Blogging Bayport Alameda

January 10, 2013

Park place

Filed under: Alameda, Development, Public Resources — Tags: — Lauren Do @ 6:00 am

Looks like the City is going to be moving forward with planning out what is going to happen at the Beltline property.  They are going to be holding two meetings, the first on Saturday, February 9th from 10:00 a.m. -12:00 p.m. at the Albert H. DeWitt’s Officers’ Club, 641 W. Redline Ave., that’s at Alameda Point.   And the second on Wednesday, February 13th from 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. at City Hall, 2263 Santa Clara Ave., 3rd Floor.  The City Hall one will be televised.

Essentially City Staff want to know what you, the community, want to see at the Beltline.   If you don’t have time to make it out to the meetings, you can take this quickie survey on Survey Monkey.  It’s super short and really just boils down to a question of do you want an active park (playground, sports fields, etc.), a passive park (community gardens, walking trails, etc.) or a combination of both.

I’ve already taken the survey and would urge others to do so who want to see more that just a walking path on that huge parcel of property.  If you do just want a walking path then feel free to take the survey too.  Because I imagine that at the community meetings, as has happened in the past, folks that prefer the passive version of parks will come out en masse to indicate that a passive park is exactly what was envisioned by the late Jean Sweeney.   And while Jean Sweeney did a great thing by uncovering that document which allowed the City to essentially take back the land at very little cost, I’m not in the camp of believing that one person’s — despite her enormous contribution to the securing of the land — opinion about what should happen with that land, should trump the opinions of everyone else or the need of the community as a whole.

I really hope that the property will go beyond just walking paths and open space and have something that will activate the space like playgrounds or smaller sports fields, I saw bocce courts as an option in the Rec and Park survey.   A mixture of both passive — I like the idea of community gardens where folks can grow their own veggies — and active would provide recreational activities for residents of all ages.

But, in addition to all that, what I would like to see is more of a commitment from the City to look beyond just that parcel and consider the rag tag stretch lining Appezzato Way, that side of the road desperately needs — at the very least — a sidewalk or walking and bike path.  It could be done simply in the design of the Linear Park that lines Main Street (paved trail separated for bikes and pedestrians and bioswales for run off).


  1. Hmmm … interesting that you would put a passive label on a community garden where folks can grow veggies. Might want to rethink that. For a really passive use, how about restoring a bit of the beltway to what Alameda might have looked like before it was overrun by humans. I assume that would be an oak savannah, but I’m not sure anyone really knows.

    Comment by Tom Schweich — January 10, 2013 @ 8:01 am

  2. Ooops, just saw that the city survey lumped community gardens into Passive use. Sorry I assumed did it. Still seems odd, though.

    Comment by Tom Schweich — January 10, 2013 @ 8:08 am

  3. The survey didn’t have ‘Shooting Range’ as an option so I had to write it in and it still made me check one of their options so I opted for ‘wildlife’ so dave could fire his one bullet at a furry thing.

    Comment by Jack Richard — January 10, 2013 @ 9:21 am

  4. “despite her enormous contribution to securing the land” that Alameda would not have at all had she not acted. Or some developer would have helped Alameda to buy back at whatever price with strings attached to the benefactor’s agenda. How big does someone’s contribution have to be, before they get more than an equal vote in the land use? Just sayin’….

    Comment by vigi — January 10, 2013 @ 9:22 am

  5. I like the idea of a community garden with open space and walking trails. The Fort Mason Community Garden in SF has partnered with the National Park Service, and is an example of what can be done. There are plenty of models out there to look at — but this one is quite successful with a 7 year wait list.

    Comment by Karen Bey — January 10, 2013 @ 9:42 am

  6. I remember very early on, perhaps when the court had just ruled in our favor or before, Jean explaining that she would like to see a park with essentially no constructed infrastructure like kids play structures or ball fields. In the vision she was describing as a “natural setting” I recall her mentioning wanting to be able to listen nature, like birds. My thoughts are that the tract is fairly narrow and without major buffers of non native trees the sounds of traffic from Atlantic etc. are going keep one from being able to sit and meditate as if one were alone in the woods.

    I don’t know if in his book Ohlone Way, Malcolm Margolin describes Alameda, but my recollection is that the east bay was nearly all grassy marsh along the shore and that almost all the trees were manzanita, live oak and some bay which grew in the drainages of the creeks down the hill sides and the redwoods were all back in Monclair Canyon and around that part of Oakland. Since Alameda was a peninsula contiguous to the estuary which included Lake Merrit as part of a brackish slough connected by what is now the narrow canal near Fifth Ave, I’m not sure if the scattered live oaks of Alameda were also found around the lake and across to the west. Aside from Albany Hill I got the impression there was hardly a tree in the swath near the shore line all the way across the alluvial plane of Berkeley North but that for some reason the area of Alameda and downtown Oakland had scattered live oak groves. Does anybody know about this?

    When I first heard Jean describe her ideal park I sort of rolled my eyes, but the land is not that large. I personally like the idea of bocce ball courts because there is precedent at lake Merrit and other locations to compare and they are more contained than soccer and baseball. An issue which comes to mind with any uses like a ball field is parking. I think the linear stretches of the railroad land either side of the Beltline proper like the rag tag part Lauren mentions are important for access and linkage, like bike paths. I was really bummed when the Wallgreens went in and they interrupted the continuous right of way with Togos and Starbucks. If the clock were rolled back that would never happen today.

    These “what would you like to see here?” discussions dating back to retail studies in the 1990s, and our ongoing discussions about Alameda Landing and the recent postings of vacant retail on the Patch have begun to give me headaches because there are always so many disparate opinions and many seem off the wall. The charrettes for Park street, Webster and Park North of Lincoln were fun exercises but also at times maddening when people suggested fountains in the middle of intersections or on Park Street reduction to two traffic lanes with diagonal parking like lower Solano Avenue.

    Anybody know what has been said about maintenance budget?

    Comment by M.I. — January 10, 2013 @ 12:41 pm

  7. Tom S.: According to 1859 maps, the Beltline Property was then mudflats.

    Comment by Sally faulhaber — January 10, 2013 @ 5:15 pm

  8. MI:
    Re “fairly narrow”: the area is one to two blocks in width over most of the length. There is indeed some noise from Atlantic near the north border. Not a whole lot elsewhere.

    It would be helpful for the citizens of Alameda to actually see this area before “deciding” what should be done with it. Unfortunately it is currently posted “No Trespassing, subject to $500 fine or i year in Jail.

    Comment by Sally faulhaber — January 10, 2013 @ 5:35 pm

  9. I like the idea of mixed use. I want to have playgrounds for children in it, pleasant walking trails, big trees, and a few sports amenities such as bocce or tennis or basketball courts. A community center and a community garden would round it out.

    Comment by Kevis Brownson — January 10, 2013 @ 6:03 pm

  10. We certainly don’t need to start from scratch. I hope the city incorporates the input it received a year and half ago:

    Comment by Irene — January 10, 2013 @ 6:30 pm

  11. Yeah Kevis I’m with you.

    Comment by John P.(L) — January 10, 2013 @ 6:49 pm

  12. Sally, I went down and approached the property from the south side, whatever funky street that is, but I never walked the property like Jean had. I doubt more than a couple dozen people in town have. Is it possible for the City to have a couple walking tours? There were bus tours of the Point before it was open to the public. I think people need a sense of scale before they can make sound suggestions about what the property can contain. Again, a wish list from a thousand people who don’t have a handle on the size and shape is how meaningful? Franklin Park is a block wide which lends some way to measure. Even if there are ball courts scattered along the length, I like the idea of having at least one place on the island which gives even a glimpse of the primordial land scape. Even though they grow slowly I would like designers to consider live oaks, perhaps exclusively. When you approach the Crab Cove visitors center just where there is a bulb of land with the jetty before the private condos, there are a couple large oaks which give you some sense of the natural canopy which existed. It might be like Pandora;s box to invite a design competition, but they did it in Central Park. (Wytold Rybczynski has a great account of the contest and the politics around it in this biography of Olmstead :

    Comment by M.I. — January 11, 2013 @ 8:38 am

  13. #6:MI=If you believe what you read in “The Ohlone Way”, don’t you find it inexplicable that the name “Alameda” means “a grove of [poplar] trees”?

    Comment by vigi — January 11, 2013 @ 9:16 am

  14. We grew up playing in this area when they still parked trains there, it is wider than most people know and opening it up for a walking tour would help to gather ideas, We also need to think about the neighborhoods that will front this park area like Nason St, Wood and how to integrate them.

    Comment by I vote for Zachary's — January 11, 2013 @ 11:26 am

  15. What kids in Alameda really miss out on is places to play that are not designed for that purpose. Where I grew up there were playgrounds, sure, but we learned a lot more from catching tadpoles in farm ponds, launching expeditions through head high stands of weeds, and poking around ruins of old buildings. I think they should just clean it up, build some walking trails and let nature do the rest. Of course this would never fly these days because planners are uncomfortable with a project that would end up looking like they hadn’t done much. I think it is important to respect Jean’s reasons for saving the site because the honor is all hers. The property was valued at $54 million (I read somewhere, I’m sure I’ll be corrected if I’m wrong!) and without her efforts we’d have yet another ticky tacky housing development that, let’s face it, we don’t need. She’s a hero to me. How often does someone like Jean Sweeney prevail against the almighty dollar in our society? Wasn’t the whole point to save the “natural” environment? Her success in such an endeavor is rare as was her commitment to it, and I hope Alameda teachers tell their students about how much impact a single person can have by telling her story.

    Comment by Denise Shelton — January 11, 2013 @ 12:03 pm

  16. Vigi- I don’t remember what I read ( 25 years ago) with regard to possible details of Alameda. I just have a general memory of life as described around Temescal and Emeryville mound. I seem to recall other readings about the Rancho Peralta which described a long stretch along of grassy flat land from Emeryville North. Alameda had a mound also but that doesn’t mean that a shoreline which yielded mussels could be adjacent to an oak grove. So no, nothing is inexplicable to me, because I don’t have good enough recall to even know if there is a contradiction. I mentioned Albany Hill where there are holes carved in large rocks used to grind acorns and I somehow imagined oaks growing around the hill. Since I’m not sure I can find my copy of his book, maybe I’ll just call Mr. Margolin and ask him.

    But what is your point? When reading anything you post I can’t help but hear some infection of incredulous superiority that others haven’t deduced what is OBVIOUS to Vigi the rocket scientist. Apologies in advance if your intention was somehow more benign, but why do I doubt that? Maybe it’s because I also a paranoid.

    Comment by M.I. — January 11, 2013 @ 12:12 pm

  17. I never knew Sweeney but I remember a few quotes of hers that make me think she may have been motivated by good old fashioned Bay Area NIMBYism. When she heard that other homes were to be built next to hers, she went all out looking for a way to stop that & get the city to build her a private nature preserve out her front door.

    And whatta ya mean we don’t need more housing?? If we don’t, then why is the city going out of its way to build so much more quote-unquote affordable hosuing? Why are new housing developments being planned in oither locations?

    Where is the city gonna get the cash to build and then maintain this new park? The city can barely afford the shoddy upkeep we get on existing parks. A couple hundred new houses there would have paid property taxes. A park costs property taxes. A worthy expense of course, but not so worthy when the city can’t afford what parks we have today.

    Comment by Cynic L. Skeptic — January 11, 2013 @ 12:31 pm

  18. @Cynic: The reality is, and you can look up the recent studies on housing needs in the Bay Area or check the archives on this blog as this has been addressed here ad infinitum, that there is no need for additional housing. We have enough. The push for affordable housing is tied to the desire to get federal money that is earmarked for that purpose. Increased housing increases traffic and all kinds of other things which tend to offset the property taxes gained. Implying that Jean’s efforts were that she wanted to “get the city to build her a private nature preserve” is absurd.

    Comment by Denise Shelton — January 11, 2013 @ 12:46 pm

  19. Denise, it’s not like Jean’s personal vision was handed down on a stone tablet or is some constitutional amendment. Honoring her with the naming is not insignificant. Even though it is probably true that we wouldn’t have a park if it weren’t for her effort, honoring her with pure open space because “that’s what Jean would have wanted” seems to ignore a judicious parsing options for highest and best use. This is a tangent, but by comparison Jean’s legacy is not like that of Alfred C. Barnes who had a legal upper hand and a very specific vision for the use of his art collection. This story is a real slap in the face to a guy with a complete and detailed vision which he not only paid for but which was documented in depth, yet it was thwarted anyway.

    13. scanning over a copy of a 1947 Tribune series “Oakland’s Forgotten Creeks”, I’m reminded that sausal ( as in Sausal Creek which empties at the foot of the Fruitvale Bridge) is willow in Spanish, so the landscape was surly more diverse than marsh grasses. According to this article the name “Digger” came from the natives digging for acorns beneath the oaks trees.

    Comment by M.I. — January 11, 2013 @ 12:47 pm

  20. Denise: I think you might be mistaken on what those housing needs studies say. I don’t believe that any of the recent studies have implied that no additional housing is needed, if you know of any of those studies, I would be interested in reading them since the studies I have read state the complete opposite.

    Comment by Lauren Do — January 11, 2013 @ 12:59 pm

  21. “Encinal” means oak grove. Although there weren’t oak groves on this particular part of the peninsula as it was marshy, they were very thick in the East End and South Shore. See Imelda Merlin’s book page 9-15.

    Comment by Kevis Brownson — January 11, 2013 @ 7:03 pm

  22. There are currently 218 homes for sale in Alameda. Does that sound like a housing shortage? This isn’t even the peak season. Alamedans who want to live in a housing development ghetto have Harbor Bay to satisfy that need. Why are some people so eager to ruin the character of every neighborhood that has a little free space? I did not know Jean so I don’t have any personal interest in championing her cause, and her wishes are probably even less important to people now that she’s dead. It just seems to me that her vision, which I would guess would also be the lowest cost alternative as well, should be the guideline since the City decided to make the beltline a park and put her name on it. If they had decided to resell it and make some cash, which they would be well within their rights to do as far as I know, what she wanted would be besides the point anyway. In my mind, a park with her name on it shouldn’t be something that it’s pretty clear she’d have hated. Yes, it would probably matter more what she wanted if she had purchased the land herself and made a gift of it to the City with stipulations. She just gave the gift of her research, time, and effort, which, if any one of us had been willing to do could have, so I guess some don’t think what she did was any big deal. My main point is that if they want to honor her, and apparently they do, they should adhere to the spirit in which the effort was made.

    Comment by Denise Shelton — January 11, 2013 @ 7:39 pm

  23. Lauren: The confusion is probably due to housing verses “affordable” housing. Park Alameda (Islander) is set to open soon, so that should help (still ugly, though–dead horse, yeah, I know).

    Comment by Denise Shelton — January 11, 2013 @ 7:48 pm

  24. Houses for sale do not equal supply for housing. You said research studies showed that there is no longer a need for housing, which studies are those?

    Comment by Lauren Do — January 12, 2013 @ 6:33 am

  25. Do stated in 24: “You (Shelton) said research studies showed that there is no longer a need for housing,…”.

    What Shelton actually wrote: :The reality is, and you can look up the recent studies on housing needs in the Bay Area or check the archives on this blog as this has been addressed here ad infinitum, that there is no need for additional housing.”

    Study these:

    But, of course, some state bureaucrat told us that ‘houses for sale or rent’ don’t count as housing. Only new housing counts as housing in bureaucratize so the city must cram ‘affordable’ (a loaded phrase if there ever was one) rabbit warren housing into ever nook and cranny it can find. People who actually live here have no say in the matter.

    Comment by Jack Richard — January 12, 2013 @ 9:45 am

  26. re size: According to Woody Minor, Washington Park if 17.5 acres. At 23 acres, the Beltline is 131% as large.

    re housing: Despite the stated opinions of developer Collins and EBRPD, I see a housing and parks as mutually beneficial. The benefit of residents is obvious, but there is also a benefit in having “eyes on the park”. With entrances only at east and west ends and the ends of 4 residential streets on the south border, and none facing the park, it is relatively isolated. If one quarter of the area were devoted to strategically placed housing, the park would still be bigger than Washington Park (see size)

    Comment by SHF — January 12, 2013 @ 5:43 pm

  27. Jack…..57% of Students in California Schools Family’s qualify for free lunch or reduced lunches which means they live in Poverty and Broke. Those families all qualify for Federal and State and County help or reduced or free housing . 61% in San Francisco qualify and 70% in Oakland.

    Definition: Percentage of public school students eligible to receive free or reduced price meals. A child’s family income must fall below 130% of the federal poverty guidelines ($29,055 for a family of four in 2011) to qualify for free meals, or below 185% of the federal poverty guidelines ($41,348 for a family of four in 2011) to qualify for reduced-cost meals.,171,357,364,365,367,344,366,368,59,2

    Interesting Times……

    Comment by John — January 13, 2013 @ 4:05 am

  28. One of the Fastest Growing Business in CA is Supplying Free Lunches to School Districts.

    Last year, according to SFUSD, 61 percent of children in the district qualified for free or reduced-price lunch.

    Revolution Foods has been working on its recipe of sustainable school lunches since its founding in 2006 by Richmond and University of California, Berkeley, Haas School of Business classmate Kirsten Tobey, but the SFUSD contract is a grande enchilada.

    Revolution Foods gobbles up $9 million S.F. schools food contract

    Comment by John — January 13, 2013 @ 4:10 am

  29. I didn’t realize that Zillow listings were “housing studies” that showed current and future housing needs. Someone should alert researchers that they’re doing their housing needs research all wrong per Alameda standards.

    Comment by Lauren Do — January 13, 2013 @ 6:12 am

  30. This is a philosophical thing. You believe and are willing (apparently) to have groups of heavy thinkers in Sac-Kremlin-city determine the rightful and lawful outcome of every aspect of your life. I don’t. What I do believe is ‘central planning’ has never in the history of civilization provided across the board economic success that supply and demand based on individual citizen’s wants and needs in a free society has.

    If the city has empty space that is zoned for housing, they should advertise those spaces on the open market and sell to the highest bidder.

    Comment by Jack Richard — January 13, 2013 @ 10:06 am

  31. 7/28
    John, your two links represent a clear vision of what’s in store for this country in the not-too-far future. Instead of an innovative risk taking society our entrepreneurial class has become more like wayward calves searching for another government teat to suck.

    Any innovation that does have merit is quickly assimilated by China through transfer licenses. Consider nuclear power plant technology which was once one of our greatest technological achievements. The technology transferred to Japan Toshiba with the Toshiba acquisition of Westinghouse. Toshiba-Westinghouse then licensed the technology to China’s State Nuclear Power Technology Corporation they then joint ventured with China and, using Westinghouse technology, developed state of the art pressurized water reactor. China now plans to market and export the reactors worldwide.That’s what China does by market assimilation.

    According to Professor Yiping Huang of Peking University:

    “Chinese outward direct investment is a relatively new phenomenon. In 2002, the first year after China’s accession to the World Trade Organization, China’s total ODI [outward direct investment] was less than US$3 billion. By 2010, however, it had already increased to more than 20 times this amount. According to forecasts by economists at the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, if China does liberalize its capital account, Chinese ODI stock could rise from US$310 billion in 2010 to US$5.3 trillion by 2020. If this prediction turns out to be correct, then China may well become the world’s largest outward direct investor by this time.”

    Nuclear technology, long gone, is but one example of not only the lost innovative nature of this country but the puny nature of recent innovation like what: hybrid cars, Web TV, digital answering machines, Viagra? Or as you stated, working on recipes for sustainable school lunches.

    There is no longer a tech sector in the US. Technology innovation requires risk taking which could result in market disruption. The former tech sector has morphed into mature consumer markets run by patent lawyers instead of engineers and where the bottom line replaced innovative risk taking. Anything that does make it through the process is quickly assimilated by China.

    So what does this mean? The Abbasid caliphate in 1258 knew the walls of Baghdad were impervious to the arrows of Mongols of Hulagu Khan who had arrived outside the walls on January 29 of that year. However, the Kahn’s auxiliaries didn’t use arrows they used catapults and breached Baghdad’s walls in three weeks. Once the walls were breached the Mongols proceeded to slaughter between 200,000 and a million Baghdad inhabitants. Smug walls like stone walls are not impervious and can be breached.

    Americans have no idea whats about to hit.

    Comment by Jack Richard — January 13, 2013 @ 2:53 pm

  32. Off topic [but what isn’t]: Here’s one guy who really shouldn’t have hanged himself.
    RIP Aaron!

    Comment by Jack Richard — January 13, 2013 @ 5:43 pm

  33. 32. Thanks Jack, for posting this . So sad that the person who made this speech is no longer with us.

    Comment by Kevis Brownson — January 13, 2013 @ 6:16 pm

  34. Jack…..Probably some of the scariest numbers i have come across that tell the Real Story of what is going on . Mind numbing stuff how bad the real state of our Economy is in California . We are bringing up the majority of our Children Dependent on free or reduced food and seeing their families getting free or reduced housing or in serious need of it. I guess we need to keep subsidizing housing full bore to keep property values high and making us all feel rich and not underwater and Not let the real world of supply and demand rear it’s ugly head. Looks like were all addicted to the bubble. I know were in one Hell of a Pickle. I wish I had the answer.

    I’m more optimistic about the future in many regards if we can change the mindset of the hoovering of the Government Teat . BWTFDIK

    I really like Tom Peters and his work. This man has a unquenchable thirst for knowledge and seeking out people that are doing things right. Here are some of his thoughts from a PDF.

    Click to access ComeToBelieve_0106_13A.pdf

    What I’ve Come/Am Coming to Believe

    *The power to invent (and execute) is switching/flipping rapidly/inexorably to the network. “Me” is transitioning to “We”—as consumers and producers.

    Nouns are giving way to gerunds—it’s an “in”/shape shifting world!

    *The Internet must stay open and significantly unregulated to enable, among other things, the entrepreneurial spurt that will significantly underpin world economic growth.

    *Entrepreneurial behavior and upstart entrepreneurial enterprises have underpinned every monster shift in the past, such as farm to factory. This time will likely be no different.

    *An obsession with a “Fortune 500” of more or less stable giants dictating “the way we do things” will likely become an artifact of the past. (Though big companies/”utilities” will not disappear.)

    *There is simply no limit to invention or entrepreneurial opportunities! (Please read twice.)

    *The new star bosses will be “wizards”/“maestros.”

    *Sources of sustained profitability will often be elusive in a “soft-services world.”

    *Control and accountability will be a delicate dance. Now you see it, now you don’t …

    *Trial and error, many many many trials and many many many errors very very very rapidly will be the rule; tolerance for and delight in rapid learning—and unlearning—will be a/the most valued skill.

    *“Gamers” instinctively “get” the idea of lots of trials, lots of errors, as fast as possible; for this reason among many, “the revolution” is/will be to a very significant degree led by youth.

    *Women may well flourish to the point of domination in new leadership roles in these emergent/ethereal settings that dominate the landscape—power will be exercised almost entirely indirectly, which is business-as-usual for most women.

    *The “Brand You”/“Me, Inc.” idea is alive and well and getting healthier every day and is … not optional. Fact is, we mostly all will have to behave as/be entrepreneurial tap dances to survive, let alone thrive. (Again, the under-35 set already seem mostly to get this; besides, this was the norm until 90 years ago.)

    *Individual performance and accountability will be more important than ever, but will be measured by one’s peers along dimensions such as reliability, trustworthiness, engagement, flexibility, willingness to spend a majority of one’s time helping others with no immediate expected return.

    *AI is ripping through traditional jobs at an accelerating pace. Virtually no job, circa 2000, no matter how “high end,” will remain in a recognizable way within 15-25 years. It’s as simple—and as traumatic—as that.

    *3-D printing is likely a game changer.

    *Wholesale/continuous/intense re-education (forgetting as well as learning) is a lifelong pursuit/imperative; parent Goal #1: Don’t kill the curiosity with which the child is born!

    *STEM/Science-Technology-Engineering-Math excellence is essential in a world buffeted by technology—but it has severe limitations. I favor the more robust formulation labeled STEAM/steAm. The “A” is for Art, or the arts. “The arts” are to some extent “what’s left” in terms of value creation as AI/robotics vacuum up traditional high-end occupations—think Apple.

    *The surprisingly good news: Education is busily re-inventing itself and leaving the ed establishment in the dust! The idea of and shape of education per se are erasing all that’s come before.

    *GRIN/Genetics-Robotics-Informatics-Nanotech: Overwhelming transformation is hardly just the provenance of AI/Robotics. Change, entrepreneurial activities and early adoption in the “G”/genetics and the “N”/nanotech arenas are accelerating. In fact, our 25 year horizon may border on the unrecognizable.

    *Government has a large role to play. E.g., government-funded BASIC-research and development is a major-league necessity—which is growing rather than diminishing. Acknowledging the limits, at times severe, of markets is imperative!

    *Governance: It is hard to imagine that fundamental systems of human arrangement-governance will remain unchanged.

    *Downside? I have during my months of forced re-education moved from a position of deep pessimism to one of guarded optimism. Will “everything be different” in 10-25 years? Perhaps. Will we adapt individually and organizationally; history says yes, but common sense says there are no sure bets, and frightful issues (from genetics to war-and-peace) can readily
    be imagined. Stay tuned.

    Comment by John — January 13, 2013 @ 11:11 pm

  35. You are, of course, correct, Jack. Determining that “Housing Need” can simply be calculated by the number of houses for sale and units for rent is and assuming that any number that looks relatively large regardless of context is a “philosophical thing” instead of a “math” thing.

    Comment by Lauren Do — January 14, 2013 @ 5:48 am

  36. #16: I ask a simple question, Mark, & I have been asking it all the years I have lived here & served on the Museum & Planning Boards. It doesn’t take rocket science to appreciate it .Why is Alameda named for a tree that doesn’t even grow here? Where are all the damn poplar trees??? [Public Works only found about 9] In the naming battle between Encinal & Alameda, why did Alameda win? I was hoping Huell Howser would someday return to Alameda to answer such a question, but now that ain’t gonna happen. RIP, HH.

    Comment by vigi — January 14, 2013 @ 10:02 am

  37. Here’s the housing conundrum:


    “Aggressive actions to increase the supply and affordability of housing, support the residential construction industry, and preserve existing affordable housing stock are critical to supporting California’s economic competitiveness and improving the quality of life for its residents. This is fundamental for California to maintain its leadership role in addressing climate change and environmental quality while adequately housing workers and families.”

    From: Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, “America’s Rental Housing: Meeting Challenges, Building on Opportunities, 2011”

    “Improvements in affordability require both increasing renter incomes
    and moderating housing costs. But with persistently high unemployment,
    the prospects for renter income gains are dim and rising demand for
    rental housing may well put added pressure on rents. Moreover, global
    energy demand is almost certain to grow, further limiting the ability of
    the poorest renters to afford housing.”

    To summarize the conundrum: Income must increase to build more housing to raise income.

    Comment by Jack Richard — January 14, 2013 @ 10:22 am

  38. 13. Vigi- Just picked up on “(poplar)” in your post 13. You’re a pretty sly nit picker. Quick Google search does consistently list botanical definition of Alameda as “poplar” grove, but it also refers to “tree lined avenue” and in some cases “grove of trees”. Still don’t get a conflict with what I may have read in Ohlone Way. What I still haven’t verified without a copy of the book is whether Margolin discussed the word or place “Alameda” at all. Maybe the Peralta’s weren’t as precise as you are with their biological references, but somebody seems to have named Alameda for a grove of (oak) trees.

    BTW- checked with naturalist from Oakland Museum about oak forest. It was down town Oakland from Lake Merrit out into west Oakland and also Alameda. I was offered a look at some historic maps which I intend to do. North toward Berkeley was pretty bald.

    Comment by M.I. — January 14, 2013 @ 10:36 am

  39. A Home Owner-less Housing Recovery?

    According to data from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, homeownership rates have plummeted by 3 percent nationally since 2004, falling to a low not seen since the mid-1990s. The backlog of delinquent mortgage loans and in-process foreclosures means that millions more will lose their homes and become renters, couch-surfers or homeless in the next few years.

    While the foreclosure rate may be dropping nationally, it remains extremely high compared to historical averages. Approximately 186,000 homes, or one in every 706 units of housing, were foreclosed on in October, 2012. There have been about 5 million bank repossessions of housing between 2006 and 2012, according to RealtyTrac.

    According to economists with the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, only 10 percent of homeowners who lose their houses because of default on mortgage payments will regain access to mortgage markets in the next 10 years. This means that there are now millions of Americans who will be closed out of the housing market during not only this peculiar recovery phase, characterized by a rise in prices and private equity buyers acquiring much of the inventory, but also down the road, long after houses have regained much of their value.

    Comment by John — January 14, 2013 @ 6:11 pm

  40. Damn, John, all those conundrums make my head damnum magnum nostrum.

    Comment by Jack Richard — January 14, 2013 @ 7:09 pm

  41. …and rumdumb….

    Comment by Jack Richard — January 14, 2013 @ 7:12 pm

  42. #36: I read somewhere that Alameda was given the same name as the county in the hope that it would become the county seat, probably in the Imelda Merlin book on the geographic history of the city. As for the appearance of early Alameda, I’ve “read” (flipped through) a couple of those “history of the railroad” books and found a few good pictures of turn of the century landscapes, which were largely treeless — I say “a few” because many of the photos are in marshy areas or tree lined streets without much of a vista. According to the Merlin book, though, many or most of the trees were cut down to make charcoal. Berkeley — flat land Berkeley — looks just as treeless in early pictures but as MI said, it was that way naturally, unlike Alameda.

    Comment by Darcy Morrison — January 14, 2013 @ 8:20 pm

  43. Jack Pass the Rum …….Interesting Times.

    Why U.S. might be ‘a nation of deadbeats’

    Tony Mathews /

    President Obama said on Monday that “we are not a nation of deadbeats,” but instead a people who “pay our bills.”


    A close look at the data reveals a very different story — and one that gets far too little airing in public discourse.

    Far from paying our bills, the current generation of Americans — or some of them — have set records for default which probably have no parallel in the history of the human race. During the last five years, U.S. individuals have walked away from a staggering $585 billion in mortgages, credit card debts and other personal loans. That works out at about $6,000 per household.

    And if the numbers are to be believed, there is probably a lot more to come.

    Turn on any news program devoted to the economy and you will doubtless hear some Wall Street blowhard telling you that American households have been “repairing their balance sheets” and paying down their debts. They make it sound so virtuous, and they often then segue into sneering remarks about those degenerate Greeks and other Europeans who don’t behave in the same responsible way.

    The truth is very different. According to the Federal Reserve, U.S. household debts peaked five years ago at a gigantic $13.8 trillion. Since then it has declined to $12.9 trillion – a decline of about 7%. To put that in context, household debts today still exceed those seen at the end of 2006, near the peak of the bubble. They are three times what they were in 1998.

    Furthermore, as our chart shows, the majority of that reduction hasn’t come from people paying off their loans, but from banks writing them off.

    The total debt reduction from the peak, says the Fed, is $954 billion. Loan write-offs, at $585 billion, account for 60% of that. In other words, for all the chest-thumping about how Americans are repairing their balance sheets and how we aren’t a nation of deadbeats, in the last five years Americans have walked away from $3 in debt for every $2 they’ve paid off.

    In the first quarter of 2010 alone about 13% of all credit card debt was just written off.

    Households weren’t alone. Corporations have defaulted on $35 billion to $40 billion in debt per year in recent years, according to Moody’s.

    Naturally this has occurred even while the federal government has bailed out bankrupt financial institutions, and flooded the economy with massive deficits, low interest rates and free money to make it all easier.

    Heaven knows what the situation would have looked like under a system of honest money.

    It’s easy to get too sanctimonious. Once a country gets itself into a disastrous debt hole, write-offs may be the only sensible way out. After all, for every reckless borrower there was also a reckless lender. If a debt is not going to be repaid, a policy of “extend and pretend,” let alone, say, debtors’ prison, is not going to help. So maybe deadbeat economics is the way to go.

    But let’s go easy on the chest-thumping.

    Comment by John — January 15, 2013 @ 11:03 pm

  44. 36. was posted while I was composing my 38. without my having read 38. Mexican Spanish in particular is sort of amorphous compared to Spanish spoken in other countries. I actual enjoy speaking Mexican version more than the Spanish of Spain we were taught in school because of some of the idioms. It’s a window of the imagination of the culture and creative improvisation is pretty typical. Example a hangover is translated as resaca which also means undercurrent, but the common term in Mexico is “la cruda”. Cruda means raw, crude or immature, but the term “la cruda” is graphic. In the dictionary almost all secondary definitions of Alameda refer to a tree lined boulevard without reference to species. A-la-meda would be of-the-meda, but my search for definitions of “meda” rendered “from ancient Media”. The Greek is Medea. Media in Spanish translates as middle or average, like the clock time “dos y media” being 2:30. I think of being in the middle of a tree lined boulevard, but still don’t get poplar reference. Maybe the honkies who wrote the English dictionaries got the translation wrong.

    Comment by MI — January 16, 2013 @ 9:48 am

  45. 46. should read “without my having read 36.” duh

    Comment by MI — January 16, 2013 @ 9:50 am

  46. MI= I didn’t do a Google search for the word alameda…since I was born & schooled here, California history & 7 years of Catholic grade school Spanish were compulsory. Alameda translated directly from the spanish is a grove of poplar trees. Your derivation using “de la” is incorrect, actually backwards. Alameda is derived from the word “alamo” viz.: Remember the Poplar Tree. There are some good books on California place names available you might want to read..

    Comment by vigi — January 16, 2013 @ 10:20 am

  47. The Velasquez Spanish-English dictionary is still the preeminent authority on these translations & it wasn’t written by honkies. I am still using my 1960’s edition Velasquez, & it is in perfect agreement with the version available online. Check out the online version.

    Comment by vigi — January 16, 2013 @ 10:28 am

  48. 33 Kevis, thanks! For everybody who doesn’t know what’s happening in this country.,0,648108.story

    Comment by Jack Richard — January 16, 2013 @ 12:02 pm

  49. 13., 36. on-line English to Spanish dictionaries are not proving very satisfactory, but in one “poplar” translates to “alamo” ( with accent on first A), thus a-la in alameda is not “of the” but I can’t get a bead on suffix “meda”. Also “oak” translates to “encin” or “encinal” , “made of oak”. So maybe our town might better be named Encinal.

    Comment by MI — January 21, 2013 @ 10:46 am

  50. Just FWIW (probably not much), the Gold Standard for showing that a particular plant ever occurred in a given location is a collection in a major herbarium with an identification, date, location, and name of collector. There are no collections of any oak from Alameda in any major California herbarium. While we all “know” that coast live oak (Quercus agrifolia) grew here, and have even memorialized that fact in the municipal code, I would submit that our knowledge is somewhat tenuous. Within a plant species there is considerable genomic variation. Since we have no collections, and no living native oaks (to my knowledge), we cannot determine the genome of coast live oaks which grew here. Planting a nursery-grown coast live oak without comparable pedigree could be doing more damage that doing nothing. The only tree-like thing collected in Alameda is California Buckthorn (Frangula californica) by Edward L. Greene, May 1, 1887. Perhaps then we should change the name of Alameda to “Buckthorn” rather than Encinal.

    Comment by Tom Schweich — January 21, 2013 @ 11:15 am

  51. Tom, there are some pretty old oaks in town. even if they only date back to late 1880s wouldn’t it be fairly safe bet that the oldest ones are decendent from the native species ? Just because Mr. Greene or others neglected to gather oak species one can hardly imagine there were none, so how do attribute the lack of specimen? BTW, how do you say Buckthorn in Spanish?

    Comment by MI — January 21, 2013 @ 11:55 am

  52. MI, According to Wikipedia ES, “Buckthorn” as a common name for Frangula californica can be translated literally to “Espino Cerval” or less literally to “Cambronera.” Would give us another foreign word to totally mangle.

    Comment by Tom Schweich — January 21, 2013 @ 2:35 pm

  53. Rhamnus californica, commonly known as coffeeberry; You can find them on most every corner on Park St. They even smell like coffee./

    Comment by Jack Richard — January 21, 2013 @ 3:54 pm

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