Voter’s Edge California
Get the facts before you vote.
Brought to you by
League of Women Voters of California Education Fund
KPBS Voters Guide@KPBSNews
November 6, 2018 — California General Election

Berkeley City CouncilCandidate for City Council, District 8

Photo of Russ Tilleman

Russ Tilleman

Green Transportation Designer
183 votes (2.8%)
Use tab to activate the candidate button. Use "return" to select this candidate. You can access your list by navigating to 'My Choices'.
For more in-depth information on this candidate, follow the links for each tab in this section. For most screenreaders, you can hit Return or Enter to enter a tab and read the content within.
Candidate has provided information.
Thank candidate for sharing their information on Voter's Edge.

My Top 3 Priorities

  • Affordable housing without building big ugly boxes or raising taxes
  • Door-to-door public transit to finally get people out of their cars
  • Making Alta Bates single-payer so everyone in Berkeley is covered



UC Berkeley BS, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (1981)

Who supports this candidate?

Featured Endorsements

  • Bobby Seale
  • Gene Bernardi
  • Nigel Guest

Individuals (5)

  • Conrad Lagasca
  • Suriani Abdul Rani
  • Keefe Stevernu
  • Peter Tierney
  • Karen Gillard

Questions & Answers

Questions from League of Women Voters, Berkeley/Albany/Emeryville, Voter Services Committee (5)

How can District 8 support greater density?  Where can housing development best be located?
Answer from Russ Tilleman:

When a single family home goes up for sale, the City of Berkeley can provide money to the new buyer in return for the right to lift up the structure and build another housing unit underneath it.

The City can then construct the new unit and sell it to another buyer at cost, and required the buyer to carry a note for the difference between cost and fair market value.

When the property is someday resold, the CIty will be paid back that difference.

This approach is self-funding, because the buyers of the new units will get their own loans to pay the City for the construction. And in the long term, it can provide needed development funds to the City as units are eventually resold.

It can greatly incrase the housing stock without disrupting neighborhoods, and it is also cost effective and extremely green because it does not involve the destruction of a perfectly good existing dwelling unit.

I did a similar project on my own home at 2670 Parker Street, although I just added a garage and additional living space rather than creating a separate unit. So I know that this approach works very well.

What can be done to encourage the building of ADUs (Accessory Dwelling Units)?
Answer from Russ Tilleman:

As I mentioned about lifting existing houses and building new units underneath them, a similar approach can be used with ADUs.

What will you do to improve pedestrian and other public safety measures?
Answer from Russ Tilleman:

A review should be done of every intersection in Berkeley to look for hazards to pedestrians.

After the pedestrian fatality at Warring and Derby, I looked at the intersection and found that the stop sign for the truck that killed the pedestrian was placed about 25 feet before the crosswalk. So it wasn't visible to drivers. I convinced the City of Berkeley Transportation Division to move the stop sign to where it could be seen by drivers.

City of Berkeley staff sometimes make mistakes or bad decisions, and it is essential that a Council member listen to the people who live in their district and be willing to push for changes like these.

Standing up for residents might not earn a Council member the endorsement of City of Berkeley employees during the campaign season, but it is the job of every Council member to represent the people who live here, not the people who work for the City. City employees have their own representation through their unions and the Personel Board.

What are the fire dangers in District 8, and how can fire risk be reduced?
Answer from Russ Tilleman:

District 8 was badly affected by the 1991 Tunnel Fire, otherwise known as the Oakland Hills Firestorm. I was in San Francisco that day and I could see the huge flames from the waterfront.

Vegetation needs to be managed to limit fuel for any fire that might start.

Safe exit routes must be maintained, so people and their most precious possessions can be saved.

We need to be sure we have sufficient firefighting resources.

Homes in District 8 sell in the upper ranges. Do you support the higher transfer tax on the November ballot and what how will you explain your position to voters?
Answer from Russ Tilleman:

Yes I do.

Paying a little more transfer tax is a good way to help out people who are less fortunate.

Political Beliefs

Political Philosophy

We don’t have to accept unresponsive government in Berkeley, we can create the kind of future we want.

I’m not a machine politician and I’m not taking campaign money from special interest groups.

I got my engineering degree from Cal and used it to make the world a better place.

For ten years I’ve fought for our district, our city and our global environment, improving pedestrian and bicycle safety and exposing greenwashing, conflicts of interest and environmental fraud.

If elected to the City Council, I will work to

- house Berkeley's homeless,

- assure full health coverage for every Berkeley resident,

- add new stories to existing houses as I did to my home at 2670 Parker Street to address Berkeley's affordability crisis,

- provide Neighborhood Electric Vehicles at BART stations for cost-effective, convenient and renewable door-to-door public transit,

- prevent People's Park crime from moving to Willard Park, and

- improve Berkeley’s police department,

while ensuring basic city services like street and sidewalk maintenance are done without raising taxes or fees.

If you want these things and responsive government, elect me to work on your behalf.

We'll make Berkeley a shining beacon of hope for a better future everywhere!

Position Papers

No Science but Plenty of Money Behind Greenwashed SB 827


SB 827 would have encouraged massive building at the fence line of single family homes in Berkeley.

Published in the Berkeley Dialy Planet on January 29, 2018.


I apologize for using all capital letters, otherwise known as online shouting, rather than the more traditional and visually-appealing mixture of upper and lower case. But SB 827 will do something very similar to many Berkeley neighborhoods.

Four- to eight-story concrete boxes will replace beautiful century-old single family homes and rent-controlled smaller apartment buildings. And if SB 827 becomes law, there won't be anything anyone in Berkeley can do about it.


The State of California says the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) "requires state and local agencies to identify the significant environmental impacts of their actions and to avoid or mitigate those impacts, if feasible."

"At a minimum, an initial review of the project and its environmental effects must be conducted. Depending on the potential effects, a further, and more substantial, review may be conducted in the form of an environmental impact report (EIR)."

"A project may not be approved as submitted if feasible alternatives or mitigation measures are able to substantially lessen the significant environmental effects of the project."


Like gangsters invoking their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination by refusing to testify in a racketeering trial, the California State Legislature and SB 827's authors Scott Wiener and Nancy Skinner can exempt themselves from environmental review if they choose. And they appear to be doing so.

Searching online, I could find no record of any scientific analysis of any kind being done on the impacts of SB 827. And that seems strange for a bill that is supposed to fight climate change.

SB 827 will also throw away centuries of rights of cities to control their own zoning and result in billions of dollars of profit for California developers.


The primary author of the bill, State Senator Scott Wiener, is an attorney with no apparent scientific education who got 41 percent of his campaign money from developers.

He might be excused for not understanding anything about carbon emissions or global warming, but his co-author Nancy Skinner, Berkeley's State Senator, should know better. According to her online biography, she has a science degree from UC Berkeley.


Since I couldn't find even an initial review done by the State of California, I did a basic review myself.

I compared the carbon emissions of building a new apartment in Tracy, and the resident driving their car to Berkeley every work day, with tearing down an existing apartment in Berkeley and building two new ones in its place. With that same person living in the added Berkeley apartment.

I started with some basic assumptions:

- Building two Berkeley apartments costs $300,000 more than building one Tracy apartment. - Carbon offset credits cost $20 per ton of CO2 - Each gallon of gasoline emits 20 pounds of CO2 when burned - A Toyota Prius gets 50 miles per gallon of gasoline - Tracy to Berkeley round trip is 112 miles - 250 work days per year

Dividing $300,000 by $20, equals:

- 15,000 tons of CO2 that would be offset if the same money was spent on carbon credits

Multiplying by 2,000 pounds per ton, equals:

- 30,000,000 pounds of CO2

Dividing 30,000,000 pounds by 20 pounds equals:

- 1,500,000 gallons of gasoline that would produce the same carbon

So tearing down one Berkeley apartment and building two new ones emits as much carbon as building one new Tracy apartment and burning 1,500,000 gallons of gasoline.

Multiplying 1,500,000 gallons times 50 miles per gallon equals:

- 75,000,000 miles of Prius driving

Dividing 75,000,000 miles by 112 miles equals:

- 669643 days of commuting from Tracy to Berkeley and back

Dividing 669643 days by 250 days equals:

- 2679 years

So for the first 2679 years, less carbon would be emitted by building a new apartment in Tracy and having the resident drive a Prius back and forth to Berkeley 5 days a week (without SB 827), than by building that apartment in Berkeley (with SB 827).


In other words, SB 827 would make global warming worse for the next 2,000 years.

This is obviously a rough estimate, but it should be in the same ballpark as a CEQA "initial review of the project and its environmental effects."

The environmental effects are horrifying.

I challenge Scott Wiener, Nancy Skinner and anyone else who is backing SB 827 to find anything wrong with my calculations.


Maybe this is why no official environmental review was published. Any qualified scientist looking at these numbers would know that SB 827 is a scam that will cause massive damage to the global environment for thousands of years. Possibly enough to tip the balance to the extinction of the entire human race.

To me, this is corruption of the worst sort and raises some important questions.


Is the entire State Legislature involved? How about Governor Jerry Brown? If SB 827 passes, I think we will have our answer.

The governor's personal financial ties to the Oakland coal terminal, and the profit he might have made off burning huge amounts of the dirtiest fossil fuel, already raised real questions about his commitment to the environment.

The coal terminal plans to move 5 million tons of carbon through West Berkeley every year on its way from coal mines in Utah to furnaces in China. And ultimately to our atmosphere and into our lungs.


If it does, it will be a wakeup call for everyone in California that our government has stopped working for us and is fully controlled by Big Money.

Global Warming on Parker Street


When people lie about a project and claim that it is good for the environment when it is not, someone has to stand up and tell the truth.

Published in the Berkeley Daily Planet on February 12, 2015.


From my experience working on environmental issues, there are two different approaches to combating global warming. One is to support projects that science shows will help the environment. The other is to support any project that anyone claims is green, even when the science shows it won't help.

I am a strong supporter of projects backed up by science, but I am an equally strong opponent of greenwashed projects that won't help the environment. This has frequently brought me into conflict with people who, for some reason, support such worthless projects.

I suspect they support these projects because they have a financial incentive to do so, or because they don't have the technical knowledge to know a bad project from a good one.

This is a major issue in the fight against global warming, not just in Berkeley but across the country and around the world. If we as a species are going to do anything about greenhouse gases, we are going to have to learn to recognize and support effective projects.


From 2008 through 2010, I opposed the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) proposal for Telegraph Avenue. This 250 million dollar project was presented by AC Transit as being green. But their own numbers indicated that BRT would require 5000 years of operation, longer than the time since the Fall of Troy, to remove as much carbon from the atmosphere as could quickly be removed by spending the same money on solar panels or wind power.

Fortunately Berkeley saw through AC Transit's greenwashing of BRT and did not allow it to be built here. I was very proud of my contribution to that decision, because $250,000,000 is a lot of money to just throw away. Money that could be used to actually fight global warming.


After the BRT project was defeated in Berkeley, The New York Times ran an article bashing my neighbors and me as being anti-environmentalists even though this was not true. I contacted the author of that article, explained that the BRT project in Berkeley was not green, and asked for an opportunity to present our side of the story to their readers. But The Times never even responded to me.

Here in Berkeley, Charles Siegel responded to the New York Times smear with an article of his own in the March 22, 2011 issue of The Berkeley Daily Planet: "BRT, NIMBYs, and the New York Times".

He correctly pointed out that "The overwhelming majority of BRT opponents were people who had never been active in the past on environmental issues or on transportation issues".

This was because BRT was such an obviously bad project that people who had never been active before got involved to defend our neighborhood.

He then went on to write "What do we usually call people like the majority of BRT opponents?"

I'd call them concerned citizens. But Siegel just called us "NIMBYs".

I viewed being bashed in The New York Times and attacked by Charles Siegel as the price of defeating BRT. And I wasn't too surprised about Siegel's attack, because Charles Siegel was perhaps the most extreme supporter of BRT.

He and his "Friends of BRT" co-bloggers Hank Resnik and Len Conly had argued extensively with me about BRT in the Reader Commentary section of The Planet for years.

Of the 84 posts I counted on their blog, from August 2006 to February 2010, 53 were by Charles Siegel. They seemed to not understand, or not care, that BRT really wasn't green. Resnik even wrote in a letter to the Editor of The Planet that I should move out of Berkeley.

AND NOW IN 2015...

Now I find myself involved in a smaller version of the same conflict. AC Transit has greenwashed another project, this time the relocation of a very loud bus stop closer to my home.

AC Transit initially claimed that this relocation would speed up the operation of the 51B bus, and thereby increase ridership, reduce car use, and help the environment.

But now AC Transit has admitted that they lied to the City Council and the citizens of Berkeley on their application. They admit that moving the bus stop will not result in any speedup in the 51B, or help the environment in any way.

But they are planning to move the bus stop anyway, for no good reason and over the objections of the people in the neighborhood.


I talked to the new City Council member for District 8, Lori Droste about this. It seemed to me that since Berkeley wants to be green, and this relocation isn't green, that she might be interested in helping me stop this. But so far she has done nothing to really help. She hasn't even agreed to meet with me to talk about it in person.

I read her Candidate Information statement on the City of Berkeley website and I noticed that one of the 20 Berkeley Residents she refers to as supporting her is:

Charles Siegel, author & environmental advocate

I don't know if that has anything to do with her refusal to even meet with me. I assume it does but there is no way to know for sure. Maybe needlessly moving a bus stop close to my house, so I have to listen to the loudspeakers on 96 buses a day, is retaliation for the defeat of BRT.


AC Transit admits to lying on their application, and admits that moving the bus stop will not speed up public transit, increase ridership, or help with global warming. And the City of Berkeley has agreed to give AC Transit the permit to move the bus stop, even though the City agrees that AC Transit lied and that the move won't help the environment.

It is really sad that this is the best Berkeley can do, to pretend to do things that help the environment while making life harder for a disabled person like me. My health problems are very sensitive to me not sleeping well. 96 buses a day from 5am to midnight isn't going to help with that. I explained all that to Lori but she doesn't seem to care.

If having my health damaged is another price I have to pay for helping to defeat BRT, I guess it is worth it to me. But I am no longer going to consider Berkeley to be disability-friendly. Or believe Lori Droste when she says "I am running for City Council to bring a fresh perspective and to ensure we provide needed services to all, from youth to seniors"

Maybe I should have donated some money to her campaign.

A Biased Report on SB 827


The UC Berkeley report on SB 827-type development commissioned by wealthy investors is biased to the point of being near-fraudulent.

Published in the Berkeley Daily Planet on February 3, 2018.

One of the difficult things for me about greenwashing has been getting into arguments over the years with people whose goals I share. These people are often strong advocates for the environment and so am I. 

The issue is that I see problems with their reasoning that they do not. And the stakes are often very high, quality of life and the future of humanity. Neither of us wants to back down and admit they were wrong. 


In my previous article "No Science but Plenty of Money Behind Greenwashed SB 827", I wrote that I couldn't find any scientific studies of SB 827. Since then I found a report titled "Right-Type-Right-Place" that analyses the kind of housing construction specified by SB 827. 

This report was commissioned by the pro-SB 827 Next 10 organization set up by wealthy venture capitalists. And it doesn't seem to have been peer-reviewed by neutral scientists like a legitimate research paper would have been. 

As a result, the report is very biased toward SB 827, possibly even fraudulent. 


- The report does not consider the huge amount of carbon emitted by tearing down and rebuilding the housing units that are currently on property being developed. Many of the densely populated areas that have BART stations and high-frequency bus routes don't have vacant lots. Certainly Berkeley has almost none after a century of urban development. So something has to be torn down.  


- The report does not consider the increased carbon emitted by the additional buses required to carry the new riders. AC Transit gets about 30 passenger-miles-per-gallon, around half that of a driver-only Toyota Prius. A large increase in the number of bus riders would likely require an increase in the number of buses. This would effectively turn 50-passenger-miles-per-gallon Prius-driving commuters into 30-passenger-miles-per-gallon AC Transit riders and thereby POTENTIALLY INCREASE RATHER THAN DECREASE THE CARBON EMITTED BY TRANSPORTATION. 

With these two major biases, the report claims that SB 827 slash-and-burn type housing construction near transit can save 201 million gallons of gasoline every year in California. 


In reality it is ONE PERCENT of the gasoline used in the state. 

So the damage to neighborhoods, the evictions of elderly and disabled tenants from the their rent-controlled homes, the apparent outlawing of affordable units in the new buildings, is all to remove A CLAIMED ONE PERCENT of California's gasoline use. 

And gasoline use is only responsible for around ONE QUARTER of carbon emissions. So even with these biased projections, SB 827 is expected to reduce California's carbon footprint by less than ONE-THIRD OF ONE PERCENT. 


A third of a percent reduction in carbon emissions, which the authors claim "provides the best outcomes for meeting the state’s climate goals", is a drop in the bucket. And that is if the reduction actually occurs, which is highly doubtful. 

When the torn-down-unit-rebuilding carbon increases and the additional-trains-and-buses carbon increases are factored in, as they would have been in an unbiased report, that one-third percent number will decrease and quite possibly will go negative. Meaning SB 827 would end up emitting more carbon than would have been emitted without it. 

We need more than just empty gestures and pretend solutions, we need real solutions that make a significant dent in our carbon emissions. 


The authors of the report could have chosen to include these very significant sources of increased carbon emissions in the report. But they made the decision to exclude them. And they made that decision for a reason. 

The only reason I can think of is to cover up the fact that SB 827 DOESN'T HELP PREVENT GLOBAL WARMING. According to my calculations, SB 827 MAKES GLOBAL WARMING WORSE. 

So Scott Wiener and Nancy Skinner have protected their developer donors' projects from a legitimate environmental review. And SB 827 supporters have concocted a deceptive report. Even that report admits that any possible carbon reductions would be insignificant. 


We as a society need a way to measure how good or bad a proposed project like SB 827 is. Something that is accurate and easy to understand. 

I suggest that for each project like this, scientists calculate: 

- An unbiased estimate of any reduction in carbon emissions. 

- An unbiased estimate of the number of years until carbon breakeven. 

By "carbon breakeven" I mean the number of years it would take for the expected annual carbon reductions to overcome the initial carbon emitted by constructing the project. 

If a project has a short breakeven time, maybe 10 or 20 years, it might produce real improvements in the environment. 

If a project has an intermediate breakeven time, maybe 100 years, there is still some chance it might be worth doing. 

If a project has a long breakeven time, maybe 1000 years, it will just make the current situation worse. 

Armed with these numbers, policy makers and voters can easily separate good projects from bad ones. And we can start making real progress on global warming. 


There is a tendency for any project that would actually reduce carbon emissions to be lobbied against by big corporations and super-wealthy individuals because it reduces the profits they make off their carbon-emitting activities. 

Any project that increases carbon, and increases their profits, isn't lobbied against. 

The result is that good projects don't make it to fruition and bad projects do. This needs to change if we want to really do something about carbon emissions and global warming. 


One of the reasons to get money out of politics is that money and carbon are closely related and effectively the same thing for political purposes. Projects need to be judged on their effects on the environment and the American People, not their effects on profits made by extremely rich people. 

As voters, we will likely have to solve this problem for ourselves. Enact strong campaign finance laws. Recall corrupt politicians. Demand real solutions. 

If we do these things, I think we can make some improvements and have the bright future we deserve

Please share this site to help others research their voting choices.