Local News

Jacob Lewin interviews candidates for Astoria City Council

KMUN’s Jacob Lewin recently spoke with each of the four candidates running for positions on the Astoria City Council in this November’s election. Below are the interviews in their entirety:

Council Ward 1:

Andrew Davis:

Geoff Gunn:

Council Ward 3:

Elisabeth Adams:

Kris Haefker:


Andrew Davis is a research analyst for the Oregon Health Authority and has served on Astoria’s and the county’s budget committees and is on the board for a group planning to build affordable housing at the old Mallternative building on Marine Drive. He believes the price and scarcity of housing is our biggest issue:

“This is really a beautiful place to live. It’s a place where people want to come to and relatively it’s less expensive than some of the other markets like Portland and Seattle that are nearby, so there’s always going to be some pressure from people outside the community coming in and taking up housing stock or making it more expensive, so we have to come up with creative solutions as a community.”

Q: How do you get a developer to build more affordable housing when they have the opportunity to build at the higher end?:

“That’s a big challenge. Obviously most developers are here to make a profit. That’s totally understandable, so you have to either have incentive packages like the ones that we’re using for our development downtown where the federal government is granting money through states to make affordable housing or you even do things at the city, the county level. We can try to cooperate to do things like make land more available.”

Underlying Davis’s issues is his sense that it’s hard to get some people in Astoria to listen to one another:

“Right now I think there’s some sense of community, sense of cooperation that I want to try and get us moving toward. The discussions we had around Heritage Square and some other issues in town can be a bit divisive and it’s hard to get people to cooperate and sort of see each other as neighbors.”

Q: Division is a nationwide problem. How can you make a difference on the local level?:

“I think part of it is changing how we learn to separate feeling listened to, feeling heard, and getting our way. I think that sometimes we tie the two together so that if we go and make public comments or a counselor makes a comment in opposition to other councilors or the Mayor, if they don’t get the result they’re looking for, they don’t feel heard, don’t feel like they’ve been part of the process, and I think we need to break that down a little bit and understand we’ve still got democratic processes to work through.”

As for Heritage Square, Davis thinks the next step is to see if people want a public plaza and will pay for it. If the city moves homeless people away from downtown to camping areas, he thinks we will need to provide some on-site services. He also has a strong interest in transportation issues:

“There’s been dreams in the ether about someday having a bypass in the area to take traffic out maybe by the fairgrounds or thereabouts so that not all of the traffic in the summertime goes through the downtown. I think those are interesting possibilities if ODOT wants to go in that direction again. One of the things that I’m really attracted to is downtown spaces that are very pedestrian oriented so that if we did develop a plaza downtown, I would be very interested in making a portion of the downtown really car-free.”

He also says the city will be dealing with the challenges of a growing senior population:

“The population demographic for Astoria and for Clatsop County skews a little bit older. You have some gaps in the 20 and 30-something range which will cause some issues like school populations may decrease and things like that and we’ll need more access as far as senior living, care for our older populations, so those will be challenges. There’ll be opportunities I think there for the City to work with places like the hospital and the senior living center to try and make sure that we have the right mix of resources for people.”


Geoff Gunn is the chef and general manager at Astoria’s Bridgewater Bistro. He’s also a Casa volunteer, and founder of the Iron Chef Competition that benefits United Way:

“The number one issue is housing. Being that I’m in this industry, with restaurants we have really struggled with people to apply and get good, solid employees and that’s mainly because we just don’t have the infrastructure and housing to support them. I would also like to work on the port, which obviously is in my ward, to ease up on restrictions on their properties, which we have a lot of industrial properties in this area that aren’t being utilized.”

Gunn thinks there may be a role for employers to provide housing for staff:

“That is a good one. I think it would have to be more of a collaborative thing because a mom and pop operation like we have here, we don’t have the capital to buy an apartment building and have it strictly for our employees. It’s just not feasible. But I would like to maybe look into a collaborative through the community of restaurateurs and hoteliers to see what kind of options we do have in that area.”

He believes we should again approach the question of putting housing at Heritage Square:

“It is centrally located which makes it perfect. So, I would like to look at that again, maybe find a different developer, different investor that really has more of the community-based point of view and see how we can make something work. Parking is also an issue and so incorporating parking into that whole scheme would actually make sense. There’s no reason why we couldn’t put a couple of levels of parking or even one level of parking and then build on top of that.”

And, as an employer, Gunn has personal experience trying to help an employee who was homeless:

“I did. I took him out of a couple of bad situations where another homeless person was threatening him with a knife. I went and picked him up, gave him a bag and put him in a safe place. I have another working for me right now who, not to his detriment, he happened upon a bad situation, but he’s one of the hardest workers I have.

He supports the idea of a year-round shelter for homeless people, possibly getting rid of one of the derelict buildings at the port to make way:

“If we can creative and try to find better uses for those properties I think it would really benefit this whole houselessness issue but we can’t put too many restrictions on it. These people rely on their dogs for companionship and all these other things. You can’t restrict them from drinking a beer or smoking marijuana. It is legal. So if you’re going to put all these restrictions on these people who obviously can find other ways of surviving out in the elements, then they’re not going to want to stay there.”

Gunn is also interested in tackling some of Astoria’s transportation problems:

“I do think it would be interesting to talk to the Department of Transportation on kind of figuring out a different approach to traffic flows. Also I would definitely like because I know in my area, there are so many people that have become completely fed up with the truckers coming over the bridge and using their jake brakes. So definitely I want to sit down with the Department of Transportation and figure out some solutions to all these problems. I think that that’s a long process, but I want to start that conversation.”


Elisabeth Adams owns a massage studio downtown and has worked as a public transit advocate. As a volunteer, she played a role in bringing Coastal Family Health to Astoria, providing better access for uninsured and underinsured residents. Two of the things that distinguish her as a candidate are her small business background and the fact that she is a renter:

“As a renter, that voice is incredibly unrepresented when we’re looking at how we’re continuing to speak to our property owners and our renters and expanding what our potential housing options are. Astoria is so incredible. Astoria will never not have this lure. People will want to move here. People will want to live here. It has an amazing magical aspect to it and we need to be able to speak to all income levels in our housing.”

Adams says Astoria is in a housing crisis and she wants to build on some of the positive things the City is doing to alleviate it:

“We’re able to look at how we’re selling property, sizes of property, we’re looking at being able to split duplexes and different types of clusters. So I think the City is doing a really good job starting to implement those but I think there is definitely more that could be done. We really need affordable housing.”

But Adams does not believe that we should revisit the question of putting housing at Heritage Square:

“Something has to be done. We have to move forward with that space, we have to move forward. It is unused, it is an incredible piece of property. I do feel in favor of public spaces and I do feel in favor of potentially a public space there, but that also brings into our parking dilemma that we’re having, and as a small business owner, in my business community downtown, we’re seeing an incredible number of business owners who are in favor of a parking structure.”

Although Adams herself does not favor a parking structure at Heritage Square. She does think that Astoria needs a year-round homeless shelter:

“I don’t know the location for that. I don’t know the logistics for that, but I do know that our unhoused populations needs to be served. We have to serve them. We have to figure out how we’re going to serve them. This moving of people around to different spaces, not giving really giving the resources to them that are necessary has a huge impact on our community as a whole, our county as a whole, and from my perspective as a downtown business owner, it’s a daily struggle.”

And she strongly supports the bond measure to fund renovations to the public library:

“I’ve been a user of the library since I was a young child, living in Swenson. My dad would come to town to go the union hall and I would get dropped off at the library, which in those days was probably the safest place in town for a young kid to hang out, and it was one of the most exciting things for me to come to the library as country as that sounds and then as my children grew, going to story time, utilizing the library as resources to meet other parents and the programming that they offer there, the library really deserves to hold a space in our community that is valued and accessible to our entire community.”


Kris Haefker is a housing provider and contractor, specializing in restoring historic houses. His three top issues are infrastructure, support for the arts, and– especially– housing:

“We need to look at how do we retain affordable units and keep people housed. That’s something that needs serious discussion. I think Clatsop Community Action and the housing authority, they work awfully hard to provide housing and, if they can get additional support, and if we can work with them closely as we have been, then they are the best people to come up with action plans.”

While new construction in Astoria is constrained by geography and height restrictions, Haefker does think we have room to build:

“There are parcels for example along the river walk, I don’t see them being necessarily affordable housing but I could see a project there where affordable housing is integrated into it. So if we could offer incentives to builders to apply some units to their project, that would be great.”

Haefker is intrigued by a Portland project to ease homelessness that constructs small villages of tiny houses—ten to twelve very small homes plus collective space and onsite management. He also thinks we need to create a year-round homeless shelter:

“I don’t want to have tents on the street. It’s a lot more beneficial when people do have support so where you’re gonna have year-round shelter and how many beds you’re gonna have, it’s complex so, yes, people should be sheltered.”

He thinks Heritage Square should become a public plaza, possibly one that honors Native Americans and might have a housing component. He’s been thinking about the division in the community that the Heritage Square debate brought to the fore:

“One element that didn’t get talked about much with the Heritage Square is just the timing of it all and we were as a community cooped up with covid. And I think that the emotional responses weren’t all just about the issue but was also a venting from covid.”

Haefker believes council will have to take on the problem of decaying streets and sidewalks as well as traffic:

“I think it’s a great idea to have a bypass. How that gets executed is complex and obviously it’s very expensive. There’s a great need to reduce traffic flow coming through Astoria. The logging trucks and the chip trucks and all the various trucks coming through downtown doesn’t do us any favors in terms of rattling the buildings apart. It would be wonderful if we could alleviate some of the congestion coming through town and also the noise.”

He’s also a big supporter of the library measure:

“It doesn’t take you long to realize how important libraries are when you travel abroad into countries that don’t have libraries. It’s a mechanism for especially young people to get out of poverty, to get education. To have access to information.”