Blogging Bayport Alameda

May 22, 2019

Shocked (not shocked)

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

Filed under things we already instinctively knew but needed someone to actually do research and write a report about: privileged people control land use decisions in local communities.

This is my very unsurprised face.

From City Lab:

Political science professor Katherine Levine Einstein surveyed all of the minutes for zoning and planning meetings about housing across 97 cities and counties in Massachusetts.

“In every single city and county we studied, the advantaged dominated the proceedings,” Einstein said at a recent Brookings Institution panel on housing. Residents who are older, men, longtime residents, local voters, and homeowners are much more likely to participate in these meetings. And they are much more likely to oppose new construction than the general public.

Residents who oppose new housing are also whiter. The population of Lawrence is 87 percent Latino or Latina, for example. But during 80 planning and zoning meetings, only one resident who spoke had an Hispanic surname, Einstein said.


[I]n the wake of urban renewal, neighborhoods have much greater say in deciding their own destiny today. Yet the last 40 years have shown that local control enables people with greater social power to steer the process.

And it’s no surprise that those are the same people who brought Alameda Measure A which has pretty much dictated much of the housing development in Alameda for the most recent decades until the State government stepped in.

We’re still seeing the legacy of the “advantaged” dominating the proceedings when we look no further than the Planning Board.  Who, while discussing the General Plan revisions at one of their last meetings, really showed their conservative streak in discussing land use issues.  This is the legacy of Trish Spencer and her appointees to that commission.


As housing affordability and inequality become national political issues, the people who have long dominated those meetings are starting to see their anti-development agenda upended. Cities are gaining political traction for policies that once seemed out of the question. The newest tool that cities are deploying in the ongoing fight against segregation and housing inequality is to let their streets get denser, in what is known as upzoning. Making zoning more progressive still faces awfully long odds, though, which makes this strategy a question of policy and politics.

“Pure unadulterated local control, not just at a city level, but at a neighborhood level, has not worked for housing,” [California State Senator Scott] Wiener says.


  1. Wall Street controls housing Wall Street Rental Empire study.

    Comment by vigi — May 22, 2019 @ 12:39 pm

  2. A similar story in Connecticut with this recent dig via ProPublica:

    Comment by RAsheed ☥ Shabazz (@Rasheed_Shabazz) — May 28, 2019 @ 10:25 am

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