Blogging Bayport Alameda

June 19, 2017

We’ll always have the Paris Agreement

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

And since we’re on the subject of meaningless and empty gestures (coughprideproclamationsignedbysomeoneunwillingtosupportLGBTQcommunitycough) the City of Alameda dutifully tweeted out photo of a bunch of Mayors signing a pact to “adopt, honor & uphold the Paris Agreement” after Donald Trump indicated that he would pull the United States out of the agreement.

But here’s the thing, the critiques recently levied at Berkeley and other progressive cities certainly can be said about Alameda.  We’re progressive in the streets, but conservative in the sheets so to speak.  We care more about greenwashing our image than actually making big moves to actually honor the Paris Agreement to help reduce our impact on the environment.  Here’s a great (and widely shared) opinion piece:

On June 1, the US Climate Mayors—a network of more than 300 city leaders, including the mayors of the country’s five largest cities—published a commitment to “adopt, honor, and uphold the commitments to the goals enshrined in the Paris Agreement.” The cities would carry out the promises Donald Trump had abandoned.

I have bad news for this feel-good caucus. Want to fight climate change? You have to fight cars. In the nation’s largest cities, cars account for about a third of greenhouse gas emissions. Nationally, transportation is now the single largest contributor to carbon emissions.

And it gets worse, at least from a political perspective. Mayors can fund transit, build bus and bike lanes, end free parking, and reform building codes that require it. (Though they mostly don’t.) But ultimately, the only way to combat American automobile dependency is to reform the way we build, and in particular, to help avoid low-density settlement patterns that make it impractical or impossible for Americans to get anywhere without a personal car.

That overturning housing restrictions is part of the fight for economic and racial justice is well-established. But in a moment of all-in activism and outrage over climate change, it’s worth reflecting on the degree to which the prohibition of infill housing is an environmentally reactionary policy.

The fewer that people live in Berkeley and other job-rich, close-in Bay Area cities and suburbs, the more people have to drive. More than half of Berkeley’s greenhouse gas emissions come from cars and trucks.

Environmental activists and nonprofits oppose new projects on the grounds that they will worsen congestion, occupy vacant land, or threaten local biodiversity. But by pushing demand out of urban areas, those activists promote sprawl and long commutes that worsen regional air pollution.

On the City Council’s agenda tomorrow are two agenda items that actually will show if Alameda has a commitment to “honoring” the Paris Agreement.  And no, neither of the two are the “straws on request” ordinance.  The first is flexibility around allowing shared living facilities in business districts.  Increasing the supply of housing in business areas that will reduce the need for a vehicle will do more for upholding the Paris Agreement than Trish Spencer’s photo op with a bunch of other mayors.

The second is conforming Alameda’s additional dwelling unit (ADU) ordinance with state law.  Right now some advocacy groups are seeking to make the ADU ordinance more restrictive through rules that would require architectural sameness for the ADU as the original dwelling and asking the City to cap off the maximum ADU size.  Approving the greatest level of flexibility is literally the least that Alameda can do to “honor” the Paris Agreement.  A “no” vote on either of these or adding any level of restrictions to the ADU ordinance would yet again show that Alameda’s elected official are more about empty gestures than actual action.




  1. You shouldn’t make judgments about Alamedians under the sheets. Conservative? Hardly, this is after all, a Navy town.

    Comment by jack — June 19, 2017 @ 10:17 am

  2. Yeah,and speaking of inept political posturing and pointless proclamations by our City Council , how about the “sanctuary” city proclamation (where ICE never requested the arrest of anyone) and the “impeach Trump” proclamation (ignoring the Constitution and separation of powers clause)?

    Actually, climate change is due to overpopulation.

    But if you want to blame cars, then- city cars are hereby outlawed. No gas allowance for the staff. No travel for City Council members or staff to conferences, unless by public transit. Maybe we could eliminate gas stations?

    Comment by Nowyouknow — June 19, 2017 @ 1:09 pm

  3. I question the morality of population arguments. What’s the implication when we start blaming everything on overpopulation? Is it that we shouldn’t try to provide for the people we have because we haven’t addressed the issue? Should we start killing people because we don’t want to do the hard work of housing and feeding them? It’s a bullshit cop-out. The people are here now, the jobs are here now. Let’s build these houses, let’s improve our transit so that we can reasonably and feasibly eliminate gas stations.

    Comment by Angela — June 19, 2017 @ 2:39 pm

    • I will not forgo almonds so the Duggar family can exist.

      Comment by Retiredteacher — June 19, 2017 @ 3:37 pm

  4. On the first issue, I think it is great to have more living facilities in commercial districts. I am hoping for more apartments over businesses in the North Park Street area too, my neighborhood. On the second one, it is true that some advocacy groups are concerned about aspects of the proposed ADU ordinance. Personally, I have no problem with any size ADU that fits with the setbacks and square foot coverage requirements that exist. I do have a concern about the way that the design language is being changed. In Bayport, it probably won’t make a big difference, because all of your houses are pretty uniform in appearance. But in other neighborhoods where residences were built in all different eras and styles, the design language they are proposing would allow pretty much any style of building if it is for an ADU. So, a modified freight container, modified trailer home, or uncovered cinder block ADU home in your neighbors back yard suit you? Maybe, maybe not, but you would have no opportunity to comment or event receive a notice to respond to a new ADU over you back fence. I don’t think there is any other kind of building that large that you can build without a design review process.

    I built a garage in my back yard in 2004 and had design review. It wasn’t a big deal to go through that, and it was an opportunity for my neighbors to learn about and support my project. I just want to say I am not against reusing freight containers for housing– in fact I have seen pictures of some really cool projects– but I think the neighbors do need an opportunity to comment. I really don’t see anything wrong with requiring an ADU to “visually match” the main residence as opposed to materials and style being “the same as” the main residence. It would have been silly to have my garage use redwood siding and redwood shingles, but there is other wood siding and cedar shingles that visually match the original materials. IMHO, just a little tweaking of the original design language is needed to make it easy to use and preserve the desirability of our “eclectic” neighborhoods.

    Comment by Kevis Brownson — June 19, 2017 @ 3:24 pm

    • Unless the proposed ADU ordinance is different from the one discussed a couple of months ago by the Planning Board, a person with a permit issued by the City under the proposed ADU ordinance WHO resides in Bayport or similarly governed developments would still likely have to obtain permission from the HOA or an architectural committee of the HOA.

      Comment by MP — June 19, 2017 @ 5:20 pm

  5. Kevis, I really respect your consistency and general knowledge, but there are a lot of options which meld into the landscape pretty well which are more cost effective and durable than wood products yet “visually match” the general whatever….cement board siding in courses is one example. A shipping container will never fully integrate but with a small deck and trellis to soften the impact, one might be quite acceptable. It’s personal taste, and also case by case. No design review seems like a real can of worms in this town……

    Comment by MI — June 19, 2017 @ 3:55 pm

    • Hey Mark, I would be fine with case by case basis with design review. And I think there are many options that would be compatible, cement board siding being one. But without design review, you have no case by case basis. It is only– does it meet the requirements, or not? And if the design requirements are loosey goosey, then you get pretty much anything. The proposed ordinance removes design review for ADU projects up to 1200 sf that meet requirements. I know we need housing and I support that, but please, design review is not a burden. To me, it is like the paned window situation– you can get windows made out of other materials that visually match original wood windows in dimensions and detail, or you can go so far in the other direction as to get windows with fake “muntins” that snap in behind the glass. Deciding which to use is a subjective judgment and a ministerial decision will not prevent the cheapest ugliest alternatives, no matter what the materials. All I am asking is that if ministerial decisions are the thing for ADUs, that the design standard be that the materials visually match the main building, or if not matching, that it is better defined what the building should look like to get to bypass design review. I don’t really care if the ADU is made of papier mache, although that is probably not a durable choice 🙂

      Comment by Kevis Brownson — June 19, 2017 @ 8:12 pm

      • What is a “Junior Accessory Dwelling Unit”?

        Comment by mydogsrbarkin — June 19, 2017 @ 9:20 pm

      • There is an ADU in the backyard of my neighbor, which forms part of my perimeter fence. When it gets a new roof, the roofer sweeps debris off the old roof into my backyard. Anything that has to be done to the back wall of this structure [replace siding, work on plumbing, etc.] requires entry into my backyard. The owner of the lot has never called to ask my permission or even notify me ahead of time before entering my yard. Neither has any contractor doing the work. I have dogs. Fortunately, they are friendly.

        And when the tenant of that ADU fires up the amplified electric guitar, the sound impacts at least 5 adjacent homes.

        Design review is the least of the problems ADUs cause..

        I note KB is using the latest weasel word “ministerial decisions”.[SB 35]. From the Ministry of Central Planning, no doubt.

        Comment by vigi — June 20, 2017 @ 9:38 am

        • Good grief vigi,”ministerial’ review is not a “weasel word” ; it is very clear. It means that approval is granted if the proposed ADU meets all requirements and no one can challenge it. It is a good thing to help expedite projects. And it is in the ordinance.

          Comment by Kevis Brownson — June 21, 2017 @ 5:39 pm

        • In regular English it means “we speak” and you follow.

          Comment by jack — June 21, 2017 @ 7:35 pm

        • Kevis obviously you have never read “1984”. Perhaps I should have said Orwellian instead. What are the four Ministries of 1984, and what are their purposes? In the context of George Orwell, the word ministerial is perfectly clear. And ominously terrifying. But perhaps that is what you meant all along.

          Comment by vigi — June 21, 2017 @ 8:29 pm

        • min·is·te·ri·al
          adjective: ministerial
          relating to a minister of religion.
          relating to a government minister or ministers.
          “ministerial officials”

          So yes, a government minister (planning staff) can grant the approval without resort to boards or councils. And yes, I have read 1984, well before the year 1984. The ordinance was passed by CC to make it easier to build ADUs. CC are our representatives, so I don’t see anything ominous about it.

          Comment by Kevis Brownson — June 21, 2017 @ 8:50 pm

        • If you have read 1984, you would know that each Ministry was a Government agency which deliberately reversed & confounded the meanings of common terms. The Ministry of Peace was the War Department. [like the term “Peacekeeper Missile”] . War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength.

          I don’t know where you got YOUR definition of ministerial, but here’s the legal one. I still find it ominous.

          Ministerial legal definition of ministerial. []
          Ministerial describes an act or a function that conforms to an instruction or a prescribed procedure. It connotes obedience. A ministerial act or duty is a function performed without the use of judgment by the person performing the act or duty.

          Comment by vigi — June 22, 2017 @ 11:35 am

        • 1984 was written by an English author, not a third-generation Alamedan. “Ministry” is just a term for a department run by a minister. It’s not the use of the term “ministry” that makes the Ministry of Peace so sinister. The name of the Department of Defense, one might argue, is Orwellian. I can’t believe that someone so enamored of her own intellectual powers needs to be told this.

          Comment by BC — June 22, 2017 @ 1:13 pm

        • How many times was the word “ministerial” spoken in the last council meeting? About 30?. It is also all over SB-35, the next by-right law coming down the pike..Who are the ministers?

          Comment by vigi — June 22, 2017 @ 4:33 pm

  6. Never mind, I Googled it:

    Per State of Ca Website:

    (1) “Junior accessory dwelling unit” means a unit that is no more than 500 square feet in size and contained entirely within an existing single-family structure. A junior accessory dwelling unit may include separate sanitation facilities, or may share sanitation facilities with the existing structure.

    Comment by mydogsrbarkin — June 19, 2017 @ 9:24 pm

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