Blogging Bayport Alameda

April 22, 2019

I’d like to speak to your manager

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:02 am

Even after voters — in fairly large numbers for a special election — affirmed the City Council majority’s removal of the G overlay for the McKay Avenue parcel paving the way for the Wellness and Respite Center to proceed there are still folks who are continuing down the path of trying to tank the project.  A Bay Farm warrior on NextDoor proudly announced that he was sending a letter to the federal government in a last ditch “speaking to the manager” type of move.

Under that announcement someone else helpfully added that Alameda Citizens Task Force (ACT) would also be asking to speak to the manager, but it would be the City Council and they’d be asking to subvert the vote of the people:


So, I asked the City Clerk if, by chance, any emails had reached the City Council after the election date regarding the Wellness Center.  Lo and behold, ACT had taken quick action and sent an email a day after Election Day on the new City Manager’s first day at work (the writer even references it in the email).

Here’s the whole email:

Alameda Citizens Task Force
Vigilance, Truth, [sic]

RE: City’s Role as Stakeholder in Wellness Center

Dear City Manager Levitt:

Now that Measure A has been approved by the voters, all Alamedans must join together to assure the success of the Wellness Center. Most important for this effort is for you, the Planning Board (PB) and City Council to exercise appropriate oversight of the operation of the Center in order to mitigate any financial or environmental adverse consequences to the City.

Mayor Ashcraft was quoted in the Alameda Sun as saying, ” If Measure A is approved the Wellness Center must still go through an extensive approval process that allows City Council to monitor and refine the scope of the daytime resource center and provides multiple opportunities for public input. ” Vice Mayor Knox-White has made a similar statement on Nextdoor. Doug Biggs indicated that he plans to voluntarily enter into a Development Agreement with the City which would provide for such oversight.

We do not doubt the sincere intentions of any of the above named persons. However the accomplishment of those intentions is significantly impaired by the current zoning of the site. A-P zoning lists the uses planned for the Center under the classification of “Uses Permitted” and thus gives the PB no control over the Center other than design of improvements. In contrast, the R-5 zoning district which surrounds the site on three sides, places the Center in the category of “c. Uses Requiring Use Permits” which provides that the, “following uses shall be reviewed by the Planning Board for their appropriateness in a specific location, or for such other factors as safety, congestion, noise, and similar considerations.”

The difference between these two zoning classifications is critical. The A-P zoning gives the City no negotiating leverage, while R-5 gives the City great leverage. We do not know why Mr. Thomas did not present R-5 to the PB and CC as an option when the rezoning of the area was presented to them in the Fall of 2018. We wrote to him last week, asking for an explanation, but have received no reply. He may have wanted to wait until after the election.

It is not our purpose to in any way obstruct the establishment of the Wellness Center. Mr. Biggs has made many positive representations on how the facility will be operated to minimize risk to the community, like not allowing drop ins to the clinic, limiting resource help to Alameda residents, providing transportation of discharged respite patients back to their original communities, operating respite as a “closed” program, providing security, reimbursing the City for excess public safety costs, etc. However, the devil is in the details. We need a negotiating table with the City having leverage in the decision making process for reaching binding conditions for the operation of the Center. In order to do this we need the leverage created by rezoning the site to R-5.

We are sorry to be burdening you with this matter on your first day in office. However a rezoning needs to be in place before any substantial work is done on the site that may lock in the A-P zoning. I have spoken to Sarah Henry about arranging a meeting with you as soon as possible.


Paul S Foreman
On Behalf of Alameda Citizens Task Force.

First, I don’t know why there’s a dangling comma after “Truth.”  I think the last tenet is supposed to be “civility” but maybe ACT has decided to abandon that, I dunno.

While one rezoning attempt already failed in the form of Measure B, ACT is asking the City Council to ignore the results of the election which saw that the voters had no appetite to change the underlying zoning of the site and go ahead and rezone the site anyway.

ACT thinks they’re being clever by asking for the zoning to change to R-5.

Could you imagine the heads thrown back in outrage if a developer had come to the City and asked to change the zoning, after an election, to something other than what had been affirmed during the election?  This would be fodder for a group like ACT for decades to cling to and use as a cudgel.

This line is particularly devoid of any factual support:

We do not know why Mr. Thomas did not present R-5 to the PB and CC as an option when the rezoning of the area was presented to them in the Fall of 2018. We wrote to him last week, asking for an explanation, but have received no reply. He may have wanted to wait until after the election.

Maybe Mr. Thomas didn’t present a R-5 as an option for rezoning because NO ONE WAS ASKING FOR IT.  Staff doesn’t unilaterally — unless in the scope of the Housing Element or similar type project — decide that a parcel should be rezoned because perhaps a group like ACT would like to tank a project that they don’t like.  In fact, had staff done that in the Fall of 2018 I’m sure a batch of kittens would have been birthed by folks like ACT who believed that there were enough voters that would vote to tank the project as-is.  They didn’t know they needed a Plan B.

And this:

It is not our purpose to in any way obstruct the establishment of the Wellness Center.


Here’s the thing, before Measure B, before FOCC decided to go and try to seek out signatures to get Measure B on the ballot, APC had already reached out to the neighbors and the community to discuss the project and build into place concessions and expectations.  Folks like FOCC and ACT decided to risk their luck at the polls in an all or nothing move and now they want a do over.  They can work within the parameters of where the discussions initially started with a zoning of Administrative Professional, but this time APC comes with the support of the larger community at its backs and that’s due to the machinations of folks like FOCC and ACT.  ACT doesn’t get to change the terms and better their negotiation position after losing once.

ACT sent a follow up email on the Sunday after as well, the “civility” is back in the tagline:

Alameda Citizens Task Force
Vigilance, Truth, Civility

Dear City Manager Levitt:

The link below displays a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) for homeless supportive housing approved by the San Jose City Council in 2016. I think it would be helpful to see a CUP that is somewhat comparable to what ACT is seeking for our Wellness Center, so that we can a sense of the efficacy of this approach.

We would ask that the you take note of the section entitled “APPROVED SUBJECT TO THE FOLLOWING CONDITIONS:” starting at page 7, with particular attention to Items # 7 thru 11 thereof which clearly deal with operational conditions, including adherence to the entire “management plan” for the supportive housing use.

We are not suggesting that the San Jose CUP conditions should be a model for ours. Our Wellness Center has three more functions than the San Jose project, the respite center, the medical clinic and the resource center, and is located in a much different neighborhood. What the CUP for the Wellness Center should contain is for the Planning Board to determine after a public hearing. The San Jose CUP is only intended as an example of one city’s approach to the issue.

We are also aware that some will argue that all of the contents of a CUP can be included in the voluntary development agreement approach suggested by Mr. Biggs. However, we continue to maintain that the determination of the extent of City oversight of the Center cannot be effectively negotiated in a setting where the City has no leverage to negotiate. That leverage can only be achieved by a re-zoning of the property to R-5 and a negotiation of a CUP pursuant thereto.


Paul S Foreman
On Behalf of Alameda Citizens Task Force

I don’t know if they’re asking for a both a zoning change and a conditional use permit or a conditional use permit after the zoning change is made.  What is apparent is that ACT is  attempting to use regulatory acts to either (1) tank the project, (2) severely scale down the scope of the project, and/or (3) place APC in a vicious cycle of regulatory approvals that it ends up making the project financially infeasible because of the cost of the hearing and appeals.  Regardless of the reason, it’s all bullshit.

Thus far there are only two individuals who have begun the emailing campaign in earnest to support this initial letter.

The first:

Both my wife and I are in total agreement with the letter sent to Mr. Levitt (from ACT – Paul Foreman) regarding the “City’s role as a Stakeholder in the Wellness Center.” The intent of the letter is nothing less than what was/is promised to the citizens of Alameda, both by our elected officials and Mr. Biggs. We trust that you (in your capacity as a City leader) will do what is best for the long term future of our great City and it’s citizens.

The second:

I am writing to you to let you know that I strongly favor rezoning the McKay
parcel to R-5 as the Alameda Citizen’s Task Force recommends. The city’s
oversite of this facility is crucial to its success. Thank you.

And so far only two City Councilmember: Mayor Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft and Vice Mayor John Knox White have responded to the initial ACT letter, Both largely declining to entertain the ACT request.


  1. These are the actions of an organization whose relevance diminishes by the day. Maybe raising money for APC would be a better way to support the wellness center and to try to repair their terrible reputation. We haven’t forgotten the November 2018 election. Time to do something to build some real goodwill and some understanding of the real problems that our city faces.

    Comment by Angela — April 22, 2019 @ 6:36 am

  2. Paul Foreman is a piece of work. If you recall, he put together “A Better Alameda” PAC for the November 2018 with the supposed goal of buttressing city hall from what he considers outside influence, i.e. unions. “A Better Alameda” went on to endorse three candidates, Tony Daysog, Robert Matz, and Trish Spencer. The PAC was a failure, as only Daysog won a seat (a seat he would have won anyway). Then, in this January 14th comment on Sullwold’s blog (, Paul Foreman made this quote: “In the alternative, they [Measure K backers] could have formed their own PAC or just individually supported these three candidates… The smart response to that repeal would have been for the landlords and realtors to withdraw K from the ballot and concentrate on electing a favorable majority on Council.”

    Think about that for a moment. Paul Foreman said he lost because the real outside influence, out-of-town corporate landlords that were backing Measure K, were not smart enough to back his “A Better Alameda” candidates instead, never mind that he wanted to set up “A Better Alameda” in the first place to supposedly limit outside influence in city hall – corporate landlords were financing at 4-10x the level of any other political group. This hypocrisy is astounding.

    Comment by JRB — April 22, 2019 @ 10:44 am

  3. This just showed up in my feed, in case anyone feels like dropping by:
    ACT’s 2nd Quarter Public Meeting-April 24 @7 pm, Alameda Hospital 1st Floor.
    Everyone is invited to ACT public meetings.

    ACT will be convening our 2nd quarter 2019 public meeting as noted in the subject line below. We will be discussing two issues, next steps for the Wellness Center and Election Reform. Our new meeting room will be on the main floor close to the elevator lobby. signs will be posted.

    Wellness Center: Now that the zoning of the federal property at McKay St. has been confirmed by the voters we want to make sure that it becomes a force for good not only for our homeless population but for the City of Alameda as a whole. In order to accomplish this the city needs to exercise some reasonable oversight of the operation of the Center. We will discussing how that process should go forward.

    Election Reform: Our 1st quarter meeting included an explanation of ranked choice voting and having our city council elected from discrete districts of the city rather than at large. We have learned that the Alameda League of Women Voters also has an interest in district elections. We will discuss whether it is time for ACT to take a position on either of these election reforms.

    Comment by trow125 — April 22, 2019 @ 10:46 am

  4. I’m inclined to go the meeting on Weds for fun. But I might stand out as suspiciously young, being only middle-aged. Actually, it wouldn’t take that many people to take over ACT from within (the missing apostrophe in “Citizens” makes me wonder if there might only be one). But then where would political entertainment come from now that Action Alameda News has gone dark?

    Seriously, though, their (his?) hostility to the very idea of the Wellness Center shows very clearly in this sentence: “Mr. Biggs has made many positive representations on how the facility will be operated to minimize risk to the community, like not allowing drop ins to the clinic, limiting resource help to Alameda residents, providing transportation of discharged respite patients back to their original communities, operating respite as a “closed” program, providing security, reimbursing the City for excess public safety costs, etc.” It smells Trumpian to me: it’s an invasion. Nasty.

    Comment by BC — April 22, 2019 @ 1:25 pm

  5. Awfully tenacious for a bunch of dinosaurs who don’t know they’re on the fast track to extinction!

    Comment by Rod — April 22, 2019 @ 2:31 pm

  6. I, like the rest of the city, voted for our city council to do the work of government. They have done so, and I, like the rest of the city, affirmed with a vote their good work relative to the Wellness Center. This zoning issue is a settled issue. We’ve voted on it twice.

    Now ACT thinks that they’re a shadow government and they know better than the duly-elected council who are doing *exactly* what they were elected to do. ACT has more time on its collective hands than many of us, but still lost. ACT’s council choices lost, they lost K, they lost on the Wellness Center. I applaud people organizing and getting together for activism, but stop wasting Alameda’s time. The people have spoken, more than once, and the answer is no. 👋

    Comment by Gaylon — April 22, 2019 @ 4:48 pm

  7. Paul Foreman is the male equivalent of Barbara Thomas. As a lawyer himself he very rarely if ever allows an honest statement to come out of his smooth talking mouth. ACT, is a very SAD act. truth is very lacking in thier agenda.

    Comment by trumpisnotmypresident — April 22, 2019 @ 5:04 pm

    • Can somebody please photoshop a picture of Paul with an “I’d Like to Speak With Your Manager” haircut and submit it to the Dank Alameda Meme Stash? Because that would be amazing!

      Comment by Rod — April 23, 2019 @ 11:52 am

  8. Isn’t ex-post-facto rezoning illegal? Can the city council, even if it wanted to, rezone property after it is transferred for the express purpose of increasing the regulation of it?

    Comment by Eric Strimling — April 23, 2019 @ 12:20 pm

    • Measure B raised the possibility of a compensable taking claim because changing the zoning to “open space” would have severely limited the economic use of the property. Changing the zoning to require a conditional use permit would not do that, but if the current City Council/Planning Board changed the zoning to require, and then denied, a use permit, or imposed unreasonable conditions on the permit, there might be a discrimination/accommodation/ADA claim, among others. Both of those seem very unlikely give the support for the Center on the Council, but there would be even less of a chance of such claims if any conditions on use at McKay were “self-imposed” through the type of voluntary agreement between the city and APC mentioned in the Mayor’s letter quoted above, as opposed to being imposed by decision of the Council/Planning Board. Generally, though, I think the answer to your question is, yes, the city can change the zoning on a property subject to, among other limitations, the limitation on takings and subject to limitations on retroactive application of new zoning regulations to existing (“grandfathered”) uses (and, in this context, an existing use may be different concept than an intended use at the time of transfer).

      Comment by MP — April 23, 2019 @ 1:11 pm

      • * the Mayor’s letter quoted in today’s post, “Pay For It” *

        Comment by MP — April 23, 2019 @ 1:43 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Say what you want

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Blog at