Blogging Bayport Alameda

February 7, 2020

Shift in the conversation

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

Even with set backs like SB 50 not passing, it still feels like today there is a change in the air around how we talk about housing and the responsibility of local government to examine its role in exacerbating the housing crisis.  I’ve been reflecting a lot about how Alameda was when I first started this blog (mostly because the passing of Barbara Kahn had me thinking about when I first met her) and discussing housing and development even 14 years ago seemed like such a verboten topic.

But now, we regularly see people challenging the status quo when it comes to housing issues and it’s glorious.   That we had a public hearing about the “third rail of Alameda politics” A/26 and it was relatively benign definitely gives me hope for the future.

And with other jurisdictions across the United States getting rid of single family zoning to encourage more affordable forms of housing and folks actively talking about the need for more housing overall, it feels as though we’ve reached a new plateau around how we think and communicate about housing.

Of course once there’s a NY Times column about the issue, well then maybe the idea has hit the mainstream.


Why — when the case for some better way of living has become so painfully obvious — can’t California quit propping up its endless rows of single-family houses? Why can’t so much of America? And what level of extreme unlivability is it going to take to finally convince us that there isn’t enough space for all of us to live as if space is infinite?

In an era constrained by sustainability and affordability, a big house with a backyard should be a rarity. Much of California is straining under its own success: We have too many people and too few places for them to live, offered at too-high prices, in too many areas touched-by-climate-change-related menaces, like wildfires, all too far from where people work. And the solution is so painfully obvious it feels almost reductive to point it out: Make it legal to build more housing that houses more people.

Increasing density by replacing single-family homes with multifamily ones would be a boon to our efforts to address climate change, and it would help with affordability.

First, there is nothing especially admirable about the development of single-family zoning in America. Though the policy is now defended as a way to maintain the ineffable “local character” of neighborhoods, single-family zoning has a history in segregation. As the historian Richard Rothstein has documented, single-family zoning was one of the many ways white homeowners and politicians kept African-Americans out of suburbs.

1 Comment »

  1. I’m all for putting A/26 on the ballot, I honestly believe it will lose.

    Comment by trumpisnotmypresident — February 7, 2020 @ 10:11 am

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