Blogging Bayport Alameda

January 25, 2017

$1 million/acre

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:05 am

Planning Board meeting discussion about Alameda Point’s Main Street Neighborhood Master Plan was a complete revelation on Monday night.  I think some members of the Planning Board who weren’t that strong on the whole “hey housing is needed to fund infrastructure at Alameda Point” finally understood the whole concept.  Not only that they finally understood why there’s a huge gap between the housing that’s developed (expensive homes) after the developer has taken care of the inclusionary housing requirements.

The magician who finally broke though, and honestly should be tasked with handholding every elected and appointed official who will ever make any decision on housing and development moving forward, is one James Edison.  Alameda resident.  He’s my new political wonk crush (sorry Andrew Thomas).

This guy was amazing about being unapologetic about how the numbers all work out and being forthcoming with all the challenges moving forward if the city policy is to put out its hand and ask for more, more, more in addition to what is already being required by the City.   I mean this guy actually had some of the less development gung ho members of the Planning Board asking about the Navy’s unit cap (1425), the per unit overage cost ($50K/unit), and whether there would be consideration about building more housing units.  This is pretty unprecedented.

Here are some of his comments:

The balance that has to be struck is between that [workforce] housing which is less expensive and the need to meet this infrastructure requirement which is really a requirement for the whole base because the based, as I’m sure you all know, has dilapidated infrastructure that’s causing operational problems.  For example, I think the Bladium, they and other tenants at Alameda Point have ongoing issues to be remedied and the way to remedy them is to get development to happen and to get infrastructure fixed.


The MIP [Master Infrastructure Plan] is dominated by pretty big ticket items, for example the levee, that needs to get developed no matter how many acres you develop of Main Street.  If you leave half of it empty you still have to do the levee.


You can look at it as every unit has the same responsibility but if you look at who’s paying for stuff the larger more expensive units are paying for more stuff.  Every time you restrict a unit, make it less expensive, or subsidize it the other units are sort of carrying that weight for them.  It’s a zero sum game.

Not to be outdone, Andrew Thomas laid some real talk at the feet of the Planning Board as well:

The way to get more workforce housing; how do we afford to build more small units and still cover all these main big costs.  Well the easy answer is you build more units.  We are working in a political environment that says, “no.”

A thousand acres of infrastructure needed which ends up being a million dollars an acre.  We’ve only got 1425 units total to pay all of the costs.  25[%] need to be deed restricted: very low, low, and moderate income households so you can’t, they’re not going to pay their share.  Now the other 75% of 1425 covers the lion’s share of the costs and now we’re going to this next step: wait some of those market rate you want to design them so that they’re small and young families can afford them which means basically let’s make them smaller.

Seriously, just let this guy talk to every naysayer that wants to just turn Alameda Point into one big park.  Worth watching if you have any interest in the topic at all.




  1. I watched the light go on as James Edison educated not only the Planning Board, but the public. He did a great job!

    Here are some of the immediate benefits of busting the cap at Alameda Point:

    1. We can build more workforce housing
    2. We can fund the shortfall costs to build and operate the Seaplane Lagoon Ferry Terminal
    3. We can design and build out the much needed infrastructure in the Historic District, specifically Monarch Street to support Spirits Alley, and a possible Arts District that was proposed by Lance Winters (owner of St. George’s Spirits).
    4. We can design and build out De Pave Park

    These benefits not only benefit the public, but it creates the environment to attract more jobs at Alameda Point.

    I say, let’s bust that cap

    Comment by Karen Bey — January 25, 2017 @ 7:33 am

  2. Not familiar with James Edison. Was he speaking as a private citizen, 3 minutes and a speaker slip?

    Or is a employed by or connected with a developer?

    Or is he a consultant hired to present?

    Or other?

    Comment by dave — January 25, 2017 @ 8:26 am

    • Finance guy for the consultant helping prepare the Main St plan

      Comment by BMac — January 25, 2017 @ 8:42 am

      • Thank you

        Comment by dave — January 25, 2017 @ 9:04 am

  3. The more that California can do to build towards the 1.8 million homes that our region needs by 2025 the easier it will be for folks to move closer to where they work, the less that they will have to commute and the easier it will be to get them to walk, bike or use transit. Bust the cap.

    Comment by Angela — January 25, 2017 @ 8:27 am

    • Works fine as long as we have places in Alameda for them to work. Our current balance of housing/commercial is very unbalanced in favor of housing yet you want to add more housing. Retail jobs will not cut it as you know the pay is too low to be able to live in Alameda. Without developing more commercial that offers well paying jobs, we would just be adding to the number of commuters. We need to create more commercial opportunities all over the island so people can walk or bike to work. Ferries need to go more places than San Francisco. We must find a way to encourage building more commercial centers and not just at the point.

      Comment by Nancy Hird — January 25, 2017 @ 11:59 am

      • This region has more jobs that it knows what to do with and many workers are now telecommuting. Sure, let’s support mixed use business parks with housing on top of those business offices so that more people can work where they live. Let’s not forget that we provide excellent access to San Francisco via the ferry. That’s where a lot of jobs are. People are going to commute through Alameda if we don’t provide housing in Alameda to connect with that ferry commute.

        Comment by Angela — January 25, 2017 @ 12:27 pm

      • I’m sorry, but your reply about work and housing within the bounds of the small city of Alameda suggests you have very little understanding of how business and the modern economy work. Restricting housing hurts non-owners of housing, and benefits owners. You are free not to care about this, but at least be honest about it.

        Comment by BC — January 25, 2017 @ 2:01 pm

  4. It’s encouraging that the PB seemed receptive. Facts are stubborn things, as a previous president said. Even in this age of populism, in which emotions seem to matter more than logic, I hope that real facts can still persuade.

    Comment by BC — January 25, 2017 @ 10:13 am

  5. Finally Alameda has hired a consultant who is worth whatever we are paying him.

    Comment by vigi — January 25, 2017 @ 10:23 am

  6. I am very happy to hear the Planning Board is beginning to understand a few things.

    Even after Renewed Hope won the settlement for 25 percent affordable housing at the base, we were always wary of the financial part of it; whether we would be pressed by the city or a developer to make concessions to get development there “to pencil out.” The current boom has taken care of that initial anxiety, yet, we could certainly use more housing at the base to bring about the necessary infrastructure and help put a dent in the regional housing crisis.

    The 25 percent portion of deed-restricted housing at the base will go to people who earn up to 120 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI) which is up to $112,000 for a family of four. More than half the households in Alameda County fall into this category. Things are still weighed in favor of the minority of individuals or households who, supposedly, make enough to afford the market rate units. That’s the quandary posed to the City, developers, advocates and the public who all see we need to get the cost of housing in line with what real people can pay.

    An incredible amount of wealth is generated in our region by technology and the question is what portion of it should cycle back to offset the appalling displacement and the social upheaval we are witnessing? Housing is a social necessity operated as commodity by investors and that attitude even influences homeowners who view planning and zoning restrictions on housing as a way to safeguard their status and wealth. It sets up all kinds of social competition and class and racial divisiveness which at this point in our history, it would be nice for us to get over.

    Our self-indulgent history of transportation and housing planning is about to crush us if we don’t.

    Comment by Laura Thomas — January 25, 2017 @ 10:51 am

  7. What is funny is $1 million a acre is reasonable. My lot is like 40ft by 75ft. The land value is more than $400,000 on my tax bill. 1 acre is like 45,000 square feet.

    Comment by joelsf — January 25, 2017 @ 7:10 pm

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