Blogging Bayport Alameda

September 29, 2016

Growth of a nation

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:09 am

The other day the SF Chronicle released an editorial about the effect that NIMBYism…I mean, perseveration and progress…wait I mean, slow growth…wait no, “responsible development”has on the economy in general.  The editorial is based on the White House, yes THAT White House, Housing Development Toolkit.

From the editorial:

There’s growing recognition that aggressive housing development regulation — like the kind found all over the Bay Area — is terrible for the whole country. It’s a sign of how important zoning — once the most local of issues — has become to the U.S. economy that the Obama administration is now weighing in.

In a report called the Housing Development Toolkit, the White House upbraided the U.S.’s desirable metro areas for their NIMBYism: “The growing severity of under-supplied housing markets is jeopardizing housing affordability for working families, increasing income inequality by reducing less-skilled workers’ access to high-wage labor markets, and stifling GDP growth by driving labor migration away from the most productive regions.”

From the Toolkit:

Locally-constructed barriers to new housing development include beneficial environmental protections, but also laws plainly designed to exclude multifamily or affordable housing. Local policies acting as barriers to housing supply include land use restrictions that make developable land much more costly than it is inherently, zoning restrictions, off-street parking requirements, arbitrary or antiquated preservation regulations, residential conversion restrictions, and unnecessarily slow permitting processes. The accumulation of these barriers has reduced the ability of many housing markets to respond to growing demand.

Accumulated barriers to housing development can result in significant costs to households, local economies, and the environment.

It’s like the Obama administration is speaking directly about Alameda.


[T]he availability of quality, affordable housing is foundational for every family – it determines which jobs they can access, which schools their children can attend, and how much time they can spend together at the end of a day’s commutes.


This part is important to the City Council candidates out there coughjenniferroloffcough who simply think that creating affordable housing without market rate housing is possible:

When rental and production costs go up, the cost of each unit of housing with public assistance increases, putting a strain on already-insufficient public resources for affordable housing, and causing existing programs to serve fewer households.

And for those that think that only job development is necessary for a healthy economy:

Significant barriers to new housing development can cause working families to be pushed out of the job markets with the best opportunities for them, or prevent them from moving to regions with higher-paying jobs and stronger career tracks. Excessive barriers to housing development result in increasing drag on national economic growth and exacerbate income inequality.

Huge report, I’ll be posting more about it later.





  1. The pro housing groups are just getting started. There are a few of us now who recognize that current housing policies oppress working families and limit our opportunities. As more and more families are pushed out the more that you will see voters clamor for housing that meets our region’s economic needs. When we see working folks living in tents, when we see families of four living in studio apartments, when we see double income families being pushed out due to overwhelming rent increases that’s when the victims of these housing policies will rise up and demand more housing and vote for folks who will support that point of view. We live in a burgeoning metropolis with a robust economic engine. Sprawling suburbia’s days are numbered.

    Comment by Angela — September 29, 2016 @ 8:16 am

  2. Then the White House should pay for another bridge and another tunnel (and more for the schools while we’re at it) since we’re an Island that is facing a lot more congestion and have already done our portion of the housing that is required.

    Comment by FranklinB — September 29, 2016 @ 9:54 am

  3. Absolutely agree that we need more housing, have space for more housing and are building more housing. I see more and more families moving INTO Alameda, as our wonderful locale gets discovered. Those without the means, will be moving out. Such is the way of the world. Ironies of ironies, most of the people that had been protesting new construction in the past are now in the “we need rent control” mode. I guess they went to sleep during that supply and demand class in elementary school. There is affordable housing in neighboring locales to Alameda. Try San Ramon, Oakland, San Mateo etc etc. Now affordable housing near San Francisco, that is a horse of a different color. We were long an affordable bedroom community for the city, but those days are gone. I do not see a pressing need for gardeners and house cleaners to live in Alameda, in order to service Alameda. It is slowly becoming unaffordable. I do not see a need to be an affordable bedroom community for San Francisco, as that is San Francisco’s problem to deal with. Our police and firemen are paid enough to live here. Teachers, well they can commute from the locale, but my preference would be for the city to own an apartment building reserved for Alameda School District teachers only. Not administrators or staff. Just teachers. Or how about paying the teachers a housing allowance. Put it on the ballot. All this hysterical talk about people living in tents or families of 4 in Alameda studio apartments are a red herring. Many of us would love to live in South Market in San Francisco, if we could afford to. We can’t , so we don’t. You live where you can afford to live. How about those people living in tents or families of 4 in studio apartments in Beverly Hills or Hillsborough? Heh. Who gave us the god given right to live in a wealthy area, without the means? Nobody. As usual, all the frantic talk about stopping the world and keeping the rent at last decades prices is slowly becoming moot. The housing market has softened dramatically. Every dog has its day. Rents have stabilized and in many many cases, decreased from asking price as of 6 months ago. Not just in Alameda, but Bay Area wide. Landlords can never ask for the moon and get it in rent. How I wish it were so. You can only ask for what the market will support. Alameda is still a great housing deal relative to the rest of the Bay Area, especially when you consider proximity to the city. When you take proximity to San Francisco out of the equation, then affordable rentals are plentiful in the East Bay. You just have to move further away from the city. We are building building building in Alameda. And as these new houses come on line, every day, our real estate prices stabilize and fall and our rental prices do the same. So the real question is “are we building houses for maids and gardeners in Alameda?”. The answer is a resounding NO! Right now, it is not affordable for them. It is not good business to build houses for maids and janitors. Cheap housing, and enough of it, means apartment buildings and cheap land. Alameda is against apartment buildings, and all of us should know the price of land is what dictates our housing prices. For those of you that do not own a home in Alameda, let me explain that the houses do not cost 1 million dollars. It is the land that makes up the vast majority of the housing price. If you give Habitat for Humanity the land, they will build you a ton of affordable housing in Alameda. Anyone advocating for that, please let us hear from you. Inclusionary zoning, ie mandating that builders construct a token amount of below market price housing is a recipe for failure. I’ve linked to this article before, because it clearly explains the forces of gravity, in clear and succinct language to those that chose to be English majors. ( All of us are pro housing. All of us would love to have an inexpensive apartment in the middle of Manhattan or in the Haight district. So What?

    Comment by Alameda Landlord — September 29, 2016 @ 10:38 am

    • San Ramon and San Mateo are bastions of affordable housing? LOL! Maybe twenty years ago…

      Comment by Kristen — September 29, 2016 @ 5:13 pm

      • Isn’t San Ramon where many of our upper-level police officers live, “because they cannot afford to buy a house in Alameda”? I’ve been hearing that line of crap for 20 years.

        Comment by vigi — October 3, 2016 @ 9:10 am

    • Okay, let’s take able-bodied maids and gardeners off the table for the moment. What is the resounding reply when the question of affordable housing specifically pertains to elderly people living on fixed incomes? How about disabled individuals whose impairments directly impact their earning potential? You’re characterizing the beneficiaries of this measure as greedy, unambitious, and complacent in their poverty – “Hey, if that maid wanted to continue living in her hometown, why’d she go into the maid business, right? What kind of moron does that, when they could just get an MBA? Now she has to live with the consequences!” – and it’s intellectually dishonest to the point of absurdity. There are vulnerable populations everywhere in this country, including desirable places like Alameda. For many disabled and elderly people, moving 30+ miles away is not a viable option. They have to live where their support networks are; where they have reliable transportation; where they can regularly visit the doctors and specialists overseeing their medical care. Frankly, I would be thrilled if there were legislature like this that was specifically tailored to address their needs, since most decent people can agree that those are special circumstances that merit some assistance. Good lord, using taxes to support disabled citizens was a common practice in Ancient Greece and Rome. There’s no excuse for throwing these people under the bus with a smile and shrug. Not in the twenty-first century, not in a community so ludicrously affluent.

      The argument you’ve laid out here isn’t just rude and offensive – it’s fatally flawed. I don’t know about English majors, but anyone wildly bohemian enough to take a history class in college already knows how your approach plays out – it results in ghettos, segregation, spiking crime rates, and class warfare. It’s toxic to the community itself, and that impacts quality of life as well as property values. You can’t push the financially disadvantaged members of a population further and further away from amenities and resources – like well-funded public schools, to use one single, solitary example – and expect the status quo to remain the same. In less than a decade, the well-scrubbed kids attending the well-funded schools will spend their well-funded free time scoring eight-balls from their former classmates. The working class kids will be dealing because it’s a quick way to make cash and help their own parents keep the lights on, and that will make drugs more plentiful and accessible than ever. And the crime won’t just stay out in whatever godforsaken part of the East Bay we’ve allocated for the maids and gardeners – those kids have to have hobbies, too, and their schools don’t have any arts programs! So suddenly the streets of your fair city are plagued by smash and grabs, and no one feels safe. That’s how these things work. It’s how they’ve worked here, in the past. Did you ever wonder why all these gorgeous houses have bars on the windows? Senior citizens in this town are still afraid of Oakland, and it’s one of the nicest East Bay suburbs now. But it could all change again, just as fast as it has before. We’re lucky to have so much money flowing through this beautiful town again, and we have a civic responsibility to spend our tax dollars on long-term efforts to enrich and improve it. Ensuring that the island doesn’t become a de facto gated community certainly falls within those parameters.

      By all means, keep trying to build a case for remorseless self-interest. I haven’t met many landlords who didn’t enjoy that game. Just don’t mistakenly assume the concept needs to be explained to anyone. It’s base animal instinct, not a cunning business philosophy The more you dig your heels in, the more it shield you from negative feelings like shame, guilt, and pity. We all understand it. We all get the appeal. We’re just choosing to rise above irrational emotions, and base our decisions on logic, reason, and hard data. Didn’t they cover that in business school?

      Comment by Alameda Skeptic — October 2, 2016 @ 9:05 pm

  4. 2. you forgot that part about “let them eat cake.”

    Comment by MI — September 29, 2016 @ 4:42 pm

  5. You sure do like the “housing issue.”

    Here’s the bottom line whether you’re a landlord or a tenant. The Bay Area is one of the few profitable areas of the country due to the tech industry. This drives housing prices up. Cleveland housing prices are much lower. I like the Napa Valley. But no one gets to live where they want without reference to price. Every day Alameda becomes less tolerable due to traffic. Could we move a few people out? Could we agree on a reasonable stipend for those who could move to Vallejo or Stockton?

    Comment by Captain Obvious — September 29, 2016 @ 8:27 pm

  6. Since Alameda has already met the requirement to build more, the White House should pay for another bridge and tunnel (more $ for schools too) since the congestion issues faced are real and growing. And agree with much of the above, you live where you can afford.

    Comment by FranklnB — September 30, 2016 @ 7:34 am

    • Somebody, like a certain City Council candidate, doesn’t understand how funding for affordable housing works. (hint: a huge chunk comes from the federal government)

      Comment by Lauren Do — September 30, 2016 @ 9:05 am

  7. “Who gave us the god given right to live in a wealthy area, without the means?”

    “…no one gets to live where they want without reference to price”

    “…you live where you can afford.”

    How come these arguments don’t apply to property taxes? Why do we need Prop 13?

    Comment by brock — September 30, 2016 @ 9:57 am

    • And to planning restrictions too. Who gave us the god given right [that sort of answers itself] to restrict others’ ability to build as they see fit on their property?

      Comment by BC — September 30, 2016 @ 10:58 am

  8. I love the suggestions that we build whole apartments for people like teachers. Dorms essentially. How compassionate. It’s O.K. for teachers to sacrifice the American dream of home ownership to pursue such an honorable profession which is of course it’s own reward, because it means so much to them. They have no life outside their profession.

    My wife taught in Alameda for 12 years. Many other teachers lived here, some still do. In many cases the lower pay our district pays has been off set as a disincentive by the ability to live here. As these resident teachers retire new teachers won’t be able to afford to live here. The phrase “fabric of the community” is very real when it comes to teachers. Even six years out of the profession my wife runs into her former students while shopping or whatever. They often have great stories and it means a lot to get to hear them. Pushing teachers out of the community where they work frays the fabric. Eventually it will unravel completely.

    Comment by MI — October 1, 2016 @ 10:12 am

  9. Feedback loop: Good schools help bolster home values. As the market heats up and fewer teachers can afford to live in the bay area it will degrade the schools, thus making these communities less desirable. People with high enough wages to pay $1million for a house ( plus taxes!) can also opt for private education. This leads to a bifurcated society.

    Comment by MI — October 1, 2016 @ 10:22 am

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Blog at