Blogging Bayport Alameda

September 30, 2015

From the desk of…

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

Raise your hand if you actually believe that Frank Matarrese has unironic stationary that reads: “From the desk of Frank Matarrese.”  I totally believe he does.

Anyway, from the desk of Frank Matarrese to you is Frank Matarrese attempting to tackle kinda sorta the whole problem with Alameda families and individuals losing their housing without actually having to add any supply to the housing inventory or actual institute any sort of real rental protections, here are his “solutions”:

To help protect renters from unfair evictions, I want to expand the scope of the RRAC to include evictions

To provide more affordable housing without overbuilding, I want to increase the numbers of affordable units by offering amnesty to owners of illegal units in exchange for turning them into affordable housing

To discourage landlords from reaping unreasonable profits from unwarranted and extreme rent increases, I propose increasing their Alameda business license tax based on their increased profits

First, “expanding” the scope of the RRAC without giving the RRAC any real powers is sort of useless.  Unless the RRAC becomes a body that has the actual ability to fine and lien property owners for not complying with the rulings, then you might as well have the RRAC in charge of ponies and rainbows while you’re at it for all the good it will do.

Offering amnesty to illegal units is good, it will be a very very small drop in the bucket because more likely that not if illegal units are being rented out right now they’re probably already being rented out waaayyyy below market rate because it’s probably a room with a shower in the bedroom or something and a hot plate.

The last one is sort of weird and funny because not all rent units (single family homes, and renting out a room in a SFH) do not require a business license per the Alameda laws.  How the City Staff is supposed to determine “increased profits” is unclear as well.  But much like any tax, I can’t imagine that an increased amount of taxes based on profit would be a deterrent to raising rents.  I mean, if you’re making more money, paying more taxes is going to suck, but it isn’t going to make a landlord not raise rents unless the amount of the tax exceeds your profit.

Frank Matarrese also wants to see more tax credit on a state level for affordable housing, which is great, but does nothing for current renters, particularly if Frank Matarrese is concerned about “overbuilding.”  What good are increased affordable housing tax credits if jurisdictions like Alameda fail to approve any housing projects at all out of fear of overbuilding.  Right now, according to the MTC Alameda won’t build nearly enough housing units for almost 700 years past the 2040 deadline.

Anyway, a lot more talk, but no real concrete solutions other than saying he would be willing to entertain a temporary moratorium to “buy time.”  But if the time bought results in the three bullets above as “solutions” well, then it’s nothing but a bandage to momentarily stop the bleeding but not deal with the actual hemorrhage.  Politics of appeasement but nothing more than that.


  1. Competing studies on the impact of AirBnB on Los Angeles housing.

    Click to access Short-Term_RentalsLAs-Lost_Housing.pdf

    Comment by Mike McMahon — September 30, 2015 @ 7:13 am

  2. The housing that Alameda is proposing to build is a drop in the bucket compared to what our neighbors are planning:

    What’s causing the housing crisis is demand and supply — and what’s creating the demand is the economy and jobs. The Bay Area is where the creativity, innovation and talent is – so companies are moving where the talent is, and people are moving to the Bay Area in droves because this is where the jobs are.

    This is the reason we have a housing crisis.

    As we know – Uber just purchased the Sears building for $123M. Uber Oakland is projected to create over 3,000 jobs, and they are expanding into new markets. They are a $50 billion dollar company, and they are here whether we like them or not. Uber is also a technology company (Uber Technologies), and they are creating hundreds of technology jobs – technologies that will set them apart from the taxi business.

    We need to be in front of this – Alameda will be impacted whether we build 100 homes or 3,000 homes (See the first article).

    We need to make sure we are building our share of housing for three main reasons (1) to increase supply to address the current housing shortage (2) to plan for the future jobs coming to the Bay Area like Uber (Uber is just the beginning) and (3) to make sure we get our share of the regional transit dollars to address the impacts on Alameda.
    If we don’t, we will be stuck with all the impacts and no transit dollars to address the impacts, and Alameda housing prices will continue to rise because demand will be even greater.

    My hope is that we see a comprehensive plan that addresses both housing and jobs issues. Wage increases, job training programs, the development of Site B so we bring more jobs to Alameda, and a robust housing plan so we’re prepared for the future.

    Comment by Karen Bey — September 30, 2015 @ 7:45 am

  3. If Frank Matarrese’s plan to “expand the scope of the RRAC to include evictions” is a serious one–and I know he takes this rental crisis seriously–he may well have in mind a plan to give the RRAC enforcement authority, which would be revolutionary for Alameda. I would not dismiss his suggestions out of hand without knowing the details of his proposal.

    Of course, he cannot do this by himself. The odds of any real authority being given to the RRAC–tantamount to introducing rent control–depend on passing an ordinance. I only know of two elected officials in Alameda who might have the courage to support such a proposal right now, with only question marks for the other three….

    Comment by Jon Spangler — September 30, 2015 @ 9:18 am

  4. Regarding #3 I just returned from visiting some very interesting college led community engagement programs in Salt Lake City. One of the programs is serving low income residents in South Salt Lake City, which is a town of 24,000 surrounded by greater Salt Lake. They have established what they call the “good landlord program”. The focus of their program is on code compliance, but it could be used to support renters. Every landlord(including SFH) are required to purchase a business license at $2,000 per year. If you agree to participate in the good landlord program, that cost is reduced by 95%. So we could require all landlords, including SFH to pay 2,000 (or more), but for those who agree to comply with RRAC guidelines, the amount could be greatly reduced. The funds raised could be used for code enforcement of non complying landlords, and rental assistance. Just a thought. More info on the SSL program:

    Comment by Doug Biggs — September 30, 2015 @ 9:37 am

  5. I’m curious to know from those better informed than myself, and really I am NOT trying to be sassy at all, when do you think we reach critical mass in terms of population here in Alameda? I’m thinking of a friend who spent 25 minutes in her car trying to get from Bay Farm school to the main island this morning. Doesn’t it seem kind of crazy that it would take 25 minutes to drive less than a mile in Alameda? Rich, middle income or poor, when do we as a community say, ‘well, that’s all the traffic and other density impacts that this 23 square mile island can really handle without becoming unlivable. Are there studies on this? Or do we just keep building and adding cars until people get fed up? I know and advocate for alternative forms of transportation (believe me, I bike and walk all the time) – but most people seem either reluctant to give up the car OR the transportation options are not viable for them. I’m not born and raised here saying ‘let’s get back to the olden days of sleepy town hood” but there has to be a tipping point when there are just too many residents on too small an island. I’m curious, what is that point?

    Comment by Curious islander — September 30, 2015 @ 1:24 pm

  6. #5 We are waiting for the arrival of ‘the Millennials’ to save us.:)

    Comment by frank m — September 30, 2015 @ 2:02 pm

  7. 5. The people who don’t want to put up w/ the increased travel times will move and new residents will put up w/ it and/or use other modes. Alameda will only continue to get more dense over time, if for no other reason than to pay for the seawall we will need.

    Comment by BMac — September 30, 2015 @ 5:23 pm

  8. I believe we are at that “tipping point” today.

    Comment by A Neighbor — September 30, 2015 @ 6:14 pm

  9. #4

    Regarding adding a 2,000.00 License Fee……That will just be passed on to the renter.

    That is adding another 5- 8% to the Rent each year.

    These Building Fees and Permits by the City on homeowners, landlords, and renters have already risen in Excess of 10,000% in last 25 Years.

    They add about 1200 a month to the payment of these new homes they are Building for 1 Million , and about 900 a month to the 700K condos.

    Toss in another 2K License fee per year if they rent property and how again does this help situation.

    Comment by Cobalt Black Keys Johnson — September 30, 2015 @ 7:48 pm

  10. New Buyers are just essentially paying 14,000 a year in Local Property Tax and that’s what all these fees are… and a 14,000 a year County Property Tax ….28,000 a year in taxes on a 1 Million Dollar New home. It’s not much if you say it real fast.

    I guess we need to blame the greedy homeowners and landlords for the price gouging.

    Comment by Cobalt Black Keys Johnson — September 30, 2015 @ 7:57 pm

  11. The ferries are packed and are increasingly popular. We need more ferries and new development will help pay for them. I also see more and more bikers on the ferry. The city is definately going in the right direction in increasing protected bikeways in Alameda. It’s one of the least expensive ways to reduce cars on the road.

    Finally, I drove down Shoreline over the week-end. I actually love it now — it’s new, it’s a change, and it’s nice to see so many people (bikers, pedestrians, cars) sharing the road and enjoying the views.

    Comment by Karen Bey — September 30, 2015 @ 9:31 pm

  12. Looking broadly at the Bay Area, Alameda is the equivalent of a little spot at the end of a cul de sac with one narrow road out.

    Although it is frustrating, the inconvenient truth is that there is no way we can build enough housing here to have any significant impact on or slow the upward pressure on housing prices that is driven by powerful economic trends in the region.

    Moreover, since we are on an island and lack the transportation infrastructure, options, and possibilities of other places like Oakland, by trying to do more rapid residential development here we would ruin Alameda through much worse traffic and many other negative externalities. This is an island.

    In the past we’ve heard from people favoring rapid residential development that there would be essentially no resulting traffic impact because commercial development would also happen and that would mean thousands more residents would be working here and not leaving the island. At best, that approach is a very high risk gamble with a huge downside risk. Rising sea levels, maybe rising very high, compound the already great risks of that approach.

    From time to time when these issues come up, pro-development advocates mock, dismiss as unserious, and/or suggest racist motives for anyone who may dissent from the idea that risky rapid large development is the best approach. That’s wrong.

    For the little spot at the end of a cul de sac with one narrow road out, going slow is the least bad approach.

    Comment by First Things First — October 1, 2015 @ 6:27 am

  13. 5, 12. There is no denying the basic physics of trying to pump a high volume through a small aperture, but there may be mitigations for human habitation which make the metaphor less relevant. I tend to agree that the most extreme projects for job housing balance to be too optimistic, but as to a tipping point I think the jury is still out. And maybe it’s not a right to drive a car and be somewhere in the reasonably convenient times to which we’ve grown accustomed. I was reading Nepali Times about the impact of fuel embargo by India which has the country in paralysis, rationing fuels. The cause is political and people in comments to the article where railing about turning to China. But one person wrote that there was a time before dependence on combustion engine and for Nepalese it was not that long ago. This guy was saying he still has legs and will eat ice cream for energy. A bit of humor in bad times. Anyway, as for Alameda’s tipping point, I hope we see very soon with build out of approved projects on North shore where we are at. The development of Harbor Bay was in part based on the hope to get a 66th Ave viaduct over the wetland straight toward the Coliseum. I’ve never suffered through it, but unless drivers head down Doolittle, they must all drive the small bridge to Fernside and around to High Street bridge. Park Street continues to handle the load in my opinion, the peak inconvenience being in a short window.

    Comment by MI — October 1, 2015 @ 9:34 am

  14. I meant to include for 5. that unless Cowan succeeds in putting homes at harbor bay club site, the build out of Harbor Bay is done.

    Comment by MI — October 1, 2015 @ 9:37 am

  15. 5, 13: Congestion is not inevitable, even with so few outlets/inlets for leaving/getting to Alameda. In fact, we have the technologies available today to eliminate it.

    The existing congestion (25 minutes/mile from BFI to the main island) comes from transporting–and containing–one person inside a vehicle many times her/his size (a minivan, say) and trying to cram all the unnecessary and oversized containers (cars) into an aperture (bridge or roadway) that would work perfectly well if we traveled on bicycles (a relatively small transportation “container” for one person compared to even a Fiat 500, much less a minivan) or on foot (creating an even smaller “package” than a minivan).

    The other container option that is already widely available is for many people (40-60) to travel from place to place in a bus, which occupies the same space as 2-3 cars traveling on a roadway. Reducing the volume of the traffic (vehicles on the roadway) 15x-20x would solve Alamed’s alleged “congestion” problems in a heartbeat.

    The laws of physics may be immutable, but traffic congestion as we now experience it in Alameda is far from inevitable or insoluble, even if we account for those who physically cannot walk, bike, or travel by bus. The technologies (bicycling, walking, mass transit) have all been with us for decades in their more modern incarnations, if we are only willing to look at transportation as how to move people instead of how to move cars.

    Comment by Jon Spangler — October 1, 2015 @ 12:01 pm

  16. I remember how fascinated I was to see, one day when I had to pick up my child by car from Lincoln School right at the end of school for an appointment, the hundreds of bicycles leaving Lincoln at 3:00 pm. This was before there was dedicated bus service, and my kid normally rode his bike to school too. If all of the students walked or rode bikes to Lincoln, the traffic problem would be much less. And I really don’t have problems with traffic on Park Street or the tube leaving Alameda– it seems like a very small part of the day it is congested.

    Comment by Kevis Brownson — October 1, 2015 @ 8:18 pm

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