Blogging Bayport Alameda

June 18, 2020

Tearing down monuments

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:08 am

I have to say that I’m having some whiplash at how the quickly the tide has seemed to turn on A/26.  Which is why I’m still flummoxed about the decision to bifurcate A/26 into A/26-1 and A/26-3 and that we’re still going to have the spectre of A/26 over this City.  It feels like now is the time to tap into the attention into systemic racism that has shaped this country and do what we can to slough off the monuments from the past which have ill served this city and race relations.  There’s still time for the City Council majority — the holdouts — to bring the issue back and do the right thing.

But let’s talk about the speed at which we’re now ready to talk about A/26 and it’s legacy.  When a regional elected official is also willing to say it’s time for A/26 to go you know this issue has hit a tipping point”

It actually feels good to not be one of the few to shout into the void about A/26 and its racist impacts.  I was revisiting some of my older posts on the issue and I ran across a set that I had written about six years ago when the issue of redlining was entering the national dialog and Ta-Nehisi Coates was broaching the subject of reparations.  Let’s just say, based on the comments, some folks were not too pleased by making the connection between systemic racism, redlining, reparations, and A/26.

For those interested, in order:

From one of the posts:

Some people want to frame Measure A as simply protecting Victorians and preventing apartment buildings from displacing them and in today’s frame of reference it may have seemed benign, after all density has always been a trigger word. But the lead up to the 1973 vote saw a lot of tension around multifamily housing in the Bay Area starting with the passage of a Fair Housing act that attempted to restrict housing discrimination based on race in 1964. The passage of a ballot measure, Prop 14, in the same year which revoked the Rumford Act (fair housing). And the Supreme Court overturning Prop 14 and reinstating the Rumford Act in 1966. Articles in the newspapers about the housing situation in Oakland: a mismatch of affordable housing units and the number of families living at poverty level. Oakland’s mayor in the late 60s asking surrounding communities to build their fair share of affordable housing. All of this and more is the context in which Measure A was passed, yet we are to believe that Alameda was so race blind in 1973 that none of this was relevant and that it was truly just to preserve Victorians?

And from the last post:

It was especially of interest to me, as a non white person, to be told what is racist and what is not. It was interesting to see folks take umbrage at the fact that even having the conversation of what Alameda was and how it got there (see Chip Johnson piece) was to be called a “racist.” It was interesting to be told that bringing up race in context of Measure A was somehow “race baiting.” It was interesting to have my agenda questioned because I have an opinion that was somehow in opposition to what some people felt about the same topic. It was interesting to be told that because my opinions are different that I don’t care about the quality of life of Alamedans. It was interesting that I was “apologizing” for Chip Johnson even though my only reference was to muse on how new residents may not have understood the racial context that Chip Johnson was referring to. It’s interesting that someone concluded that I must be trying to gain “points” with political powers that be and that I am some sort of “mouthpiece” for those powers that be because that person disagreed with my opinion. It’s interesting that someone posted yearbook photos of a track team from the 50s as though the existence of Black folks in 1950 Alameda is indicative of something other than the fact that Black people existed in Alameda in the 1950s. It’s interesting that some folks were so interested in talking about everything including whether I intended to sell my home when the market rebounded except for whether or not race relations may have played a role in the passage of Measure A.

Instead of asking why or discussing why some people may perceive Measure A as exclusionary toward people of color and low-income families folks will talk about everything else, and that, I think, speaks volumes. Some folks would rather dwell on how offended they are because in some roundabout way they perceived that they are being called racists because they think Measure A is a good thing.

I mean, if that’s the kind of reception I was getting in 2014, I can only imagine how folks like Clayton Guyton and Modessa Henderson were treated when they actually sued the City over A/26.  The fact that there is an openness to the dialog around A/26 means that in six years Alameda has come much farther than it had from 1973 – 2014.   This is why it’s incumbent on our City Council to take that progress and make sure it doesn’t go to waste.  Revisit A/26, put it all out there for folks to judge if they want to tear down that exclusionary legacy that has haunted Alameda for the last 40 some odd years or if we’ll continue to make excuses for its existence.


  1. WIll this apply fo Harbor Bay too, or will they once again be preferred like they are in so many aspects, like parking issues?

    Comment by Djs — June 18, 2020 @ 6:17 am

  2. “You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.” — Rahm Emanuel, paraphrasing many others.

    Comment by Hey You! — June 18, 2020 @ 6:41 am

    • So true. There’s actually plenty of housing being put up right now at the Base, and around town, rents are down all over the Bay Area, mortgage rates are beyond reasonable and housing prices have dropped. Oh yeah, but we need to fight off those 1970s racists by allowing present day property owners to level Victorians to put up big box housing. Hard to see this as anything other than political gamesmanship where construction unions and large property owners will profit.

      Comment by Really — June 18, 2020 @ 2:44 pm

    • Rahm is a snake.

      Comment by michonnekatana — June 18, 2020 @ 11:11 pm

  3. Thanks for posting the inaccurate East Bay Times article that completely ignores the bifurcation. Unless repeal of Measure A in full is on the ballot, repeal of Measure A is not on the ballot.

    Comment by Gaylon — June 18, 2020 @ 7:39 am

  4. it’s interesting what a difference a few weeks makes. Last month I told the mayor and her political consultant that the strongest argument for doing away with Measure A or Article 26 if you will, was racial justice, that it was essentially a stain on our city’s history for how it had re-enforced exclusion. They were more interested in the argument for increasing the supply of housing. I think that argument appeals to lots of people but a big chunk of Alameda simply doesn’t care, all they see is traffic, density and the loss of small town peace and quiet, however they choose to define it for themselves.

    Now, we’ll see. Everyone is jumping on the racial justice band wagon. The argument for how zoning laws and no-growth controls is institutional racism writ large will be much stronger and will actually begin to come into focus for many people who would never have been able to connect the dots. It took me a long time to understand the connections as much as I suspected they were there.


    Comment by Laura Thomas — June 18, 2020 @ 10:01 am

  5. There were two main reasons councilmembers gave for not seconding JKW’s motion: (1) lack of public participation and (2) the absence of a plan to replace 26-3 in the code. Both are red herrings.

    In terms of process, we’ve had plenty of hearings and notice on Article 26 (old Measure A). Nothing has been debated more in Alameda. In any event, the community has months ahead of it to debate 26-3 before the November election.

    As for the absence of a plan for a new density law, that’s easily solved. Our councilmembers include lawyers and they are not novices in the legislative arena. They know full well there is an easy and very common solution: put it on the ballot in November and have the repeal effective a year or more out. In November, we can approve a repeal of 26-1 that is effective immediately and a repeal of 26-3 that is effective 1/1/2021 or 7/1/2021, getting it out of the charter and giving the City all the time needed to amend or add relevant ordinances on density.

    The failure to put 26-3 on the ballot with 26-1 is unfair to those in desperate need of affordable housing and unfair to voters who should be allowed to participate in a true referendum on Article 26, not a split-the-baby bifurcated and potentially confusing process.

    When better to put this to the voters then November 2020 when there will be a progressive and affordable-housing-friendly voter turnout to rival all turnouts?

    There’s still time, barely, to make this happen.

    Comment by Jono Soglin — June 18, 2020 @ 1:41 pm

    • that should read the repeal of 26-3 can be effective “1/1/2022 or 7/1/2022, or later,” i.e. more than a year after the election. Point is the ballot proposal can build in substantial time for a debate on what, if anything, replaces 26-3’s density provision.

      Comment by Jono Soglin — June 18, 2020 @ 1:46 pm

  6. The strongest argument for getting rid of A/26 would be a new estuary crossing/bridge/tube. I don’t think COVID will help either. It’s pretty clear that population density increases the risk of infection.

    Comment by michonnekatana — June 18, 2020 @ 11:19 pm

    • It’s pretty clear that population density increases the risk of infection.

      Nah. It still goes back to an issue of systemic inequalities that we have built into our cities:

      An analysis from the housing-focused Furman Center at New York University lays out this answer more starkly: Mortality rates were higher in neighborhoods with lower incomes and less density across the geographic space but more density in a given home. That is, more people sharing a room or an apartment. Parts of the city with more renters living in overcrowded conditions had higher levels of infection, even though they had lower population density.

      On May 18, statistics finally confirmed what the Furman Center analysis had implied. The New York City Department of Health released numbers on deaths from Covid-19 by zip code, and the accompanying map is clarifying: The death rate has been higher in poorer neighborhoods where more people of color live. When Covid-19 came to New York City, rich people threw their Rimowa rolling bags into their Audi Q8s and decamped. But people who are less likely to have access to health care, less likely to have jobs they can do from home, more likely to share housing—as usual, they’re the ones who bear the brunt of the disease. Population density hasn’t been the issue, except on the spatial scale where it’s a proxy for inequality.

      Comment by Lauren Do — June 19, 2020 @ 6:02 am

      • I am concerned about decreased timely access to emergency and urgent health care, since there is none here for me. Time to Sutter is my priority. After that is addressed, I’ll listen.

        Comment by Dj — June 22, 2020 @ 1:51 pm

  7. I’m pleased to see a coalition coming together to reject Measure A, the 47-year old discriminatory housing policy that bans multi-family housing in Alameda. Putting Measure A on the November ballot was a challenge, even for some allies, but I was pleased that the City Council voted 4-1 to put it to a city-wide vote. I’m optimistic that, with a strong majority vote in November, we can finally have a housing policy that better reflects who we are as a city and addresses both the affordable housing shortage and longstanding issues of racial inequality. I look forward to working with Laura Thomas and Renewed HOPE, and the many others who have been fighting for years to repeal this unjust housing law.

    Comment by Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft — June 24, 2020 @ 8:52 am

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