Pleasanton Housing Commissioner Zarina Kiziloglu is putting the cornerstone of her commission work at the forefront of her campaign for City Council this fall.
Viewing housing as the "No. 1 problem facing Tri-Valley cities," Kiziloglu is focusing her council bid primarily on increasing the affordable housing supply in Pleasanton -- and sees it as interrelated to other campaign priorities such as investing in social services and supporting diversity and inclusion.
"By ignoring affordable housing we are creating an unsustainable city -- one that does not welcome teachers, first responders, essential workers, veterans, the disabled, new college graduates and growing families," Kiziloglu stated on her campaign website.
"There is strength in diversity," she added. "As our community continues to grow, we need to create new solutions for decades-old problems. Increasing mental health services and creating opportunities for our minority and youth populations will help build a stronger Pleasanton."
Kiziloglu is one of seven candidates on the Nov. 3 ballot seeking two at-large seats (four-year terms) on the Pleasanton City Council. The other council hopefuls are Nancy Allen, Valerie Arkin, Jack Balch, Randy Brown, Jarod Buna and Chiman Lee.
The positions are fully up for grabs as both current office-holders -- council members Jerry Pentin and Karla Brown -- are termed out this year.
Campaigning with a motto of "Unity for Better Community," Kiziloglu cites affordable housing as her primary priority in city service.
"As a member of the Pleasanton Housing Commission, I worked to create a safe, sustainable and inclusive city for all. Now, I'd like to continue that work by helping us reduce traffic as well as retain our essential workers," Kiziloglu stated on her campaign website.
A first-time candidate for City Council, Kiziloglu said she sees "hope" on the horizon in the possibilities that the East Pleasanton Specific Plan could create for affordable housing stock.
Kiziloglu also outlined a 12-point plan to increase the variety of housing supply in Pleasanton. At the top of the list is "reduce barriers to housing with an emphasis on (a) permit processes and fee reduction for affordable housing, (b) preference to developments with 10%-20% affordable housing, and (c) general fund allocation for affordable homes."
She is also advocating for more city investment in social services, including "partnerships between law enforcement and mental health workers (that) can greatly reduce local crime rates, as well as lead to a better quality of life for all."
Having the city create an office of diversity and community inclusion could also help Pleasanton achieve goals on housing, equitable job opportunities and meeting the community's evolving needs, according to Kiziloglu.
An immigrant to the U.S. during her formative years, Kiziloglu said she draws inspiration from her personal experience after her family moved to America as refugees from Afghanistan when she was 11 with little understanding of the language and culture, including having to join the workforce as a teenager to help her family financially -- all while attending school.
After graduating from James Logan High School in Union City, Kiziloglu said she became the first member of her family to attend a four-year college, the University of California at Santa Barbara. During her ensuing career, Kiziloglu, who holds a Master in Public Administration with an emphasis on policy analysis, worked as a researcher at UCSB and UCLA and then later became a real estate agent.
In recent years, she said she discovered her "true calling" through volunteering with the International Rescue Committee and the Muslim Community Center of the East Bay. She has served Pleasanton on the city's Housing Commission since October 2017.
The commission service has been eye-opening for Kiziloglu. "There, I learned that discussions on affordable housing can be uncomfortable, complicated and difficult, but also learned that through these conversations real change can take place," she said.
To learn more about Kiziloglu and her campaign, visit www.zarina4pleasanton.com.