Blogging Bayport Alameda

March 2, 2015

Guess who’s coming to all the Commission/Board meetings?

Filed under: Alameda, City Council, Development — Lauren Do @ 6:02 am

Wow, when I read the contemporaneous Twitter commentary about Monday’s Planning Board meeting, I thought they were amusing but I didn’t expect what actually happened.

Here’s the thing.  I can cut people some slack for not knowing various things about City Government when they haven’t been paying attention closely when they have been occupied by other things.  But what I do have an issue with is not knowing the details of something but then going up and giving your opinion about an issue — ostensibly as a “private citizen” — and revealing that you have no idea what the hell has been happening in this City before you took office.

The first agenda item was about the hotel proposed for the Harbor Bay Business Park.   A lot of good overall comments by the Planning Board and, honestly, I have no strong opinions about the hotel/motel there anyway.  My feeling is, it’s zoned for it, it’s a office park hotel, who really cares what it looks like.  Seriously, have you seen the buildings at Harbor Bay, they are little, largely inoffensive griege-y boxes.  It’s a business park.  Anyway, Trish Spencer (citizen) scolded the Planning Board for its lack of transparency because there were no story poles erected.

So we’re keeping track here.  Placing on the agenda (or rather asking the City Manager to place on the agenda) an item without any details or supporting documentation to give the public an understanding of what the point of the agenda item was = transparent.  Not requiring every development project to erect story poles = not transparent.   Here’s a tip to Trish Spencer (citizen) maybe she can ask Trish Spencer (mayor) to place a Council Referral on the agenda to require story poles for all development projects and make some sort of, you know, policy.  But one of the other Planning Board Members, Dania Alvarez had a good idea which was to just point out to the public existing buildings of similar heights so that people can get a real live sense of the scale of a proposed building.

Next was the Alameda Point Site A, which, if you’ve watched one presentation you’ve watched them all.  City Staff kinda misrepresented what Tony Daysog has said about the open space at Alameda Point.   What he said was that he felt as though the space by the waterfront had too much “empty space” not “open space.”  Pretty sure Tony Daysog is cool with more open space, but that the plazas at the waterfront on the seaplane lagoon would be too empty because the setbacks were originally very large.  Trish Spencer (citizen) decided to tack on to that misrepresentation and say that it was only one City Councilmember who felt as though there was too much “open space” and that the rest did not.  Perhaps Trish Spencer (mayor) should have listened more carefully to her colleague to represent his comments more accurately to Trish Spencer (citizen).

This was also the comment section where Trish Spencer (citizen) dazzled us with this newfangled “Universal Design” thing and insisted that because Alameda Point was “city owned land” — and that developments like Del Monte was not — that the City should insist on Universal Design because it (at one point) will be owned by the City.  Except for the fact that Del Monte had included Universal Design into its 2014 Master Plan:

Universal Design
All residential units shall be designed to be universally adaptable. All primary floors will be served by an elevator and every residential unit will have an accessible route to it and within it. The townhouse units will have an adaptable first floor and a second floor or mezzanine that is not adaptable.

And that the City has been working on an universe design ordinance for a while now which was an effort spearheaded by a member of the Commission on Disability Issues in 2012.

It appears that there is no end in sight for Trish Spencer (citizen) gracing Boards and Commissions with her appearance and telling folks what she, as a citizen, feels about any number of issues.  Apparently she also commented at the joint Transportation Commission and Planning Board meeting and was the only City Council member to do so.   I heard there was also some scolding going on as well, can’t wait to see it.

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22 Comments

  1. Very few people go to these meetings, yet they are always cited as “proof” of transparency. As in” we had 15 meetings and you had a chance to comment, so don’t cry about traffic/density/housing/design/pollution now.” And suddenly there is an ugly new something somewhere. I am glad our mayor goes to these meetings and expresses her concerns. The real question is- where are the rest of the Council members?

    Comment by Breathless — March 2, 2015 @ 6:19 am

  2. do you really think that Trish is gonna do this for the next four years. If the full council goes to every meeting I think they would all have to be publically noticed.

    Comment by John P. — March 2, 2015 @ 7:31 am

  3. Daysog was live tweeting the joint meeting. Not sure if he was present or just watching.

    Comment by BMac — March 2, 2015 @ 8:21 am

  4. Sine they are talking planning , they might want to look into the bay farm ferry which no longer has enough parking space , vehicle start to clog the neighbors , might also want to take a closer look at the bike lane they created on shoreline exposing every resident along the way to hazardous driving , that was planning , thinking ahead , High Street bridge will be closed for over a month , one accident in the tube and everyone call in sick for the day …….they still plan to add a couples thousand houses City wide ???? Hope you are not stuck in that ambulance …….

    Comment by Joel Rambaud — March 2, 2015 @ 8:32 am

  5. Some time ago, the League of Women Voters looked into the issue of actual membership of the Mayor and/or Council Members on some boards and commissions that report their findings and recommendations to the Council. It was determined that the person to whom the body reported should not be a member or be the source of influence on the deliberations and findings of the reporting body. This was long before Ms. Spencer was the Mayor, or even the former Mayor was the Mayor. It makes sense, doesn’t it? If you have the responsibility to weigh the findings of a commission or committee you designated to make recommendations to you, you should let them arrive at those recommendations independent of your influence. Then, in your role as the “decider” as President Bush called it, you can weigh in on your thoughts and opinions at the time of deliberation and vote. This is not to say that others who share your opinions can’t be the ones asking the same questions you might ask , but they would not have the “gravitas” of the office and therefore have undue influence. I think it is hard to be two people at the same time when dealing with people who report to you. They see you as Mayor, whether you want to be in the role of “just a citizen” or not. You have the power; they are making their recommendations to you.

    Comment by Kate Quick — March 2, 2015 @ 8:54 am

  6. Trish…really? I would have guessed it was Barbara Kahn.

    Story poles: On Del Monte it made perfect sense. How do you place a story pole for an eight story residential motel? how many stories is this thing? Photo shop mock ups maybe? about 10 feet per story in most cases. guess who has no imagination and a one dimensional personality?

    Comment by MI — March 2, 2015 @ 9:01 am

  7. 1. If it was Gilmore going to all these meetings would that make you all warm and fuzzy too? The process is open. With electronic media, web sites, blogs, the Alamedan, if the public, like members of Alameda Citizen’s Task Force, can’t show up to comment who is to blame? They can atleast watch on tape and email the board members, but that doesn’t allow an opportunity to grand stand in public doers it?

    4. “bike lane they created on shoreline exposing every resident along the way to hazardous driving”. Hard to believe you are serious. How about High Street ( two lanes)? That was planning, thinking ahead? The hazard which had been greatly reduced is bike and ped collision. The driving may be a little less convenient, but an increase in hazardous driving, when it occurs, is on the hazardous drivers.

    Comment by MI — March 2, 2015 @ 9:09 am

  8. Kate Q. did the League release a report on this issue?

    Comment by Lauren Do — March 2, 2015 @ 9:45 am

  9. Doesn’t make sense to me, Kate. The smaller the group being governed, the greater influence will be possible by any single person in the government. (that sounds like terrible English, but I couldn’t think of a different way to say it). This is an occupational hazard of municipal government. If our mayor lives in the city, she will necessarily be personally affected by events in the city, and like every other citizen, has a right to be heard regarding those events. Unless you propose taking away her civil rights and giving the mayor less rights than every other citizen, I don’t see anyway around this .
    There is no guarantee the “undue influence” works in any single direction. The new mayor did not appoint most people currently serving on boards and commissions. They could just as easily register their disagreement with the mayor by voting against her position.
    Gilmore did not seem to have the courage to ever appear in the gallery as an average citizen, voicing her opinion with the rest of us. She held herself so far above the fray she ceased to be a part of the community at all. As a result, she created somewhat of an adversarial atmosphere between the gallery and the people on the dais. Big mistake. We elect a mayor, not a queen.

    Comment by vigi — March 2, 2015 @ 10:22 am

  10. New word for the day: “story poles”.

    Comment by nonymous — March 2, 2015 @ 10:23 am

  11. Who is actually going to read a story pole? In San Francisco I would read them sometimes if it was by where I worked and was on my way on foot somewhere to get lunch, but I am not going to pull over my car to go read them. Doesn’t she read the SF Business times? I am sure it was in there, or the Sun, or some newspaper. Lack of information usually comes from lack of interest.

    Comment by Jake. — March 2, 2015 @ 11:52 am

  12. #11 Jake, I can’t tell if you’re joking or not, but a story pole in this case is a pole that illustrates how high a building will be. No reading involved.

    Comment by ajryan — March 2, 2015 @ 12:14 pm

  13. Our report is in the form of our position, Lauren. All our positions are on our web site.

    Comment by Kate Quick — March 2, 2015 @ 12:51 pm

  14. 9. “We elect a mayor, not a queen.” I assume that is in reference to your description of Gilmore as feeling “above the fray” and lacking courage. Funny because I agree about the queen thing but think of Spencer running around rearranging photos of the wall of City Hall and generally micromanaging, and speaking from the dais about meetings she chairs as “my meetings”. As for Gilmore exhibiting courage you think spending four years facing detractors who insult you to your face would qualify? The superior angle of the dais does give board members some psychological advantage, but Spencer now enjoys the same and the speakers set the adversarial tone most of the time. Otherwise, I don’t have a problem with Spencer making a fool of herself by coming to every meeting. If I were on a board I would not let it influence me in terms of being intimidated, though it might prove difficult to resist the opposite behavior of being spiteful. I guess until Spencer has a chance to appoint a majority to each and every board she will not be able to relax. But it’s sort of like POTUS and SCOTUS, so the opportunities may not present themselves for a while. The thing which stands out is that Spencer’s tactic is entirely without precedent ( other mayors of council members done anything like this?), and it’s not like she is continuing a habit of going to every meeting which existed before she was mayor, so the whole “speaking as a citizen” is a little disingenuous to me. Of course the other view is to say, “Wow! She is so dedicated and undaunted in her determination to serve us all and crusade for transparency. You go girl!”

    Comment by MI — March 2, 2015 @ 1:24 pm

  15. Given her lack of prior experience in *City of Alameda* affairs (versus school affairs), I am glad that Trish Spencer is “making the rounds” of our city boards and commissions. I may be dismayed by her lack of information about transportation or Universal Design or other specific issues, but I am glad that she is learning about our city governance and Alameda’s current issues as fast as she can. Nor do I particularly begrudge her the opportunity to speak out, whether she is well-informed or not: I may question whether she should be doing so as “Citizen Spencer” at board and commission meetings or whether she should avoid confusion by speaking out on these issues as our mayor in a more “official” capacity.

    (Being well-informed has never stopped any of the rest of us from making public comments or blog comments on a variety of issues, after all. 😉

    There *is* a certain built-in confusion and/or conflict of interest, however, if Citizen Spencer speaks out at a board or commission meeting on an issue that the board or commission is going to advise Mayor Spencer and the City Council on at a later date, though. I tend to agree with the note cautious “hands-off” school of thought that supports elected officials limiting their input to advisory boards and commissions who will subsequently advise these same electeds on the issues. (Ultimately, I suppose a perceived conflict of interest *might* be legitimately raised if a public official is playing “both sides of the street” and he/she might be called on to recuse him/herself.)

    Part of this is a matter of *appearances.* Is Mayor Spencer aware that her participation in board and commission meetings when she offers public comments as a citizen *may* contribute to an *appearance* that she wants to micromanage everything, regardless of her intent? Does the appearance of micro-managing issues at that level contribute to or detract from the public’s trust in real transparent and even-handed public deliberations on issues?

    I hope that Mayor Spencer and Citizen Spencer are “both” aware of all of the implications of her active participation in (versus attendance at and observation of) meetings of boards and commissions. I am sure that she wants our public processes to be as fair, open, trusted, and transparent as possible.

    Comment by Jon Spangler — March 2, 2015 @ 1:30 pm

  16. 9: Carol, I disagree that the more distanced (neutral, cautious, and probably more even-handed) approach to participation in board and commission meetings of Mayor Gilmore–and all of her predecessors I have observed since 1997, for that matter–causes anything like the “adversarial atmosphere between the gallery and the people on the dais” to which you refer.

    In fact, this more reserved approach is seen as reinforcing the independence and integrity of the advice offered to our elected City Council and is the most widely-used standard of practice throughout all of the legislative bodies I have witnessed in 50 years of public participation in two states and several jurisdictions. And, IMHO, there is a very significant line between elected officials (versus candidates campaigning for office who are unelected) attending such meetings as an observer and participating as a “citizen” after their election to official decision-making status.

    Comment by Jon Spangler — March 2, 2015 @ 1:43 pm

  17. “making a fool of herself by coming to every meeting”. What an odd perspective on participatory democracy! Some of us have been making fools of ourselves [like Jon Spangler] in that way for years, and we aren’t even elected to anything. But then, MI doesn’t go to hardly any meetings, so no fool is he.

    Doesn’t Kate Quick have a T-shirt that says “Democracy is not a spectator sport”?

    Leadership is pretty much defined by expressing your opinion in a particular direction. If your opinion isn’t expressed until your vote is cast, then it’s too late for the public to do anything other than wonder which special interests behind the scenes swayed your vote.

    Comment by vigi — March 2, 2015 @ 6:19 pm

  18. Casting votes and making decisions based on what the public wants you to do, and fears about what will be said about your connections to “special interests” after you take action, is almost by definition the shittiest type of “leadership”.

    Comment by brock — March 2, 2015 @ 6:51 pm

  19. Vigi, I offered no criticism of Mayor Spencer, but an observation of how the League feels representative democracy should work – those who represent us and make the decisions, when they appoint (and yes, I know that many of these appointees were before the current Council’s time) advisory bodies, should allow those bodies to come up with their advice, consider it, and act upon it independent of them. Advising the advisors changes the dynamic of the delegation of duties. It is an observation; not a criticism. The intention may be good, but the result may not be.

    And yes, democracy is not a spectator sport. Civic engagement is our responsibility as well as our privilege. Mayor Spencer and all our elected representatives, by their very willingness to serve in elected office are civically engaged at the highest level and should be commended for their willingness to be in such a position.

    Comment by Kate Quick — March 2, 2015 @ 10:45 pm

  20. 17. I get to watch them on tape vigi. It’s not like you get to vote, and with you and Spencer at all the meetings I’m sure there is no need because you have my best interests at heart, right? paid my dues.

    Comment by MI — March 3, 2015 @ 6:59 am

  21. I don’t know how effective it will be, but if the Mayor is being criticized for being behind on the issues, doesn’t attending these meetings show a concerted effort to catch up?

    Comment by Denise Shelton — March 3, 2015 @ 9:42 am

  22. If she’d just sit and listen, then perhaps you’d have a point.

    Comment by BC — March 3, 2015 @ 10:38 am


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