Blogging Bayport Alameda

October 18, 2016

Fact check: 2000 units since 2014

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

Fact check time folks.

It’s taken me a while to get this information, but it took me by surprise the first time I saw it mentioned on City Council candidate Jennifer Roloff’s website.

In her section on development she poses this question to you, gentle reader:

Did you know that that [sic] Alameda, since 2014, has approved close to 2000 new housing units, the great majority of which are not yet occupied?


It is unclear where Jennifer Roloff is getting her information, but her information is wrong.

But of course having facts that are incorrect has never stopped anyone in this town from doubling  or tripling down on their “facts.”  I shouldn’t be surprised that a candidate who threw her hat in the ring based on faulty information about how government contracts are awarded via the RFP process.

So I asked Andrew Thomas, who was referenced in her platform above, on the actual number of units that have been approved since 2014.  FYI, 2014 is the year that Trish Spencer was elected and a person who has the same overall governing philosophy and apparently intellectual curiosity and preparedness as Jennifer Roloff when it comes to Alameda City government issues.

Here are the projects that have been approved since 2014 which includes the meaty amount at Alameda Point and it still doesn’t come close to Jennifer Roloff’s 2000 unit number, it’s less than half of the number quoted by Jennifer Roloff:

  • 600 market rate and 200 affordable at Alameda Point.
  • 46 market rate and 8 affordable at 2100 Clement
  • 7 market rate and 2 affordable at 1435 Webster Street
  • 21 affordable at Eagle and Everett (housing authority)

In a cage match of development numbers between Andrew Thomas and Jennifer Roloff I’m going to put my money on Andrew Thomas every single time.

It appears that Jennifer Roloff may be conflating the recent Housing Element update reflecting the housing pipeline with “approvals.”  While the update reflects housing that was “approved, completed or under construction” it does not reflect this narrative:”since 2014, has approved close to 2000 new housing units.”   While this may be difficult to understand for someone parachuting into the issue, it’s not for people that have been following the issue for a long time or have the curiosity to understand and study the issue.  We really don’t need another “on the job” learner as we currently have on the City Council.  One really is more than enough.



  1. Do Andrew Thomas’ “approved since 2014” numbers include 2014, or not, or only the part of 2014 after the 2014 election?

    The link to the housing element update has this blurb

    Housing Construction Forecast: 2015-2023:

    As the result of a robust regional housing market, strong Alameda community support for new housing opportunities to meet Alameda’s diverse housing needs, and the zoning amendments completed by the City in 2010 (Density Bonus Ordinance) and 2012 (site specific re-zonings and Multi-family Overlay Ordinance) to bring the City of Alameda zoning regulations into conformance with State Law, the City of Alameda’s regulatory structure and development review process is producing a variety of new housing units. If the existing economic conditions continue over the eight-year planning period, the City will exceed its eight-year RHNA of 1,725 for the 2015-2023 period.

    There was this article in the Sun a couple of weeks ago:

    “The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) issued a new regional planning document on Aug. 30, with suggested housing numbers to meet state goals. MTC is requesting input from local jurisdictions.

    A draft response from City Planner Andrew Thomas slams the commission’s recommendations as being woefully out of touch with Alameda’s limited regional transit connections.

    MTC’s forecast calls for adding roughly 10,000 new homes in Alameda by 2040, with the majority to be added in existing neighborhoods outside of so-called Priority Development Areas (PDAs) like Alameda Point. This would translate into 250 new units per year in existing neighborhoods, according to Thomas. Counting on the state and region to “provide funding for major transportation improvements and affordable housing, if Alameda approves greater growth, is a leap of faith Alameda cannot be expected to make,” said Thomas.”

    Comment by MP — October 18, 2016 @ 6:50 am

  2. Alameda Point housing numbers were approved as part of the package completed during Russo’s time (when Marie Gilmore was Mayor) to get all the entitlements in place to make Alameda Point more desirable to developers. So all of 2014 not just post election.

    Remember compliance with RHNA is simply identifying and having the proper zoning in place to meet the number distributed by ABAG. It does not require actual construction of units nor the local approvals to actually move a project along, just that the potential to build exists.

    Nothing Andrew Thomas says is wrong about the proposed MTC forecast, but it certainly doesn’t give Jennifer Roloff leave to misinterpret facts and the reality. The worst thing is that perhaps you or I shouldn’t have this information available to recall at a moment’s notice, but you know who should know this? Someone running for City Council.

    Comment by Lauren Do — October 18, 2016 @ 7:26 am

  3. So if Ms. Roloff were to be true to her goals she should be against new business also, as it creates more “traffic.”

    Comment by John P. — October 18, 2016 @ 7:56 am

  4. When we stop quibbling about the reference to 2014, the basic fact is that the City has already approved 1843 housing units to be credited toward its 2015-2023 Housing Element. Ms. Roloff’s article uses this as a starting point for her argument that we need a much more comprehensive planning process for future development of the city.

    The first sentence of Jennifer Roloff’s development piece on her web site, was drawn from information provided by Andrew Thomas listing the residential projects that had been approved and were credited toward our 2015-2023 Housing Element. The reference to 2014 was in error because the residential portion of Alameda Landing (300) units was approved before 2014. That sentence should have read, “Did you know that Alameda now has close to 2000 new housing units under construction, or approved and pending construction….

    However, I do not agree with your list of projects approved since 2014. Del Monte was approved late in 2014 before the swearing in of the current Council (380 units), Marina Shores was still under design review in 2014 (82 units). Boatworks was just recently approved and is being litigated by the developer (182 units). I believe Fernside was approved just recently. (11 Units). Where are these projects in your list? Did you ask Andrew Thomas the wrong question? He certainly knows when these projects were approved.

    Comment by Paul S Foreman — October 18, 2016 @ 9:15 am

    • the basic fact is that the City has already approved 1843 housing units to be credited toward its 2015-2023 Housing Element.

      Nope. That is not a “basic fact,” that conclusion is wrong.

      The City has made available and has appropriately zoned enough land that hypothetically 1843 housing units could be build to satisfy the 2015-2023 housing element. “Approved by the City of Alameda” would imply that the development/project has gone through the basic step which would entitle the developer to build. Design review is just a hurdle to get through but wouldn’t affect the right of the developer to build the developer.

      You wrote:

      The reference to 2014 was in error because the residential portion of Alameda Landing (300) units was approved before 2014. That sentence should have read, “Did you know that Alameda now has close to 2000 new housing units under construction, or approved and pending construction…

      And yet she doubled down on what she wrote that you indicated was “in error” at the Peeps forum. So who to believe: Jennifer Roloff’s written and spoken words that happened as recently as Sunday night or her white knight attempting to explain away her lack of knowledge about these issues…

      Comment by Lauren Do — October 18, 2016 @ 10:17 am

      • Lauren, you make a good point there about design review not being the final step to creating a right to build and that it depends on what you mean by “approved” and how the term is used. But Mr. Thomas described the 1843 units in the housing element update that you gave us the link to like this: “In addition to the housing pipeline projects described above in Table 1, which are completed, under construction or already approved, the City has received applications for three other major projects:”

        Comment by MP — October 18, 2016 @ 10:36 am

        • “Approvals” should only be counted once, correct? There is a definitive point where a project moves from hypothetical to an actual probability. Using Jennifer Roloff and Paul Foreman’s criteria of everything is an approval as long as I say it is means that we don’t all work with the same set of definitions and therefore “facts” become “opinions.”

          I’m not sure how continually citing the housing pipeline numbers has anything to do pointing out that Jennifer Roloff’s statement of “Did you know that that [sic] Alameda, since 2014, has approved close to 2000 new housing units, the great majority of which are not yet occupied?” is not correct.

          Comment by Lauren Do — October 18, 2016 @ 11:00 am

      • Lauren, your statement, ”The City has made available and has appropriately zoned enough land that hypothetically 1843 housing units could be build to satisfy the 2015-2023 housing element.” is just plain wrong. Whether these projects were approved before or after 2014 there are 1843 units approved under binding development agreements, not “hypothetical”.. There are thousands of parcels beyond that number that have been zoned to comply with our Housing Element obligations and, thus, are available for development.. The approved projects are:

        1. Alameda Landing Phase ! 300 units
        2. Marina shores 89 units
        3. 2100 Clement 52 units
        4. 2437 Eagle 22 units
        5. Del Monte 380 units
        6, Boatworks 182 units
        7. 1435 Webster 9 units
        8 Fernside 11 units
        9 Site A-Alameda Point 800 units

        The above list totals to 1845 units. Mr Thomas uses the figure 1843, so I may be off two units. Our Housing Element goal for 2015-2023,l is 1723 units, so the good news is that we are 120 units over our goal. However the bad news is that our Housing Element goal breaks down to 748 market rate and 975 affordable housing units and the 1843 units we have approved breaks down to 1473 market rate units and 370 affordable units, leaving us 605 units short of our affordable goal. We have available to us 625 more possible units at Alameda Point before we hit the 1425 unit cap that the Navy put on us, beyond which we have to pay them $50,000 for each unit in excess of that amount. Under a settlement agreement with housing advocates the City is obligated to provide 25% affordable housing at the Point, so we can allocate 156 units of the 625 for affordable housing . That still would leave us 449 affordable units short of our goal. So far, all of the projects listed above outside of the Point have only required developers to provide 15% affordable housing. If that pattern is allowed to continue we will need to build 3000 more units to yield 449 affordable units. Put Alameda Point and this figure together and we need 3625 units built beyond the 1843 already approved to reach our 2015-2023 Housing Element Goal.

        If you think that much population growth in this time frame is sustainable, there are certainly many who agree with you, but I perceive there are at least as many who don’t..

        Comment by Paul S Foreman — October 18, 2016 @ 2:54 pm

        • I would love to hear Andrew Thomas discuss this steadfast allegiance to the market rate vs. affordable categories by the anti-housing crowd. I am no expert on the subject, but I view the RHNA as a minimum legal guideline provided to us. There are larger, moral questions to consider when evaluating how much housing Alameda and surrounding communities should facilitate, even in the context of our transportation constraints.
          My assumption is ABAG is not going to ding Alameda for building 1723 units and having the sales prices and/or rents shake out differently than the sub-categories envision. As long as we are facilitating smaller, multifamily units (which in a universe without 50 years of catastrophic, hyperlocal, restrictive land use policies, would have fallen into the “affordable” category without needing to be deed restricted) we are fine. That “affordable” category in the RHNA does not indicate a requirement to build 975 supportive housing units a la Shinsei Gardens, right? The fact that Mr. Foreman and the rest of the White Knight brigade propping up Alameda’s under-informed candidates and electeds have grown so fond of these subcategories demands some further scrutiny and explanation to the folks who aren’t just looking for pretext to stop housing from being built on principle.

          Comment by BMac — October 18, 2016 @ 3:45 pm

        • Whether these projects were approved before or after 2014 there are 1843 units approved under binding development agreements, not “hypothetical”.

          Excellent job moving the goal posts for Jennifer Roloff’s contention that the RHNA numbers are City approvals since 2014.

          Boatworks is an example of a development that is still in the very very pending stage and has been since 2010 and, at the going rate of litigation, will not be anywhere near completion by 2023 and will be counted, once again, in the 2024 Housing Element by folks like you and Jennifer Roloff as “approvals.”

          Comment by Lauren Do — October 18, 2016 @ 3:52 pm

  5. Facts don’t matter, we are an island.

    Comment by BMac — October 18, 2016 @ 9:41 am

  6. fortunately for Ms. Roloff she has two voices, one directly from her and then Mr. Foreman who corrects and says what is supposed to be coming from her mind.

    Comment by John P. — October 18, 2016 @ 10:32 am

  7. To a fairly intelligent, politically alert new arrival to the Alameda community, this conversation above is unintelligible. Someone needs to explain in simple terms what this argument is even about. You all are way deep in the weeds. If politically active people can’t follow your arguments, they are too arcane to affect voting practices. Also, the snide jabs at each other do not add to my confidence in the judgement of ANY in this conversation. Katie Cameron

    Comment by Katie Cameron — October 18, 2016 @ 11:15 am

    • TL;dr: Jennifer Roloff is using a number found in the City of Alameda’s State of California mandated Housing Element to frame the City of Alameda as having overreached in the past two years by “approving” 2000 housing units.

      The number does not support Jennifer Roloff’s supposition and is, instead, a number that proves to the State of California that Alameda is making available enough housing sites with proper zoning, to meet its fair share of housing.

      The actual number of approvals from the City of Alameda since 2014 is the list of projects posted in the original post.

      Comment by Lauren Do — October 18, 2016 @ 11:26 am

    • Bottom line, for this topic today. Primarily this is about residential housing in Alameda. Market rate and affordable. Build More to provide more housing vs Slow Down until some things like congestion are figured out. And somewhat of a pissing match between what is “approved” and the definition of that word as related to where building projects and proposed projects are sitting currently within the City. You have a blogger here that has her own agenda and cadidates she and some of her followers like vs others that are are on the other side of the fence. Thus some mud getting tossed. Short version: to build or not to build.

      Comment by JimD — October 18, 2016 @ 11:35 am

    • JimD is basically correct. The argument is “to build or not to build”. Is greater density on an island which is limited by a body of water encircling it a good idea? [Apparently there are some writers who do not believe in the laws of physics or behavioral science and maintain that Alameda is not an island. Don’t listen to them. It is.]

      You may have noticed that there is far less pressure to build on Bay Farm Island, which is not an island.

      To me it is as simple as rats in a cage. Cram too many rats into the same cage and they eventually turn on each other. Pack Alameda with people and limited ways to get off the island…same thing.

      There is only a crisis because San Francisco is “everyone’s favorite city”. However, “everyone” cannot live here all at once, no matter how hard they try.

      Comment by vigi — October 19, 2016 @ 9:41 am

  8. My problem is with people who say, “let’s just stop building for awhile so we can get this traffic problem straightened out”. In this region traffic has always been a problem and always will be a problem. We can always work together on mitigating traffic and controlling housing development. ABAG does not create housing, the economy creates housing. The economy also creates jobs, both of those two factors create traffic. So using traffic as an issue to stop building should also stop job creation because they both do the same thing.

    Comment by John P. — October 18, 2016 @ 12:34 pm

  9. We have an imbalance between housing and jobs. We need more jobs/businesses that can support employees living on the island to reduce the number of cars traversing the bridges and tunnel. While that will not help the number of times the traffic light at Park and Encinal has to turn before you can get through, it will help to allow more people to bike and walk to work so the number of overall cars should decrease or level out as the community grows.

    Comment by Nancy Hird — October 18, 2016 @ 1:50 pm

    • How? I think you know it’s not going to happen, and that’s just fine with the Alameda Citizens Tea-party and their conservative fellow travelers.

      Comment by BC — October 18, 2016 @ 6:26 pm

  10. If you know how to produce jobs in Alameda that will only go to people who live in Alameda please explain to us how that will work.? I think it is illegal to only hire people who live in your city.

    Comment by John P. — October 18, 2016 @ 4:07 pm

    • Raise the Minimum Wage. I’m sure there are hundreds if not more people living here who commute daily to higher paying Minimum Wage jobs in SF and Emeryville. That could reduce a lot of traffic. Emeryville has a two-tier wage scale. A higher wage for those companies with 50+ Employees and lower wages for smaller business.

      Comment by frank — October 18, 2016 @ 7:47 pm

    • Your point is probably also true of housing. I don’t think future housing developments can be legally restricted to those who currently live in Alameda. I may be way off on that, and there may be exceptions. I get what BMac mentions above, i.e. that generating new development should free up or keep prices affordable on older housing. But since Alameda is not an island….and instead part of the larger East Bay and Bay Area markets, what I think we are arguing about more is the extent to which we can be said to be pulling our weight within the larger region or not. Although the pro-growth argument seems sometimes to hold out a too much promise as a solution to overall housing prices in Alameda, and it is harder to get people whipped up behind the idea of pulling our weight within the region, it is still something to keep in mind for those who oppose any growth. However arbitrary the ABAG projections that tag Alameda for big growth through year 2040 are, they do seem to show that someone has a big development target on Alameda’s fanny. Other places to a greater or lesser degree. There is something to be said for doing things the way you want them before Governor X, ABAG Y or Developer Z build momentum to do them their way.

      Comment by MP — October 18, 2016 @ 8:28 pm

  11. I think that the most interesting thing on Roloff’s website is the first name on her endorsement list: Trish Spencer. I really don’t need anything more to decide that I am not going to be voting for someone with such poor judgement.

    Comment by JohnB — October 18, 2016 @ 7:12 pm

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