Blogging Bayport Alameda

February 5, 2020

Reframing history

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:05 am

It’s a bit old but I’ve been meaning to point to Rasheed Shabazz’s commentary in the Alameda Sun from a few weeks ago around A/26.  What I really appreciate about Rasheed Shabazz is that we finally have a historian in Alameda who is examining Alameda’s history through a lens that was probably never used before in the past.

Highlights from that Alameda Sun commentary:

While the 1960s and 1970s brought an increased national consciousness of the environment and racism, Alameda experienced increased racial residential segregation and exclusion. The Island’s electorate supported Proposition 14, a statewide initiative overturning fair housing legislation, and the Alameda Housing Authority displaced thousands of Black tenants.

How many people knew this about Alameda’s history and understood its relevance to Alameda’s vote on A/26.


Affordable housing advocates also expressed concerns about Measure A. HOPE (Housing Opportunities Provided Equally) did not support the ban on multiples, “as there is no time-limit specified, and as multiples are the acknowledged way providing more low- and moderate-priced housing units,” according to its 1973 newsletter. The Alameda NAACP’s branch president John Ware and former Housing Authority Commissioner Al DeWitt both opposed Measure A, each referenced racial prejudice or fair housing in other endorsements.

On three occasions, however, housing advocates fought the city through legal action to force Alameda to agree to provide housing for low-income households. In 1980, HOPE and three low-income residents sued Alameda. According to the lawsuit, “The suit challenges actions of the city alleged to frustrate the development of low-income housing in Alameda and to perpetuate the non-Black character of Alameda.” That case was dismissed without prejudice.

In 1989, two Black tenants living in the Buena Vista Apartments sued the City of Alameda for discriminatory housing policies. An Alameda County judge preliminarily ruled that the city’s housing policies discriminated against the poor. Before judgment could be reached, the city settled the suit to save Measure A. The settlement allowed for an exemption to Measure A to replace the units “lost” when the Buena Vistas converted from subsidized to market rate.

And this conclusion is important because while the intent of A/26 may not have been racial exclusion, the outcome was.

Reviewing the original statements of Measure A supporters and opponents can eliminate historical fictions that have emerged. Recovering the multiple legal challenges by Black residents and fair housing advocates provides an alternative history too often ignored.


  1. As a member of Renewed Hope Housing Advocates for over two decades, I can attest to the racial injustice, intended or not, of the 1978 charter ban on multi-family homes. To redress that injustice and others against lower income residents, shortly after 2000 Renewed Hope sued the City successfully to promote the construction of affordable housing by inclusionary zoning at Alameda Point. Around 2010 we also informed the City that unless it complied with state housing element law after decades of non-compliance, we would sue again. Fortunately, the City complied without a suit.

    As we predicted, the restrictions on multifamily homes in the charter have been a slow growing cancer in our community – first denying low income residents homes, and now denying more and more moderate income sons and daughters homes as well. In Alameda and California, the privileges of wealthier residents at the expense of the poor, and recently increasing parts middle class, of which the charter housing ban is just one example, are threatening social order – e.g. growing homeless camps, drug dependence and businesses fleeing the State.

    By clarifying the adverse impacts of past housing regulations, Rasheed Shabazz provides not only the basis we need to address past racial discrimination, but also current and future systemic discrimination whereby the government unsustainably transfers wealth from those with lower incomes to those with higher incomes.

    Comment by 2wheelsmith — February 5, 2020 @ 8:57 am

    • great post 2wheelsmith, dead on track, some people my age just don’t like to hear these things. and that’s to bad.

      Comment by trumpisnotmypresident — February 5, 2020 @ 2:59 pm

  2. Alameda Citizens’ Taskforce needs to learn the historical context in which they are playing. Or maybe some of them already understand it.

    Comment by BC — February 5, 2020 @ 2:04 pm

    • ACTF IS the historical context. They lived it. Younger people / newbies are armchair quarterbacking it.

      Comment by vigi — February 7, 2020 @ 3:52 pm

      • That is exactly my point. Which makes what they’re up to all the worse.

        Comment by BC — February 7, 2020 @ 5:55 pm

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