meetings.  Unfortunately, the Fremont City Council approved the project.

Recently, I have publicly spoken out against Caltrans selling this property to Union City.  The east/west connector is billed as an improvement to transit but it is really a four-lane arterial going through a sensitive wildlife area.

I believe this is part of an effort to improve long range commuting from the Tri-Valley area to The Peninsula.  (Note the efforts to widen Route 84 through Niles Canyon and to expand Route 84 east of I-680.)    

  1. Do you support Dumbarton Rail as currently proposed by SamTrans and Facebook? If so, why? If not, why not or what would you change/modify?

I’m leaning towards no on this.  My concerns are:

  • My general principle that better planning to remove the jobs / housing imbalance is far cheaper than a project like this. For example, providing more affordable housing on The Peninsula could significantly reduce traffic on the Dumbarton Bridge.
  • Other alternatives such as a dedicated bus lane on the Dumbarton Bridge, or increased use of shuttle buses, are not being considered.
  • Transit works when there is a concentrated job center on one side of the travel corridor (i.e. downtown SF). The Peninsula does not have such a concentrated job center outside of the Facebook campus.  In other words, there would be quite the ‘last mile’ problem.
  • The cost and environmental concerns of having to construct an earthquake safe rail line across the Bay would be enormous. The existing facility is nearly 100 years old.  Nothing could be used from this except for the right of way.   
  1. Niles Canyon, a registered CA scenic highway, has experienced an increasing volume of vehicular traffic causing gridlock in the canyon and in the adjacent neighborhood areas. It is also prone to closure due to severe weather events (flooding, landslides). What solutions would you suggest to address the gridlock traffic?

As mentioned, I was part of the group that opposed the widening of Niles Canyon.  Turning the canyon into a higher speed roadway will not solve the problem.  I would have to refer to my earlier comments about better regional planning being the best way to address the transportation problems that create gridlock such as this. 

  1. Please give examples of your accomplishments to address traffic issues in the jurisdiction you currently represent, as appropriate.

As a Fremont City Councilmember, I have been a consistent advocate of development being more mixed use, less auto-oriented, and close more transit friendly.

I have been an early advocate of Fremont’s Vision Zero program.  I’m very proud of the work that the City has done to promote bike and pedestrian safety.

  1. Do you support the proposed Niles/Sunol trail? If not, why not? If so, what will you do to ensure the project is completed in a timely manner?

Yes, in addition to being a wonderful trail in a gorgeous canyon, this would be an amazing opportunity to commute from the Tri-Valley into Fremont by bicycle.  As an avid cyclist, I’m very familiar with how dangerous Niles Canyon is for cyclists.  There are currently few ways to get between these two locations by bicycle. 

  1. What are your opinions on Bay and shoreline protection? If you become a member of the Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC), how would you protect the Bay? If not a member, how would you hold your colleague and/or alternate accountable for good environmental decisions?

I’ve been a member of the SF Bay Restoration Authority since 2014.  I’m very familiar with some of the restoration projects that we’ve been approving. I would work to secure more funding to expand the number of programs that we can administer.

I was also an employee of Save the Bay for over three years.  Thus, I’m also very familiar with the history of the Bay and the need to restore the many wetlands that have been destroyed over the last few decades. 

  1. As a member of the Board of Supervisors, you will be responsible for decisions for unincorporated areas that do not have their own city government or infrastructure. Approximately 150,000 people live in these areas. What will be your guiding principles for governing these communities?

I would have the same guiding principles that I’ve had as a Fremont City Councilmember.  I think I’ve provided many examples in other parts of this questionnaire that demonstrate what those principles are.  

  1. The Eden Plan and the Housing Element for the Unincorporated West County both call for increased density in Ashland and Cherryland. Residents are concerned by the increase and have pointed out that the County is already deficient in the amount of parkland, recreational and open-space in these areas. Likewise, there are several riparian corridors throughout Alameda County that are threatened by climate change, although the County’s protection of these riparian corridors is inconsistent. How would you address theses issues on the Board?

Any new housing proposed for the area should be dense, provide significant affordable housing and be located near transit corridors.  It also should not impact any sensitive wildlife areas such as these riparian corridors  There are fewer and fewer of these corridors and I believe we must put preserving them as one of the key guiding principles regarding this housing element. 

  1. The Sierra Club is a Pro-choice organization and supports a full range of voluntary family planning services. Alameda County provides a full range of family planning services and information including abortion referrals and services. As Supervisor, will you support maintaining this full range of famiy planning services?

Absolutely.  I have been pro-choice since I was a teenager.

  1. What criteria will you use to make your zoning board and planning commissioner appointments?

First, any candidates should not have any business ties to the development community.  I believe strongly that people with a financial stake in an industry should not be involved in governmental decisions related to that industry.

Secondly, I would look for candidates that have a similar philosophy as me on development and planning issues. 

  1. Do you support independent re-districting for Alameda County Supervisors? Why or why not?

Yes, I have seen politicians deciding boundaries that benefit their re-election chances.  These kinds of decisions should not be made to benefit existing politicians.  They need to be independently decided based solely on what is best for the community. 

  1. Do you support term limits for Supervisors in the future? Why or why not? 

Yes.  I think an eight or twelve year limit would be appropriate. 

  1. Who endorses your candidacy for supervisor, including organizations?

 I have really just begun the process of getting endorsements.  So far some of those I have are:

  • Dan Kalb, Oakland City Councilmember
  • Lily Mei, Fremont Mayor
  • Dianne Jones, Fremont School Board
  • Ann Crosbie, Fremont School Board
  • Gabi Blackman, Dublin School Board
  1. Who are your major donors? Please list the top ten contributors to your campaign (primary as well as runoff). Do you accept contributions from Political Action Committees or developers?

My largest 10 donors are myself, my brother, my father-in-law, and the following seven local residents:

  • Harpreet Grewal
  • Miao-Lin Lee
  • Ryan Jergensen
  • James Lowder
  • Stan Yeh
  • Romesh Japra
  • Kamal Obeid

I have never taken money from developers.  In the past I have taken a handful of contributions from PACs.  For this campaign I have decided against taking money from all PACs, corporations, lobbyists or developers.  My slogan is “Your Clean Money Candidate”.  This is one of the key platform elements of my campaign.  You can read more at: 


Clean Money Campaign

  1. How much in campaign funds have you raised and spent to date? How much do you plan to raise for the November runoff?

 I raised just over $100,000 in the primary.  I still have $15,000 left.  My goal is to raise at least another $100,000 more for the general election. 

  1. If there is anything else you would like us to know about you or would like to comment on, please take this opportunity to describe.

I have an undergraduate degree in Zoology from UW-Milwaukee and masters degrees in Transportation Engineering and City Planning from UC-Berkeley.

I have been a environmentalist from a very age. In the early 80’s I was greatly moved by Carl Sagan’s Cosmos series which talked about the dangers of climate change.  Since then I’ve known that we have to do more to protect our planet.

My first job out of college was as an environmental engineer working for the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District.

About 19 years ago I got involved with the Sierra Club and was a very active volunteer up until 2012 when I was elected to the City Council.  It was serving on the Club’s political committee that I first learned the importance of getting environmentally responsible candidates elected.  I also enjoy providing guidance to other environmental friendly candidates. 

Personally, I do what I can to be more environmentally responsible.  I’m a vegeterian who understands the strain meat generation puts on our environment.  I converted my backyard from a typical yard to one with seven raised bed boxes and nine fruit trees.  I have solar on my house, drive an electric car, and try to ride my bike to work twice a week (about 40 miles each day).  I’m also an avid bird photographer when I can find the time.

Paid for by Vinnie Bacon for Alameda County Supervisor 2020 – FPPC #1415928