Blogging Bayport Alameda

February 14, 2020

$1 million per unit

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:04 am

One of the most eye opening and shocking pieces of information from Monday’s Planning Board meeting was this piece of the public comment from the director of Housing and Community Development at Alameda Housing Authority.  This came after many comments by public speakers, who seemed to want to put more, non subjective criteria in this objective checklist, talking about how Everett Commons is the ideal design for affordable housing developments in Alameda.

The public comment:

I’m concerned that this list of the standards could have unintended consequences from subjective interpretation unrelated to the production of affordable housing because of cost implications.

I know specifically it’s been discussed and it was in the presentation, Everett Commons, which is our property, multifamily property, that was built over at Everett right off Park which has been applauded for its context.  I will say that that project is currently subject to a public records request because of the intense, high cost.  It cost almost $1 million a unit to built that.  And while there are a number of different reasons why the cost was high, design definitely had an impact.  Currently we’re actually waiting for an article from the LA Times that discusses a number of high cost properties throughout the state of California, so we’re not the only one, but that one was specifically targeted as being too high cost.  And we know, from being on the inside, that design played a definite role in that.


February 13, 2020

Senseless deaths

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:06 am

Some of us, as progressives, are quick to point the finger of blame when it comes to gun safety and the lack of action taken by elected leaders to take meaningful action on gun control.   But when it comes to our own communities there’s a higher reluctance to actually do anything about pedestrian and bicycle safety.

There’s the lip service about how it would be nice but if it involves doing anything that might inconvenience the free flow of traffic then all sort of reasons are brought up as to why it would be infeasible to make more streets more bike friendly or why giving extra wide roads in Alameda a diet would cost drivers precious seconds.

Yesterday, as reported by the City of Alameda, another pedestrian was killed in Alameda:

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February 12, 2020

Vision zero possible

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:02 am

I just read the Pete Buttigieg has committed to a national Vision Zero policy if he’s elected president.  While that may not be sufficient to get me on the Buttigieg bandwagon, it reminded me of a piece I read last month about two major metropolitan cities which clocked in no pedestrian fatalities last year.  Zero.

Unsurprisingly, they were not in the United States.  They were Oslo, Norway and Helsinki, Finland.

Oslo’s population of 675K managed this through a combination of deliberate steps to make their city friendly to people not in cars.  From a Streetsblog post:

The road to Vision Zero was paved with a mix of regulations that lowered speed, barring cars from certain areas, expanding its bike network, and added traffic calming measures around schools.

And given that we have had so much attention from the school community, here’s food for thought:

Oslo leaders also sought to tame aggressive drivers in other neighborhoods. They drastically lowered speed limits inside and outside downtown areas, expanded its bike network, and established “Hjertesoners” or “heart zones” where vehicles are not permitted to pick up or drop off children around each primary school.


February 11, 2020

Not enough housing

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:01 am

Because even when we have studies about the shortage in housing there will always be a chorus of folks who seem to think that we don’t need to add supply to help alleviate the burden.

Most recently the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard released a report which, surprisingly, concluded that the rental housing market is tight across all incomes.   But it’s not just people at the low end of the income spectrum having trouble, it’s also middle income folks as well.   From US News and World Report:

While low-income Americans have struggled for years with housing costs, the report finds the challenges of paying rent each month are creeping up the income ladder, causing middle-income Americans to feel the pinch.

The increase in renting among high-income, older and larger households, in particular – driven in part by the rising costs of homeownership – translates to shortages in affordable rental housing in both rural and urban areas across the country, the report said. With higher-income households contributing to much of the growth in rental demand since 2010, development has shifted toward meeting the upper end of the market, often in central city locations that then become unaffordable to middle- and low-income households.


February 10, 2020

Planning Board housekeeping

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:00 am

The agenda for the Planning Board is really only housekeeping items to align Alameda’s rules with state law.   The first is sort of a boring sounding objective design review standards but this is actually a pretty important adoption for the city not only because it aligns with state law because it moves the city away from design review decisions based on how someone “feels” about the look of a project aka subjective standards.   Note these changes are to comply with AB 35.

The proposed objective design review standards are literally a checklist that relies on someone assessing if a project has, for example, for windows:

Windows are recessed at least four inches from surrounding exterior wall surfaces, measured from window frame to finished exterior wall.

There’s no, “I don’t like the placement of these windows” to hold up an entire design anymore.  I mean, I know Alameda has to adopt these, but it’s still nice to see Alameda move forward and not try to find a huge workaround.


February 7, 2020

Shift in the conversation

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:07 am

Even with set backs like SB 50 not passing, it still feels like today there is a change in the air around how we talk about housing and the responsibility of local government to examine its role in exacerbating the housing crisis.  I’ve been reflecting a lot about how Alameda was when I first started this blog (mostly because the passing of Barbara Kahn had me thinking about when I first met her) and discussing housing and development even 14 years ago seemed like such a verboten topic.

But now, we regularly see people challenging the status quo when it comes to housing issues and it’s glorious.   That we had a public hearing about the “third rail of Alameda politics” A/26 and it was relatively benign definitely gives me hope for the future.

And with other jurisdictions across the United States getting rid of single family zoning to encourage more affordable forms of housing and folks actively talking about the need for more housing overall, it feels as though we’ve reached a new plateau around how we think and communicate about housing.


February 6, 2020

Remembering Barbara Kahn

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:06 am

On Tuesday night the City Council closed their meeting by saying very nice things about a very significant member of the Alameda community who passed away over the weekend: Barbara Kahn.

More recently folks will remember that she was elected to the School Board and served exactly the way the she said she was going to: framing nearly all her decision through the lens of equity.  For those that are more deeply entrenched in the political world, they’ll remember Barbara Kahn as the formidable grand dame of the Alameda Democratic Club who always spoke her mind no matter who was in the room.  For those that go back even further, they’ll remember Barbara Kahn as a founding member of the Brown Baggers, a group of ladies who did the hard work of social and political advocacy in Alameda way before it became easy with all the social networking tools we have now.


February 5, 2020

Reframing history

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:05 am

It’s a bit old but I’ve been meaning to point to Rasheed Shabazz’s commentary in the Alameda Sun from a few weeks ago around A/26.  What I really appreciate about Rasheed Shabazz is that we finally have a historian in Alameda who is examining Alameda’s history through a lens that was probably never used before in the past.

Highlights from that Alameda Sun commentary:

While the 1960s and 1970s brought an increased national consciousness of the environment and racism, Alameda experienced increased racial residential segregation and exclusion. The Island’s electorate supported Proposition 14, a statewide initiative overturning fair housing legislation, and the Alameda Housing Authority displaced thousands of Black tenants.

How many people knew this about Alameda’s history and understood its relevance to Alameda’s vote on A/26.


February 4, 2020

Weight of the word

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:04 am

There’s quite a few items of interest on tonight’s City Council meeting including a Referral about considering paid parking lots at the ferry terminals.  I would totally support this by the way as long as the funds collected went into public transportation operations.

But the main item that caught my attention is the revisiting of the role of the Open Government Commission.  Specifically, City staff is recommending that the City Council remove the ability of the OGC to be able to “null and void” a City Council action and order the City Council to cure a policy that has been rendered.

As a reminder this conflict between what the City Council had set as policy for the OGC and what staff feels as though the roles of the OGC should be reared its head during the cannabis dispensary business.

The TL;dr is a citizen complaint was filed with OGC, OGC agreed with citizen that the agenda item was improperly noticed and that the vote on the ordinance should be null and voided.  Rather than just renoticing, City staff asked the OGC to reconsider its position, OGC said no.


February 3, 2020

On accident

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:03 am

Last Friday on RAMP right around the time that kids are typically let out of school a driver hopped the curb driving probably in excess of the 35 mph posted speed limit and struck and killed a young woman.   The post by the City of Alameda indicates that the driver was/is under investigation for intoxication.

I think it’s high time that the City of Alameda examine the need for 35 mph speed limits anywhere in Alameda.  Certainly they are no longer necessary on Main Street where they between Stargell and the Ferry where the road has been given a diet.  In fact, that road still needs a bit more work particularly around where the parking is, but that’s another post for another day.


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