The East Bay Express has a terrific piece on the Next Door social media platform and some of the pitfalls that come with (1) a relatively closed social media platform and (2) anything dealing with people’s neighborhoods. I’ll be completely honest, one of the reasons I pulled back from my local Next Door message board was some of the discussions around “outsiders” that would make me super uncomfortable.
Although this is specific to Oakland neighborhoods, the types of discussions mentioned in the piece are not limited to Oakland neighborhoods, from the piece:
Over the last two years, their neighborhood has become overrun with racial profiling — but not by police, rather by mostly white residents incorrectly assuming that people of color who are walking, driving, hanging out, or living in the neighborhood are criminal suspects. These residents often don’t recognize that they may have long held racial prejudices or unconscious biases, but recently, they’ve been able to instantly broadcast their unsubstantiated suspicions to thousands of their neighbors with the click of a mouse.
Nothing for today, enjoy your day off (if you have it off)
On Wednesday night the big Harbor Bay meeting was puzzling and amazing all at the same time. The best thing about this was watching the drama unfold particularly when you don’t really have a dog in the fight, horse in the race, or any other animal related saying.
First was the color coordinated shirts. Blue for the Harbor Bay Associates supporters and red for the Harbor Bay Neighbors. Then there was Andrew Thomas show where he brought everyone up to speed on how the City got to this particular place. After that came the 30 minutes of from the HBIA and 30 minutes from HBN. The HBIA presentation was a huge dog and pony show complete with fancy videos and everything about how great the new club was going to be which seemed really out of place because everyone had agreed that the night’s discussion would not be about the new club that HBIA wanted to build but rather the Packet Landing site where the current Harbor Bay Club exists.
HBN — for a neutral observer not attempting to suck up to win the votes of Harbor Bay voters in the next election — would find the arguments offered by this group to be pretty unconvincing. They insisted that Harbor Bay Club had to stay where it was because it was somehow owed to the community. Then they had an architect come to attest to the fact that, yes, the Club at the current site could be remodeled. Apparently this struck no one on the HBN leadership as weird to remodel someone else’s business for them and announce this as though it is meaningful. And then there was the parade of Bay Farm HOA Board Members. This is apparently super important in Bay Farm parlance, but rather meaningless for the rest of us serfs (even those of us that belong to an HOA, I don’t know if I would, personally, readily announce that I was on the Board of an HOA, but that’s just me).
Tonight the Rec and Park Commission will be reviewing and making a recommendation on the Cross Alameda Trail portion of the Jean Sweeney Open Space Park. While this is going to be a feel good agenda item, here’s what the Rec and Park Commission should be concerned about in addition to back patting and sending accolades to staff on a job well done: the job’s not quite done.
Here’s the concern. While the trail will be protected on Atlantic (RAMP) between Main and Webster and then the Sweeney Open Space Park will provide a protected connection through the stretch of that street there is a terrible gap between Webster and Constitution where, I guess, people on bikes will be forced on to the sidewalks and streets to get between the two pieces of the Cross Alameda Trail. Somehow this is an acceptable proposition for the City right now. But it should not be an acceptable condition for the Rec and Park Commission whose biking constituency will be unceremoniously dumped from protected bike lane to protected bike lane and expected to fend for themselves in a crazy busy stretch of street.
Sources say that the funding, the $2.9 million from grants and Measure B money was supposed to be spent on the Cross Alameda Trail from Sherman all the way to Webster, but the renderings for discussion tonight only speak to the Cross Alameda Trail portion that runs through the Open Space land ending at Constitution where, arguably, the need for a safe bike connection is the most needed.
An interesting topic that — if memory serves — a commenter here had a young relative in another state that was working on a similar effort: in San Francisco young leaders are attempting to lower the voting age in San Francisco, for local issues only, to 16. From City Lab:
It was the historic Scottish vote that inspired then-Youth Commissioner Joshua Cardenas, now 18, to introduce a Youth Commission resolution calling for expanded voting rights in December 2014.
The San Francisco teens have mustered a number of persuasive arguments why they should have just as much right to part the voting-booth curtains as their 18-year-old siblings. They pay sales and income tax. They drive and park in the city. They are affected by funding decisions, sometimes more than adults. And they can be tried as adults in court.
But perhaps most persuasive is the idea that granting 16-year-olds the vote could have a positive impact on civic engagement beyond their demographic.
“My parents don’t vote—they were not even registered—so growing up, I’ve never gotten the chance to freely express myself or voice my opinions,” says Anna He, 16, the Youth Commissioner for District 6, which encompasses both the single-room occupancy dwellings of the Tenderloin and the tech industry palaces of South Beach.
Once He was appointed to the Youth Commission and began pushing the Vote16SF proposal, cracks appeared in the ice of her parents’ political indifference. Her mother has since registered to vote.
Apparently Harbor Bay Associates are none too happy about tomorrow’s Special Meeting. Now this meeting is only to get feedback from the community about what they want to go into the old Harbor Bay Club site when and/or if Harbor Bay Associates decides to build their new club closer to the business park. Staff has laid out what they believe are the pros and cons of both scenarios: (1) leaving everything the way it is or (2) rezoning to residential and have decided that number (1) is the better choice at this time.
Naturally, even with a vote tomorrow night, nothing would preclude Harbor Bay from putting in an application to rezone that parcel at a later date, but at this actual moment in time, staff is suggesting that the City Council just keep everything as is.
Just so folks don’t think it’s a strictly Alameda phenomenon of opposing development, recently the Planning Board in Berkeley approved a large downtown project that would bring 302 residential spaces to Berkeley. That proposal met a fair amount of oppositions, but look at how the opposition and proponents were described:
Opponents cited the scale of the project, flaws in the approval process, concerns about earthquake safety and worries about the impact of construction on nearby Berkeley High School. Advocates called for more housing in Berkeley and for increased activity downtown. To a remarkable extent, the divide in opinion was generational: older commenters were opposed; younger ones approved.
“We have to stop letting the perfect be the enemy of the good and get housing built now,” said Eric Panzer, chair of Livable Berkeley. He said many opponents had secured housing in Berkeley years ago and wanted to “pull up the drawbridge.”
Also, check out some of the strong comments from the Board members:
After many many many letters to the editor and signs cropping up all over the island, there is a chance, once and for all for all the cards to be figuratively laid on the table with regard to the whole new Harbor Bay Club and what will happen with the space that is left if neu-HBC is built.
The funny thing about all the handwringing over the whole topic is that it was assumed that some how the approvals for the housing at the current HBC site was fait accompli and being actively pushed by City Staff, but while the City Manager has changed, the staff that writes the reports and aligns the staff recommendations with what is best for the City of Alameda as a whole has not. I guess it must have come as a surprise to some folks that staff is suggesting that the City Council not move forward with rezoning the current HBC site. From the staff report:
Amending the General Plan is a policy decision that requires that the community and the City Council balance and value different, and sometimes competing, public interests. In this case, staff recommends that the City Council move to affirm the current General Plan and Zoning designations for the property. The staff recommendation is based upon the following:
• The City of Alameda General Plan and Zoning Ordinance provides enough land for residential use to meet the City’s regional housing needs through 2023. In 2023, the City Council may need to re-evaluate its residential land supply as part of the next State-mandated Housing Element update. At this time, no rezoning for housing is needed.
• The Alameda community as a whole has an expressed need for recreational services and facilities. To ensure that the City maintains lands designated for these purposes, staff recommends that the City Council maintain the Commercial Recreational designated lands to address the commercial recreational needs of current and future generations of Alameda residents.
I often wondered as I read (and hear) folks maligning the aesthetics of new construction if there were ever similar statements made when some of the cherished old homes were first newly constructed. Or, if new home aesthetics and building techniques simply just are worse in the modern age than they were when someone’s bungalow or Queen Anne was built. While I was interested, I was not really that motivated to do any research on the topic. But, hey look, the Atlantic did it for everyone who has ever wondered and anyone who had ever sneered while visiting a model home for new construction. From the Atlantic:
This represents what one might call the “immaculate-conception theory” of development. It holds that unlike the homes constructed today, older housing was built the right way—modestly and without an eye for profit. These older values, in turn, imply the faults of modern buildings: gaudy and wasteful, disruptive to existing communities, and motivated only by money.
To begin with, many of the arbiters of taste of the bungalow era believed those new bungalow neighborhoods “ruined” the character of the places they were built, just as new apartment buildings are maligned today. They even had a snappy put-down for it: “bungalow disease.” “Tradition has broken down,” wrote the British planner Thomas Sharp, describing a proliferation of bungalows on both sides of the Atlantic, and “taste is utterly debased … The old trees and hedgerows … have given place to concrete posts and avenues of telegraph poles, to hoardings and enamel advertising signs.”
Critics accused the new bungalow neighborhoods not just of being ugly, but of ripping apart the social fabric of the city. One writer argued that in new neighborhoods full of many separate houses, “each building is treated in isolation, nothing binds it to the next one,” and as a result they lacked an “essential” “togetherness.”
Raise your hand if you actually believe that Frank Matarrese has unironic stationary that reads: “From the desk of Frank Matarrese.” I totally believe he does.
Anyway, from the desk of Frank Matarrese to you is Frank Matarrese attempting to tackle kinda sorta the whole problem with Alameda families and individuals losing their housing without actually having to add any supply to the housing inventory or actual institute any sort of real rental protections, here are his “solutions”:
To help protect renters from unfair evictions, I want to expand the scope of the RRAC to include evictions
To provide more affordable housing without overbuilding, I want to increase the numbers of affordable units by offering amnesty to owners of illegal units in exchange for turning them into affordable housing
To discourage landlords from reaping unreasonable profits from unwarranted and extreme rent increases, I propose increasing their Alameda business license tax based on their increased profits
First, “expanding” the scope of the RRAC without giving the RRAC any real powers is sort of useless. Unless the RRAC becomes a body that has the actual ability to fine and lien property owners for not complying with the rulings, then you might as well have the RRAC in charge of ponies and rainbows while you’re at it for all the good it will do.