Contra Costa County Supervisor Candace Andersen met with residents in Danville on Tuesday to give her State of the District address and discuss the county’s activities over the past year as well as some of its goals for the future.
At a luncheon sponsored by the San Ramon Chamber of Commerce, Andersen met with her District 2 constituents (which includes San Ramon, Danville and Alamo) for about an hour to discuss issues such as the upcoming 2020 census, traffic in the San Ramon Valley, law enforcement, regional housing problems, homelessness and more.
A former Danville Town Council member, Andersen was first elected to the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors in 2012 and won re-election in 2016 -- and chamber officials say will run again in 2020. She currently sits on 24 local and regional board addressing planning, land use, mental health, economic development and a number of other issues important to life in the county.
To start the address, Andersen spoke about the county’s efforts to adequately prepare for the upcoming 2020 census and how vitally important it is for both the county and state.
“With the census, we are really trying to get the hard-to-count individuals,” she said during her speech at the Crow Canyon Country Club. “(Because) of what is happening nationally, a lot of people are fearful of the national government and even though the census is fully confidential, no data is shared with any other agencies, there's still that fear.”
Andersen explained that not only is accurately counting populations important because it determines how many representatives California will have in Congress, but the amount of county residents directly links to financial benefits received from the state and federal government.
“If we did even a 5% undercount in Contra Costa County, we’re talking about $10 million a year in lost revenue,” she added.
Another hot-button issue reviewed by Andersen was the ongoing housing crisis in the Bay Area, taking particular time to discuss the region's need to build more housing against residents fears that more development will irrevocably harm their community’s distinct character.
“We do need more housing,” she said. “We are creating far more jobs than we are creating housing. Depending on who you talk to, over the last five years we've been creating for every seven to 10 jobs, we’re creating only one unit of housing.”
Andersen added that while voters appear to be opposed to rent control, a bill supporting rent caps is making its way through the State Legislature. This, in combination with the rezoning of certain areas around transit for residentials, will hopefully help alleviate the ongoing crises, she said.
Any discussion on housing in the Bay Area would be incomplete without reviewing the plight of Contra Costa County’s homeless residents -- an issue Andersen said is very near and dear to her heart -- and what can be done to help them.
“We do a point-in-time count and our last snapshot showed we had close to 2,300 homeless people in Contra Costa County,” she said. “And of that 668 were sheltered, but over 1,600 were unsheltered and 3% of that was families, and over the last two years it's had a 43% increase.”
Explaining that the county is working to streamline and simplify homeless services and outreach, Andersen encouraged anyone who sees a homeless person or knows someone who is on the verge of being homeless to call 2-1-1. This will connect them with representatives from the Contra Costa County Crisis Center who will be able to direct them to where they can gain information and support services.
To further help tackle the issue, the county also sends out “support teams” to identify where homeless people congregate and what services they need most.
“When you can start identifying homeless people by name, what there problems are, you are much better able to serve them,” she said.
An issue commuters in the Bay Area are all to familiar with, when discussing upcoming Interstate 680 projects Andersen asked with tongue in cheek: “How many of you have ever felt like you got stuck in traffic?”
After a lengthy review process conducted by the Contra Costa Transportation Authority, Andersen announced that during California’s March 3 primary election, local voters may have the opportunity to vote on “a one-half cent increase in your sales tax to solve our traffic problems.”
If approved, the sales tax would be used to modernize sections of highway, improve local access along the I-680 corridor, reducing problematic bottlenecks, extend express lanes and improve transit reliability.