Blogging Bayport Alameda

January 17, 2020

Room to grow

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:07 am

On Monday night, one of the most disappointing phrases that was repeated in multiple public comments was “rat trap” to describe multifamily housing.  A second speaker went on to compare these units to Styrofoam cups as well.   It was incredibly dehumanizing language to use and, while it’s not surprising that it would be used by A/26 supporters, the language became problematic when it was used by a Planning Board member from the dais.

He was, rightly, called out about it and he quickly apologized for using the language.


It’s really important that, when people make mistakes, that they’re allowed the room to reflect, understand the impact, and apologize for their actions.  When we insist on continuing to flagellate people, who have already expressed remorse and a desire to do better, it feels like we’re trying to find a justification to continue to be upset.

In this case, it wasn’t great in context but based on the policy decision pushed by this Planning Board member here, I can see how he wanted to bring people with him who would naturally be opposed to any modifications of A/26.  While I know that I am on the extreme side when it comes to A/26, I can appreciate the work of more moderate policy makers to ease the reluctant into doing the right thing.  In the end it will still take a majority of voters to over turn A/26 and it will take Alamedans with more moderate positions on A/26 in addition to folks like me who were ready to vote yesterday.

I went ahead and transcribed the majority of this member’s comments because I think that what he is saying is very reasonable and should resonate more with the reluctant among us.  He’s not trying to convince the already converted but rather the folks who are concerned about the housing crisis but may have issues of trusting our elected leaders in the long run.

I would like to thank staff for their work and I appreciate everyone coming to speak.  I would say that the person who stood up for staff is absolutely correct.  It is absolutely okay to contradict the work but not the intent so that’s really not the Alameda way.  So as I mentioned in the beginning, Measure A is really two pieces to me.  Measure A is the prohibition on multi family that says you shall only build single family homes and duplexes , that’s it.  Period, end of the sentence.  And that has been carried over into our zoning multiple places, so even if Measure A were to disappear until there is a lot of changes it would have no effect.  The other section is the  density of 2000 sq ft per unit which is a minimum so if you’re in R1 you actually have to have 5000 sq ft, if you’re an R-2 you can have 2500 sq ft and then from there on it’s 2000 sq ft.

If we were to suddenly make it go away we would be very concerned about our CC district, our Community Commercial, is that what CC stands for?  Because there would actually be no limit on density in that area because we missed it.  It doesn’t have a density restriction.

Many people talked about the nature of our communities where they say there are multifamily homes and you don’t know it because these Victorians have been converted to four or nine or three or six units or two and the people are living there and they were converted way before Measure A was put forward.  My unit was converted in 1953, it’s probably the only reason the building is left and the other four buildings in a row are all gone.  One for the giant O rat trap.  But they were also done in the 40s and the 50s.  That since then we have passed many ordinances to protect our community, the feel of our neighborhoods.  The design ordinance, the design review ordinance, the historical preservation ordinance, the height limit ordinance, all of these things are things that did not exist back then.  And yes, the City Council could repeal them on a whim, hopefully they would not and hopefully you all would show up at that meeting, scold them for even thinking about it.

The one aspect of the single family home being able to build triplexes and quadplexes I think is one that, to me, is absolutely one that is a barrier to affordable housing.  Someone was talking about fairness, I have my house, but it’s a single family home, but my neighbor had theirs converted in the 1940s, so why is it that I can’t?  The conversion of the interior of some of these large Victorians to provide housing, be it as a boarding house or as separate units is something that is much more cost effective then building an ADU.  The restrictions on ADU make it such the you can become a duplex  but not really a triplex or a quadplex, so I would be…the point of the thing is that it’s not about timing .  We were asked to provide commentary on: are these good policies, are these good land use policies. We’re not here to say, yes, this is a terrible time to do it, you should delay.  That’s not what we’re asked for, we’re policy, not politics.

The section one I would be recommending that they should consider removing section one, so the removing of the “There shall be no”, well what it really says it that there shall be only single family homes and duplexes in Alameda.   That section I would be recommending that the City Council put on the ballot and everybody should be able to get to vote on it.


  1. Where did this flagellation happen? Of whom? What I experienced was Alamedans having a Twitter conversation about a thing that happened in a public meeting. 🤔

    Comment by Gaylon — January 17, 2020 @ 6:39 am

  2. It seems that a day and a half after the Alan Teague apology re-printed above, one City Councilmember was not convinced, and Tweeted on Jan 15:

    “There’s a difference between regretting saying something and being truly sorry for the word choice and all it implied/stood for. Do better. Be better.”

    Comment by MP — January 17, 2020 @ 9:16 am

  3. Alan Teague is one of the hardest working members on the Planning Board. I have worked with him since the day he was appointed and find him a man who researches each issue brought before the board and makes a fair, impartial, and constructive contribution…always having the public good in mind. Alan is a man of highest integrity.

    Comment by Ron Curtis — January 17, 2020 @ 9:59 am

  4. We have a huge rat that runs through our side yard into our neighbors single family backyard to live/raise its babies. It’s so annoying, the thing is as big as a cat and has gnawed through the fence. Never heard of this “rat trap” term…seems like everyone got a script.

    Comment by michonnekatana — January 17, 2020 @ 6:53 pm

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