Blogging Bayport Alameda

March 20, 2015

Squeakiest wheels

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

A quick post for today, I have a lot of other stuff going on so I’m just going to post this op-ed from Planetizen and say, yeah, this is what happens in Alameda all the time.  I have plans to post about the recent report from the Legislative Analysts Office about housing.  It is everything.  But for some other time.  The title of the piece: Broken Planning: How Opponents Hijacked the Planning Process:

Here’s the pull quote:

Vocal minorities have hijacked the system and rendered impossible a reasonable and rational debate on development. The resulting impact of the current system on U.S. infrastructure, jobs, and the vibrancy of American communities is virtually incalculable.


Constituents are not rising up to demand development, but they are filling public hearings to stop it. A 2011 national survey found that 78 percent of Americans want nothing new built in their communities. They are not against new development—just any new development near them, and they are organizing to stop it.

Elected and appointed leaders act and react differently in front of a room full of angry constituents. Board members who may see the community benefits of a project are unlikely to commit political suicide to support it when confronted with passionate local opposition. Municipal leaders understand that passionately motivated opponents, who fill hearing rooms, write letters, and circulate petitions to stop new development, are a newly empowered breed of local activists. Not only will these angry constituents remember the politicians who stood against them on Election Day, organized citizen activists often use their new grassroots movements to mount a direct challenge by running for office themselves.

Why should an elected official support a project and subject him or herself to the slings and arrows of angry opponents? Standing with opponents and harnessing their passion and energy is the politically expedient path. Standing with opponents and dramatically pounding your fists in opposition is the right political posture for today’s elected official seeking to build a political base and grab headlines. 

In some communities, a few letters to a town board member, a couple of phone calls, or a handful of people at a hearing is a groundswell with the potential to significantly impact the process. In the end, deciding what gets built is a political process dominated by opponents. [emphasis added]

Fist pounding and standing with opponents sounds awfully familiar.  File that one under: how to get elected to public office in Alameda without any real understanding of the complexity of current issues.


  1. Great post Lauren! It’s similar to ‘tea party politics’, where obstruction and saying “no” to everything trumps good governance and leadership.

    They have found a way to attack politicians who support job growth, a growing tax base and investment in their communities – by accusing them of being “in the pocket of the developer” or “being against parks and open space”.

    And instead of being part of the larger discussion on “regional planning, problem solving, and collaboration”, time and energy is spent on building the case and their base for the politics of “no”.

    Meanwhile developments that promise to transform blighted areas in our community, rebuild our crumbling infrastructure, invest in an updated and improved transit system, build affordable housing, pay millions of dollars in city development impact fees, grow our tax base, build new parks and open space and other community benefits, and create hundreds of jobs — are being jeopardized by politics of “no”.

    Comment by Karen Bey — March 20, 2015 @ 7:38 am

  2. Not exactly the same dynamics but still an interesting story about development in the Bay Area:

    Comment by Mike McMahon (@MikeMcMahonAUSD) — March 20, 2015 @ 8:03 am

  3. @2 Not even remotely close to the blog post … not even in the same planet! EPA did the right thing here.

    btw, might want to update your id/profile

    Comment by bayporter — March 20, 2015 @ 8:40 am

  4. It is exactly like that across much of the US not just Alameda. My parents bought the land around them so no one could build too close to them or block their view. My mother died years ago and my dad recently passed and guess what. We will probably sell the house and the land and people will build there.

    Everyone knows it is needed but they just don’t want it in their back yard or (town). People are inherently resistant to change. They say you can’t teach a old dog new tricks, but you can. My older dog has a set routine but I gotten him to walk a new walk a few times.

    Comment by Jake. — March 20, 2015 @ 9:21 am

  5. My observation and humble opinion (at this time – I’m open to change): What has transpired in local Alameda politics is a reflection of National politics. The question: how to find mutually shared trust that CHANGE need not be dangerous or destructive. My sense is that it’s an old guard that holding back desperately; an old guard philosophy that doesn’t want to see the good of the past (memories of the good..whatever that was) slip away. The demographic seems characterized by a once powerful cadre of White citizens feeling overwhelmed by global forces – reflected locally – that are beyond their control. Without positive and constructive work WITH change, the result will, in time, be an overrun of all sensibility and a gradual grinding down of environment, town and civic spirit. The WETA vote was and is critical for Alameda’s position in the Region. Had this vote gone too, eventually, would the town we all love. Not necessarily for me, I’m an Elder. I won’t be around that much longer. But the significance of environmentally sound water transportation in the Bay Area is crucial for my children and their children and the generations to come. We MUST be involved in CHANGE..change with VISION. It’s a futile exercise digging in to stop it just for the sake of stopping it. Just as dangerous as going headstrong willy-nilly into development for the sake of development. Change is inevitable and we CAN guide it to proper proportion. But it takes honesty, open mindedness and willingness to work WITH and IN community – i.e. other people. Roadblock to success: “I love humanity. It’s people I can’t stand”. With love and blessings to the whole of my beloved community, Alameda.

    Comment by Gabrielle Dolphin — March 20, 2015 @ 9:59 am

  6. Nice post Gabrielle. “Ditto”

    Comment by Jake. — March 20, 2015 @ 10:36 am

  7. Being the recipient of change is hard — on every level, and in every way of our lives. And to initiate change is extremely hard work.

    It is immensely easier to rally folks around their fear and deep in trepidation of change than it is to rally supporters who are optimistic enough about the potential change that they will actually stand up in a public forum.

    Spencer is clearly all about “no change”. Related to anything. Fine, she should just say that. She does not seem willing to read the studies so my observation is that she does not care what the technical reports say, she is simply against anything that entails any change. But for her to say that there has not been enough opportunity for the public to comment is 100% disingenuous. What would have been adequate opportunity for public comment? That seems to be one of her favorite squishy arguments for her to hide behind….again, and again, and again….

    It is really such a loss for all of us that she is not able to engage in a more rational debate with her dais mates. Because as the saying goes, the only thing constant in life is change itself. You can either try to affect it or not, but it will happen.

    Comment by Dya — March 20, 2015 @ 10:54 am

  8. Interesting article: State blames NIMBYs for soaring housing costs – By the way, the famous post card houses seem to be the same plan over and over again, just different colors and details, I guess Arnold (previous posting) the Architect didn’t have any imagination.

    Comment by Jake. — March 20, 2015 @ 11:31 am

  9. Mike, I skimmed that article for mention of Calthorpe and there was none. Back when we voted down Sun Cal’s Measure B he had a similar plan going for that site. I first heard of Calthorpe in a book called Geography of Nowhere about modern development in the greater context of pioneering the continent and it made Calthorpe seem like modern genius of smart growth, but developing on salt marsh as opposed to restoring it to primordial wetland would be worse than shooting seals to make way for WETA facility.

    Comment by MI — March 20, 2015 @ 5:37 pm

  10. Flippers up, don’t shoot!

    Comment by jack — March 20, 2015 @ 6:25 pm

  11. I’m a little weary and also wary. On the one hand flippers up don’t shoot is totally funny but it also makes me wince since police shootings conveniently have no official statistics but seem to be a huge problem, especially for black men. And please don’t give me political correctness bullshit. It’s a fucking epidemic.

    Comment by MI — March 21, 2015 @ 1:21 am

  12. Weary official death statistics:

    Over 2,400 Muslims (mostly civilians) have been killed in drone strikes launched by one black president in the last five years. It’s a fucking epidemic.

    Comment by jack — March 21, 2015 @ 9:44 am

  13. Mark & Jack, there are some things more important than what we talk about on this blog. specifically the great Paganos 30% off everything moving sale. Already been there this morning, my weekend is complete.

    Comment by John P. — March 21, 2015 @ 9:58 am

  14. So was I John, picked up a whole bunch of stuff the wife says I’ll never use. Personally I think Paganos is making a big mistake. That Neptune area’s the wrong place for a hardware store…too small and too hard to maneuver once you’re in.

    Comment by jack — March 21, 2015 @ 10:25 am

  15. I agree, drove by there on my way home and the parking lot was full without Paganos even being there.

    Comment by John P. — March 21, 2015 @ 11:05 am

  16. I went by but the Le Creuset cookware was gone. Damn. It’s first rate gear but so expensive, was hoping for a deal.

    Agree that it seems like a mistake, but it may be a business necessity. Of the many things to love about Pagano’s perhaps the greatest is their massive inventory, they have so many items that can be hard to find elsewhere. But I wonder if the strain of carrying that massive inventory is the real reason for the downsizing. It’s damn hard to turn that inventory fast enough.

    Whatever the reason, it’s a loss to the customers. Such a great place…

    Comment by dave — March 21, 2015 @ 11:18 am

  17. I went to Pagano’s and they didn’t have what I wanted. I just need a part for my sprinkler system and some Cory’s slug stuff. I liked the people but hated the place…usually go to home depot because of the nursery.

    Comment by Jake. — March 21, 2015 @ 4:09 pm

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