Blogging Bayport Alameda

July 20, 2012

We r who we r

Filed under: Alameda, City Council — Tags: — Lauren Do @ 6:00 am

As part of Tuesday’s epic City Council meeting — believe me I haven’t even touched the good stuff yet — there were lots of public input during this meeting.   Some would have you believe that it was an overwhelming majority against the Housing Element and the Multifamily Housing overlay, but there were exactly 19 opponents who spoke and 16 proponents who spoke, including former Alameda County Supervisor Alice Lai-Bitker.

As an aside, Alice Lai-Bitker has to be one of the nicest elected officials ever.   She has this humble way about her, I remember meeting her once at a open house for Alternatives in Action — this was a while ago when we were considering preschool options and Home Sweet Home was on our short list — and she has this sort of attitude where she never assumes that someone would immediately know she was an elected official, but I digress.

Anyway, despite this even split of people for and against, Doug deHaan had this to say about the representation of the folks who bothered to pay attention before Tuesday night:

You know, all fairness everyone, we all get busy all into vacation time, a very important time for all of us and our family.  But we owe it to our people to understand exactly what is happening.  I know it, we’ve been working with it, we’ve been working with the housing group for ages, but that doesn’t mean that the community knows it…

First, this is a good time as any to point out this really great comment by Mike McMahon who wrote:

Individuals elected persons who they believe will take the time to watch out for their interest I would contend that is the responsibility of an elected official to ensure that their constituency is properly informed and engaged toparticipate in the civic process.

Given that the people who got really upset by this whole Housing Element business falls smack into Doug deHaan’s core constituency, I would argue that — as he has done many times in the past — should have informed them about this well before last Tuesday.  That it was really his responsibility to get the word out before these last two weeks.   As he stated himself, “I know it, we’ve been working with it, we’ve been working with the housing group for ages.”   If it was for “ages” perhaps he could have typed out a quick email blast months ago when this process was moving toward completion.   But more about that some other time.

I wanted to address the issue of the “community” vs the “housing group.”  I guess I find it a little offensive that the “housing group” despite being made up of Alamedans isn’t considered a part of “the community” or rather the community that is worthwhile to be listened to.

Here are the people that spoke the other night, I’ve broken them down between Pro and Con and added a little blurb about their general comments, I realized I missed screen capping two con people and am too lazy to go back and do it:


Alameda is different and special.

Infrastructure can’t handle all the people.  Traffic!

Loopholes to state law?


Agendas are too hard too read.

All the people for this are people that I have disagreed with in the past so that means it’s bad!  And SunCal bad!

Vote no on this tonight because I don’t think it will work out, but I quite possibly have not actually read the element and instead have only skimmed the packet.

This tube of toothpaste will serve as an analogy for many different things.  And SunCal bad!

I’m gonna talk directly to City Staff and blame them for everything!

I moved from a city with no multi-family units I thought this city was the same!

RHNA is unfair and doesn’t spread responsibility fairly.

More public input.

Alameda has become less white after Measure A was passed, ergo Measure A is not exclusionary.

We won’t get sued because we’re not Pleasanton.

We were able to protect Measure A for years, why can’t you?

Do we have to belong to ABAG?

Ditto on the needing to belong to ABAG.

Here starts the people who supported the Housing Element.

Thanks for moving forward with this.


This will allow Alameda to control its own destiny.

Great need for housing and Alameda needs to do its part.

Thank you for moving this forward.

Need to be compliant with state law.

Need more diverse types of housing in Alameda.

Ditto! And let families stay together.

Housing Element is about the values of this City.

This is the holy scripture guy!  He’s awesome!

Multi-family housing isn’t scary, promise!

Talk to the state about housing numbers don’t complain about it locally.

Alameda is a special place, but we have to move forward and maintain control.

Support the Housing Element, young people need places to live that are affordable.

See yesterday’s post.

We need to have options for people when it comes to housing.

Dismissing all these people who did pay attention, who are Alamedans, and lumping them as part of a “housing group” and not as a part of the “community” is pretty offensive.



  1. So, this is awesome. I love the digests under the photos. Thank you. You made my morning.

    Comment by Seth — July 20, 2012 @ 7:02 am

  2. Is this even worth arguing about? We can’t afford to be cut off from funding for non-compliance, so it’s an economic reality. I think the sins of the past (just drive down Central or Encinal and feast your eyes on the blight of aging motel-style, multi-unit, monstrosities wedged between Victorians) are what people are worried about. It didn’t help that the Islander Lodge project (DEAD HORSE ALERT!) did nothing to improve the exterior appeal of the structure short of a coat of paint. It’s difficult to tell if most people object based on fears of how the buildings will look or fears that the occupants will be an issue, but I hope it’s the former. Much has been said about how we have enough housing already that’s standing vacant without being compelled to build more. True, but it will never be available to those with a low income. People need a decent place to live and devices like these are the only way society has to provide it, so suck it up. Alamedans are not so special as to be exempt from what is expected of other cities for the common good.

    Comment by Denise Shelton — July 20, 2012 @ 9:10 am

  3. well done, Lauren, well done.

    Comment by notadave — July 20, 2012 @ 9:20 am

  4. O.K. John, its time to “Cut Paste, and Spin”.

    Comment by John. P (L) — July 20, 2012 @ 10:30 am

  5. Thanks so much for doing this Lauren! Others I want to applaud from Tuesday night include Council Member Johnson for pointing out that “no one is happy with their (RHNA) numbers,” and each city claims it’s unique (per her experience on ABAG), our City Manager for defending and supporting staff, and Mayor Gilmore, for reminding us that this is ultimately about our city’s values, and then reminding everyone that this will also help seniors looking to downsize. There’s more to be done on that last front, but we can now move forward there too, thanks to this Element, and all the hard work by City Planning Staff & Board Members – past & present.

    Comment by kellyharp — July 20, 2012 @ 12:54 pm

  6. I’ll second Kelly’s comment.

    Lauren, give us a “like” button!

    Comment by jkw — July 20, 2012 @ 4:42 pm

  7. Great synopsis Lauren! Now that this is finally over, I hope our community and our leaders can move on to solve more of our problems.

    Comment by Kevis Brownson — July 20, 2012 @ 7:26 pm

  8. Kevis,

    The housing element and multi-family overlay issues are far from over. The overlays are a temporary compromise good for a few years. The compromise is unsuitable for the long term. The overlays are an excellent step on the way towards sustainable land use policies for our City – but just a first step.


    Comment by William Smith — July 20, 2012 @ 9:57 pm

  9. LDO.. Good going, I think you went two days without getting on deHaan. As someone that was there when measure A passed, it was to preserve the existing housing and stop developers from building 4 and 5 units on the large 50×150 foot lots. And it worked. The people of Alameda voted it in. (not the city council). And the people of Alameda should modify it if it needs modification ( not the city council or the city manager). This is called the democratic way..why is the city council afraid to let the people vote on the change to measure A.
    This is not about race, this is about what the citizens of Alameda want, so let them vote.

    Now get off deHaan, he is the only fee thinker on the council and no city manager yes man.

    Comment by JLS — July 20, 2012 @ 11:34 pm

  10. Don’t congratulate yourself yet … this is now nearly finished … wait till you hear from those who live more than 300 feet away .. they are pissed off

    Comment by Dr Poodlesmurf — July 21, 2012 @ 5:56 am

  11. Can’t wait till someone buys the Del Monte brick bldg, tears it down, & builds 4-story apartments all dumping out onto Buena Vista. With the North waterfront rimmed by apartment bldgs-er, MultiFamilyDwellingUnits, MFDUs?-it will be like having a castle wall next to the moat.

    Comment by vigi — July 21, 2012 @ 4:32 pm

  12. Seth, why do you love the digests? So you don’t have to listen to or think about what the speakers said? You’re qualified to run for City Council!

    Comment by vigi — July 21, 2012 @ 4:35 pm


    Comment by Dr Poodlesmurf — July 21, 2012 @ 4:35 pm

  14. Dr. Poodlesmurf,

    The children many multi-family dwellings play in common areas rather than in individual yards. Some recent multi-family housing developments include play areas on the roof, just outside the main entrances to the units, which are on the upper floor of the units, rather than the lower. Parents can easily watch their kids play outdoors through their front windows. Parking occupies the garage under the play areas. There is a great example of this design in Guerneville.

    Affordable housing developers are experts at making more playable areas that promote community in less space per unit than required by single family homes. Most children will have more, safer, and more interesting spaces to play in in multi-family housing than exist in some suburban single-family neighborhoods.


    Comment by William Smith — July 21, 2012 @ 11:37 pm

  15. We need parks and sports fields … where is the new sports field ?????????????????????????????

    Comment by Dr Poodlesmurf — July 22, 2012 @ 6:28 am

  16. Bill .. Children playing on the roof? Do you think the mayor and council want children playing on the roof??? Do Affordable housing developers are experts make their children play on the roof also?

    Comment by Dr Poodlesmurf — July 22, 2012 @ 6:45 am

  17. I hope we don’t see children playing on the roof – but that said, I am excited to see the development of multi-family units in Alameda. One of the benefits I see from multi-family housing or clustered housing is the opportunity to create more open space for things like urban farms, parks and sports fields. Not every parcel will have available land for parks and sports fields, but I will be looking for opportunities to get these much needed community benefits where we can.

    Comment by Karen Bey — July 22, 2012 @ 12:30 pm

  18. Karen and Dr. Poodlesmurf,

    My description of the elevated children’s play area as a roof plainly failed to convey the piture I had in mind. The play area is more like a City street – though with absolutely no motorized vehicle traffic – basketball hoops can be safely placed in the “street.” The “street” is hundreds of feet long and with about 50 feet of open space (car gargage roof) separating houses that rise up on each side of the street, as on a conventional city street. At each end of the elevated street a high wall keeps children in, but the end is otherwise open to allow light in to keep the street light and bright.


    Comment by William Smith — July 22, 2012 @ 1:50 pm

  19. I share many of the concerns with development raised by contributors to Blogging Bayport Alameda. These shared concerns include

    1) transportation circulation, especially the time required to get on and off the islands (Main and Bayfarm) during rush hour,

    2) security of person and of property as more low income citizens move to new affordable housing in Alameda,

    3) preservation of the character of Alameda’s priceless and irreplaceable older residential neighborhoods, and

    4) skepticism that City government, without the constant oversight of harried citizens, will address the above concerns, not just through the next election cycle, but consistently for decades thereafter.

    Where I may differ from some readers of and contributors to this blog, is my conviction that all of these concerns can be satisfactorily addressed by an informed citizenry actively participating in our City’s government, as many of us did at last Tuesday’s Council meeting. The Council’s action at that meeting to cut short the just emerged, but spirited, public debate on the many aspects of the complex multi-family overlays did not end the debate. Rather, that action may have prematurely moved the debate out of our community and into a more adversarial forum, a court room.

    This premature closure of the debate in raucous, but basically collegial community workshops and hearings, deprives those of us who support the multi-family overlays of an opportunity to bring our strong case directly to the public. Instead, the second reading on the multi-family overlay zoning ordinance was more like a school yard shouting match where the decisive arguments were chiefly my bully (state housing law and affordable housing lawyers) is stronger than your bully (the City charter and private lawyers). More constructive debate on the core issue, how to guide development (both how much and of what type) to best serve our community was obscured.

    Now there is a good chance further debate will be among lawyers about legal kluges, such as the MF overlay, in an adversarial court room out of the public eye rather than in full view of the community in a raucous, but basically collegial, community hearing room. Especially because of the Council’s vote to cut short the formal public discussion, I thank all the readers and contributors to this blog for the opportunity you have given me to bring my case for multi-family housing directly to you.

    During the coming weeks, I intend to discuss each of the four above areas of shared concern – highlighting points of agreement, and proposing, for your consideration, possible steps to increase our mutual confidence that Alameda’s City government can better manage the concerns with further development that most of us share.

    Comment by William Smith — July 22, 2012 @ 1:55 pm

  20. Bill … paint trees on the wall and call it a forest

    Comment by Dr Poodlesmurf — July 22, 2012 @ 5:25 pm

  21. 11-Vigi, No one in Alameda would approve a demolition for the DelMonte building,especially when there are several options for effective reuse under consideration. Your MFDU “sky is falling” scenario has no factual basis and is pure fantasy.

    Comment by Jon Spangler — July 23, 2012 @ 9:36 am

  22. 21-Jon. That’s what they said about the [now gone & venerable] Red Brick Building and I am sure glad I took a box full of Kodachromes of it, inside and out, before it was torn down. I believe the latest episode in the DelMonte saga was that the owner who was allegedly “working with the City”-as the blogs say about All Developers-flipped it, or went bankrupt, or some such thing…& it is on the market again. A poignant memory of Alameda’s charm can be recalled of a lone walker wandering down the abandoned railroad tracks in front of the DelMonte building at sunset. Take your photos now, folks, before that scene is gone forever.

    Comment by vigi — July 23, 2012 @ 10:23 am

  23. Poodles and Vigi — sports fields and other historical preservation was going to be paid by Measure C. Without Measure C, Alameda needs to rely on developers to provide park improvements. The MF overlays are all near parks, like Littlejohn and the new beltline.

    Comment by BarbaraK — July 23, 2012 @ 10:32 am

  24. Q:In a bar, how do you know you’re being chatted up by a city planner? A: Instead of saying: “Would you like to come to my apartment?” he says: “Would you like to come to my MultiFamily Dwelling Unit?”

    Comment by vigi — July 23, 2012 @ 10:38 am

  25. I’ve told versions of this anecdote more than once on this blog, but I’m going to repeat it because I think it’s relevant.

    Back in the 1990s before Doug Ran for office I knew him as a member of BRAG or RAB, whatever. The political lines hadn’t been drawn so clearly back then. I was part of fledgling Green Party back then, but as an individual, not a Green, I called Doug to ask if he was thinking of running for Council and told him I was interested in possibly working with him if he ran, I think because I thought of him as knowledgeable and involved and maybe the field of candidates didn’t seem to be burgeoning with super stars. He said he was thinking of running and later the Greens worked up a candidate questionnaire. It was August and many candidates had vacation conflicts. I recall Marilyn Ashcraft as one of them, but she took great pains to get her questionnaire to us. The County chapter of the Greens prints the voter guide, but they have an early print deadline which the City of Alameda Chapter had to abide by to get our endorsement in print. Doug didn’t meet the deadline which was understandable. However, I later had a discussion with him where he responded with some amount of equivocation, which I have since come to feel is one of his trademarks when confronted with a hard question. He was apologetic, but among his equivocations was a sort of off hand comment I think he now regrets. I’ve done my best to try to make that so. That remark was that one of his handlers or campaign advisers had told him to “concentrate on his base”. I think the clear implication was that the Greens were not mainstream and when push came to shove, we were perhaps considered marginal. I wonder if Elihu Harris would agree? Anyway, as it turns out Doug beat Pat Bail for his seat by an number of votes roughly equivalent to the number of registered City of Alameda Greens at that time ( about 670 Greens??). The main thing I took away from that was that even then Doug was preoccupied with “his base” even though council serves the City at large. I don’t fault him or any politician for strategic triangulation when it comes to a campaign, but it doesn’t seem like he really learned much from than particular incident. He was reelected once but lost his bid for mayor. Ironically Doug had the Green Party endorsement for mayor, but by then the Party had pretty much winnowed down to the Lipows and their minions. The endorsements in the last voter guide appeared to have been written by Gretchen as opposed to by committee.

    Comment by M.I. — July 25, 2012 @ 6:33 pm

  26. This is a TROJAN HORSE for the gullible

    Comment by Dr Poodlesmurf — July 26, 2012 @ 6:35 am

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