Blogging Bayport Alameda

September 4, 2015

Checking out

Filed under: Alameda, Development — Lauren Do @ 6:04 am

I was going to write more about the drama around the Planning Board appointment, but I’ll tackle that some other day.  I wanted to write a bit about the appeal from Unite HERE and the call for review by Trish Spencer of the Fairfield Inn at Harbor Bay.   FYI, Trish Spencer keeps calling it an “appeal” but when a City Council members attempts to take a second look at a decision made by another Board or Commission it’s a “Call for Review” not an appeal.

Now, I’ll start off by saying, I have no strong feelings either way about this project.  If it gets built, fine.  If not, I don’t care either. But if there are no legal reasons for rejecting a project and someone attempts to do so for lame reasons, I have a problem with that.

Here’s the nutshell version: big hotel/motel thing wants to be built in Harbor Bay Office Park.  But not too big of a hotel/motel.  It’s big enough to make a difference for Alameda’s Transient Occupancy Taxes but not big enough to have to comply with some labor union stuff.  Apparently this particular owner and developer is unwilling to unionize or something.  This building actually has a hard time during the Planning Board process because there’s very few ways to make a business park hotel/motel special and beautiful.  Anyway after they have bypasses the PB hurdles because they didn’t work things out with the union, the union decided to file an appeal of the approval under the guise of CEQA.

But despite the protestations about waterfronts and environmental concerns etc, what it really boiled down to is that this hotel/motel wasn’t going to unionize and CEQA was the only thing left to throw at the wall to see if it would stick.

See, it’s shenanigans like this that gives CEQA a bad rap.   And then Planning Board member Mike Henneberry (not speaking in his capacity as a PB member) coming up and not seeming to understand what CEQA is actually for and (kinda/sorta) implying that the City and Planning Board majority did something wrong by allowing the old EIR to stand in addition to using a CEQA exemption for the project.

I probably would have had more sympathy for Unite HERE’s arguments had they come out and said, “we’re against this because we feel like they should allow the workers to unionize and provide better paying jobs.” But using an environmental appeal as leverage, just no.

In the end, Trish Spencer failed the test that Jim Oddie had queried her two Planning Board nominees specifically about: how they would vote if there were no legal reasons to deny a project but they might have personal qualms about.  Despite the lack of legal reasons to deny the project (in this case: deny the appeal/call for review) she voted “no” on the motion to deny the appeal.  Had there not been three other City Council members that recognized their legal duty to follow the rules and precedence, that vote could have put the City in precarious legal position as two public speakers mentioned that failing to approve this project would run contrary to the existing Development Agreement, executed in the 80s for Harbor Bay as a whole, which governs the approvals for any projects on Harbor Bay.

By the way, the Development Agreement for Harbor Bay express in 2019, there will probably be a push of projects to beat out that deadline.



  1. I see nothing wrong with using whatever legal means are available to ensure decent wages for workers, especially in Alameda. A work around like this one put Al Capone in jail. Sure, he deserved to be there for all kinds of worse reasons, but the tax evasion charges got the job done.

    Comment by Denise Shelton — September 4, 2015 @ 7:49 am

  2. Denise, the point is that CEQA was not a legal reason so it was a waste of time and Lauren’s point is that such abuse gives CEQA a bad name. Perhaps a City wide ordinance on wages would be more direct and effective.

    Comment by MI — September 4, 2015 @ 8:29 am

  3. I don’t understand why the proposed hotel is too small to organize. If a project has a number of employees under a certain threshold, does some governing body say that having to unionize would be an undue hardship on a small business? Enlightenment please.

    Comment by Not A. Alamedan — September 4, 2015 @ 8:39 am

  4. I think the workers could organize if they wanted to but because the number of employees is relatively small — 50 is the number I remember — it sounds like the owners have declined to participate in the process or something. Honestly it’s really not clear what is going on with the talks between Unite Here and the owners because lack of unionization of employees is not a valid reason to appeal a project approval so the Unite Here members were fixating on that instead of the real issue they had a problem with.

    Comment by Lauren Do — September 4, 2015 @ 8:47 am

  5. I found the issues of lot size vs building and lack of firm parking per room plus guests to be much more intriguing. Sad the Chamber of Commerce guy kept bashing CEQA as if it were at fault, not the union.

    Comment by Li_ — September 4, 2015 @ 9:05 am

  6. Renewed Hope’s CEQA suit against the City of Alameda was about traffic impacts. The settlement was about actually building affordable housing in redevelopment areas.

    Comment by Gerard L. — September 4, 2015 @ 9:09 am

  7. Invoke the holy name of traffic and all your wishes will be granted. Worked for many situations. Problem is, the issues are usually far more complex and those who jump to traffic every time often miss the more compelling arguments to be made. But it is easy, and it is a topic that viscerally resonates with all, so why spend the intellectual vigor to explore the more nuanced stuff?

    Comment by Kate Quick — September 4, 2015 @ 10:45 am

  8. I wonder what the actual number of Employees will be. This is a 100 room Hotel operating 24-7. It is to have a Bar and Restaurant and provide Shuttle Services to both the AirPort and Park St. In addition they must have Maids to clean and Staff to do repairs and Grounds Maintenance. That is a lot for ’50’ people. There is the opportunity to Unionize after the Hotel operating but then the Property Owners have an advantage and can usually defeat it. It really is time for a raise in Minimum Wage in Alameda. Emeryville’s went into effect July 1 and El Cerrito CC is considering one. Why isn’t it on the Agenda for our CC?

    Comment by frank m — September 5, 2015 @ 7:23 am

  9. While exactly on topic, another story about CEQA and local football team.

    Comment by Mike McMahon (@MikeMcMahonAUSD) — September 5, 2015 @ 9:42 am

  10. Frank go talk to the small Business Owners and Employees in Emeryville and see how the new Minimum Wage is Working out.

    The stories I have heard have been devastating to some businesses and employees and it’s only been a few months.

    Sometimes you can’t pass on all the costs to the customers and it becomes a Tipping Point.

    It’s kinda like Cities keep raising their fees and creating new ones and blame greedy landlords for taking rent increases of 25% while City Raises theirs 300% at a clip.

    All of a sudden you have 10,000% + increase in fees by the City over 25 years while the CPI index is up 250% over 25 years.

    Most peoples wages and Income are hooked to the CPI.

    If you think College Tuition Expenses have ballooned…..Look at City Fees and Permits. They are amateurs in Comparison.

    Interesting Times.

    Tough to be Landlord, Homeowner,Renter, Small Business or Employee.

    Comment by Cobalt Black Keys Johnson — September 5, 2015 @ 11:32 pm

  11. I am no expert in land use or building hotels, but I walk past the parcel that they are going to build on all the time. It just doesn’t see big enough to me. I also hope that it doesn’t screw up the walking path along the water.

    Comment by JohnB — September 6, 2015 @ 5:57 pm

  12. Another editorial on the “misuse” of CEQA.

    Comment by Mike McMahon (@MikeMcMahonAUSD) — September 7, 2015 @ 9:03 am

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