Blogging Bayport Alameda

October 19, 2016

Fact check: why no 15% higher affordable housing mandate

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

As part of the great Alameda Peeps campaign forum the other night there was a question about development and traffic, natch.  Jennifer Roloff had a tough time answering most of the questions offered by the audience in a meaningful and thoughtful way.

Actually, most of Jennifer Roloff’s answers came out sounding like answer given by a student who crammed at the last minute and then was sort of trying to BS her way through an exam, particularly when paired up against Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft, by the way this in a nutshell sort of defines Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft:

Also being compared to other “fresh face” Malia Vella, who is as informed as she is articulate, Jennifer Roloff comes off as out of her depth.

No more is her weakness more exposed than when she tries to tackle development issues. Here was a particularly problematic part of Jennifer Roloff’s  answer to a question around housing, development, traffic, and limited cooperation with regional transit agencies.  She un-ironically talked about the need for the City Council to not react in a knee jerk way and cave to the “loudest in the room” which, if she has ever watched any big development battle, typically would be made of her mother and her cohort of Alamedans against something or the other.  So Jennifer Roloff begins talking about the RHNA numbers and pointing out that more market rate aka above  moderate units are slated to be built.  She then says:

And if we look at how the City has generally built affordable housing today, we’ve looked at one metric, bring in market rate housing and have those developers subsidize that housing and it’s been about 15%. It’s a mandate.  Now at the point at Site A, we’re right around 30% and look at that, the developer over at Site A is doing 30% affordable housing and he still has a lucrative business model and he’s going to do well there. Why aren’t we holding other developers to high percentages? Why isn’t 30% or higher than 15 the right number.

Well, Jennifer Roloff, let me answer your questions and your non questions, first:

the developer over at Site A is doing 30% affordable housing and he still has a lucrative business model and he’s going to do well there.

First, the developer at Site A is proposing 200 affordable housing units and 600 market rate units.  Of the total 800 units, 200 units is 25% affordable.

Second, all of Alameda Point has a 25% affordable housing mandate, so the 25% is required not out of some magic business formula that works for this developer alone.   Also, remember there is this little thing in Alameda called Measure A which doesn’t allow for anything greater than a duplex to be built in Alameda.  Because the 25% affordable housing mandate at Alameda Point automatically triggers the an automatic density bonus award.

A Density Bonus is an award to the developer of additional market rate units for affordable housing units built.  You can search my blog for endless posts about Alameda’s density bonus ordinance which is required by state law and to keep Alameda in compliance with the State of California.


Why aren’t we holding other developers to high percentages? Why isn’t 30% or higher than 15 the right number.

Well, the number is not higher than 15% required affordable housing for non Alameda Point sites because if the number were higher, like say 25%, this would automatically trigger a density bonus for any non Alameda Point project.   This very issue was brought up in 2009 when the density bonus ordinance was crafted:

The second issue of note is the reduction in redevelopment project areas from 25% to 15% for required affordable housing in new projects.   The argument from staff is that if the number were to stay at 25%, the incentive for a developer to provide affordable housing would be low since the required percentage of affordable housing already triggers the Density Bonus Ordinance (and concessions/incentives) by simply complying with the policy currently established.   The only area this would not affect would be Alameda Point due to the settlement negotiated by the City.

Here  is the example used by staff:

“For example, a 100-unit project in a redevelopment area is required to provide six very low-income units. The minimum number of very low income units needed to be eligible for a 20% density bonus is five; thus, in this scenario the developer would be entitled to an additional 20 market-rate dwelling units , plus an incentive. If the inclusionary unit policy was changed from 25% to 15%, a developer would not automatically be entitled to a density bonus and incentive because the required number of very low income units is four, which does not meet the density bonus unit threshold of five.”

Again, while not easy stuff for average people like me or you, this should be basic basic Alameda 101 for a prospective City Council member.  The fact that Jennifer Roloff doesn’t know this information but wants to excoriate past City Council members as though somehow they were foolish enough to not ask for greater concession at the outset is pretty ridiculous.



  1. Let me assure you that Jennifer Roloff and her campaign team, of which I am a member is well informed on the density bonus issue. I would refer you and your readers to that describes this program in great detail and provides a chart of the applicable density bonus. Unfortunately it is a PDF and I cannot paste in in here. The chart reveals that the maximum density bonus is 35%, and that it hits that maximum level for a developer who provides very low income housing at the 11% level and for low income housing at the 20% level. Thus, the current 15% level is creating a density bonus at the 35% max or close to it. Therefore, raising the required affordable housing level to 30% is not going to create a significant bump in the density level for these projects. San Francisco has ben doing this and has accomplished a much better ratio of market rate to affordable housing.

    Your first quote from the 2009 staff report supports what I am saying by arguing that developers will not have incentive to offer 25% because 15% gives practically the same density bonus. However the staff conclusion that developers will not accept 25 or 30%, is dead wrong. I will agree that they won’t like it, but, if it is a condition, of approval for their project and they want to get into the very hot market of Alameda, they will accept it. At the very least, it is worth at least attempting to negotiate it! How does staff know that a developer will not accept this if they never ask? Site A is the perfect example. 25% was mandated there,. Yet we had not trouble attracting a great developer who not only agreed to building 800 units, but also is providing all of the infrastructure.

    Another point that you totally ignore is that Ms. Roloff primary position is seek to build independently finance affordable housing through the Housing Authority and other non-profits which is exactly what the Measure A-1, the Alameda County proposed 580M bond issue is aimed at, so their are some smart people besides Ms. Roloff who support this approach.

    Finally, yes, Ms. Roloff did misstate the Site A affordable housing segment as 30% instead of 25% in an verbal statement at a candidates night. However, that does not justify the insults to her intelligence that you write above. You describe Ms. Vella as informed and intelligent, and I agree that she is a bright woman. However her early tweets on rent control where clearly pro M-1. Later she decided she was neutral, and lately she is anti L-1 and neutral on M-1. Yet, you don’t seem to have any problem with her “fluid” positioning on this issue.

    Comment by Paul S Foreman — October 19, 2016 @ 11:02 am

    • “However her early tweets on rent control where clearly pro M-1. Later she decided she was neutral”
      ….ummm, there was no such thing as M-1 when she spoke at Council meetings in the winter. It is not difficult to want a stronger ordinance than what we got and be neutral on M-1. At least it is not hard for me to fit in that category.

      Comment by BMac — October 19, 2016 @ 11:46 am

    • Perhaps Jennifer Roloff’s handlers didn’t prep her enough otherwise there would be no need for some furious surrogate spinning telling us that what Jennifer Roloff meant wasn’t what she actually said, but rather all this other stuff that her surrogates are going to tell us that she actually meant to say.

      Ms. Roloff primary position is seek to build independently finance affordable housing through the Housing Authority and other non-profits which is exactly what the Measure A-1, the Alameda County proposed 580M bond issue is aimed at, so their are some smart people besides Ms. Roloff who support this approach.

      Ah yes, the $10 million, as I pointed out in many many many posts will not stretch very far using the Housing Authority (Shinsei Gardens) or the non profit developer (Del Monte) models. I suppose you’re referring to Jennifer Roloff’s $100K tiny house idea which sounds great on paper, but, oh wait, there’s that pesky Measure A thing requiring 2000 square feet of land per unit. Is Jennifer Roloff suggesting that she will exempt her tiny houses from Measure A? That the City of Alameda will just give away land to house these tiny houses on? That the City of Alameda will pay for the cost of baseline infrastructure for these $100K tiny houses? The devil is, as they say, in the details, but instead we get simple sloganeering: “Alamedans First” from Jennifer Roloff and then gaslighting from her advisers to tell us all that what Jennifer Roloff has said and written is, in fact, not what she meant, but this whole other set of explanations from someone who is not her after the fact.

      And, of course, the best part is the: hey but what about that person over there!

      Comment by Lauren Do — October 19, 2016 @ 12:22 pm

      • It is you who is doing the spinning. You understand Ms. Rollof’s position on housing very well, as evidenced by your constant attacks on it. In this instance you are attacking her 30% proposal by arguing that this option was discussed and discarded by City Staff in 2009. Actually, when I think more about it, City Staff was absolutely right in concluding that developers would not accept any higher level of affordable housing than 15% in 2009, WHEN THE COUNTRY WAS IN THE MIDST OF ITS GREATES RECESSION IN HISTORY, and one that particularly impacted the real estate market. However for you to quote this as authority for your position in 2016, in the midst of a housing boom, in clearly wrong.

        Your comments concerning Ms. Roloff’s other ideas for providing affordable housing are hardly worth commenting on. None of her ideas provide an easy solution to the problem, but they are attempts to creatively find alternatives other than our present path. On the other hand, your plan is to continue on our current path to add 3650 more housing units to the 1843 already committed in order to meet our affordable shortfall. (See my comments on yesterday’s blog) You may be right, but I, for one, would like to look at every possible creative idea to avoid that level of growth and congestion over the next decade, while still meeting our affordable housing goals.

        With regard to my comment on Ms. Vella’s change of position on rent control. You are the one who started today’s article comparing the “intelligent articulate” Ms. Vella to the “out of her depth” Ms. Roloff., so you are the one saying, “hey but what about the person over there”. My primary point was less to criticize Ms. Vella but more to criticize you for your totally biased presentation.

        Comment by Paul S Foreman — October 19, 2016 @ 1:17 pm

  2. You are expending a lot of energy and emotion on these attacks LD. Much of which is getting old and boring as she and others are basically giving up a lot for a “community service” position. I’m no shrink, but I do know a few. Maybe you desire to do more than you currently are so it’s easy to cast such shadows on others, from the security of your home. You appear to be a smart person, and I actually like/agree with some of your commentary on various subjects. Although, much of your writing of late is so negitivetly lopsided towards this candidate it’s past the point of being personal. I suppose you wouldn’t be writing about her if you didn’t think she had a shot at winning. But from the look of things, it might not be a matter of winning but a matter of by how much.

    Comment by FranklinB — October 19, 2016 @ 12:57 pm

  3. Thanks Paul, but most of the readership understands that Lauren likes to take snippets or comments out of context when she is on her soap box. Her real value is linking to the actual documents and bringing up current issues and topics at hand. That allows us to review the article, measure, issue, law, transcript first hand. Her interpretation or slant on the documents is her privilege, as it is her blog. No need for a back and forth. Most of the readership is current on issues and value Lauren for her resourcefulness as opposed to her social opinions. Your first post was on the money. Just like Dragnet, just the facts man. Give us some links to make your points and log off. The back and forth is just wasting your time. The dogs bark, but the caravan marches on. Your time is better used elsewhere on the campaign trail. You can post your point, but you don’t get the last word. Her blog, her rules. What I do respect is that she gives everyone a voice, no matter how much she disagrees or despises the opposing view. Not too many blogs or sites have the strength to tolerate an opposing view nowadays. So make it the strongest post you can, link to the facts as you see them, and move on. Good luck on election day.

    Comment by Alameda Landlord — October 19, 2016 @ 2:39 pm

  4. Well, if one is running for public office, s/he should have a thick skin and be prepared for lobs at one’s personal record, positions, and ability to defend those positions. I do not find Ms. Do’s comments an as attack on the personal intelligence of Ms. Roloff — she simply said she is “out of her depth” as compared to Ms. Vella who is “as informed as she is articulate”, meaning that Ms. Do does not find Ms. Roloff to be as informed or articulate. Clearly she does not agree with Ms. Roloff’s analyses nor the degree that she seems prepared, but she did not say that Ms. Roloff is not intelligent, at least not that I’ve seen.

    Second, this is a blog and not a newspaper. Ms. Do does not purport to be neutral as she explicitly states her opinions on a very regular basis. But I appreciate that she digs deep into her topics and whether I agree or disagree with her opinions at the end, she usually provides an abundance of facts that are generally cited (not with footnotes but with links to her sources) and I find that to be a great service to our community and our public discourse about these topics.

    My final point is related to Mr. Foreman’s comment above that “the [city] staff conclusion that developers will not accept 25 or 30%, is dead wrong”. How does he know? There are some communities that have instituted an inclusionary requirement as high as 25% (I don’t know of any that are community-wide at 30%) but on a very limited basis. Jurisdictions are required to undertake a “nexus study” to justify housing impact fees, ie a study to thoroughly analyze the linkage between market rate housing generating a need for affordable housing AND an analysis of how much the real estate market in that location could bear an invoking a additional cost burden to developers before impacting their ability to build. However, it is not clear that inclusionary housing ordinances must be similarly justified with a nexus study.

    As far as I know, the City of Alameda has not conducted a nexus study for inclusionary housing requirements. If that is true, how would Mr. Foreman know that developers would not accept 25% or 30% for any development outside of Alameda Point?

    Comment by Dya — October 19, 2016 @ 2:48 pm

  5. Thank god this isn’t a midterm election.

    Comment by Angela — October 19, 2016 @ 3:30 pm

  6. Oh my goodness, what would Ms. Roloff do if she didn’t have Mr. Forman to tell us what she actually thinks or says.

    Comment by John P. — October 19, 2016 @ 4:26 pm

  7. Foreman.

    Comment by John P. — October 19, 2016 @ 4:27 pm

  8. Lauren,

    You are such an obvious pawn of the far left. You constantly try to belittle anyone except Ashcraft and an unknown 32 year old who is to inexperienced to run her own life. You are a hater. You are a bully ( cyber not the kind that can look you face to face ), I sleep well knowing your house is on contaminated Navy soil. I think your home purchase tells us about your judgment . You don’t even live in the neighborhood, you live on a development isolated from anything resembling a neighborhood.

    Comment by Testy — October 19, 2016 @ 5:44 pm

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