Blogging Bayport Alameda

July 28, 2016

I thought you were special

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:08 am

A great article from the NY Times which touches on the shortage of housing in another popular region that is not the Bay Area but reveals that the arguments that are used in the Bay Area to stem the amount of housing built is not unique to the Bay Area.  Even though the “uniqueness” is often used as a reason to not build.

From the NY Times:

But a growing body of economic literature suggests that anti-growth sentiment, when multiplied across countless unheralded local development battles, is a major factor in creating a stagnant and less equal American economy.

One reason they’re not migrating to places with better job prospects is that rich cities like San Francisco and Seattle have gotten so expensive that working-class people cannot afford to move there. Even if they could, there would not be much point, since whatever they gained in pay would be swallowed up by rent.

At this point some people will be thinking “so what”and invoking Darwin and survival of the fittest nonsense.  Maybe those same folks will be rolling around the phrase “hard work” in their heads as if those without the ability to pay exorbitant housing costs somehow do not work hard.

The problem is as I’ve gone on about again and again, it’s our housing policy and the local political will that has created these shortages and continue to exacerbate the issue, more from the NY Times:

Zoning restrictions have been around for decades but really took off during the 1960s, when the combination of inner-city race riots and “white flight” from cities led to heavily zoned suburbs.

They have gotten more restrictive over time, contributing to a jump in home prices that has been a bonanza for anyone who bought early in places like Boulder, San Francisco and New York City. But for latecomers, the cost of renting an apartment or buying a home has become prohibitive.

And if it’s not enough for folks to be okay with other folks having shelter that is affordable, the economic impacts that these restrictions should make even the most hardened NIMBY take a step back and wonder “what if”?

And when zoning laws get out of hand, economists say, the damage to the American economy and society can be profound. Studies have shown that laws aimed at things like “maintaining neighborhood character” or limiting how many unrelated people can live together in the same house contribute to racial segregation and deeper class disparities. They also exacerbate inequality by restricting the housing supply in places where demand is greatest.

The lost opportunities for development may theoretically reduce the output of the United States economy by as much as $1.5 trillion a year, according to estimates in a recent paper by the economists Chang-Tai Hsieh and Enrico Moretti. Regardless of the actual gains in dollars that could be achieved if zoning laws were significantly cut back, the research on land-use restrictions highlights some of the consequences of giving local communities too much control over who is allowed to live there.

The story also discusses Governor Brown’s by right housing initiative which has been opposed by many local cities and will probably be opposed by Alameda’s City Council as well.   But what this story illuminates is that every city thinks they are special and that they can’t afford any more development, but the costs to not doing anything have been widely studied, people’s gut feelings about the negative possibilities have not.



  1. Tangentially, this sermon is a very cogent argument against rent control. The piece describes high housing prices brought about by supply constraints. Rent control is well documented to reduce supply of housing.

    Comment by dave — July 28, 2016 @ 6:28 am

  2. Can’t tell if we are proposing something specific here or just contemplating zoning generally. In either case, specifically or generally, what should we do or think about highly restrictive CC&Rs that cover a significant part of Alameda, including Bayport? We can talk zoning, but that would have little impact in those areas unless you also crack the CC&Rs. Maybe I’m off base, but my basic understanding is that the practical distinction between zoning and CC&Rs when it comes to a subject like adding units is limited. Wouldn’t they both have the same “consequences”?

    Comment by MP — July 28, 2016 @ 6:54 am

  3. Communities of all kinds have been using zoning codes and many other restrictive “NIMBY” measures to keep “those people” out of their neighborhoods and towns for a long time. Alameda’s own Charter section XXVI (commonly known as 1973’s Measure A) is a classic example of using zoning to limit multifamily housing (apartments), which often house families of lower incomes.

    We try to justify these restrictions every which way but they all result in excluding people that those in power deem “unacceptable”–blacks, Germans, Jews, the poor, etc. (My Illinois-born maternal grandparents were both of German extraction: they had trouble finding a place to live after World War I, when many classified ads for apartments and houses to rent stated “no Germans need apply.”)

    If we are serious about democracy, being a compassionate people, or about the Judeo-Christian texts’ calls to “love your neighbor,” we need to make sure we provide adequate shelter for our neighbors–all of them/us. And we have to stop finding excuses to do what is right and just.

    Comment by Jon Spangler — July 28, 2016 @ 7:56 am

    • What is rent control but a way to keep “those people” out? They have committed the unpardonable sin wanting to live in a nice place and being willing to pay for it. Rent control is NIMBYism too.

      Comment by dave — July 28, 2016 @ 8:05 am

      • for fuck sake dave.

        Comment by MI — July 28, 2016 @ 10:37 am

        • RC advocates constantly complain about being pushed out by others, and maintain that “community preservation” is a goal. Some of the more fiery ones make very nasty comments about “techies ruining the community.” If memory serves, you have posted some less-than-glowing comments about the newcomers.

          How the hell is that any different from the NIMBYism and “those people” that Spangler derides?

          Comment by dave — July 28, 2016 @ 10:55 am

    • If keeping “those people” out was the intent of Measure A, it failed — thankfully — to accomplish what was intended.

      Comment by MP — July 28, 2016 @ 8:07 am

      • I guess you haven’t walked through the East End or Gold Coast lately.

        Comment by BMac — July 28, 2016 @ 10:21 am

        • I guess I missed the specific prohibited demographics listed in the Charter section XXVI. I missed the specific precinct boundaries in it as well. Could you point them out for me?

          Comment by dave — July 28, 2016 @ 10:57 am

  4. A different, not necessarily counter, piece from Bloomberg today. There are greener pastures. Of the 5 most affordable, I can say that 3 (Minneapolis, KC and Pgh are nice places to live, can’t comment on the other 2). Why not move there?

    Comment by dave — July 28, 2016 @ 8:13 am

    • why not move there? = let them eat cake. let’s see, family roots for starters…..

      Comment by MI — July 28, 2016 @ 10:39 am

      • so Mark, does Dave sometimes sound like a complete asshole??, even though we know he isn’t. He is I’am sure a wonderful warm and kind person who just doesn’t want people to think he is. So he says if you can’t afford to live here get your rear out of town, and Dave speaking of “prohibited demographics” the Fernside H O A had specific language in its covenants for may years that forbid “blacks” from owning a home there, it was finally taken out way to late. We have a wonderful city that needs to be a little more compassionate. I personally don’t believe that all renters think they should only pay rent that they can afford. I think they just don’t like being squeezed by landlords who are taking advantage of a situation like the present economy. Remember what Rodney said, can’t we all just get along.

        Comment by John P. — July 28, 2016 @ 3:49 pm

        • The Fernside did indeed have such covenants — they’ve been illegal since a Supreme Court decision in 1948.

          And while that decision wasn’t honored in practice for a long time, it has been decades since these covenants had any effect. People on this blog often cite these covenants as some sort of “proof” that my neighborhood is somehow racist, more racist than others. That’s a false pretense, and one that does nothing for the poster’s credibility.

          Measure A is often cited as racist. Indeed I have been called that word on this very blog for supporting it. That’s also a false pretense, cheaply defamatory, and also does nothing for the poster’s credibility. Note that the measure says ABSOLUTELY NOTHING about race or any other demographic group. And as MP notes, even if that were its goal, it failed.

          Spangler’s whiny hypocrisy rankles me, as it would any fair minded person. He loves to lecture about “racism” against “those people” but fails to realize the rent control whiners are little different. Both positions center on this notion: “People who are different from me are ruining the town by moving here so they have to be stopped.” Jon imaginary friend Jesus wouldn’t care for vilification of techies or landlords.

          Throughout this pissing contest about rent control and housing, all I have advocated for a level playing field, equal treatment and respect for property rights & economic freedom. That means that everyone’s property is respected, whether it’s a landlord’s building or a tenant’s car. It means that everyone’s economic freedom is respected. If a tenant has the right to change jobs to get a raise, so has the landlord. If tenants can benefit from falling rents, landlords can benefit from rising rents. Life & commerce are both 2 way streets.

          On a similar note I am against Prop 13 for same reason: no property of a given value should have a tax advantage over another of same value.

          I dislike people demanding money for nothing, or demanding that others subsidize them. You’ve seen me on this blog show willingness to pay — I’ve been a tireless worker for school taxes, for example — but you’ve never seen me ask for public money or subsidy or demand that others pay my way. And you never will.

          If that makes me an asshole, so be it. At least I’m a rational, equal opportunity asshole.

          Comment by dave — July 28, 2016 @ 4:48 pm

    • I’m all for people uprooting and moving to places that better suit them. I think people put way too much emphasis on being in close physical proximity to their family and long term friends, and exhibit a lack of imagination about the employment and entertainment opportunities offered by other locales.

      I also apply this reasoning to people who have monomania about traffic, parking, and other issues with “overcrowding”, yet choose to live in the dead-center of a densely populated and growing metro areas.

      Comment by brock — July 28, 2016 @ 2:27 pm

  5. So dave believes that if someone owns a once cheap vintage automobile that was purchased when vintage autos could be purchased cheaply but all of a sudden the market values that once cheap auto to be a highly prized auto worth mucho dinaro, that the owner of the cheaply purchased auto should pay the the same DMV fees as the newly high valued, newly highly prized auto.

    Comment by Jack — July 28, 2016 @ 6:09 pm

  6. Dave says: “I dislike people demanding money for nothing, or demanding that others subsidize them. You’ve seen me on this blog show willingness to pay — I’ve been a tireless worker for school taxes, for example — but you’ve never seen me ask for public money or subsidy or demand that others pay my way. And you never will.”

    What bullshit. dave demands money for public schools and that others (who apparently he dislikes, since he wants them to pay for what he {his way} values) who have no interest in spending their money on the worse schools money can buy, in other words schools of “nothing” and yet these “others” must indeed pay for less than nothing because that’s what he values. I guess that makes him a…tireless loser.

    Comment by Jack — July 28, 2016 @ 7:09 pm

  7. Denying that racism still exists is a crock: one only needs to skim the newspapers, listen to the “law and order” speeches at the GOP convention, or note the many demographic and economic measures available to see that the racism–deeply embedded in our culture and institutions from before the War of Independence–is still with us. The fact that law enforcement officers across the country routinely stop–and shoot–people of color at far higher rates than they stop Caucasians like me is something that even Dave might have read about.

    If you doubt that racism persists and runs deep, read Michelle Alexander’s book, “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.”

    Excluding the construction of multifamily housing–which Measure A quite specifically did for about 40 years–not only contributed to today’s regional housing shortage, it also had the effect of discriminating against people of lower incomes (which renters often are). And because people of color usually earned less money (and could not afford to buy a home, restrictive covenants not withstanding), they were effectively excluded from Alameda by a charter amendment that had *de facto* racist results.

    As a former home owner in the Gold Coast I can attest to its overwhelmingly “white bread”demographics. Any integration has taken place slowly and incrementally, despite the changes in our anti-discrimination laws–just like change has been glacial around the country. To think that we have come very far from the era of Jim Crow is, sadly, a persistent untruth. Even in Alameda, as comment threads in this blog often seem to show.

    Comment by Jon Spangler — July 29, 2016 @ 8:47 am

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