Blogging Bayport Alameda

September 8, 2016

House cars not seniors

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

Tuesday night Trish Spencer got her wish last night and put to kibosh on building an assisted living facility on Bay Farm for senior citizens.  Well done.  I’m sure that is a moment that will go down in the books as heroic and worthy of accolades.  After all, a bunch of senior citizens would surely destroy the “character” of a Harbor Bay Business Park.  Rather than housing a vulnerable segment of our population I’m sure that the most superior use, as suggested by a few public speakers, would be to house cars for ferry parking instead.

Anyway, more of this some other time, maybe, I’m pretty generally disgusted since typically when people opposed other residential type developments it’s caveated by saying that they would support that project if it were something like senior housing, but when senior housing is offered there is an amnesia as to Alameda’s collective hard on for senior housing as an alternative to people with kids and cars.

I’ll point out that if I were the applicant I would probably be looking into some way to disqualify that vote since Trish Spencer had already made up her mind prior to the hearing at the Planning Board even having been heard or concluded.  But that’s just me.

But since we’re on the topic of Trish Spencer and overstepping her role/not understanding her role/not understanding governance in general, I’d like to point you toward the Alameda Magazine column by Editor Robert Gammon.  Highlights:

At issue is that many of Spencer’s supporters seem to think the mayor is in charge of City Hall. And Spencer seems to view herself as some sort of personal crusader for Alamedans who have a beef with the city’s bureaucracy.

In Alameda, the mayor is merely the ceremonial head of the city council. As such, it’s illegal for Spencer to interfere in the day-to-day operations of the city or to tell department heads, like the police chief, how to do their jobs. Spencer can’t even tell the city manager what to do. The reason is that under the Alameda City Charter, the city manager reports to the council as a whole—not the mayor. Indeed, Spencer opposed the hiring of current City Manager Jill Keimach but was overruled by her council colleagues.

Now, this arrangement might seem odd—or even wrongheaded—to many Alamedans. After all, don’t we want to elect officials who will “get things done?” Of course we do. But under Alameda law, the mayor and the council are supposed to get things done by passing laws and allocating public funds in ways that improve the lives of residents. And it’s the job of the council as a whole to hold the city’s bureaucracy accountable by holding the head of it accountable: the city manager.

Maybe we’ll see a Council Referral on how to change the form of government to a strong mayor one, but given the levels of incompetence right now with our current Mayor I can’t imagine anyone being too keen on changing the charter to make those accommodations.



  1. Don’t worry measure M will produce housing for the seniors and affordable housing for only $4,000,000. Oh that’s right , it won’t.

    By the way ” hard on “- really?

    Comment by Master B — September 8, 2016 @ 6:24 am

  2. I suspect there’s more to this opposition to the assisted living/dementia care project than meets the eye. Are there homes near that site whose owners are against it because it might block their view or increase traffic or impact parking? Does someone own or plan to build a similar facility fear the competition?There’s always a reason (and it’s usually selfish) when something that seems unobjectionable to most people meets resistance.

    The argument that Alzheimer’s patients won’t know the difference so they don’t need the view or it would freak them out doesn’t (if you’ll excuse the expression) hold water. My father, both his parents, and eight of his siblings had Alzheimers, so I too have had a lot of experience with the disease. It comes in all flavors and varies to a certain extent upon the basic personality of the person affected and the stage to which the disease has progressed. I’ve seen those who are often confused and anxiety ridden and others who are upbeat and positive while still others become very combative and verbally abusive. What about people who spent a lot of time on the water as many Alameda residents have? They might get a lot of comfort from being able to see it.

    In any case, it’s not concern for the patients that stands in the way of this project. Someone with a vested interest in preventing it has successfully applied pressure. It’s not just an Alameda thing. It’s the way of the world.

    Comment by Denise Shelton — September 8, 2016 @ 6:38 am

    • Opponents were all residents near the property or just residents that tend to oppose any development. It was not a matter of competition trying to tank a possible competitor.

      Comment by Lauren Do — September 8, 2016 @ 8:42 am

  3. well it looks like we now have a council block ( 3 votes) to stop housing in Alameda from being built. This coming election will be crucial to most people because it will be the difference between moving forward or stopping all growth.

    Comment by John P. — September 8, 2016 @ 8:04 am

  4. Who were the other 2 no votes?

    Comment by dave — September 8, 2016 @ 8:10 am

  5. My cautious hunch is that some local opposition on Bay Farm, including on the ground that rabbit habitat or water views would be reduced, has much less to do with opposition to residential development or whether use of the building(s) as living, housing or residential space (as opposed to office space) is consistent with the Esplanade Final Development Plan, than it does with the building of any structure at all.

    Comment by MP — September 8, 2016 @ 8:37 am

  6. I mentioned on Twitter last night that I had a pollster call me around 8:45 PM asking questions about Alameda city government. I was asked if I approved of the jobs being done by each of the current city council members, the ones running for city council, and Mayor Trish. Then I was asked if I would support a recall (!) of the Mayor. Of course, there’s no way of knowing who sponsored this poll, but I found it rather interesting. The poll came from 626-544-5643 (RESEARCH CENTER on caller ID). I generally don’t answer these things, but I had a few minutes to spare and was curious what it was going to be about.

    Comment by trow125 — September 8, 2016 @ 9:10 am

    • Let’s place bets on who paid for the call. Someone else go first.

      Comment by MP — September 8, 2016 @ 9:22 am

  7. as much as I disagree with the Mayor I would not support a recall. She is our Mayor for better or worse for the next two years.

    Comment by John P. — September 8, 2016 @ 9:42 am

  8. Great for Trish! Bout time we had a mayor without a cock that can rule with a hard on.

    Comment by jack — September 8, 2016 @ 10:13 am

  9. John I agree with you, plus we must be careful of outside influences in our election. I wonder if this is an internal polling; could be someone from the outside trying to influence our election. I’ve seen this tactic before.

    Comment by Karen Bey — September 8, 2016 @ 10:28 am

    • Who

      A) hates the mayor?
      B) Has the $$$ to fund actions against her?
      C) has the nerve to do it so openly?

      My first guess would not an outsider, but rather an insider. And who is more inside than the IAFF and their fellow travelers?

      Comment by dave — September 8, 2016 @ 10:57 am

  10. Trish Spencer is the only person on Council who seems to realize that there is no such thing as a rest home or nursing home anymore, and the City staff & Planning Board should not be relying on “Webster’s Dictionary” definitions for something as highly regulated by the state as ALFs. There are two types of facilities which have replaced the ad hoc rest/nursing homes in California: ALFs [assisted living facilities] & SNFs [skilled nursing facilities]. ALFs are licensed by the California Department of Social Services. SNFs are licensed by the California Department of Public Health.
    SNFs meet the definition of Medical Facilities, and would therefore be allowed under the existing zoning at 2900 Harbor Bay Parkway. ALFs are NOT medical facilities, and would therefore not be allowed under AMC 30-4.7, despite the Planning Board’s opinion.

    The Westmont facility contemplated is an ALF, not a SNF. [The lone speaker who knew what he was talking about, a land use attorney who compared ALF sites in San Leandro, said as much.]

    Whether a facility is a rest or nursing home, and according to our municode, a “medical facility”; is not defined by the City of Alameda or Webster’s Dictionary. Neither the City of Alameda nor Webster’s Dictionary licenses ALFs or SNFs. The State of California does all the licensing. And when people decide where a loved one needing care is going to live, they usually start by looking at the list of California licensed ALFs and SNFs.

    In short, a facility is not a nursing or rest home just because the Alameda Planning Board/City staff says it is. I find it horrifying & absurd that PB/CS rely on something as unsophisticated and out-of-date as Webster’s Dictionary to define a facility which is so highly regulated. All City staff had to do was look it up on a State of California website.

    [This state of affairs may reflect the absence of attorneys on the present Planning Board. For decades, there was usually at least one]

    The Planning Board & City Staff should strongly consider amending the AMC so that the list of “medical facilities” conforms to the State of California definitions.

    It is stunning to me that, of all the councilmembers, apparently only the two who have sat on the Alameda Health Care District board failed to understand that Westmont is not a medical facility, and voted to uphold the Planning Board decision. Shame! Alameda is fortunate to have a mayor as thoughtful and diligent as Trish Herrera Spencer to lead the way and correct wrongheaded decisions made by lower City bodies..

    Comment by vigi — September 8, 2016 @ 10:42 am

    • The only people using dictionary definitions that night were opponents to the project.

      Comment by Lauren Do — September 8, 2016 @ 10:43 am

      • No, Lauren, the opponents were Mocking the use of Websters Dictionary. Lauren, you didn’t read the original staff reports. The speakers did. City staffers clearly cite Websters dictionary as their authority for defining rest &/or nursing home. No other authority is cited.

        Comment by vigi — September 8, 2016 @ 11:23 am

        • PS: I actually wrote a letter and emailed it to the Planning Board covering all these points on June 21, 2016. When it did not appear in the Correspondence section. I sent it again. It does not appear in the 9/6/16 Council correspondence packet.

          Comment by vigi — September 8, 2016 @ 11:29 am

        • Actually, the original letter went to PB almost a year ago.

          Date: Tue, Nov 10, 2015 at 11:00 AM
          Subject: Proposed Senior Care Facility at Harbor Bay Business Park
          To: Andrew Thomas , NANCY McPeak
          Cc: Trish Herrera Spencer , Lara Weisiger

          RE: Planning Board Meeting 11/9/2015​; Agenda Item File #2015-2258

          Dear Mr. Thomas and members of the Planning Board and Community Development Department

          One of the speakers last night on the proposed Harbor Bay assisted living facility actually brought up the most important point to be considered by persons who would actually live there = is it too far away from the nearest hospital or Medical Center? According to Google Maps, the Harbor Bay Ferry is approximately equal driving time=17 minutes= from either Alameda Hospital or San Leandro Kaiser. If I had to choose, I would prefer to be taken to San Leandro Kaiser, because there is no unpredictable drawbridge en route. But even 17 minutes is a long time in an emergency. Given that the ambulance must depend on either Island Drive or Doolittle Drive not to be backed up with traffic, and that once committed to one route, there is no alternative, I find this location to be too remote to house such a fragile population which will be more in need of medical services than the rest of the general public.

          I fear there is enough ambiguity in the meanings of the words “care” and “assisted” to the non-medically trained public, that more will be expected from this facility than it can provide.
          Bluntly: there will be an uproar when the facility didn’t get Grandma to the doctor in time!

          City Staff erred in using the Websters Dictionary definition of a nursing/rest home to gauge the appropriateness of this location for this facility. The only definitions that count are those used by the Department of Health and Human Services. A “nursing home” is a facility licensed to provide nursing care. An “assisted living” facility cannot give any such care, and there will not be a doctor or nurse on the premises. Assisted Living residents needing medical care will have to be transported by ambulance to a suitable facility.


          “Skilled nursing care may only be administered within a facility that is licensed to do so. Legally, this kind of facility is licensed as a skilled nursing facility, although it may have a different business name that it markets itself as, such as an “extended care” or “long-term care” facility. Medicare and Medicaid also designate these homes as skilled nursing facilities. Because skilled nursing facilities bill Medicare and/or Medicaid for skilled nursing care, they must comply with many complex legal regulations and requirements. Assisted living facilities are regulated by the state Department of Social Services, not the Department of Health, which regulates nursing homes. Assisted living facilities do not have the same safety or administrative requirements as a skilled nursing facility, and they are prohibited from giving care they are not licensed to give.”

          Please circulate this letter to the members of the Planning Board and Community Development Staff as appropriate. Thank you.

          Comment by vigi — September 8, 2016 @ 11:33 am

  11. It was a strange and lousy place for a old folks home, right next to the ferry parking lot and on the Shoreline Park path which gets a lot of traffic. I’m happy with the decision. Its just weird to put something like that in a business park as well. All’s well that ends well.

    Comment by Alameda Landlord — September 8, 2016 @ 10:57 am

    • yes just like the terrible one at the foot of Webster St ( Crown Point). on the waterfront in a marine district with lots of water front noise and Commerce. Or maybe like the one at the Park Street bridge, that’s a real quite area.

      Comment by John P. — September 8, 2016 @ 7:12 pm

  12. Some speakers referred to “end of life” and how the proposed assisted living arrangement would be designed for that.

    ‘End of life” means expected death within several months. Hospice care is available for these individuals.

    Is that really what the developers of Westmont had in mind for this facility?

    Or do they not know the meanings of the words and classifications they used?

    Comment by A Neighbor — September 8, 2016 @ 11:11 am

  13. I thought the correct term for AL was Residential Care Facility for the Elderly, aka RCFE, as explained here:, although I have clients (Conservatees) in facilities which transition care offering under RCFE regs to SNF level, and I don’t think this is that unusual. Some clients even move back and forth from one level to the other within the year, and a lot of people seem to believe the familiar environment is less stressful for persons with advancing dementia.

    Comment by theadaworks — September 8, 2016 @ 2:31 pm

    • Yes, RCFE is the most correct term. CANHR is a great organization and source of information about this topic. LLAP!

      Comment by vigi — September 8, 2016 @ 2:44 pm

  14. let’s face it, Alameda is just not the right place for any new housing for anybody whether they are rich poor or totally fucking crazy.

    Comment by John P. — September 8, 2016 @ 7:15 pm

  15. There will never be any development at this site due to the residents who want open space. Doesn’t matter that the space is deemed commercial. Bay Farm has the money and the power to keep this space open until Alameda has a strong Council who follows the zoning. Such a shame that the money of a few can control the wishes of the rest.

    Comment by eyeroll — September 8, 2016 @ 7:50 pm

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