Blogging Bayport Alameda

March 21, 2018

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Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:01 am

Because it didn’t get enough attention, here are excerpts from the letter from the State of California Housing and Community Development Department in reference to Trish Spencer and friends attempting to remove the Multifamily Housing overlay.

It essentially starts out by saying, we know what you’re trying to do, so don’t think you can slip this behind our backs:


A brief history of how we got to the multifamily housing overlay in the first place. (hint: it’s because we have a little thing in place called Measure A)


And then what the consequences to removing the multifamily housing overlay could be.  Which includes a trigger of reviewing the City’s Housing Element and probably placing Alameda out of compliance, once again:


And finally the stick.  The letter warns that if Alameda decides to go down this road, we may not be able to secure any more regional or statewide grants because the State isn’t going to give a city money or let other government entities give any city money if that city is going to contend that it can flout state law.


I think Trish Spencer may need slightly better advisers.  It’s one thing to attempt to pull some meaningless crap in order to shore up your based.  It’s another to attempt to pull some meaningless crap to shore up your based but get smacked on the hand by a State agency which tells you you’re going to put the City you purportedly are working for the good of in a really crappy position to score some political points.


  1. Any elected representative who supports removing the Multifamily Housing overlay from our Housing Element without supporting replacement zoning for an equivalent number of multifamily housing units is being irresponsible. Anyone that reckless does not deserve the public’s trust.

    If the state de-certifies our Housing Element Alameda risks losing state funding for parks (like the Jean Sweeney Open Space), road maintenance, and a host of other critical programs. And the state is moving aggressively to add multifamily housing units by changing housing policies, so Alameda is likely to find itself under increasing pressure if we remove the Multifamily Housing overlay, which, IMHO, is a very dumb idea.

    Comment by Jon Spangler — March 21, 2018 @ 7:29 am

    • Oh stop it! Are you so totally unaware of the state-wide push back against dictatorial top-down planning from Sac’to that you really believe this is an ALAMEDA only problem? The Mayor of BERKELEY was the first in this area to declare that these mandates “declare war on our neighborhoods”.

      Get your head out of the Alameda sand, Jon. Maybe read the LA Times once in a while.

      Comment by vigi — March 21, 2018 @ 10:06 am

    • Jon – Site A can replace 800 units easily and that is going forward. I believe Trish’s effort (I don’t know this for sure.) could relate to sites like Alameda Marina where people are loosing jobs because commercial areas, which should have been identified as such before the past administration offered the land as a possible place to build, are necessary to promote a better jobs-housing balance within our city. Alamedans who were able to work and live in Alameda, now have to leave the island and join the mess on 880 because of the lack of investigation of the sites offered by John Russo and Marie Gilmore, et al. When that city council approved the submission to the state, Gilmore told every one at the council meeting who argued against it that it didn’t mean we had to build – only that it was possible to develop the lands that were “vacant and underutilized”. There are still about 150 people working at Alameda Marina whose jobs are in jepardy. The developer says there will be commercial space created by placing four floors in the Alameda Marina builing “if feasible”. I have to wondwer what year will we start tearing down buildings on Park Street and Webster to build houses instead. Same thing.

      As far as Alameda Marina goes, there is plenty of space on the eastern portion of the property to build housing and the RHNA number of 396. The developer is greedy and wants to build 760, using the area that is currently commercial. A mahority of that commercial space was used for maritime businesses which had to be located at the water’s edge. The 2 largest companies are now relocated – one to Alameda Point and the other to Richmond – bye bye jobs and sales tax.

      Comment by Nancy — March 21, 2018 @ 2:01 pm

      • I’ll probably regret asking, but…how does a business being relocated from Alameda Marina to Alameda Point equal “bye bye jobs and sales tax”?

        Comment by brock — March 21, 2018 @ 4:08 pm

        • Nancy, don’t forget that she is now renting City owned property instead of privately owned property, with what I would imagine has much better rental terms.

          I would argue that this was a smart move on her part. Sometimes change is a good thing!

          I do think we need to hold this developer accountable for a good community benefits package. Look what we’re getting from Site A developers.

          Comment by Karen — March 21, 2018 @ 4:21 pm

        • Supposedly, the whole purpose of doing this project is to pay for the bulkhead that they did not maintain all the time they have leased the land from the city. “They” is a company now owned primarily by the devloper. The city needs to get them to provide feasibility studies to determine which alternative plan will it take to replace that bulkhead that was allowed to deteriorate so badly since the 1960s.

          Comment by Nancy — March 21, 2018 @ 5:48 pm

        • Not that business but if I failed to add this one in there someone would have done it for me. The loss of Svendsens to Richmond cost us about 100 jobs that paid well enough that employees could afford to live in Alameda.

          Comment by Nancy — March 21, 2018 @ 5:42 pm

      • I agree, I rent an office in Alameda Marina where I run a professional business that will be knocked down to make way for housing. I doubt that I will find other suitable office space on the island, Alameda Marina refuses to talk about any future here for the existing businesses, so I will most likely be moving my business, employees, and myself to somewhere more welcoming to business. Alameda is quickly turning into a bedroom community of houses, nail salons, and cafes.

        Comment by A_Business_Owner — March 21, 2018 @ 7:59 pm

        • Was the restoration of the bulkhead one of the desired community benifits? What is the plan with the bulkhead after it’s been restored?

          Sorry to hear this. Most developers try their best to accommodate existing tenants and provide meaningful community benefits that the community has articulated it wants.

          The developer I work for is building a new Artist Building for the existing Artist colony. Joe Ernst is working with the Animal Shelter to do something out at Harbor Bay.

          Site A developers contributed $10M in cash to help pay for the new ferry terminal. This was an upfront payment to the City. Catellus reduced their development footprint giving up land they wanted for housing for commercial.

          Working with the community and listening to them goes along way!

          Comment by Karen — March 22, 2018 @ 12:39 am

        • The bulkhead keeps the land from eroding into the estuary increasing the need for dredging and reducing the land we have. There seems to be concern by city staff that an earthquake could be disasterous without replacing it. Without a bulkhead that has integrity the result could be closure of the 530 slip marina from which the city earns 10% of the slip fees and provides affordable housing. Currently, the full state approved 10% of livaboard opportunities can’t be realized due to poor utility infrastructure and that is also part of the redevelopment that the developer will pay for but it is only estimated to cost $5M. The developer could have paid for this years ago but elected to put their money elsewhere just like they are now allowing the buildings to deteriorate, probably because they figure they are tearing them down so why bother.

          Comment by Nancy — March 22, 2018 @ 1:27 am

  2. If it’s so damned important to overturn Measure A, put it on the ballot.

    Why hasn’t that happened yet?

    Comment by dave — March 21, 2018 @ 8:09 am

    • Fairly sure these roundabout mechanisms like the Multifamily Housing overlay is to help preserve Measure A for existing parts of the island. But if folks like Trish Spencer are going to try to play around with the State of California then she might expose the City to losing Measure A altogether.

      I’ll note that you don’t need to put Measure A on the ballot to overturn it. If a YIMBY group like CaRLA sets its eyes on Alameda and wants to sue Measure A out of existence, they could and would probably win. Alameda has settled all its Measure A challenges not because it did it out of expediency but because legal counsel knows it wouldn’t stand up legally.

      Comment by Lauren Do — March 21, 2018 @ 9:25 am

      • Fun Fact: The legal firm used by CarLA to sue Berkeley, Zacks Freedman Patterson, bills itself as “The Voice of Bay Area Property Owners”

        Its bread and butter is EVICTING TENANTS!!

        Read reviews

        Comment by vigi — March 21, 2018 @ 11:01 am

        • Your point?

          They’re Real Estate lawyers. They practice real estate law.

          Is this supposed to be some sort of six degree gotcha? That only works on Fox News.

          Comment by Lauren Do — March 21, 2018 @ 11:12 am

        • Can you not read? My point should be obvious. This is billed as some NIMBY vs YIMBY affair; property owners vs renters. CaRLA = CA Renters Legal Advocacy Fund. Since neither Victoria Fierce or Sonja Trauss are attorneys, I expected they would be represented by some civil rights litigation firm. Nope. Not even close

          That they are not, exposes the YIMBY movement for the Astroturf that it is. But critical thinking is not your strong suit.

          Comment by vigi — March 21, 2018 @ 12:10 pm

      • That which the ballot created is mostly cleanly repealed or altered by the ballot. It would spawn a new local consensus on what/where/how to build rather than hodge podge of court rulings and state level regs that often conflict or confuse, and leave open the possibility of nuisance lawsuits, among other complications.

        But although you won’t admit it audibly, you know why the pro-density camp haven’t tried this quicker, simpler, cheaper & clearer step: because they know the voters would uphold Measure A. Struck in non-progressive time warps as they may be, a majority of voters prefer they pleasant pace of life that we have now. All the lawsuits and state level legislative attempts amount to is a minority opinion weaseling its way in, contrary to the local majority.

        Of course if you believe the contrary, that the voters DO want density, put it on the ballot and savior your victory. Go for it.

        Comment by dave — March 21, 2018 @ 11:15 am

        • SAVOR you victory, that is

          Comment by dave — March 21, 2018 @ 11:16 am

  3. The Mayor neglects to understand that Alameda hasn’t built much housing in decades, as the letter points out. So, it’s not Alameda’s multi – family overlay that is causing the traffic problem.

    It’s the migration of thousands of jobs and people to the urban areas!

    And because of the migration of jobs and people to the urban areas, we need to be focused like a laser beam on getting our share of regional dollars to improve our transportation infrastructure. This is called – focusing on solutions.

    The expansion of AC 19 on the Northern Waterfront and the new Seaplane Lagoon Ferry Terminal at Alameda Point is a direct result of that focus.

    The $10M payment made by the Alameda Point developers has guaranteed that the new ferry terminal at Alameda will go forward. Alameda will now have three ferry terminals!

    And as the rest of the project is developed we can expect to see more transportation improvements at Alameda Point. This is called Smart Growth!

    Comment by Karen — March 21, 2018 @ 8:17 am

    • Alameda will now have three ferry terminals!


      I remember (or think I remember) that the ultimate plan was to move the Main St Ferry to the lagoon. Is my memory working properly today?

      Comment by dave — March 21, 2018 @ 9:25 am

      • No, your memory needs a tune-up. The odd thing is: the Seaplane Lagoon Ferry Terminal will probably get direct AC Transit service before the Main Street Terminal ever does.

        Comment by vigi — March 21, 2018 @ 9:47 am

  4. Dave, we’re keeping the Main Street FerryTerminal.

    Comment by Karen — March 21, 2018 @ 9:41 am

  5. The Mayor’s proposal is courageous and visionary! Alameda has got to stop acting like a prostitute, doing anything for One Bay Area grant money. “We’re an island, stupid!”

    This “we must build our fair share” crap is a false narrative concocted by people who do not live here.

    The petition to push back against state-dictated uncontrolled growth has almost 2500 signatures

    Comment by vigi — March 21, 2018 @ 9:56 am

    • So Donald Trumpism, calling people and ideas stupid when you can’t articulate an intelligent response!

      Comment by Karen — March 21, 2018 @ 12:11 pm

    • Nobody wants to build their “fair share”. Other than SF, Oakland and SJ, there is not one single city council in the high job growth urban / suburban core that is proclaiming “We want more housing!! More people here please! More traffic please! More noise please!” Thank goodness we have regional and state governments who can cut thru the inherent nimby’ism to enact legislation that will serve the greater regional good because for the most part, small local governments will only act in their own self-interest. And that will never get us anywhere towards solving our massive housing problems.

      People are coming, whether you like it, or not. So we have a choice — we can ignore that fact. Or we can plan for it, in a more strategic and rational way, planning for infrastructure and transportation improvements, and new community facilities. The idea that every single city must contribute towards alleviating our collective crisis is not a false narrative. But closing your eyes and plugging your ears hoping all the people will go away or that these problems will get solved by someone else, now that is crap.

      The Mayor’s proposal is the precise opposite of “courageous” and “visionary”. It is reactionary, near-sighted, and immoral.

      Comment by dya — March 21, 2018 @ 5:42 pm

      • You might want to actually read about SB 828. It increases RHNA numbers by 200% As Andrew Thomas said, Alameda could be asked to rezone virtually all land to be residential. Then we would truly be an all-bedroom community. Then it would be so unbearable living here, people might stop coming and start moving out.

        To say there can be unlimited influx of people to an island is just plain idiotic. You sound like the developers of the 1950’s who said the same thing. Their solution was to dredge and fill in the bay to create more land to build residential on. Ergo South Shore.
        But like they say, those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.

        Comment by vigi — March 21, 2018 @ 6:21 pm

  6. A succinct commentary on the Bay Area Real estate phenomenon.

    TLDR: why are we allowing existing property owners and landlords to extract so much of the productive value out of the booming Bay Area economy when they contribute virtually nothing to it?

    Comment by brock — March 21, 2018 @ 10:09 am

    • Interesting read, thank you. It’s been awhile since I thought about the Corn Laws.

      The question I’m left with is why today’s capitalists seem to side with the landowners rather than with the common people, as the piece cites happened in the 1840’s. In the same vein, why haven’t the capitalists and workers teamed up to simply move industry elsewhere. They have the ability to do that, landowners can’t move their land.

      Comment by dave — March 21, 2018 @ 11:20 am

      • I don’t necessarily agree with all of it, but thought it was interesting also.

        Aren’t the “capitalists” the developers in this question? I see the developers/capitalists as being at odds with the landowners (really existing housing and to some extent commercial building owners), who are seeing their property values and rents skyrocket through supply restrictions. As we see in Alameda, the developers are fighting those restrictions. Do you see it differently somehow that I’m not getting?

        Here is another recent example of a capitalist at odds with “landowners”.

        Comment by brock — March 21, 2018 @ 12:10 pm

        • Dave – re-reading your comment I get what I was missing. You (probably correctly) are associating the “capitalists” with the productive industry entities. But I think they mostly side with the developers so my main take still stands.

          Comment by brock — March 21, 2018 @ 12:16 pm

        • Thus far, they do side with them. My question is why hasn’t the 1840’s scenario, in which they switch sides, come to pass yet? Or do you believe the YIMBY movement is that switch?

          Comment by dave — March 21, 2018 @ 12:58 pm

    • As Lauren Do would say; “National Review? That conservative tin-hat screed? Might as well quote Breitbart”

      Seriously, Brock this article fails on several counts. It is definitely not succinct. The author is a sociology professor at UCLA. What does he know about planning? And he isn’t from the nine-county Bay Area, so he doesn’t know the territory. He definitely has at least some of his facts dead wrong. California YIMBY was founded by Tech Billionaires and millionaires. It is not a “renters movement”, despite calling itself one. It is bankrolled by tech execs who want to build housing for workers they import into California, a manufactured middle class if there ever was one.
      As Ayn Rand said: “Check your premises”. This author didn’t. If your premises are wrong, your article will be pointless.

      The Real California YIMBY =

      Comment by vigi — March 21, 2018 @ 11:48 am

    • Property taxes? Housing in the case of landlords? Sales tax dollars when land owners and landlords buy things? I didn’t read the article but these popped into my mind as I read your question “why are we allowing existing property owners and landlords to extract so much of the productive value out of the booming Bay Area economy when they contribute virtually nothing to it?” What esle should land owners and landlords contribute other than employees for companies, services for residents and volunteers for our city?

      Comment by Nancy — March 21, 2018 @ 2:16 pm

      • You should read the article before commenting.

        Interesting that you think land owners and landlords contribute employees for companies. If that is true I need to go back and brush up on my “birds and bees”.

        Comment by brock — March 21, 2018 @ 4:10 pm

        • I was thinking that landlords and land owners are employees who work for companies.

          Comment by Nancy — March 21, 2018 @ 5:38 pm

        • Nancy, I thought the same thing when I read Brock’s “take” on the article. Brock and dave describe a medieval feudal world where landowners simply sit back and collect rent, while their sharecroppers work their land and bring them the fruits of their labor? More realistic reading is Bob Silvestri’s book “The Best Laid Plans” about the fight against uncontrolled development in Marin and how the urban growth contemplated by progressives destroys both quality of life and the environment. Silvestri is an architect who has built, managed and developed affordable housing. He uses actual numbers and references to make his points.

          The high density growth contemplated by SB 827/8 brings to mind the urban renewal projects of the post-war late 1940’s, which were mostly demolished by the end of the 1970’s, because they inevitably became unlivable.

          Comment by vigi — March 21, 2018 @ 6:10 pm

  7. I’m all for voting on measure “A”. let”s do it. up or down.

    Comment by JohnP.TrumpisnotmyPresident. — March 21, 2018 @ 12:17 pm

    • It’s unlikely to make the ballot because the parties that want it changed will not expend the energy to plac eit there, because they know they’d lose.

      But if that little hypothetical comes to pass, I’ll bet you dinner at the winner’s choice of Alameda restaurant that the voters uphold it. You game?

      Comment by dave — March 21, 2018 @ 12:56 pm

  8. Nancy,

    Thanks for explaining the importance of restoring the bulkhead, which is an important community benefit for our community. Let’s not lose sight of this.

    Let’s also celebrate the fact that we haven’t lost DOER– they are now at Alameda Point — which is home to other similar type businesses. She will do well at Alameda Point, and we retain these jobs and sales tax dollars.

    As for Svendsen – looks like they are doing well in Richmond — becoming part of the Bay Marine Family which is still very much apart of the Bay Area marine family. Remember they are owned by Bay Ship and Yacht which is one of the largest ship repair companies in the Bay Area — located in Alameda. So we have those jobs and sales tax dollars.

    The key is preservation of Alameda Marina’s wonderful history and as many of the marine related jobs as possible. I really appreciate the fact that the developer is preserving a significant number of the historical buildings. You are part of the Alameda Preservation Society — what a wonderful opportunity to shape this important Historical District. Let’s not lose sight of this important community benefit.

    In addition to the two community benefits above (restoration of the bulkhead and the Alameda Marina Historical District), it would be nice to see this developer build a replacement building for the existing tenants (with an emphasis on marine related businesses). The ideal location would be somewhere in the historical district.

    Just some thoughts Nancy!

    Comment by Karen — March 22, 2018 @ 7:25 am

    • I believe Bay Ship and Yacht/Svendsens income will be taxed in Richmond if services are delivered there. Alameda may retain the tax base of the Chandlery and warehouse in Alameda which will be good. As to the other businesses that are currently located at the Marina, it all depends on where they end up. I will say that the city is working to retain a boatyard at Alameda Marina after hearing from boaters from around the Bay Area how inportant this facility is to the boating community but if we are not successful in this effort, we run the risk of empty marinas around the island due to lack of maintenence services. Boats are already leaving.

      Meanwhile, there are about 150 jobs left at the marina that could be relocated off island. So, 150 more cars exiting every day.

      So far, only 3 or 4 buildings are being saved in the Alameda Marina Historic District out of the 17 of a total 37 buildings designated by the Alameda Historic Advisory Board as the Alameda Marina Historic District. AAPS is working with the city to save more but it is going to be a fight. Alamedans should go to the marina and walk around to see the WWII installation where boats were launched to fight in the Pacific Arena before it disappears. It is kind of quiet now without the boatyard but perfectly open to all and a good family outing. If AAPS does not prevail in getting changes to the developer’s master plan and gaining support for the “Preservation Alternative” in the DEIR, we will be loosing a very special place in Alameda. Even people who thought those were “just ugly old brown buildings” have changed their minds after spending time there and an interpretive sign telling about the area history can not begin to convey the legacy.At this point, you can’t credit the developer for preserving the historic district.

      Comment by Nancy — March 22, 2018 @ 2:53 pm

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