Blogging Bayport Alameda

November 2, 2012

Go play

Filed under: Alameda, Development, Northern Waterfront — Tags: , — Lauren Do @ 6:02 am

Wow. Just wow.

I’m a little bit behind on some of my City meeting watching so forgive me for being late on this one.   I just finished watching the Planning Board meeting about the Chipman development and the developer for this project has to be THE archetype for “asshole developer.”   If anyone was ever looking to write a script and needed inspiration for how “asshole developer” would behave, look no further than this meeting.

Just watch, yes, I know it’s long, but if you just watch random little bits of it, you’ll get the gist of it:

The first part that was notable was his rant about yard space.  This was in response, not to anyone saying that the lots had to be super huge, but there wasn’t much around private outdoor space for people.   Instead of trying to explain the smaller private space reasonably,  the developer decided to take the route of claiming that “studies” have shown the people don’t use their yards.  He cited some weird statistic like kids only play in the yards for four minutes per day and adults only use their yards six minutes per week.


Apparently he was referencing this study which was written up here, which tracked the living habits of Southern California families which reported that these suburban families in this study did, in fact, not really use their fully decked out backyards.    And despite the fact that the study specifically focused on one subset of families in one region of the United States, we are all supposed to extrapolate then apply those findings to all families in all circumstances.  Insert eye roll here.

It was interesting that the developer focused so much on this aspect of the study, the not using the backyard thing, but failed to take other lessons learned from that study for his development.   After all he pushed back pretty strongly on the need for a two car garage for folks to park in.  If he was such a believer in that study then he would have, instead, erected storage units instead of garages because one of the findings from that study was:

Only 25 percent of garages could be used to store cars because they were so packed with stuff.

Although I have to say, that bullet point about stress and clutter, spot on.   My children have been in a serious fort building phase which means that the family room is generally a wall of blankets, chairs, and pillows.   The fort mess makes me cranky, my husband doesn’t seem to notice too much.  But I digress.

Anyway, this guy seems to be of the “trust me, I know what I’m doing” ilk.   But honestly there is very little in anything that he presented that gives me any hope in the final product.

For those interested, here is the handout from that night.


  1. Not surprised no one uses their back yards if they are the size of postage stamps, and in the case of LA overwhelmed with noise from the freeway that passes close by …

    Isn’t the issue here – money. Or more precisely the ability for the developer to maximize their profit by cramming in as many houses as the zoning and lot will allow because they will all eventually sell – even in this market, and because if there are a lot of houses the price can be kept relatively low to attract buyers?

    Comment by Adrian Blakey — November 2, 2012 @ 6:52 am

  2. I would give this developer a -99 score on customer and government relations skills (almost none). “Trust me” is not a great way to patronize a group of dedicated, smart, and experienced Planning Board volunteers.

    And a “compromise” of adding 20 units when the multifamily housing overlay would permit another 100 units?

    Puhleeeze! Let him go back to jail, not pass go, and try it again–from scratch and with a new attitude…Or a replacement…

    Comment by Jon Spangler — November 2, 2012 @ 8:52 am

  3. So this is who the developer puts forth as their representative? He’s so condescending and over the top smug I couldn’t stop laughing. Let’s hope he’s not working the sales office of the development some day.

    Comment by Sideline — November 2, 2012 @ 9:18 am

  4. Just watched the segment above and yes you are correct he is the perfect example of “asshole developer”. Actually it is a good thing for us and the planning board to see it so soon in the process. I Listened to these guys for eight years, and the one thing I learned very early on was never accept anything they have to say. The “trust me” that he keeps using is his own downfall, never trust anything a developer tells you. As Ann Cook used to always ask, is it in writing. If its not written into a contract then he won’t live up to it. Also those wonderful glossy pictures they show you don’t mean a thing they are just pictures and not what will actually be built. Yes I’ am jaded.

    Comment by John P.(L) — November 2, 2012 @ 9:56 am

  5. From the 1st sentence: “You guys should all be in an urban planning classroom”. I am in total agreement with Lauren’s assessment. This guy should be required to take a Dale Carnegie course before he ever gets up to speak in public again!. How many times do you think he’s been divorced?

    I commend the Planning Board for resisting the temptation to ask the question: “Mr. Shelton, why are you such a jerk?” He isn’t related to Denise, is he?

    Comment by vigi — November 2, 2012 @ 10:08 am

  6. This video is an excellent example of why there is an antiplanner sentiment in this-or any-California community. It’s not NIMBY-ism. These textbook-driven urban planners are driven to do what’s “right” for “the community”, without having any practical idea of what those 2 terms mean. In his mind, all communities are the same. People like him scare the hell out of me.

    Comment by vigi — November 2, 2012 @ 10:33 am

  7. I just looked up the developer to get an idea of his background – and this is what I found:

    • CEO of Trident Partners in Palo Alto, Ca
    • Stanford Graduate School of Business
    • US Navy’s Nuclear Physics Graduate Program
    • BS, Oceanography Engineering

    Judging from his tone, he sounds frustrated with the process as many developers are who are inexperienced in developing projects in Alameda. The hardest part of development in Alameda is “making everyone happy” – which is impossible to do.

    I’m not saying his attitude is excusable, but it is understandable if he’s being told different things by different people, and if he is spending thousands of dollars for multiple sets of design plans trying to get it right. Each set of design plans cost money; meanwhile the carrying costs for the land is an on going cost until the project gets built which could take years. For a developer, time is money.

    That said, if he wants his project approved as I suspect he does, he will learn to work with Alameda city leaders and the community to make it happen. I for one hope he does, because I want to see this project get built in my lifetime.

    Comment by Karen Bey — November 2, 2012 @ 5:07 pm

  8. wow, from the build up Lauren gave us I was expecting a REALLY crass blow hard sales job. On the one hand the guy was incredibly condescending but I think Karen’s point resonated regarding this dude being really, really frustrated. Whether he has the right to be is a whole other discussion, but I pull my hair just pulling simple permits. Maybe because my resume reads, “11th grade education, self taught builder”, I am easily impressed, but it doesn’t seem to me this guy’s resume is typical for a developer. Regarding to the bottom line of what he is presenting the resume may be a big so what?, but I’m kind of baffled by how poorly he approached doing this presentation and having a disconnect with regard to his education. Maybe it is a good thing the guy is so guileless as opposed to the slick snake oil salesmen I expected.

    BTW- I’ve heard Frances Collin’s handlers prefer he not even come to these public presentations because he speaks his mind so plainly. John P., did Frances ever come before PB when you were on it?

    Comment by M.I. — November 2, 2012 @ 6:53 pm

  9. Mark, Yes we had a plan from him, and we fought over wanting a park on the water front at the time. Just like any developer he felt that he should be able to do whatever he wanted to do with his land. When your project will affect other people who live around you it means you will have to make that project fit in. As a contractor I usually brought my plans to city hall with no expectation of getting them signed off that day. I would just say let’s take a look at them to see if I’m in the ball park. We would then discuss what needed to be done to get signed off, or sometimes they would make my day and say John your ready to be approved.
    I can’t remember the guys name who developed the Bridgeside Shopping center, but he was the slickest developer that ever walked into a planning board meeting. Anything you asked him to do he would say yes no problem, then he would proceed to do what ever he wanted, when we would call out him on these issues he would just smile and say I don’t recall that. He is the guy that jaded me.

    Comment by John P.(L) — November 3, 2012 @ 8:54 am

  10. I liked Marilyn Ashcraft’s comment about townhouses. Since they are using the density bonus, why don’t they go ahead and get more housing and more backyard with townhouses, and more energy efficiency to boot? I think a lot of people might want to buy these, but they are only available on Bay Farm.

    Comment by Kevis Brownson — November 3, 2012 @ 12:49 pm

  11. The large lot sizes mean he is probably building higher end homes. And based on the property’s location near the Wind River/Intel Campus – it’s a good move. I personally would like to see more higher end homes built on the West End.

    Comment by Karen Bey — November 4, 2012 @ 12:21 am

  12. It’s Francis Collins, not Frances, which is a girl’s name.

    Comment by vigi — November 5, 2012 @ 10:34 am

  13. 12. you and Don Roberts fast friends? You both seem big on correcting people for relatively minor mistakes, presumably for the same motivations of vanity and deluded sense of superiority. Next time you see one of those black helicopters do the rest of us a favor, get in it and fly away for good.

    11. back to the point at hand….

    Karen, I guess Del Monte neighborhood is more West End than East End, but the North side is a bit of it’s own thing too. I’m curious if West End starts at Grand, Sherman, 8th, Webster ?

    As for high end, it is ideal to see a mixture of socio-economics in every neighborhood, but do townhouses present more affordability within the market as opposed to subsidized? affordability within the market is preferable. My father in law was a housing developer back east and they usually tried to put single family, town houses and condos together and assumed a buyer might want to move up the ladder right within a given development.

    Regarding resume comment #8 I made earlier, degrees from Stanford or Harvard business schools don’t necessarily mean much ( didn’t W graduate Harvard BS?), but I’m impressed when somebody has an eclectic array of studies like physics and oceanography. Then there are guys like Phil Tagami who, love him or hate him, is self made power house with no degrees, but plenty of street smarts. He touts himself as “filterless Phil” because he is outspoken, but you better believe he’s conscious of every word that comes out of his mouth. Right out of Dale Carnegie. He also brandished a shotgun during Occupy related vandalism.

    Comment by M.I. — November 8, 2012 @ 4:49 pm

  14. i don’t believe that being a developer is easy for one minute. No matter what you build someone will oppose. I think he comes across more frustrated than arrogant or the “asshole” as Lauren Do stated. I would rather have nice homes built than an ugly old metal warehouse with a constant stream of trucks going by at all hours of the day. I like the lighter density vs packing 200 hundred homes or townhouse on a 7 acre site. less traffic and it will increase our home values.
    I am hoping this project gets built in my lifetime and i am still young

    Comment by jon — November 13, 2012 @ 11:27 am

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