EL CERRITO -- The city will have a contested City Council election this fall for the first time since 2008 with community activist Nick Arzio qualifying for the Nov. 4 ballot on Aug. 14.
Arzio, 34, submitted his election papers before the deadline on Aug. 13 and was confirmed as a candidate by county election officials a day later.
He will be running against incumbent Mayor Janet Abelson and Human Relations Commission Chairman Gabe Quinto, for the two council seats up for election. Councilwoman Rebecca Benassini is not seeking re-election.
Arzio has become a regular at City Council and planning commission meetings, weighing in on issues related to the San Pablo Avenue Specific Plan, now under development, including its related aspects such as transit-oriented housing, parking, traffic and other issues.
He says the specific plan will change the character of El Cerrito and that the city should make a thorough effort to encourage residents to comment during the lengthy approval process.
"El Cerrito is a suburb (now) and it's important for people to decide the identity of their town, whether they want it to be a suburb or an urban area," Arzio said.
Arzio joined the city's Crime Prevention Committee in January and said he intends to make public safety a high priority.
The committee joined with the police department to put on an "awareness event" about crime on the Ohlone Greenway and passed out brochures at BART stations with advice about how to avoid becoming a crime victim.
He said he is pushing to keep foliage along the Ohlone Greenway under control so that it will be more difficult "for attackers to lie in wait."
Arzio said he's proud of the extensive volunteering he has done, particularly with community center activities, since he moved to El Cerrito three years ago.
He has helped with planning and carrying out a number of annual events, including the Halloween celebration, the Holiday Breakfast and Scholarship Fundraiser, the Family Sweetheart Dance, the Easter Egg Hunt and the Dynamo Golf Scramble at the Mira Vista Golf and Country Club.
"It think it is great that El Cerrito has this great community center, with great classes and programs," Arzio said. "I think we should be strongly promoting these things."
Arzio said he has also helped with neighborhood cleanup efforts, including litter and graffiti abatement on San Pablo Avenue.
He recently served as interim campaign manager for Tony Thurmond, the former West Contra Costa school board member and Richmond councilman who is running for the state Assembly, but now plans to devote full-time to his council campaign.