City Manager Settles into Position
A one-on-one interview with Eric Levitt after four months
Alameda’s new City Manager, Eric J. Levitt came into office on April 12. The Alameda Sun interviewed Levitt recently and asked questions about his new role, challenges and plans for the city. The City Manager is appointed through the City Council. Roles of the City Manager include: providing policy support and recommendations to the Council and leadership and direction for all city departments. Levitt comes with 18 years of city management experience at his former position in Simi Valley, Calif., Janesville, Wisc., and Sedona, Ariz., making Alameda the fourth city he’s served as City Manager.
Sun: How are you liking the job so far?
Levitt: I really like it. I think it’s great. I think the community is a very engaged community, which is very great for the city. The City Council has a vision, and working with them to move their vision forward has been a great experience. The department directors are very strong here, so overall I think it’s been going very well.
Sun: What do you see as the city’s greatest challenge right now?
Levitt: Housing is a huge challenge, providing affordable housing and tenants being able to maintain affordability in their rent. The Council is also trying to address housing affordability, homeless issues facing the city and issues with transportation and traffic. We are also dealing with the development of Alameda Point while maintaining community character.
Sun: In what way do you see you, yourself making the most significant impact on this city?
Levitt: I’ve been a city manager for 18 years and Alameda is my fourth city I’ve served as City Manager. Something I’ve learned is that I tend to work with the community — specifically the Council — to implement the Council’s goals, establish those goals and help them implement those goals moving forward. That’s how I see myself. I am an implementer and strategizer.
When you look at major areas such as climate action, which is one of the challenges that we’re facing, it’s a big project. The implementation and organization of the resources and communication of those resources is very important. With climate action, housing programs and the development of Alameda Point, I can bring different elements of my experience such as: ground-build development at Janesville, (an industrial city), working with the commercial sector and district in Sedona and working with residents. That’s how I see myself fitting in and working with the Council. I believe in the partnership approach.
Sun: Before we move on to the next question, can you elaborate on the specifics of climate action?
Levitt: We have a new plan called the Climate Action and Resiliency Plan, which will deal with how to lower the impacts of greenhouse gases, protect our community from sea-level rise and deal with transportation issues. Climate action is both trying to help improve the environment and help our residents within the plan. One thing that has already occurred from climate action is that Alameda Municipal Power has been working to move all electricity to sustainable or clean energy, essentially making Alameda carbon neutral to combat climate change. I think greenhouse gases, sea-level rise and transportation are the main focuses of the Climate Action and Resiliency Plan.
Sun: What projects or initiatives would you like residents to know about or especially pay attention to?
Levitt: Climate action is a major one. We’re dealing with sea-level rise, greenhouse gases and we also have a stormwater initiative for property owners. I’d like to mention construction of our new park from Main Street to Webster Street, and the new Krusi Park Recreation center, which should open in the early 2020s. We are working on a two-lane boat ramp and launch facility, construction has already begun. The city is also working in partnership with the school district on the construction of two pools for a future city aquatic center.
We also have the active transportation plan and are working on finding alternative modes of transportation and dealing with congestion. A key element in the transportation plan is the Seaplane Lagoon Ferry Terminal which we hope will be online by fall 2020. We have a $750,000 grant that we’re working on to improve issues with the homeless population. The city is working with nonprofits, such as Operation Dignity to improve the situation for the homeless.
Part two of this interview will appear here next week.