COP26, South Bayfront Bridge, ECAP Holiday Dinner, Nature & Mental Health

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Hello Emeryville Neighbors and Friends. It’s been a while since we’ve had a community update, so I intend to put 2-4 posts out between now and the end of January, capturing important updates on housing, development, transportation and other infrastructure projects around the city and the East Bay, among other things. As always, if you have questions about local happenings, or a subject/topic you would like to suggest for inclusion in a future post, don’t hesitate to drop me a note.

COP 26

For the past four years, I have served as the Alameda County Conference of Mayors representative to the Bay Area Air Quality Management District’s Board of Directors. In that capacity, I have served as the chair of the District’s Stationary Source Committee for the past two years, which is responsible for developing and recommending rules and regulations to curb emissions from stationary (non-mobile) sources of pollutant emissions. After more than a year of public hearings, the District approved Rule 6-5, which will require Bay Area refineries to implement new, cleaner technologies that will dramatically reduce pollution. Similarly, my committee is working on setting new standards to eliminate dangerous NOx emissions from home water heaters and furnaces that significantly contribute to global warming and lower air quality in our region. These rules have made the Bay Area a global leader on reducing harmful particulate matter and NOx emissions from the build environment, and something I am extremely proud to be part of on behalf of our city and county. This past week the other Directors from around the Bay Area nominated and elected me to serve as the Vice Chair of the Board in 2022, an honor I’m truly humbled to receive.

Our great work in the Bay Area resulted in an invitation to participate in the global discussion of preventing climate change. Earlier this month, I had the extraordinary opportunity to serve as a member of the United States’ subdelegation to the United Nations Climate Change Conference, known as COP 26, in Glasgow, Scotland.

During my time in Scotland, I attended panels and workshops presented by experts and leaders from around the globe about how they were tackling a wide array of issues involving everything from transportation and resource conservation to climate equity and community adaptability. I also had the privilege of being part of a panel presentation demonstrating how California generates local climate action through an equity lens. You can view the hour-long presentation here.

I interviewed a number of leaders about their perspectives and experience at COP 26. Those are posted on the Air District’s Facebook Page (@bayareaairdistrict) and on their Twitter feed (@AirDistrict). They include interviews with the former chairs of the CA Air Resources and Water Boards (Felicia Marcus, former Water Board Chair is an Emeryville resident!), as well as CA Assembly Transportation Chair Laura Friedman and a 16 year old young woman named Te Maia Wiki, who represented the Yurok Tribe of Northern California at COP 26. I learned so much, and have brought back a lot of ideas for community sustainability, resilience and climate action that I hope to introduce to the community and my colleagues on the city council in the coming year. The Air District staff created a short summary video of our time at COP 26, which you can view here.

I had the opportunity to meet with local elected officials from around the world to discuss language and amendments for the Glasgow Declaration to ensure that local governments were a meaningful part of the climate change solution.

Fellow Air District representative Davina Hurt and I responded to media inquiries about COP 26 from Glasgow and answered questions about what was going on live in the conference. That interview is available here on Facebook if you’d like to hear more.

Finally, one short story to share about my time at COP 26 came Thursday morning on my walk to the Scottish Event Campus. There were hoards of Scottish school children along the riverfront, donning climate action apparel they had made in class. They were waiting for Little Amal, a large, human-operated marionette. Over 4 million people globally will be displaced due to sea level rise and other climate impacts. These are climate refugees. You can learn about Little Amal here - the depiction of a young Syrian climate refugee. The children had lined up to greet her as she finished her global trip from Syria to Scotland. I waited with the first school and met with students and teachers to learn about how they were studying climate change.

I was there when Little Amal arrived and filmed the event. She was more popular than a celebrity to these schoolchildren. We must take our responsibility to be good stewards of the planet seriously to ensure that younger and future generations have the opportunity to live healthy, thriving lives.

South Bayfront Bridge Grand Opening is December 3rd

The long-awaited opening of the city’s newest bicycle-pedestrian infrastructure will open on the evening of Friday, December 3rd. The city will host the Christmas Tree Lighting at City Hall at 5:30pm and this year our parade will begin at City Hall and process down Hollis to 53rd Street and then west to the eastern approach of the new bridge, between Horton Street and the UPRR. There will be a ribbon cutting event to celebrate the completion of a project first envisioned by the city 15 years ago that survived the state’s dissolution of redevelopment, delays by the railroad, and other challenges but will nonetheless now offer a safe, car-free east-west route for residents and visitors across the railroad tracks through the southern part of the city. Bay Street Emeryville will be hosting a party with food and festivities when we cross to the other side so please join us for an evening of fun!

ECAP Holiday Dinner - YOUR HELP IS NEEDED!!!

Every year, the Emeryville Citizen’s Assistance Program (ECAP) serves over 200,000 meals to people with the greatest unmet need across northern Alameda County. ECAP first opened over 30 years ago under the leadership of former Emeryville Councilmember Nellie Mae Hannon. The organization is run entirely by volunteers out of their small location at 3610 San Pablo Avenue.

ECAP prepares and delivers Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners to our unhoused neighbors across the region, bringing nutrition, compassion and joy to many people who are the most in need. This year, due to some changes in the distribution chain, ECAP is 500 turkeys short of what is needed to feed people in keeping with this tradition. They have an opportunity to purchase turkey at a wholesale rate but are desperately in need of local donations and support to make this possible.

Please make a donation of any size to help those who are hungry and less fortunate amongst us. YOU CAN DONATE HERE.

If you’d like to join in serving meals this Thanksgiving or Christmas holiday, or would like to do the important work of helping clean up the facility the day after, you can visit their homepage here and go to the volunteer section to sign up. We ask that you commit to a half day of service to help reduce the need to spend extra time training lots of new arrivals throughout the day.

If you’d like to attend ECAP’s Holiday Fundraiser on December 15, 2021 from 5:00-7:00 pm at the Hilton Garden Inn here in Emeryville, you can register here for $100/ticket.

The Role of Nature in Mental Health

Lastly, and on a personal note, I wanted to share a little bit about the importance of connecting with nature and supporting our mental health. A lot of very stressful things have dominated the news, our lives, and communities over the past few years. Ample evidence exists that we are more stressed out than we have ever been before. Stress takes a serious toll on human health.

Scientific studies have routinely shown that spending time in nature has healing effects on our mental health. The benefits are so significant that people who spent as little as 20 minutes a day in a park have been shown to have greater cognitive flexibility, working memory, and attention than those who do not. I have always been a nature-loving, outdoors enthusiast. This past September I took a month away from work for the first time in my life to give myself unfettered access to nature as part of a self-care mental health investment I developed in partnership with my employer over the past year. In my case, I decided to solo hike the Superior Hiking Trail from the Canadian Border in the Minnesota Boundary Waters to Wisconsin, some 300 miles of backcountry wilderness hiking and camping. I carried a GPS tracker on me so friends and community members could follow my adventure. I completed the hike in 19 days.

My time alone in nature was beyond restorative. Although I grew up spending time on the Lake Superior shore as a child, I had always dreamed of hiking the mountains along its coast someday. Planning for and realizing that dream were incredibly powerful experiences that benefitted my mental wellness. I explored river valleys, climbed peaks at sunrise, and had an army of baby frogs (that is the actual term!) huddle up under the vestibule of my tent during a rainstorm, among other things. The demands of the hike I planned were physically, mentally and emotionally challenging in various ways throughout my adventure but something noticeable happened. My resting heart rate was remarkably lower when I finished. I’m 20 pounds lighter. I feel much happier and calmer than I did before my trek.

A 19 day hike is not something everyone can do or wants to do. But a weekend hike up at Tilden, or a stroll along the Bay Trail through the Emeryville Marina are ways in which each of us as individuals can improve our health, and in doing so, the quality of our community. When each of us has access to the mental health supports and space we need to address the stressors in our lives, we are a more patient, friendly community. At a time when the world is full of challenges, consider whether making time for mediating in nature is one way to improve your own health. I’ve shared a few of my favorite pictures from my hike below. As we enter the holiday season, I wish you peace, happiness, and health. Make sure you make time for your own wellness!