Blogging Bayport Alameda

November 30, 2017

Who’s afraid of JKW

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:00 am

So even though I stated pretty definitely in yesterday’s post that the current incumbent Planning Board member has a snowball’s chance in hell of every getting nominated by Trish Spencer and had moved on to point out how many qualified female candidates and candidates of color have been passed over again and again by Trish Spencer, some commenters have a horrible case of whataboutism and feel the need to drag others credentials into the mix.

I’ll point out that at the very least the incumbent Planning Board member’s application went well beyond, “I’ve live in Alameda a really long time and so has my family” as evidence of his ability to serve adequately.

But what makes the incumbent Planning Board member effective is that, well, he understands the planning related issues that require some level of insight and decision making.  As I pointed out, even his detractors would agree that he is effective and, therefore, must be prevented from continuing to hold that seat.  I mentioned a breathless email from the Alameda Citizens Taskforce after a recent Planning Board meeting around the North Housing rezoning.

Naturally ACT wants as little housing as possible placed anywhere in Alameda, probably because most members of ACT are property owners and therefore aren’t that sympathetic to the housing woes of those that who do not have stable and reliable housing.  After the complex bit of wrangling the Planning Board came to a unanimous decision that would allow for flexibility if necessary but not be a blank check for future developers for that site.   But that’s not how one member of ACT saw it.  That member is, coincidentally, also Trish Spencer’s appointee to the Open Government Commission and once lamented the inability of the City Council to talk prior to meetings to come to an agreement on policy issues before the meeting itself.

So here’s the email that he sent out to the ACT mailing list a few weeks ago.  The subject line: North Housing- How John Knox White snookered the Planning Board

The full email, with emphasis added in bold:

I just finished watching the video of the North Housing portion of last night’s Planning Board meeting. I would not be surprised if our local newspapers report that the cap was retained. Let me assure you that this is not the case. Mr. Knox White took advantage of his greater knowledge of planning law than his peers to present a motion that appears to at least partially maintain the cap, but in reality abandons it.

The motion passed unanimously, but I would love to question the other four Board members who attended the meeting as to whether they really understand what they voted for after an hour of very confusing discussion. What they voted for was to maintain the cap and to prorate it between the three developers by acreage, but to allow a developer to present a proposal in excess of the cap all the way up to 30 units per acre plus density bonus, subject only to the requirement that they obtain a conditional use permit from the Board for any proposal that exceeds their proportionate share of the cap. The cap is based on 15 units per acre, so any proposal exceeding that would need a conditional use permit.

To understand a conditional use permit one must look to AMC 30-21.3. Without going into great detail, it is an additional level of design review, that can be applied to designated uses. There is a long list of mostly subjective criteria listed in the Ordinance, but the bottom line is that the approval of a conditional use permit is entirely within the discretion of the Planning Board. It is similar granting a variance. It does not require Council Approval! For a little more insight into conditional use see

Bottom line is that we wanted to keep the cap on while still having the flexibility to have Council lift it for a worthy low income project. Instead we have an open invitation to all developers with no Council control at all!

We need to continue to contest this when it comes to Council, most likely on Dec. 5, the same date we are expecting Encinal Terminals.

Essentially Trish Spencer’s appointee to the Open Government Commission and member of ACT is saying that the rest of the Planning Board was too stupid to understand their vote on the North Housing zoning.

I watched the video and it seemed like everyone understood what was going on even though some opinions had changed from the start of the agenda item to the very end.  But let’s say that the writer was correct, that some how the rest of the Planning Board was “snookered” then good for the Planning Board member in question.  I mean, I know it’s my major bone of contention about Trish Spencer’s “leadership” skills, that she is absolutely unable to bring anyone along with her for policy making unless they are already predisposed to be supportive of an issue.  If this incumbent Planning Board member was able to bring ALL the members of the Planning Board with him to the end of the journey that brought the Board to the conclusion that he felt would be the best policy decision, isn’t that what we want in a leader?  To be persuasive enough and carry along even the most skeptical of the bunch?



  1. It is true that a Planning Board grant of a conditional use permit does not require approval of the City Council, but the decision to grant or not grant (or later revoke) a use permit is generally appealable or reviewable (“call for review”) by the City Council (recall Big O Tires on Park; subsequent revocation of a CUP for housing, in contrast, would be extraordinary). Someone with more land use knowledge might be able to say whether local laws giving discretionary authority to grant or not grant conditional use permits for housing developments would be preempted by any of the proposals under discussion at the state level re streamlining or removing discretion from the local permitting process for housing.

    Comment by MP — November 30, 2017 @ 7:09 am

    • I believe as long as there is flexibility to approve without a hard cap there is the argument that it passes muster under the new proposed State level housing regulations. It appears that recent legislation around housing is simply making sure that local jurisdictions don’t make it harder to build housing.

      Comment by Lauren Do — November 30, 2017 @ 9:12 am

      • Does anyone have a copy of what the PB adopted (as opposed to the draft resolution) on 11-13?

        Comment by MP — November 30, 2017 @ 1:42 pm

  2. Given the lack of affordable housing in Alameda and the shortage of sites to develop affordable housing, I think the preservation of this asset along with the conditional use permit gives us the ability to address this crisis head on as worthy projects are presented to the community.

    Comment by Karen — November 30, 2017 @ 7:49 am

  3. “…isn’t that what we want in a leader? To be persuasive enough and carry along even the most skeptical of the bunch?” HItler (ding) was such a leader. Stalin. Lenin. Franco. Castro. Hugo Chavez. HIstory is replete with leaders who led their followers to disaster, ruin, and failure. It’s not leadership, but where that leader is leading people, that counts.

    Comment by vigi — November 30, 2017 @ 9:43 am

    • Comment by Lauren Do — November 30, 2017 @ 2:06 pm

      • I ❤ this reply so hard!

        Comment by Rod — December 4, 2017 @ 10:51 am

      • And yet, there is no invoking of Godwin’s Law whenever loony liberals [including the ones writing comments here] call Trump a Hitler. Strange how double standards work, eh Lauren?

        Evidently, Rod just woke up. News Flash, Lauren and Rod: People who don’t like Trump have been calling him Hitler for over a year now. Sorry, but this meme is no longer effective.

        Comment by vigi — January 2, 2018 @ 12:35 pm

  4. Afraid?


    Tired of the egotistical weasel?


    Comment by Mark Valentine — November 30, 2017 @ 11:37 am

    • Remember when I said that if you try to sockpuppet I’ll change your handle to your real name. This is my periodic reminder and warning.

      Comment by Lauren Do — November 30, 2017 @ 1:56 pm

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