Blogging Bayport Alameda

June 18, 2014

Rent Stablizers

Filed under: Alameda, Alameda Neighbors, Development — Lauren Do @ 6:08 am

At last week’s Planning Board meeting there was discussion about the Housing Element and whether or not to include some form of Rent Stabilization in the Housing Element.   After lots of public comment with folks on both sides of the discussion, the Board voted to place in the Housing Element the ability to form a task force to consider what city policies currently exist, what that median rates for units are, and what possible options are available to ensure that renters feel protected.

It was pretty difficult to hear stories from the renters in the community that essentially said that they lived in fear that their landlords would raise their rents so high that they would be unable to remain in their homes.  On the other hand there were local landlords that spoke about the investment that they had put into the community via their housing units and a mechanism like rent control might be a disincentive to further investment in Alameda.

I feel like this is sort of the same thing that happened years ago when the subject of rent control was being considered and then the Rent Advisory Board was formed in response to that.  Perhaps the result of this task force will be that nothing needs to be done because there are no renters in jeopardy of having their rents raised beyond their capacity to pay (doubt it), or maybe that Alameda is in need of a rent control ordinance, or maybe a rent review board with greater teeth and policing powers.   Whatever the outcome, it’s a good first step to figure out the depth of the problem in light of the anecdotal stories that came before the Planning Board and the articles that have littered the news about rising rent costs and the rise in housing prices in general.

The SF Business Times just posted a story that indicated that housing prices in Alameda have risen 11% compared with San Francisco which rose 14% and Oakland which grew a whopping 23%.  The article notes that significant overbidding is pretty common again these days.  And, if you’ve ever perused the craigslist housing ads just for funsies for Alameda, you’ll see that the prices are getting pretty crazy.  With one-bedrooms listed at a low of $1100 for an unit of questionable quality to $1400+ it’s becoming pretty hairy out there for renters.



  1. The housing crisis is a regional crisis and placing “price controls” on existing units are not the answer. Both Oakland and San Francisco have rent control and are one of the most expensive places to rent in the Bay Area.

    The problem is – supply and demand. With more and more people moving to the San Francisco Bay Area, the demand for housing (both for rent and for sale) has increased and there is just not enough supply. Home builders and developers all over the Bay Area are saying they can’t build them fast enough to satisfy the demand.

    In Alameda, we have not built multifamily housing since Measure A was enacted in 1973. Think about that – for over 40 years, we have not built any apartments, which is the root cause of our rental housing shortage. We don’t have enough rental housing product to satisfy today’s demand; which in turn is putting upward pressure on the existing rental units.

    The answer of course is to increase the supply of both rental housing and homes for sale in Alameda which will address a whole host of problems we’re experiencing – but will certainly address the “supply” issue and level rental prices.

    Comment by Karen Bey — June 18, 2014 @ 6:47 am

  2. #1. Well said. I agree

    Comment by JJ — June 18, 2014 @ 7:37 am

  3. Housing prices are largely driven by regional demand for housing, with some local contributing factors like the perception that we have decent schools, nice weather, low crime and a good quality of life. Little Alameda can’t increase its housing supply anywhere close to the extent needed to offset the regional boom in demand and lower prices. In trying to pursue an unachievable objective like solving the Bay Area’s housing challenges by cramming more housing on an island with very limited access points, many negative externalities are and will continue to be created (traffic, change in nice, slow-ish pace of life).

    If gas and energy prices are on the rise, should we try to help lower those prices by drilling for oil or fracking in and around Alameda? The rationale of comment #1 would suggest yes. But that’s not the answer. Doing so would have virtually no impact on market prices and would just leave us with many negative effects and a much worse quality of life. There’s no easy or simple answer to this and the options on the table seem worse than not doing anything much different than what we have now. As with drilling for oil off Crown Beach or fracking in Lincoln Park, so too with increased housing development. Of course.

    Comment by That's Not the Answer — June 18, 2014 @ 7:52 am

  4. Little Alameda as you call us – is not trying to conquer the world or offset the entire regional housing crisis. But as part of the region, we need to take on our share – especially since it is now “starting to hit home”. For over 40 years Alameda has not built any rental housing. The impact of this is what we are starting to see. By building more rental housing we will address our rental housing shortage which will in turn level off rental price increases.

    Comment by Karen Bey — June 18, 2014 @ 8:38 am

  5. We also haven’t done much to help with “our share” of the challenges of regional gas prices in a long time. By drilling for oil off Crown Beach and fracking in Lincoln Park we can help in the same way you are suggesting we try to help with the challenges of regional housing process. The experts say it is safe! It will create jobs! Since we need it as a bridge to the future of carbon free energy and to help keep proves down, drilling for oil and extracting natural gas here in Alameda we will help level off the increase in housing prices. Don’t stand in the way of progress, Alameda!

    All of that would seem to make about as much sense for drilling for oil and fracking here as it does for building more housing.

    Comment by That's Not the Answer — June 18, 2014 @ 9:17 am

  6. I’ll play Devil’s Advocate: “. .more and more people moving to the Bay Area outstripping supply of housing . . .” Why should we permit carpetbaggers from the Midwest and East Coast dictate our quality of life in Alameda? Why are we obligated to provide housing for every Tom Dick , and Harriet that wants to move to the Bay Area or Alameda? There is a certain hot beverage store on Park St that is extremely popular- at what point do we the City Of Alameda tell the business owner that s/he has to expand to a accommodate all the people that like their hot beverages ? Surely the business owner can expand if s/he wants to capture more of that business , but should they be forced to? I think not. Likewise, I don ‘t feel a need to provide housing for everyone that wants to move to Alameda if it means more traffic, crowded classrooms, and longer lines at my favorite hot beverage distributer.

    Just for the record, I fully support providing below market rate housing for those families that serve us- our nannies, caregivers, laborers, military, etc. this issue is not about low income housing.

    Comment by Not A Alamedan — June 18, 2014 @ 9:26 am

  7. While we’re drilling for oil let’s drill a couple more fracking holes under the estuary, who knows maybe we’ll hit oils and create a couple new entrance/exit points.

    Comment by Jack — June 18, 2014 @ 9:27 am

  8. I also don’t understand why we are being forced to destroy the character of our city by cramming as many folks in as will fit, whether the infrastructure can handle it or not. Does Malibu have to accommodate everyone who wants to live there and give them an ocean view? How about Martha’s Vineyard, or Treasure Island? Are we destined to become that place that “nobody goes to anymore, it’s too crowded”?

    Comment by Denise Shelton — June 18, 2014 @ 9:39 am

  9. By the way, this “I’ve got mine – the rest of them can just eat cake attitude” is what got us here in the first place.

    Comment by Karen Bey — June 18, 2014 @ 9:43 am

  10. The City Charter and the Municipal Codes (2-8.1 Purpose) are clear as to the responsibility of the Planning Board, which is to address matters of the built environment. Rent stabilization per se is about housing as a service, not housing as a matter of the built environment. Thus, this is not in the Planning Board’s subject matter jurisdiction. Should the Planning Board desire to discuss rent control let alone create a Task Force for purposes of conducting a study about this important matter, per the City Charter, members there must approach the City Council for permission (Sec. 3-2). The City Charter empowers the Council with the responsibility, authority and power (Sec. 3-1) to set policy for the City staff to implement via resolution, ordinance or motion (Sec. 3-8).

    Comment by Tony Daysog — June 18, 2014 @ 9:48 am

  11. 9. That would be valid if it weren’t for one tiny detail: this is an island with limited access points. We cannot handle the kind of density you are talking about. BTW, climate change is real, too.

    Comment by Denise Shelton — June 18, 2014 @ 9:49 am

  12. Apologies, I clarified the action that the Planning Board took above, they did not create the task force, but they did place in Housing Element the ability for the Council to create a task force to review rental policies in Alameda. The Housing Element will still need to be certified by the City Council and if the City Council doesn’t want to move forward with the suggestion, they can still remove it from the Housing Element.

    Comment by Lauren Do — June 18, 2014 @ 9:54 am

  13. Resorting to a smug, inaccurate characterization of legitimate economic analysis you disagree with (“eat cake”) after you are the one who brought up supply and demand is not OK. Are people opposed to oil drilling in the Bay and fracking in our area also reflecting an “I’ve got mine” attitude or might they have legitimate concerns?

    Comment by That's Not the Answer — June 18, 2014 @ 10:23 am

  14. 3. not bad analogies, but similarly Alameda can’t stop Climate Change by reducing it’s carbon footprint, but in as much as carbon contributes to Climate Change, we have some obligation to track and reduce that footprint. So, housing is regional as well as a local issue, but local affordability is effected by new units, in that there are legal obligations from developers. Not wading in on the litany of other effects you cite, such as traffic, pace of life etc. Just saying. Conversely, no matter how many multilple units are built or subsidized, they won’t have a huge effect on prices of single family homes which continue to appreciate. My neighbors have been being out bid on east end homes for a year now. The latest example was a home which needed some work but had a large lot. Asking was in upper $900K and it went for $1.2 million. That is 20% and about 90% of what we paid for our home in 1991.

    Comment by MI — June 18, 2014 @ 11:40 am

  15. #3, #5, & #13 If anyone is smug — it’s you who won’t reveal your name. This is an important debate – stop hiding and at least have the courage to say who you are.

    # 14 Mark — I wonder if the answer to the “being out bid” problem is to put a cap on what you can sell your house for. Those greedy homeowners!

    Comment by Karen Bey — June 18, 2014 @ 12:16 pm

  16. 15. You think you are in a little club where everyone should know each other’s names but you are not. you are on the World Wide Web where anyone can access your posts. Some people may take umbrage with your ideas and some people take it personally when goaded and attacked.

    A long time ago most people who post to forums on the internet decided it was a good idea to retain their anonimity for security. Unless you have some need to put your name out there for business or personal reasons, it’s foolish to allow unrestricted access to your identity.

    Comment by Anonomous on the Internet — June 18, 2014 @ 2:04 pm

  17. Job creation without adequate workforce housing creates sprawl and traffic jams. No jobs, no people, no need for housing. Which do we want?

    Comment by BarbaraK — June 18, 2014 @ 2:11 pm

  18. A little bit of food for thought:
    Not sure if this should lead to “grab it while you can” or “treat the renters reasonable now so they don’t drop you like a hot potato” later which I saw happen during the last go-around. I am aware of several landlords who lost it all because once the renters moved on to more reasonable rents after the pop..they could not manage. The long term rental community totally remembered who gouged them. Renters are a big part of Alameda – people seem to forget that they are part of the community also- long time residents who participate as much as most of the other residents. Many stay because they would prefer to rent in a place that they love than buy in a place that they don’t.

    “During the last tech bubble, the Nasdaq Index — which features many technology stocks — lost nearly 80 percent of its value and “Silicon Valley saw 200,000 jobs evaporate overnight.” In the first quarter of 2014 “venture capitalists invested $9.5 billion in 951 U.S. companies,” a level not seen since the last bust.” Just another bigger pop next time- not today but not that far away.

    Comment by librarycat — June 18, 2014 @ 2:45 pm

  19. As a renter who has seen his rent go up $450/month in the last three years (4+ since moving here), I would be in favor of some modest price controls and protections, but not Berkeley or SF levels of rent control. I would think that 10% max per 12 month increase (or CPI+5% in times of high inflation) would be enough to protect the incentive to maintain and invest in properties while providing some assurance that you can’t be harshly booted. Housing choice and moving is huge ordeal and can be quite disruptive and hard on individuals and families. If pork jumps 30% in a month, you can easily buy chicken on your next grocery run. Housing is not like this. As someone who is likely going to move out of the only house my kid has ever known because the house is about to be put on the market, the prospect of moving and finding new housing in the city I have grown to love, sucks bad.

    The real, long term, solution is better zoning policies that allow density and growth when the demand and employment opportunities in the region exist. Alameda is an island, but not a nation. It doesn’t get to set all rules. Regional governance issues rightly have some say in certain policies. Everyone is guilty. Over the last decades the number of jobs added to the region have not been matched by housing supply. Car culture and NIMBYism prevented even SF from allowing proper density and TOD to flourish. You can’t be anti growth and anti rent control without basically saying eff off to 50% of residents. Yes, the tube situation is a problem, but that shouldn’t allow the 51% with political power in Alameda to avoid building our share of housing in when we are in such close proximity to two major job centers.

    Comment by BMac — June 18, 2014 @ 3:56 pm

  20. #16 – We may not agree here on this blog — but at least we know who we’re talking to. In my opinion if you don’t have the courage to share your name, its hard to take you seriously.

    #18 – I recognize and appreciate that renters are a big part of Alameda. It’s an important concern, and my focus is who should pay for the regional housing crisis that is happening not just in Alameda but in the entire San Francisco Bay Area. Sounds like you are suggesting that small business owners (landlords) should pay. Remember we haven’t built multi-family housing in over 40 years, so most of the landlords here in Alameda are small mom and pop owners (just like you and me).

    I say it should be a shared cost — with a number of tools on the table — including increasing the rental housing supply.

    Comment by Karen Bey — June 18, 2014 @ 3:56 pm

  21. Two things, I agree with Karen on the rental issue, we need to supply more multiple unit housing in Alameda.
    also on this blog at least, if you can’t use your name for what ever reason then what you say does not hold much weight with me. You can jabber on all day about security as you did in post #16, but its just B.S.

    Comment by John P. (liberal genius) — June 18, 2014 @ 4:08 pm

  22. John P.? Seriously?

    Who cares whether you or Ms. Bey requires a full identity before you can weigh an argument? You both should be mindful of the world we live in. If one insists in attaching their name to their posts, one should at least try to be pleasant or at least not abrasive, dismissive or combative.

    Comment by Anonomous on the Internet — June 18, 2014 @ 4:26 pm

  23. I’m with you on this one Anonomous (even with your unique spelling). The quality of the comment overrides the ‘Comment by’ nom de plume.

    Comment by Jack — June 18, 2014 @ 6:56 pm

  24. 22. ” If one insists in attaching their name to their posts, one should at least try to be pleasant or at least not abrasive, dismissive or combative.” ???? but if you don’t “insist” on attaching your name you are free to be abrasive, dismissive, combative troll and general all around A-hole?

    Comment by MI — June 18, 2014 @ 7:42 pm

  25. post#22 are you shitting me, your saying I should be mindful and pleasant when I’m talking to an idiot like you who has no balls to use their own name to push their issues. If you don’t care what me or Ms. Bey have to say , why do you think we would give a shit what you have to say. So Jack, why do you use your name??. that in itself says you disagree with this asshole who wants to come on here and give us grief, but does not want to show his or her face. Anonymous, please either get out or be a little more serious about the issues. Post #24 mark, there are a lot of us who have been on here a real long time, we have agreed and disagreed on many issues but we all know each other and try to respect each other on different issues, I like this blog because of the fact that we do all know each other when we meet on the street.

    Comment by John P. (liberal genius) — June 18, 2014 @ 9:09 pm

  26. Well, John P. (liberal genius) and or MI or vigi, or dave or librarycat or alamedanatif or Lauren Do or Karen Bey or the other hundreds of people who have bothered to comment on this blog using one handle or another, I personally would not know any one of you-all if I ran you over with my bicycle…much less meeting you on the street…other than you John P. (liberal genius) so I, and I only speak for myself, I just really don’t get what the big deal is by masking identity if one has the desire to do so or why an esteemed member of the community willing to volunteer for public scrutiny would use such harsh language as you did above towards a mere commenter and apparently a member of the Island community. Especially since either the NSA or APD or any other of the multiple bureaucratic agencies knows and records everywhere you travel and every word you speak including Mr. Anonomous and you and me and they don’t give a whit whether you use your real name or not.

    Comment by Jack Richard (Anonomous) — June 18, 2014 @ 10:31 pm

  27. That’s some wierd shit right there Liberal Genius. If that’s your real name.

    Comment by Anonomous on the Internet — June 18, 2014 @ 11:35 pm

  28. There are a lot of good (and bad) reasons someone might post a comment here anonymously. Having or not having “courage” (Karen’s term), being or not being an “all around A-hole” (MI’s term) or having balls or having “no balls” (John’s term) might not have anything to do with an individual’s decision to do that. For years Lauren has consistently made it a priority to allow anonymous comments here, so I expect they will continue. I agree with Jack in comment #23 that “The quality of the comment overrides the ‘Comment by’ nom de plume.” You don’t have to agree with that view, whether or not you have courage, are or are not an A-hole, and have or lack balls.

    Except in the cases of really obnoxious anonymous comments (and there have been many of those here over the years), much of the time when someone posting here under a real name launches into the “you lack courage” “you’re a coward or a-hole” or “you lack balls” litany to try to goad an anonymous person into using a real name as happened yesterday, that goading means the anonymous person has made a good point that the real name person is frustrated at not being able to answer effectively so is trying to change the subject. Or maybe they are just so frustrated that they have to resort to a middle school tactic like “I dare you. Use your real name. Are you a chicken?” Often that goading includes a warped view of masculinity and some sexism thrown in as a subtext (have some balls, don’t be a p-ssy, etc).

    On the substance of the discussion yesterday, I found Karen’s supply and demand analysis of rental prices in comment #1 incomplete and unpersuasive. After I offered an alternative market analysis and analogy about fracking that was meant to illustrate the complexity of the issues, rather than respond to the issues raised, Karen resorted to trying to dismiss all of my analysis by characterizing it in comment #9 as “I’ve got mine – the rest of them can just eat cake attitude” and then suggesting in comment #15 that I wasn’t treating the issue with its due importance. She and others also tried to dismiss my points because I made them anonymously.

    I raised those points here yesterday because I care about Alameda, know these are important complicated issues, and disagree with the prevailing view among Alameda government insiders about housing (the view that much more housing in Alameda is clearly The Answer “of course” regardless of the negative effects that is likely to bring). I’m just not going to post under a real name. If that’s unacceptable, just ignore what I said.

    My perception is that many who share the prevailing view of housing development too often talk about the issue in ways that seek to dismiss out of hand all who dissent from that prevailing view. The ideas hinted at here yesterday that disagreement about these issues should be dismissed out of hand, can only be done under one’s own name, is self-centered and/or is worthy of execution by guillotine (Karen’s “eat cake” reference in comment #9 used the phrase most often associated with Marie Antoinette) is wrong.

    I care about Alameda at least as much as the rest of you who choose to use your own names here. Good luck to us all.

    Comment by That's Not the Answer — June 19, 2014 @ 6:55 am

  29. anonomous, Jack and anyone else, I apologies for last night. no excuse.

    Comment by John P. (liberal genius) — June 19, 2014 @ 8:24 am

  30. Wasn’t it Martin Luther King who said something about being judged for the content of your character, not the color of your skin? Ironic that Karen Bey would disagree with that sentiment. A post should be judged by its content, not the identity of the author. I’m sure if you Google “great authors who did not write using their real names”, you will find a long list of people who cannot be described as cowards. If you don’t want your post dismissed with the comment “consider the source”, I’d advise against using your real name.

    I believe it was no less an authority than California Supreme Justice Stanley Mosk who validated the act of posting under an assumed name, in order to preserve one’s right to free speech without risk to one’s reputation. [Sorry, I’m still looking for the exact quote, but I am pretty sure it was him].

    The possibility for writers to post here anonymously without fear is why Lauren’s blog has endured so long. You don’t like it, start your own.

    Comment by vigi — June 19, 2014 @ 10:21 am

  31. Just wanted to mention that back on the discussion about the reparations article- I got the same hit- was told by Denise Shelton that my opinion could be discounted because I was posting under my usual moniker that I have used for years on this blog. I wasn’t being rude or anything but because she didn’t know me – she assumed that no one knew me. Of course, she also thought vigi was a man so there was some general confusion going on. It was kind of odd because I was actually trying to push back against some really harsh language that was used against Lauren during that conversation by people using “real names”.
    quote: “You should also know that people who use pseudonyms are much more likely to be dissed around here. Something about respect for those with the courage to identify themselves.” And yet – others have posted under names that are not their “real names” for years. With no push back.
    I have always appreciated that Lauren allows people to say what they say on this blog – even when some of it is seriously whacked and some of it by “regulars”. I once got accused of posting under various people because there was some else who wrote a lot like me ( I think it was me and Mark but can’t remember for sure, ages ago )- that was also funny because I was being accused by 2 people known to post under multiples. Lauren checked IP addresses and verified that we were different folks. I do however find people who post under pseudonyms purely to troll or to bring down the conversation with profanities or hyper personal attacks distasteful though.
    It is what it is – just really appreciate this blog as a source of valuable information- I just zoom past the crummy and look for the honest arguments.

    Comment by librarycat — June 19, 2014 @ 12:01 pm

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