Name: Greg Magofña, 34, elder nutrition program manager (District 4)
What is the main reason you are running? I’m running for office because our city is going in the wrong direction–housing prices and homelessness are on the rise, our roads and sidewalks are crumbling, and we’re not going to meet our Climate Action Plan goals. I want to make sure we’re providing public safety and essential services while meeting our larger societal and environmental goals. I believe strongly in the Berkeley values of social equity, sustainability, and creativity, and I want to make sure that we remain a city that is affordable and gives a voice to those who hold these values.
Why are you qualified? My whole life has been dedicated to public service and I have worked with people of all ages across the economic spectrum as an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer, a teacher, an elder nutrition program manager, and a Senior Aide in the Berkeley Mayor’s Office.
I have a history of getting things done in city government. In the Mayor’s Office I worked hard to bring in bike share and point-to-point carsharing; streamline the statewide rooftop solar permitting process with the Governor’s Office, using Berkeley as a model; enact the 1% fee on private developers to fund public art, double arts funding, and expand the Downtown Arts District; include City-owned internet and telecommunications infrastructure installation in every street-repaving bid; and engage high school students in real-world urban planning with UCB Center for Cities + Schools. I am also very involved in the community and have served on the Berkeley Housing and Environmental commissions.
What sets you apart from other candidates? My dedication to public service is influenced by the challenges I’ve faced and those faced by my family, friends, and those I’ve worked with. I moved to Berkeley 16 years ago as a first-generation college student at UC Berkeley who had to juggle part-time work with full-time studies. Coming from an immigrant family with two working parents, I, myself, started working at age 16 to help support my family and save for college. While I do have larger pie-in-the-sky ideas, my priorities are based what affects everyday people who don’t have time to come to every City Council meeting because they’re busy managing work, studies, spending time with family, and trying to save as the costs of housing and food continue to rise. I want to make sure that pursue our grand ambitions of leading and changing the world, but that in doing so, we don’t neglect our basic city services and that we make sure we do it in ways that are actionable and realistic for everyone, not just those with the luxuries of time and money.
How and when did you end up in Berkeley? I came to Berkeley as a student at UC Berkeley in 2002. I graduated high school in Alameda, so I didn’t have to travel very far. Like many people, I fell in love with the people, ideas, food, and culture and decided to stay. I want to make sure that others have this opportunity.
What are the three biggest challenges for Berkeley in the next five years? The three biggest challenges for Berkeley are housing affordability, climate change, and diversity–all of which are inextricably linked. As housing prices continue to rise, our city becomes less diverse and our GHG emissions continue to rise as people commute in and out of Berkeley.
What are your ideas to begin to solve them? My goal is to focus on new forms of socially-owned housing for working people and to invest in repairing our sidewalks and streets to make it safer for pedestrians and bicyclists.
Right now, high-income earners have abundant housing opportunities and there are city programs to build housing for very-low-income households. My priorities are to establish a new equity-building rent-to-own program (see next question); implement the voter-approved transit-oriented Downtown Plan; provide rental and homeownership opportunities through limited-equity land trusts and co-ops; and to partner with the public agencies, nonprofits, and unions to finance and construct permanently-affordable housing.
We are not on track to meet our 2050 Climate Action GHG-reduction goals and transportation use is our biggest source of emissions. I would prioritize the repaving of main streets and bike boulevards; implement pedestrian-safety improvements and protected bike lanes to ensure that our streets and sidewalks are safe for all of us; tax ride-sharing companies and dedicate the money to streets and sidewalks; connect our bike boulevards across major streets with flashing lights, hawk beacons, and stop lights to increase safety and bike ridership.
My full platform including the public safety, green-energy use, and homeless is available at gregmagofna.com/priorities.
What is your most inspired/unique idea for Berkeley? Right now there is no point of entry to Berkeley for most working people, and homeownership for low- and moderate-income people is a major priority of mine. My new inspired idea is an equity-building rent-to-own program for those who live, work, or study in Berkeley. We can partner with nonprofits to build or acquire socially-owned housing. With below-market-rate rents, residents could opt-in to build equity they could apply to a downpayment to buy their units.
How will you be accessible to constituents? In addition to responding to emails and phone calls during business hours, I plan to be accessible to constituents in the evenings and on weekends to meet, talk, and hear about what’s happening in the district. I’m very happy to be invited over for dinner or evening tea. I’m also available on social media.
Are you using public financing? Yes
How much money do you expect to spend on your campaign? $35,000