Blogging Bayport Alameda

October 15, 2009

Doug Biggs: The Economics of Opportunity

Filed under: Alameda, Alameda Point, Development, Guest blogging — Tags: — Lauren Do @ 6:39 am

Title V of the McKinney-Vento Act(the “Homeless Assistance Act”) provides suitable surplus Federal properties for use to assist homeless persons. It was this provision that resulted in the creation of the Alameda Point Collaborative out of the closure of the Alameda Naval Air Station. The accommodation process included development of a plan, review and feedback by the community and negotiations with the City, acting as ARRA. The result was a number of agreements that laid out the amount of housing, commercial properties and other uses that would be granted for a 59 year period. One key agreement was the setting of a first source hiring agreement that has a goal (not a mandate, but a goal) of placing homeless and low-income residents into 15% of all new jobs at Alameda Point. Along with the potential opportunities of this agreement, comes responsibilities for APC to ensure that residents have or can be trained in the skills and qualifications required to effectively complete and hold jobs.

The rationale for the hiring goal is obvious. Providing economic opportunity is the best way to move someone from homelessness to self sufficiency. Unfortunately, in the intervening decade since the creation of APC, this dream, like so many other visions for the Point has been largely unfulfilled, due not so much to companies not hiring, but more to the lack of any new job creation occurring at the Point. Many companies that are or have been out here have stepped up. For example the Bladium, the Hornet and Revolution Foods have all employed APC residents. The largest employer of APC residents so far has been APC itself. Approximately 15 residents are employed at any given time.

Some recent developments may help begin to turn the tide on economic development. APC was recently awarded $625,000 by the Federal Government to expand economic development for residents. Our goal is to create 25 new jobs over the next 3 years through activities at APC and in partnership with other organizations and companies. This pilot project will provide us the systems and experience we need so that when the redevelopment of Alameda Point finally begins our residents will be ready to take advantage of the economic opportunities being made available.

Doug Biggs is the Executive Director of the Alameda Point Collaborative.



  1. Complete waste of taxpayer dollars …

    Comment by Jeff R. Thomason — October 15, 2009 @ 9:49 am

  2. Okay, ignore the nasty troll, I am trying mightily not to take the bait and respond. That said, let’s not let him quash a discussion about the work of APC.

    APC is a terrific asset to Alameda. The work they do providing housing, jobs, and other opportunities to the needy in our community is inspiring and deserves support from all of us.

    The entire community benefits from their work not only through the help they give to their clients, but through the great services they provide to all us through Plough Shares and Cycles of Change.

    Thanks to you Doug, and to all the folks working hard at APC.

    Comment by david burton — October 15, 2009 @ 11:09 am

  3. So, I guess anybody that disagrees with your premise is a troll.

    Comment by Jack Richard — October 15, 2009 @ 11:33 am

  4. No, just someone who throws out one liners just to be a mean spirited bully.

    Jack, I may not agree with your viewpoint sometimes but, if my memory is correct, you usually keep the discussion on a civil level. Differing viewpoints should appear here and be debated, so have at it.

    If one thinks that what APC does isn’t an appropriate use of taxpayer dollars I may disagree with that but I suppport and encourage you expressing your opinion.

    What is the proper, and effective, way for society to help those in need on a large scale if not through government programs?

    Comment by david burton — October 15, 2009 @ 11:51 am

  5. david-

    Please explain, since you echoed APC’s spiel and I am ignorant of them, just what are the “great services” APC provides for the community other than a used bicycle fixing-up program and a nursery? The community lacked these services before APC?

    This is not to disparage APC. The concept was thrust upon the community by the feds as part of base closing requirements and the community probably did the best it could but in Doug Biggs’ post he admits that the 15% goal of new jobs on the base was not met and the largest employer of APC newly trained individuals is APC itself. Were any non-APC jobs created on the base?

    Further, Doug states APC was recently awarded $625K from the feds then states APC’s goal is to create 25 new jobs over the next three years with this money. That’s $25K per job. One would hope that each recipient of each new job would repay the $25K spent to find that job and the jobs don’t all end up on APC’s payroll.

    As I see it, government funded programs like this tend to become set in concrete and morph into staff entitlement programs outside of and unable to compete in the marketplace. Does the Ploughshare Nursery make a profit? I don’t know. The 2007 APC annual report link says they sold 5000 plants. Did the purchasers of those plants pay sales tax a portion of which went back to the city?

    Finally, I don’t think it’s trollish or mean spirited to have opinions on how tax payer money is spent regardless of how many lines it takes to express them.

    Comment by Jack Richard — October 15, 2009 @ 2:32 pm

  6. I’ll take Jeff’s comments in the form of an opnion and not a troll, and provide him with some statistics to help shape the discussion.

    Supportive housing, as practiced by APC is designed to serve those who would not be able to stay housed without a wide range of supportive services. If not for supportive housing, these resident typically would be using public resources in a much more expensive manner. For example, studies (all of the citations are at – the Corporation for Supportive Housing) have shown that:
    Residents of supportive housing have shown a 50% decrease in the use of emergency services

    Participants in job programs at supportive housing sites have decreased their utilization of public benefits by an average of $1500 per year.

    It costs 1/3 as much to provide someone supportive housing, as it does to keep them in jail, and a day in supportive housing costs only 1/30th as much as a day in a mental hospital.

    APC focuses on supportive housing for families, and in fact we are the largest provider of supportive housing for families in the East Bay. The stability provided by supportive housing (95% of our residents maintain housing for at least 2 years) leads to stability in families. We have seen evidence of that stability in the high number of family reunifications occuring.

    By any of those typical measures, the types of programs provided by APC are a cost savings instead of a waste. Add on the potential buying power, increased rents, and taxes paid by residents who gain employment as we are working to make possible at APC, and the societal benefits of programs like the Bike Shop, Growing Youth and Ploughshares Nursery and the cost effectiveness becomes even greater.

    Comment by Doug Biggs — October 15, 2009 @ 2:51 pm

  7. Doug, you say, “(95% of our residents maintain housing for at least 2 years)” What happens to them when they no longer maintain housing with you? What is the homeless recidivism rate for those who leave your supportive housing? Is there a time limit for individuals or famlies in your supportive housing?

    Comment by Jack Richard — October 15, 2009 @ 3:30 pm

  8. Hi Jack, In the time I was writing my first response, you had posted, so let me answer some of those questions first. As I said in my initial post, other employers at Alameda Point have hired APC residents, however the lack of movement on the redevelopment of the point has definitely hampered job creation.

    Most of the new funds will help build capacity – purchase equipment, construct an operations center that will then enable us to create jobs for 25 residents. That’s just in the first three years. The capacity building is so that we can create even more jobs going forward, both in house and with other employers. With regards to in-house jobs, why wouldn’t it be better for a resident to do grounds maintenance at Alameda Point instead of someone from the outside?

    We collect, and pay sales tax on all taxable items sold both at the nursery and at the bike shop.

    The majority of our housing is permanent supportive housing. In order to qualify the head of household has to have a physical or mental disability or be recovering from chronic substance abuse. Permanent residents can live here indefinitely and pay 30% of their income in rent. About 1/3 of our housing is transitional and allow residents to spend 2 years (they also pay 30% of their income in rent).

    Last year 72% of our transitional residents moved into permanent housing when they left APC. 38% either returned to homelessness or lost contact. Knowing that those 38% represent 11 families who have potentially become homeless again is not a great feeling, but compare that with the national average where more than 60% of transitional residents become homeless again.

    Comment by Doug Biggs — October 15, 2009 @ 8:12 pm

  9. I’ve long admired the supportive housing program of APC. Programs like APC build community by helping people to realize their full potential – the same objective of our schools and our City government, especially the Economic Development Commission.

    And, as Doug points out, APC actually saves government money. Rather than promoting conspicuous consumption to pull us out of our recession, our government should invest more in our neighbors, as APC is doing, and boost basic consumption while making people more self-sufficient.

    Economists make a strong case that lower income people would have spent more of the government stimulus payments to individual taxpayers and saved less and gotten our economy going faster. I find that compassion is, more often than not, the economically advantageous course – build your customer base!

    Thank you APC for adding heft to Alameda’s customer base.

    Comment by William Smith — October 15, 2009 @ 9:13 pm

  10. Thanks Doug, I support what you’re doing.

    Comment by Jack Richard — October 15, 2009 @ 10:15 pm

  11. Well said Mr Smith, and I suspect APC is advancing the ideas of ‘green’ and ‘natural’ and ‘low carbon footprint’ in teaching and helping others toward self sufficiency and sustainably meeting their own basic consumption needs.

    Comment by Dave K — October 15, 2009 @ 10:57 pm

  12. Jack and all,

    The APC’s decidedly “green” approach is a great example for everyone in Alameda to follow. Let’s take a look at just one, the “used bicycle fixing-up program.”

    Cycles of Change, the youth job-training program, takes in, repairs, and sells bikes that other shops would not repair, or would discard. This keeps bikes out of the landfill, offers kids transferable skills (in mechanics, repair, customer service, business administration, teamwork, work ethic, community service, recycling/reuse, and more).

    The kids, who could not afford to buy a bike at a commercial bike shop, can “earn” a bike through their own sweat equity. And bikes offer them mobility (to get to future jobs, for instance), independence and self-reliance.

    The original plan for APC was to use it as a training ground for the still-to-be-developed businesses that have always been envisioned for the revitalized Alameda Point. It is not APC’s fault that the City of Alameda and the US Navy have not done the best job of making that redevelopment possible in a more timely fashion.

    Comment by jon spangler — October 16, 2009 @ 12:06 am

  13. Thank you Jack for seeking clarification and additional information, and thanks to all for your comments. A special thank you to Lauren for providing the space for this dialogue!

    Comment by Doug Biggs — October 16, 2009 @ 9:15 am

  14. WOW – yet another moment of agreement w/ Jon Spangler!

    I also hope car conversions (combustion to electric) can also begin to take place at AP with HS and ROP training and hiring of APC residents. This should be a priority goal as it is not very expensive to do and AMP’s power is much greener than fuel burning for our vehicles.

    I understand there are already clubs meeting in Alameda that do these car conversions, and I know at least one EHS teacher has expressed interest.

    Does anybody know more at this time about converting cars? I’ll ask at work where there is now interest and people who are involved.

    Comment by d kiriwn — October 16, 2009 @ 10:53 am

  15. Jack – you are SO right. Complete waste of taxpayer’s money.

    This program is a SHAM!! I live in the point, not as a part of this program, but as a home owner. These “recipients” (at least every single one I’ve met) – are abusing the system. Most of them sit in their cheaply rented apartments for years and live off disability payments. It’s horrible. Talk about enabling laziness. I know one family whose lived in one of the APC apartments for 13 years and NO ONE in the family has ever worked. No one. Another family I met is doing the same thing, collecting state aide awhile living in below market rentals. This family has only been abusing the system for 8 years. It’s despicable.
    Not to mention the crime these people bring to the area.
    And, the craziness. Doug, would you like to inform the audience about the APC resident who took a gun and shot her house to pieces? As well as her brand new jaguar? Yes, that’s right, this poverty stricken recipient was driving a brand new Jaguar!! She apparently went nuts one ought this summer and shot her house and car multiple times. Talk about a safe neighborhood.
    Shut down APC now!!

    Comment by GetAJob — December 2, 2012 @ 11:01 pm

  16. I am seriously surprised that Navy contractors & NRC have not been compelled to offer jobs involving base clean-up to Alameda Point Collaborative members. Not all of the tasks require a high level of training & current residents of the base should have a vested interest in hastening the readiness of the land for further development.

    Comment by vigi — December 3, 2012 @ 10:48 am

  17. This is a sham and a horrible waste of taxpayer dollars. This is exactly the sort of thing that is destroying our great city.

    Comment by jsanders128 — April 30, 2013 @ 5:53 am

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Blog at