VALLEJO TIMES-HERALD: Steve Young wants to bring his local governance experience to Benicia office

Repost from the Vallejo Times-Herald

Steve Young wants to bring his local governance experience to Benicia office

By Katy St. Clair, 10/31/16, 6:54 PM PDT
Steve Young
Steve Young, Benicia City Council candidate

Steve Young is hoping to put his experience in the field of local government to work for Benicia by serving on the City Council. Originally from Burbank, he has worked and lived in California, Virginia, and Costa Rica, but now calls Benicia home.

He graduated from University of Califonia at Berkeley with a degree in political science and has a masters degree in urban policy and administration from San Francisco State, he said.

Young was appointed to the Benicia Planning Commission in 2012 and, along with his wife Marty, is a member of Arts Benicia and Friends of the Library. He said he has spent 25 years managing programs in housing rehabilitation, neighborhood improvement, affordable housing development, code enforcement, redevelopment, and economic development.

Young loves many things about Benicia, including its “small-town feel, great access to the water, and the friendliness of the people.”

He also appreciates how many people are actively engaged in local issues as well as Benicia’s strong arts community. As a councilmember, he’d like to make sure the historical assets and character of the town are preserved through a combination of private, non-profit, and public involvement.

But he does want to address what he calls the biggest challenges the city faces, one of which is water security. Young promotes utilizing treated wastewater from Valero instead of using raw water.

“The proposal would, when implemented, provide the city with some certainty concerning this most precious of all our resources,” Young said in an email.

Benicia’s ongoing budget issues are also a big challenge, he said. Part of the problem is that Benicia is a “full service city trying to operate without the revenue of a full service city,” adding that the City Council will have to come to terms with the idea that everything Benicia citizens appreciate about the town may not be sustainable over time.

“The city will need to increase sales tax revenue or reduce expenses, or both,” he said.

One way to raise revenues is to increase business in Benicia. While Young praises the city’s great location and access to transportation, he’d like to see a more modernized business plan that will attract larger businesses.

“The fact that basic internet service is lacking in the Industrial Park says volumes about why economic growth has been slow to come here,” he said. “The city will have to become more aggressive in its outreach to companies looking to relocate, and the installation of broadband or fiber cable is a mandatory first step.”

Another issue facing Benicia is its lack of affordable housing for low-income and senior citizens. This is an area Young says he’d like to tackle.

“The city has done little recently to address this need,” he said, stating that only the minimum necessary has been done to keep the Housing Element of the General Plan in conformance with state law. One suggestion he has is to lower the threshold for the city’s density bonus law, a policy that gives incentives to builders who include low-income housing into their plans. “It applies only to developments of 10 or more units,” he said, “and has not resulted in the construction of any units since its implementation.” Young would also like to see more so-called “granny flats” integrated into neighborhoods.

When asked about Valero’s proposed crude-by-rail project, which would have created an oil off-loading site in Benicia, Young said he opposed it. He said he spent over three years on the Planning Commission going over every aspect of the project, including letters and documents from both supporters and opponents. In the end he felt the risks outweighed the benefits and he was part of a unanimous vote to reject the idea, he said.

The large Seeno property site, an area zoned for business that remains undeveloped, is also an issue important to some voters. Young says he’d like to see a mixed-use development there that would help attract larger businesses to the area.

One problem the site has is no access to water, but he sees the aforementioned Valero wastewater conversion project as possibly providing the resource to the area. He envisions an expanse that would be a combination of industrial, commercial, retail, and residential ventures.

Young says he looks forward to having the opportunity to apply his experience to the challenges facing Benicia. “Due to my long career in local government,” he said, “I have been exposed to a number of creative and inspirational people and organizations who have, through trial and error, understood what does and does not work well in terms of approaches to local governance.”