EL CERRITO -- The City Council election this fall is guaranteed to be short on drama with three well-known candidates running for three seats.
Despite the fact that the election is uncontested, the council has chosen to put the names of candidates Mark Friedman, Greg Lyman and Jan Bridges on the November ballot. Lyman is running as an incumbent, while Friedman and Bridges will return after serving on the council in the past.
They will replace Mayor Bill Jones, who is stepping aside after two terms, and Councilwoman Ann Cheng, who is leaving after a single term.
Friedman and Lyman will bring fundraising and technical expertise to the council.
Friedman, who has had a career working for nonprofit agencies, is executive director of First Five of Alameda County, a program to support children from one to five years old funded from tobacco taxes.
He also was one of the co-founders of Community Bank of the Bay, which he said was the first community development bank in the western United States.
"I'm very concerned about the economy and the gaps between revenue and the budget that cities are facing," Friedman said. "We need to be very creative to do more with less."
Building a new library and community resource center is a high priority in spite of the loss of redevelopment funding, he said. El Cerrito has a 50-year-old, 5,000-square-foot library and needs a 20,000 square feet building to bring its library/multimedia
"The concept of what a library is has changed greatly, but coming up with an exciting concept will require a lot of work," he said. "There are no obvious sources of money."
Friedman is also eager to promote transit-oriented development around the city's two BART stations, which he described as "underutilized."
He envisions building retail/housing projects around the Plaza nd Del Norte stations that will both improve the look of the areas and allow people to take care of their shopping and transportation needs without getting into their cars.
He said the state's withdrawal of redevelopment is not necessarily a bad thing for El Cerrito, since it's happening to all cities and counties in the state.
"This gives us the opportunity to sell the merits of what a great place El Cerrito is to investors and developers," Friedman said.
Friedman served on the Council from 1997 through 2004. He said the highlights of his tenure were starting the City Hall and swim center construction projects and enacting a tree-planting ordinance that satisfied both environmentalists and residents who were trying to protect their views.
He said he was also a key player in recruiting City Manager Scott Hanin.
"I think El Cerrito is a well-managed city," he said. "Other cities have been ridden with scandal and we haven't had that."
Lyman, who has served on the council since 2008, is a habitat mitigation engineer with the City and County of San Francisco.
He pointed to improvements to the three-mile stretch of San Pablo Avenue in El Cerrito as the highlight of his tenure, along with restoring the El Cerrito Theater and bringing in a new Safeway store.
His professional expertise came in handy with the design of a new storm water system on San Pablo Avenue. The system takes runoff water that comes off the curbs and directs it into planter boxes where it percolates down through the soil, filtering out impurities and debris.
The city also installed LED lights along the entire length of San Pablo, a project that was completed last year.
"We're responding to what people said they wanted in the San Pablo Specific Plan: pedestrian friendly, small shops, dense housing, a beautiful and approachable (look)," he said.
Lyman said his principal reason for returning to the council is to work on replacing aging civic buildings, including the library and senior center and police and fire stations.
"I want to continue to lead our community board in rebuilding these structures," he said. "We're going to look into our (financing) tool box to make the type of improvements we'll be looking for."