Blogging Bayport Alameda

December 7, 2015

Brokedown palace

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:07 am

It’s like every other day there’s another article about what’s wrong with the inequality of the Bay Area and what can be done to fix it. The most recent one comes from Richard Florida at City Lab, talking about a report that was recently released by the Bay Area Council Economic Institute. The Bay Area Council Economic Institute is a self-described think tank and supported by the Bay Area Council, a business sponsored public policy advocacy organization.  Highlights from the City Lab article.

On Housing:

The Bay Area has also failed to build anywhere near enough housing to accommodate its growing population. Since the mid-2000s, the region has seen an overall decline in the number of annual housing permits. From 2012-2013, only 193 new housing units were made available per 1,000 residents.

The Bay Area must do several things to address its housing crisis, according to the report. First, the region must overcome outmoded zoning and building codes that suppress development. Areas zoned for hotels and retail, for example, could be rezoned for much-needed housing. The permitting process must also be radically streamlined to allow for the construction of new housing. And housing density should be increased substantially, especially in priority areas and neighborhoods. At the same time, the region needs to increase construction of smaller, affordable units and reduce construction costs. Cities should not just be encouraged, but mandated to add units that include affordable housing.

On Transportation:

The report calls for substantial new infrastructure to reduce congestion and commute times, and to facilitate the development of housing—including more affordable housing—around transit hubs.

To remedy this, the report calls for a new, integrated body for financing infrastructure that would receive seed funding and then loan money to public sector entities. This proposed body would have the power to design and build projects of its own and utilize private sector capital as well. Additional proposals include instituting a regional gas tax or a new fee on vehicle miles traveled (something Governor Jerry Brown already plans to implement by 2017). The report also suggests lowering the voter threshold to secure approval for these measures.

This is one of the recommendations that have been discussed over and over again:

The Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) process needs real teeth. Connecting state and regional government transportation funding allocations to housing production goals can provide an incentive for cities to meet their RHNA obligations. Actual housing production needs to be consistent with local and regional plans within a reasonable timeframe. Otherwise there need to be real consequences. such as loss of local approval authority, state mandated “by right” approvals of housing projects, the creation of more “by right” zoning districts, or the creation of a regional hearing body to approve housing developments.

But as we’ve seen in Alameda even businesses: Matson, Container Project, and hotel development on Bay Farm faced considerable pushback by some members of the City Council when it comes to sheer aesthetics or simply not understand the market for commercial leases.  If our own City leaders allow their ignorance to stand in the way of approving business development, which should be a no brainer, the expectation that cities like Alameda will go along quietly and not throw up other land use regulation roadblocks is naive.  As long as we have a City Council that is able to delay or deter a project based on subjective aesthetics alone, there will never be progress toward either encouraging business or accommodating housing.



  1. Turning Alameda into Manhattan is not the answer, because, guess what? There’s no affordable housing there either. Desirable locations usually end up in the hands of the wealthy. There’s always a work around. Look what happened to the Section 8 housing across from Bayport. It was no accident that the buildings were allowed to deteriorate so that they would no longer qualify. Once it became clear that people with money were willing to live in that area, the die was cast.

    Comment by Denise Shelton — December 7, 2015 @ 7:22 am

  2. I feel much better now that there is a movement to allow second units within Bayport to help the city meet is regional housing goals

    Comment by MP — December 7, 2015 @ 7:54 am

  3. Current residents of urban areas are generally more supportive of businesses that bring in jobs than of housing for new workers. Thus state, regional and local governments could increase support for necessary housing by requiring the construction of housing to accommodate new workers before allowing existing businesses to expand or new businesses to open. The Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) provides much of the information needed to administer such requirements.

    Comment by William Smith — December 7, 2015 @ 8:11 am

  4. It is up to the larger jurisdiction to change the zoning/land use policies. That means the state. Unfortunately, CA is almost as ungovernable as the entire United States, given our size and diversity. We are so screwed. Happy Monday.

    Comment by BMac — December 7, 2015 @ 10:27 am

  5. “…every other day there’s another article about what’s wrong with the inequality of the Bay Area…”

    How would you have it, more water or more wetland or more dry land? Seems to me the it’s a pretty good combination of the three as far as Bay Areas go. Maybe you could be a bit more specific and point out which Bay Areas you consider more equal.

    Comment by jack — December 7, 2015 @ 11:11 am

  6. #3 – I think it should be the other way around. Build the business first and then the housing. That was what made the Berkeley Lab deal so attractive – a major employer with room for nearby housing for the employees of the Lab to allow everyone the opportunity to ride a bike to work. It is far easier for employees to move closer to work and while the houses are being built, the employees would be reverse commuters. Generally, these would not be affordable houses either.

    BTW, I don’t think anyone should be claiming the container unit at Park and Blanding was a step toward housing. It only had 1 unit – for the owner to occupy. Very small potatoes as a housing resource but the container construction idea sure has a place in the creation of affordable housing that could be quickly constructed. Residential developers make their big money building houses that are not affordable.

    There are many affordable living spaces on boats in our marinas. Lots of people live on boats, legal or not. I think it is a state rule that no more than 10% of the boats can offer legal permanent living space. This should be reconsidered.

    And, one last thought about the housing needs of the Bay Area – the cities where the businesses are located should be providing the land for building houses for the employees of those businesses. If all Alameda were responsible for building is to enough houses to satisfy the need of our Alameda businesses, we could probably do so without causing the traffic,congestion, and infrastructure issues we face providing these housing units.

    Comment by Nancy Hird — December 7, 2015 @ 1:45 pm

  7. Nancy, the problem with your idea is that businesses want assurance that there is housing for their employees. Its one reason that many of the tech companies are including housing in their plans.

    Also, housing provides the back bone infrastructure for commercial development. Look at he latest models — Harbor Bay, Marina Village and Alameda Landing.

    Comment by Karen Bey — December 7, 2015 @ 2:54 pm

  8. #7 I think the Tech Companies should be building Housing for their Employees. Apple, Goggle, Facebook have Billions stashed Overseas avoiding Taxes. They provide Transportation from Communities all over the Bay Area to their Campuses. This certainly has caused much of the problems we have. Force them to build housing.

    Comment by frank m — December 7, 2015 @ 3:07 pm

  9. Businesses — even tech companies — are not housing developers. I believe that most of the largest tech companies in the peninsula (Google, Facebook, Apple) have long supported building housing near their campuses. The problem — as it is everywhere — is that residents want the business (except in Alameda apparently where we throw up roadblocks in the form of aesthetic complaints about businesses) but they don’t want the housing. Until, as Richard Florida pointed out above, some of the land use issues are resolved housing cannot be built near these tech companies because the current residents are fearful for their “quality of life” or “overcrowding.”

    Comment by Lauren Do — December 7, 2015 @ 3:24 pm

  10. “If all Alameda were responsible for building is to enough houses to satisfy the need of our Alameda businesses, we could probably do so without causing the traffic,congestion, and infrastructure issues we face providing these housing units.” Nice try at getting out of doing anything to contribute to the solution of a regional problem. This surely isn’t a serious suggestion.

    Alameda is and for a long time has been basically a bedroom community, so of course we have enough housing units plus lots to spare if we were only responsible for our own businesses. Same for Piedmont, Orinda, Lafayette and countless other suburbs. You’re missing the point that people do commute to cities with more jobs than housing. You might try and change the world back to cottage industries (hey, those much-maligned hipsters could make pickles!) but the modern economy doesn’t work that way.

    Rather than threaten to withdraw from regional bodies that aim to solve regional problems, Alameda needs to be strongly represented in them. By smart people.

    Comment by BC — December 7, 2015 @ 3:31 pm

  11. #9 Tech Companies can be anything they want to be.

    Comment by frank m — December 7, 2015 @ 3:49 pm

  12. I think the whole idea of a company town went out in the 1920.

    Comment by Lauren Do — December 7, 2015 @ 4:07 pm

  13. As housing prices continue to climb, company towns may be posed to make a comeback. Certainly Google by providing laundry service, free food service on-site, free transportation and now company housing may be on the cusp of creating multiple company towns scattered throughout the Bay Area, or at least company neighborhoods.

    Comment by William Smith — December 7, 2015 @ 5:09 pm

  14. Looks like climate change will also be factor in future master planned communities.

    Comment by Mike McMahon — December 8, 2015 @ 7:34 am

  15. 14. Interesting article. Much better on many dimensions to build densely in existing urban areas than build sprawl. But it’ll require confronting ubiquitous NIMBYism or it’ll just favor existing property-owners.

    Comment by AN — December 8, 2015 @ 9:48 am

  16. 1, 5: We can (and should) use our land and resources more efficiently. Indeed, we must or we will lose everything we have to sea level rise and a changing climate. That said, we do not need to turn Alameda or any other community into Manhattan in order to create a more just and sustainable economy in which jobs and housing are available to all on a more equitable basis. The fear many Alamedans have of Manhattanization and of overwhelming traffic congestion are unfounded: we only have to think differently (i.e., how to move people and goods, not one-occupant motor vehicles and how to house people in housing other than in 2500-square-foot single-family homes on a quarter-acre of land). Simple. And not painful.

    Comment by Jon Spangler — December 8, 2015 @ 10:09 am

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