Blogging Bayport Alameda

November 30, 2015

Artificially flavored

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

Since one of the arguments against rent control is that economists say that it’s terrible, here’s what the economists from the White House say about land use regulations.  Land use regulations, according to some folks that are vehemently against rent control, are acceptable because they preserve “quality of life.”  But, of course, that quality of life comes with a cost which includes the lack of affordable housing, but also a reason why incomes for the middle class are stagnant.

From the Wall Street Journal:

[C]ities make things worse with zoning and other land-use restrictions that discourage production, said Jason Furman, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, in a speech Friday at a housing conference co-hosted by CoreLogic, a data company, and the Urban Institute, a think tank.

“Artificial constraints” on housing supply hinders mobility, and increasing mobility “is going to be an important part of the solution of increasing incomes and increasing incomes across generations,” Mr. Furman said. Zoning rules, of course, aren’t distributed randomly across the country, which means they’re “actually correlated with those places that have higher inequality,” he said.

This feeds a cycle in which cities that have more restrictions on land use have higher inequality, which further constrains mobility, which further exacerbates inequality, and so on.

Mr. Furman drew attention to two papers that tie declining geographic mobility to land-use regulations. The first, by Federal Reserve economist Raven Molloy, shows how an increase in labor demand in cities with greater land-use restrictions results in less new housing construction, higher home prices, and lower long-run employment.

And then in areas — like the Bay Area — where the housing supply is limited there is a larger income gap:

The second paper, by Peter Ganong and Daniel Shoag of Harvard University, examines the slowdown in income convergence—that is, the rate at which incomes in places with lower incomes catch up with those in places with higher incomes. The paper found that income convergence was more common in states during the 1960s and 1970s regardless of constraints on housing supply. By the 1990s, states with more constrained housing supplies saw far less income convergence than those with less constrained housing supplies.

One reason for the breakdown in convergence, said Mr. Furman, is that only high-income workers can afford to relocate to those high-productivity cities that have tighter land-use regulations.

Of course this isn’t the first (or probably the last) time we’ll hear about the lack of supply to meet the demand based on artificial constraints.  But getting folks to acknowledge that there is a problem is a first step that a lot of people have yet to take, despite the mounting evidence.


  1. Paul Krugman also wrote about this issue in today’s New York Times: This particular phrase, “as more high earners move into urban centers, these centers begin offering amenities: — restaurants, shopping, entertainment — that make them even more attractive” reminded me of all the great restaurants scattered around Alameda.

    Comment by Tom Schweich — November 30, 2015 @ 6:53 am

  2. #1 TS: You misconstrue the thrust of Krugman’s article, titled “Inequality and the City” The focus of the article is on the growing wealth inequality in New York, not the new amenities – at least not in the positive light you represent. Yes, there are more high earners in NYC bringing restaurants, shopping and entertainment, as you quote. Krugman’s point, though, is that those high earners represent only about 10% of New Yorkers while the other 90% of NYers are less able to afford the new amenities. Alameda is quickly becoming a microcosm of New York.

    Comment by John K — November 30, 2015 @ 8:37 am

  3. Are there good restaurants in Alameda? Is In N Out on that list? Really, there are very few. Pappo being the best. As far as amenities, I generally shop out of Alameda with the acception of TraderJoes. Alameda is not as upscale as I would like. That does not mean money wise, but quality wise.

    Comment by Hugo — November 30, 2015 @ 9:04 am

  4. Now, wait… Mr. TS said GREAT restaurants, not just good ones….Watch out, Hugo…the Chamber of Commerce police are gonna get you for speaking ill of Alameda. (That does not mean you are incorrect about the quality…)

    Maybe TS owns an Alameda restaurant.

    Comment by vigi — November 30, 2015 @ 9:17 am

  5. Dear Lauren I so enjoy your blog! Your smart and detailed thinking has been a most interesting read. On another topic — I am wondering if you have any thoughts about Academy of Alameda? And the effort of the AUSD School Board (in particular the president) to do injury to our school. Only because it is a charter, no other reason.

    What I see as a parent who has had a child at the school for 3 yeatrs are it’s success for West End students particularily the jump in scores for the African American students– which is a story that is not widely told. I am a parent of kids of color who have attended every kind of flavor of school; co-op, private, public and charter. School Director Matt Huxley and his hardworking teachers have created the ONLY school my kids have attended where the test scores show achievement gap progress. I do acknowledge there was a set back this past year because of the change to Common Core, but my girl who is an 8th grader and came into the school from a Oakland hills gradeschool with poor grades is now flipped it to straight A’s if not all A’s and one B semester after semester. True she is a hard working student. But I only see a changed environment that has done it’s magic to give her the tools to success.

    Below is a recent email from Dir. Huxley I believe this is a story to tell. Your writing recently has been about the showdown in low income housing, fair housing and those who most benefit from evictions and laws that do not who work to provide for all families despite their economics — coupeled with city and school district leadership who are working from a personal platform not for the common good . *Dear Academy of Alameda Families;*

    *Happy Thanksgiving* I would like to wish your family a Happy Thanksgiving. I hope that you have the opportunity to spend some additional time with your friends and loved ones. Thank you for your commitment to your child’s education and for your ongoing support for TheAcademy of Alameda. I can promise you that our staff and Board of Directors will continually work at providing the best education for your child – academically and social emotionally.

    *We Need Your Support!* On Monday night, the Alameda Unified School District’s Board of Education held a special public meeting at Island High School as a platform to reject our elementary school’s enrollment projections (they accepted the middle school’s enrollment projections) for next year. This was despite the fact that we provided significant evidence to support our projections. Each year, as part of the Proposition 39 process, charter schools that lease district space have to provide evidence (to their chartering district) in the form of intent to enroll forms and other data by November 1 to secure facility space for the following year. This begins a timeline that culminates with the district offering specific facility space to the charter by April 1 (see the Prop 39 timeline below as well as the Prop 39 link for additional information). It should be noted that The Academy is the only charter school in Alameda that has not been granted a long-term facility lease.

    An AUSD staff member is sending a letter to me by December 1 that essentially says that as of now, they are not offering us space for our elementary school program for 2016/17. Again, this is despite the fact that we provided ample evidence that they chose to ignore and instead came up with a projection formula that we (including our attorney) strongly believe is unfair and fundamentally unsound. We believe that their Board of Director’s rejection of our evidence is part of an ongoing attack on public charter schools and constitutes a threat to The Academy of Alameda’s school community. In a public meeting held last month, AUSD’s Board President, said, “that charter schools are dishonest, predatory, and self-interested.” Needless to say, we take exception to that rhetoric, as it could not be further from the truth. Our mission has always been to serve a diverse student population and we have continually reached out to the district to both share our successes and challenges and to collaborate around facility and other issues. It’s important to note that there are some members of their Board who have been very reasonable and supportive in the past and we expect that to continue.

    *Here’s Where We Need Your Help* We would like as many of our families as possible to speak in support of The Academyof Alameda during the public commentary section of AUSD’s Board meeting onDecember 8 (that begins at 6:30pm). I want to thank those parents who spoke last night as their messages were definitely heard by their Board members and larger community. On December 8, we want to take that AoA family advocacy to an even higher level. Those who speak have up to three minutes to talk (you can take much less) about reasons why they support The Academy of Alameda and why it’s important that our elementary school be located at its current site along with the middle school. In a separate email, I will provide speaking points as well as the enrollment projection evidence that we provided to the District. We would love students to speak that evening and to wear their school uniforms. We will provide AoA T-shirts to all parents/guardians who attend. In addition, we will provide childcare beginning at5:45pm at The Academy of Alameda for all of those who would like to attend the Board meeting. I anticipate the public comments section of the meeting to last until approximately 7:30, but it could go longer or shorter depending on the number of speakers. You are welcome to leave after your brief presentation. AUSD’s Board meeting will be held in Alameda City Hall building at 2263 Santa Clara Avenue (on the 3rd floor). In order to speak, you should be present by 6:15in order to fill out a speaker slip.

    I think that it is critical that we show the District’s Board how close we are as a community and that some of their members’ negative rhetoric and actions against TheAcademy and public charter schools in general, will not be tolerated. AUSD’s Board is an elected body that is supposed to represent the best interests of children attending Alameda public schools. I think that it is important that we all remind them of that critical duty.

    If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.

    *Proposition Timeline* November 1: The Charter provides The District with its enrollment projections and identifies its preferred location.

    December 1: The District either accepts the projections or objects and proposes its own projections.

    January 2: If the District objects, The Charter responds and either reaffirms or modifies its initial projections.

    February 1: The District makes preliminary space offer.

    March 1: The Charter responds to preliminary offer.

    April 1: The District makes final space offer.

    Prop 39 Process

    Comment by allisonrodman — November 30, 2015 @ 10:04 am

  6. In discussions at the City Council on this topic, the onus should be on those who are both against rent control and against development to justify their position (or at least concede it simply in their personal interests). I’m thinking in particular of one of Spencer’s recent failed commission picks, who is both vocally against rent control and is part of the Alameda Citizens’ Taskforce, a notably NIMBY group.

    Comment by BC — November 30, 2015 @ 4:29 pm

  7. 5. The letter says ” In a public meeting held last month, AUSD’s Board President, said, “that charter schools are dishonest, predatory, and self-interested.” Needless to say, we take exception to that rhetoric, as it could not be further from the truth. Our mission has always been to serve a diverse student population and we have continually reached out to the district to both share our successes and challenges and to collaborate around facility and other issues.”

    The language is pretty strong, but may be true. What the director says in defense of his program mission being to support diverse population etc. doesn’t take in to account the obvious factor that the expansion to elementary puts negative pressure on other public elementary schools to keep their programs functioning. Hardly collaborative. It seems that the fact that a charter is successful in closing an achievement gap makes people think that expanding it’s programs could only be positive and that anybody who is resistant in any way is trying to deny that charter from helping the diverse population it serves. That would seem to lend some credence to the charges of predatory and self-interested when you think about it. None of this is as simple as rewarding a successful model or punish it either. Public charters are public because they use public dollars and the public is allowed to apply, but they often have lotteries and waiting lists. Real public schools have more stringent set of standards. The Academy only went charter in order to avoid the punitive BS rules set by No Child Left Behind for schools labeled underachieving. I’m not as familiar with what’s happening in classrooms at charters or public schools as I once was, but it’s always been complicated. It’s too bad that ACLC didn’t stay a school within a school and that the Academy is not a magnet like Maya Lin.

    People who think in terms of private sector business models as some sort of inherently superior model always say that competition is good and if public schools can’t compete with charters then they should yield to them, but again that is an over simplification of what schools are and how they function, and it completely ignores what real public schools are about. “Progressive” and experimental models can be great things, but they should not be propped up and pitted against the existing public model. Instead they should be fostered from within so that the competition aspect is a non factor as would be vying for space if all entities were AUSD..

    Comment by MI — November 30, 2015 @ 5:46 pm

  8. It is a specious argument to say that we should have rent control because we have zoning and housing laws. I can think of no industry which does not have laws that limit supply, but we have not seen it necessary to institute price controls in these industries. Some examples: fishing is severely limited, but no price controls on fish. Oil drilling is limited, but no price controls on oil. Grazing lands are limited, but there are no price controls on meat. The professions are all licensed limiting competition in this area, but we don’t see price caps on attorneys. With a rise in price, more supply will come into the marketplace. Just the other day at a cocktail party I heard a tale of how someone just bought a house telling the seller what a perfect house it would be for their family, then closed escrow and put the house up for rent. The market is a powerful force. But one would be crazy to think that rent control will have a different outcome in Alameda than every other city where it has been tried.

    Comment by Ed Hirshberg — November 30, 2015 @ 8:55 pm

  9. Unfortunately, the bureaucrazy of any school district makes it difficult for a school district to reform itself. Do you think we would have ended up with Maya Lin without competition from our amazing charter schools? The environment of my neighborhood public school did not align with my values as a parent, nor was I impressed with the responses I got from the principal or teachers regarding any concerns that I had. The principal could not name the socio-emotional program featured in her own school and talked down to parents as if they were kindergartners themselves.

    The teachers dismissed my questions with this notion that their school is “academic” in nature. The classrooms I saw were tiny and cramped and had little room for the free-play vital to kids under age 7. It was also disturbing to see how short the recesses were. Our charter schools are local nonprofits that provide a valuable service to our community and make Alameda a desirable place to live. Public schools and the district are going to have to up their program’s content to compete with the charter schools. My local public school showed me a video from 2003 to show me what kindergarten is like. That’s 12 years old. If my school can’t be bothered to figure out how to make an iphone movie and post it on youtube in this day and age, how can I be sure that it has the wherewithal to keep up with new educational standards?

    If Alameda wants to stop charter schools they’re going to have to look to themselves to provide programs that prevent families from pursuing them in the first place. If AUSD wanted to pursue such a course of action, they would need to do more than just academic testing of our children. They need to study the market to find out what families want in their public schools and what is already working. Polling students and parents would go a long way in determining opportunities where AUSD could improve and then become even more competitive with the charter schools. Polling parents during the kindergarten enrollment process could be valuable in determining how families do choose their schools and how these schools could present themselves in a way that meet the needs of all families. Right now, most schools and the district are so in love with their programs that they do not see the need to compete. This is a mistake and a missed opportunity on their part. Test scores and location alone are not enough for some families to choose a school.

    We are lucky in Alameda that even if a good school doesn’t work for a family that they have many opportunities to find a school that works for them. AUSD is lucky to get the income in rent from these schools, and to have the pressure taken off of them in running these schools. Just how much more crowded would our schools be if all of the charter school students flooded back into the system? How much more money would AUSD have to spend to run those schools, only to lose the diversity in educational approaches that enriches our community?

    Comment by Angela Pallatto Hockabout — November 30, 2015 @ 9:56 pm

  10. #3, #4, one need only visit America’s heartland to realize that Alameda has great restaurants.

    Comment by Tom Schweich — December 1, 2015 @ 6:21 am

  11. 10

    True indeed. By national standards, this island is a culinary paradise, but by local standards it’s a backwater, though slowly improving.

    Comment by dave — December 1, 2015 @ 6:28 am

  12. 9. O.k. drink the “competition” KoolaId. You seem to have missed my point entirely and the reason we have Maya Lin is really one super activist parent at the PTA who agitated tirelessly. In the 1990s there were plenty of innovations within AUSD at schools like Paden AND the middle school which is now the Academy ( BRAVO) and even ACLC was a school within Encinal. BTW, how is the Junior Jets program? Competitive? I had heard great things. But no, it’s all about “competing”. Just take more away from public schools by siphoning resources from the district and then claim that it can’t compete. Oh, and do we have unions at NEA yet?

    Comment by MI — December 1, 2015 @ 7:59 am

  13. My local public school showed me a video from 2003 to show me what kindergarten is like. That’s 12 years old. If my school can’t be bothered to figure out how to make an iphone movie and post it on youtube in this day and age, how can I be sure that it has the wherewithal to keep up with new educational standards?

    Not that I don’t love getting into the charter vs no charter discussion and the reason why parents choose not to send their kids to their neighborhood school, I don’t really have the time right now. I will say that creating a short video about anything dealing with schools is a fairly lengthy process since it requires getting waivers from parents to show their kids on the internet. No small feat. Even if you could go through the painstaking process of fuzzing out the faces of the kids, it’s a time consuming editing process and requires a dedicated parent volunteer. It’s not as simple as filming an iphone video and throwing it up on YouTube.

    Comment by Lauren Do — December 1, 2015 @ 8:08 am

  14. 9. not a perfect analogy, but what would you think if people simply blamed tenants who are priceed out of Alameda for not being more competitive?

    Comment by MI — December 1, 2015 @ 8:30 am

  15. 10. Its hard to find good sushi in Wisconsin. Kamakura is a great restaurant.

    Comment by vigi — December 1, 2015 @ 9:44 am

  16. I don’t think there’s a vendetta against AoA elementary simply because it’s a charter (although charters have a negative affect on neighborhood schools; that’s a long topic). I think the problem here specifically is how AoA has used deception, threats, and manipulation to get space for its new charter elementary.
    The minimum number of “in-district” students a charter needs to get space from the district sites is 80. Last year, AoA claimed it would have 81.17 elementary students. And thus, got space. In fact, they only had 46.55. Now, they claim they will have 101.65 students suddenly enrolled K-2. The district is simply saying that seems remarkably unlikely. The use of these inflated, and improbable, numbers is simply gaming the system to garner space that they then can later simply apologize for the mistake, pay for unused space, and keep rolling the program forward. What will happen if they use these inflated numbers to claim space at another elementary school or claim space by displacing a program such as the Adult School? The harm will have been done, and no amount of “oops, our bad” will undo it.
    The sales pitch for the AoA elementary has always been manipulative. They’re saying the AUSD elementary schools are failing the “opportunity gap” students and so AoA must step in and save the day. The charters, when compared sub-group to sub-group, are doing no better (and often worse) than our AUSD schools. All schools need to continue to close the gap, and our AUSD schools are constantly innovating and working hard to do so.
    I was at the special BOE meeting Nov. 23rd where AoA board member David Forbes threatened the Measure A campaign coming in November if AoA doesn’t get the offer of space they’re demanding. Threats and extortion? It’s no wonder our AUSD school board might have a problematic relationship with the Academy of Alameda!

    Comment by Jane Grimaldi — December 1, 2015 @ 10:42 am

  17. Jane.. I may be biased but I find your comments helpful and I didn’t know about Forbes comments, but I find that disconcerting. Maya Lin has had Title 1 status which affords it a dedicated Title 1 staff but I heard that their improvement ( closing the achievement gap) may threaten that staff. Ironic. No good deed goes unpunished. Wouldn’t be an issue at charter would it?

    Looking at AoA web site it seems Allison Rodman is VP of communications. Nice that she is doing her job, but 5 above seems a less than fully transparent in that she doesn’t identify herself which makes her post seem merely that of super enthusiastic member of AoA community. In my mind that somewhat justifies the “negative rhetoric”. I have no vendetta against A0A or charters in general, but I get sick of the disingenuous rhetoric of people who want to tout charters at the expense of traditional public schools. Public shools exist because they are mandates and they don’t rely on charters, but charters often rely on public districts to even exist.

    Comment by MI — December 1, 2015 @ 6:47 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Blog at