Blogging Bayport Alameda

February 27, 2015

Social cues

Filed under: Alameda, Development — Lauren Do @ 6:07 am

Sometimes you have great spokepeople for a group or a product. Like people who really do an excellent job of representing the product and/or group that they are pushing. Like the two guys that do those All State commercials. One is now on the show Backstrom and every time he appears on the screen I expect him to say “That’s Allstate’s stand.”

Anyway, sometimes there are times when a spokeperson is so bad, even if they are doing it on a strictly volunteer basis, that the organization should say, “thanks but no thanks.”

Case in point: Bill Smith. I’ve not been pleased with some of Bill Smith’s inconsistent positions in the past. Particularly around the whole Housing Element and Neptune Point things. I don’t need to rehash that do I, it’s somewhere in the comments section. But at Monday night’s Planning Board meeting, this was when I realized that Renewed Hope really needs to have someone else represent their position on multi-family housing at these public meetings.

Here’s the video:

He’s responding to a comment made by Planning Board Member Kristoffer Koster regarding the low and very-low income housing and the need to disperse the housing as much as possible so that it doesn’t become concentrated in one area of the project.

The text:

I used to think the same way, I’ve worked now with affordable housing groups for a long time and even if there weren’t financing restrictions, in fact there are financing restrictions because they find its a better practice to keep it together for a number of reasons.  It works well to disperse the moderate income housing because these people have skills and jobs and they have social — they have — the lower you go down the income scale then the more difference there are between and the harder it is for them to interact and they actually — some of the lower income people, when you talk to them, they’re scared to interact with other people so, and they feel more comfortable in a community of their own and they’re more supportive and things like that.

How do you even unpack all that?

First this:

It works well to disperse the moderate income housing because these people have skills and jobs and they have social

The implied is that individuals and families that rely on low and very low income housing do not have skills and/or jobs.  I’m not sure what the “they have social” portion was supposed to end with, but I’m pretty sure I don’t want to know.

Then this:

the lower you go down the income scale then the more difference there are between and the harder it is for them to interact

The only response to this is “the fuck?”   I’m not sure what the size of your paycheck has to do with having social skills to talk with people.

And this:

some of the lower income people, when you talk to them, they’re scared to interact with other people so,

Or maybe it’s just him and people can sense the condescension and simply don’t want to interact with him in particular.

I know these remarks are not at all representative of the larger Renewed Hope organization, but it does the organization no good at all if someone who represents himself as speaking for the organization lays down some truly stereotypical factoids about the population that he is supposedly agitating for.



  1. I believe it was Helen Thomas? that made the case much more simply and less insultingly at a recent council meeting. It went basically like this: in addition to the financing benefits, the LI and VLI residents tend to use more services and it is easier to provide them in the concentrated setting.

    Comment by BMac — February 27, 2015 @ 8:08 am

  2. It was probably Helen Sause, right? apparently it was Laura Thomas. And she’s absolutely correct that affordable housing financing is really difficult to cobble together and and when you have additional supportive services offered (job counseling, child care, etc.) it’s much easier (and cost effective) to deliver said services when they are not scattered among many sites.

    But supportive service delivery and availability has nothing to do with those residents ability to interact socially even with “other people” whoever those “other people” are.

    Comment by Lauren Do — February 27, 2015 @ 8:18 am

  3. In amongst all that insulting politically incorrect stuff might be a kernel of truth.

    Comment by Tom Schweich — February 27, 2015 @ 8:18 am

  4. I think you mean Laura Thomas. Helen Thomas was White House.

    I’m fairly certain there are statistics behind what Bill was trying to explain. Isn’t the original idea not to ghettosize people in limps like Cabrini Green. If you think about this is simplest terms like self confidence, who has it and why, it makes some sense that folks who have spent their entire lives with fewer advantages would have less well developed social skills and that on a micro level, as in “micro aggressions”, they simply feel more comfortable if they don’t find themselves interacting in isolation with people who are more upwardly mobile. Growing up in Philadelphia there were lots of strata of socio economics and ethnicity. I grew up in a small suburban house from the first subdivisions in an affluent suburb, but went to school with kids who mostly lived in brick row houses who were from immigrant families who liked to stick together. It’s like today in certain settings it’s not cool to be smart. I have lots of class rage related to rotten attitudes from people “above” and “below”. It’s complicated. I don’t think any of these clusters of housing are as large and isolated as Cabrini Green.

    Comment by MI — February 27, 2015 @ 8:47 am

  5. in 4. that is lumps, not limps.

    Comment by MI — February 27, 2015 @ 8:48 am

  6. MI: I interact with a lot of kids that go to Ruby Bridges who come from all socio-economic classes. Personality and a kid’s ability to interact on a social level is not dictated by how much money is in their household. Perhaps the behavior referred to by Bill Smith is learned after a lifetime of being condescended to by well meaning folks. Or, perhaps, a simpler explanation — that we would ascribe to individuals not in low or very low income housing — is that the people that Bill Smith interacted with simply were introverted.

    Comment by Lauren Do — February 27, 2015 @ 8:59 am

  7. Sure Lauren, precisely. That is the other side, but I think kids are freer and less self conscious than their corresponding adults. I spent a summer doing tutoring in reading of a ten year African American boy in Alameda. He lived with his grandmother who I had some interaction with. I was given no real training. I didn’t really need it, but many many times I felt uncomfortable about whether the role I was trying to play was being discharged well. In the end it was good experience all around, but it was an education. I didn’t want to be that patronizing well meaning person and was self aware going in but still caught myself. Two way street with the grandmother too.

    Comment by MI — February 27, 2015 @ 9:17 am

  8. but how else do we learn to intertact but from doing it.

    Comment by MI — February 27, 2015 @ 9:18 am

  9. LMFAO. I haven’t laughed so hard since Karen Bey expressed her desire to see luxury homes and a hotel at Alameda Point, and Lois Pryor immediately followed her at the podium with: “but then where would all the poor black people live?”. As Herb Caen would say, Ya gotta love this town!

    Comment by vigi — February 27, 2015 @ 9:26 am

  10. Having a few months under our belts as foster parents to a 17 year old African (not African American) kid who has many African American kid friends who frequently come over to socialize, I really don’t see any difference between these kids, who are from families who are mostly low income, and any other kids I have dealt with over the years. They joke around, play, watch t.v., eat (a lot) and talk about pop culture, their teachers and homework and their visions for the future, which include for most of them, going to college and becoming professionals of some sort. They seem to be comfortable here and with the neighbors, who are nice folks and treat them as any other teens. Their parents are protective and keep track of them and give them times to be home.

    I think it is our lack of contact that breeds ideas about what ‘they’ want or what makes ‘them’ comfortable. ‘They’ pretty much want the same as everybody else; it just takes a lot of overcoming the mainstream culture’s suspicion and fear for them to achieve in the same way. I really honor these kids who have to battle their way to get what other kids get far more easily.

    I would guess that their parents have the same aspirations for finding affordable housing in good neighborhoods, too.

    Comment by Kate Quick — February 27, 2015 @ 9:55 am

  11. I think it’s important to avoid ghettos of any kind, be they “the projects” or gated communities. So much anger, suspicion, and misunderstanding arises among people because they are in a bubble and have no clue of the challenges or the victories that people who have significantly less or more money than they have experience. You can’t understand what you have no experience being around.

    Comment by Denise Shelton — February 27, 2015 @ 10:01 am

  12. If they’re inter-dispersed, how we gonna know who to feel sorry for?

    Comment by jack — February 27, 2015 @ 10:09 am

  13. Having grown up in public housing, a small scheme situated in a pretty nice neighborhood, and now being a homeowner, I’ve found people not to be much different. Denise is right. Problems arise when people don’t have exposure to others. Neighborhoods that are multidimensionally diverse are preferable.

    Comment by BC — February 27, 2015 @ 10:32 am

  14. Ohhh. Wow. Not really sure where to start on with this one. Bill is a very intelligent person. Too intelligent to not realize the impact of his words. I’ve previously talked to Laura Thomas about concerns I have that Bill’s statements seemed to be calculated and timed to derail affordable housing opportunities rather than promote them. Whether intentional or not, they are doing a huge disservice to Renewed Hope, and to support for affordable housing in general. Nothing worse than inciting anxiety(or worse) by saying “they are not like us.”

    A low-income or very low income resident isn’t less skilled than any other resident. They are however often denied the opportunities to demonstrate and utilize the skills they do have.

    Try approaching a “low-income person” not as a “low-income person” but as your neighbor, because that’s who they are. I would be reluctant to interact with someone who is pre-judging me based on perceived differences and not trying to find similarities.

    I want to discuss the issue of dispersal vs. concentration separately, just because that topic does deserve some attention.

    Comment by dbiggs — February 27, 2015 @ 10:42 am

  15. some very intelligent people sometimes are lacking just good old “common sense”.

    Comment by John P. — February 27, 2015 @ 12:08 pm

  16. Vigi –that’s what happens when you stereo-type people. You’ll always be surprised when you learn that in reality, people are not the color of their skin. That’s a label or limitation that you place on people.

    Comment by Karen Bey — February 27, 2015 @ 12:10 pm

  17. I notice my above comment didn’t include my full name. I’ll rectify that at the end of this post.

    Ok, lets talk about concentrating or clustering affordable/low income/very low income housing, vs dispersal. The one bone I will throw Bill Smith is that yes, financing housing is incredibly complex, and the financing mechanisms to lead to concentrating housing. When Jerry Brown murdered redevelopment, he did away with the primary source of funding for affordable housing. Nowadays most projects use a lot of tax credit financing, a highly competitive source of funding potential projects are scored on a number of factors, and only the highest scoring projects get funding. a significant component of the scoring has to do with access to amenities – location of the project in relation to transportation, shopping, schools etc. Finding the sweetspot on the map that results in the highest score inevitably forces a concentration of projects, so that’s the financial challenges.

    Then there are programmatic opportunities around housing. In other words how do you build and locate housing to maximize success and opportunity. Alameda Point and APC is a good example. APC provides permanent supportive housing. Permanent supportive housing is defined by the US inter agency council on homelessness as: “a proven, effective means of reintegrating chronically homeless and other highly vulnerable homeless families and individuals with psychiatric disabilities or chronic health challenges into the community by addressing their basic needs for housing and providing ongoing support.” By the very nature of the housing and support offered, you want to housing to be clustered around and within easy access to services.

    Similarly, the transfer of Alameda Point to the City was done so with the purpose of providing economic opportunities (jobs) to benefit the community. Thus it makes sense to locate housing close to those potential jobs in order to maximize economic opportunities for those that need it the most. That is why, when you talk to residents of the west end about development, the conversation usually isn’t about traffic, but about jobs, and delaying development is about delaying job opportunities for those that would benefit the most.

    Concentration of course can go too far, and we have hopefully learned from the nightmare high rise development of the 60’s (geneva towers anyone?), and nowadays we are looking to build development like Shinsei Gardens, and Jack Capon, that provide clustered opportunities to access services, but still fit in (and in fact I think enhance) the surrounding neighborhoods.

    Doug Biggs
    Alameda Point Collaborative

    Comment by dbiggs — February 27, 2015 @ 1:48 pm

  18. Yes, Laura Thomas, of course.

    17. Doug, thanks for laying it out.

    When it comes to new development and affordable housing, it kind of is a zero sum game in a certain respect, right? By that, I mean, the developer commits to ‘x’ number of affordable units based on assumptions made about what type of financing will be available and that leaves ‘y’ amount of other community benefits, impact fees and contributions to the city given a certain project.

    If the community decided that integrating the low and very low units more seamlessly was preferable, it would just mean that they would cost more money for the developer to provide the required number, presumably lowering the amount of other goodies they could offer the city in order to sign a development agreement, right? So it is a question of tradeoffs and priorities, like anything.

    Comment by BMac — February 27, 2015 @ 2:43 pm

  19. As for the actual cringe-worthiness of the comments in the video above, yeah, definitely went off the tracks there. Worth correcting and calling out, but definitely bigger fish to fry, so I’m not going to allocate too much of my outrage budget to it. As long as the decision makers are able to separate the wheat from the chaff, I’m good. And if the complete indifference of the board and commission members to the Neptune Beach heir’s butthurt about the Cross Alameda Trail comments, as well as to the mayor’s concern trolling in support, are any indication… they can make the distinctions.

    Comment by BMac — February 27, 2015 @ 2:52 pm

  20. regarding the “other”, aliens…. R.I.P. Nimoy/Spock.

    Comment by MI — February 27, 2015 @ 3:03 pm

  21. the link in 20 comes up blank, so be prepared to strip and paste. But it is not a wild tangent. Nimoy recalls growing up in a part of Boston which was 60% Italian and about 30% Jewish. They lived in the same buildings but often segregated by floors. This was obviously self selected. He says Jews spoke Italian and Italians spoke Yiddish.

    So, I’m just throwing out personal experiences, not making judgements on configurations. I defer to people like Doug in 17 on that stuff. I know we aren’t talking massive blocks of low income housing , but how many VLI units are we talking about in any given cluster? And won’t they be built in direct proximity to market rate units?

    In 1970s Berkeley I lived in a couple garden apartments where three or four doors opened facing each other. These apartments had students from upper middle class homes but also lots of working class families. I lived with college students but worked. There was plenty of cross socializing, though most of the students now make six figures and probably most kids from families in those buildings have not moved up the income ladder by leaps and bounds.

    Comment by MI — February 27, 2015 @ 4:02 pm

  22. As far as site A on the Point goes, it sounds like they are looking at 60 regular and 60 senior units for LI and VLI, and the rest below market rate units mixed in for the remaining 80. The location will be right in the heart of the action, in the southern portion of Site A, near-ish the new Ferry Terminal which will aid in scoring for the financing race.

    Comment by BMac — February 27, 2015 @ 5:07 pm

  23. 17. My thanks to Doug Biggs for making a convincing case for “limited” clustering of low and very low income housing in his post. I made that case awkwardly and without adequate context late Monday night at the Planning Board meeting. My thanks to Lauren Do and her blog for giving the community the opportunity to provide the context that was missing from my remarks – namely clustering must be limited (no infamous Chicago projects) and that dispersed housing can work and is useful as well. Many very low and low income people do have the ability to live in dispersed housing. Thus, if we can, our community is best served by providing both dispersed (e.g. Section 8) and clustered housing for very low and low income individuals.

    Also regarding social skills, I was drawing on my own experience in organizing low income neighborhoods, going together to City Hall to file housing complaints, and as a teacher’s aide in schools in West and North Oakland. As MI pointed out in 4, those who possess self-confidence regardless of economic and social status are better able to interact closely with those with different backgrounds.

    Again, thanks to the community for correcting my inadvertently misleading remarks.

    Comment by 2wheelsmith — February 28, 2015 @ 11:45 am

  24. Frankly, 2wheel, it’s rather refreshing to hear someone kick the Political Correctness crowd in the shins and speak the truth whether you meant to or not.

    Comment by jack — February 28, 2015 @ 6:50 pm

  25. Lauren Do has been writing and hosting Blogging Bayport Alameda for many years “on a strictly volunteer basis”–just as Bill Smith has been committed to affordable housing and environmental issues in Alameda. Both have taken endless flack from their detractors, but both have steadfastly stayed the course based on their strong principles. Neither one of them has, to my knowledge, claimed superhuman or perfect status along the way.

    Many of the commenters in this space, myself included, have similarly experienced similar negative reactions for giving voice to their convictions and stepping forward–sometimes without any companions–to speak up for what they believe is right. (And our voices, too, are less than perfect, to be sure.)

    Not every comment, post, or public comment any of us makes is guaranteed to be a pearl of perfect logic, wit, perception, and clarity: sometimes we fall flat on our butts, as I have been known to do here and elsewhere.

    So what are we to do when our fellow human beings inevitably fall short of the mark? Do we fire each other and run each other off the community stage because of a mis-step? I think not.

    We cannot, after all, simply manufacture out of thin air a new community blogger, a new housing advocate, a new Restoration Advisory Board member, or a new advocate of economic development, can we?

    We could all use a little more help and support from our friends. And, as Bill has graciously acknowledged, sometimes that help and support means help with translating our thoughts and words. And perhaps listening with a bit more charity to each other….

    Comment by Jon Spangler — February 28, 2015 @ 9:20 pm

  26. Thanks for the Yiddish Nimoy link, MI. It worked for me. Nimoy tribute tonite on MeTV @8 PM. LLAP.

    Comment by vigi — March 1, 2015 @ 2:34 pm

  27. what is about under appreciated type cast Jewish actors from 60s TV? Nimoy was pretty good in remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. But I really loved Martin Landau from Mission Impossible. He did at least one Woody Allen movie but my all time favorite was his role as Bella Lugosi in Ed Wood. The link is so long it’s easier to Google Martin Landau Ed Wood. You should get the video with his tirade about Boris Karloff.

    Comment by MI — March 1, 2015 @ 4:52 pm

  28. 27. MI try using TinyURL to shorten links!

    Comment by dc — March 2, 2015 @ 11:01 am

  29. Does it really need to be pointed out that “@citystaff” is probably not actually a city staffer? I know the intertubes are confusing.

    Comment by Barak obama — March 12, 2015 @ 2:00 pm

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