Blogging Bayport Alameda

November 12, 2020

Parachuting in

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

It’s so exhausting when people try to parachute into an issue and then kitchen sink it to try to get whatever outcome they’re seeking. Case in point the RHNA allocation, ACT and friends have decided to hone in on “natural hazards” as the reason why Alameda should get a lower allocation that everyone else is the Bay Area because, unfortunately for Alameda, there’s no “we’re an island” map to point to. As I wrote about yesterday, the natural hazards map shows a lot of other cities in hazard areas. The city which would be transferred the bulk of Alameda’s units if the CoCoCo preference was selected based on the druthers of ACT, Tony Daysog, and company would be Oakland who has the same type of natural hazard designation as Alameda.

But what’s even more laughable about this tactic some folks in Alameda are taking is that natural hazards were already addressed in October when the methodology was crafted. Specifically this is what the committee determined would guide the methodology:

  1. More housing should go to jurisdictions with more jobs than housing and to communities exhibiting racial and economic exclusion
  2. The methodology should focus on:
    • Equity, as represented by High Opportunity Areas
    • Relationship between housing and jobs; however, no consensus on specific factor
  3. Equity factors need to be part of total allocation, not just income allocation
  4. Do not limit allocations based on past RHNA
  5. Housing in high hazard areas is a concern, but RHNA may not be the best tool to address it

See that last line? The document goes even further to explain their reasoning on why not take into account the high/natural hazards factor:

Including the Blueprint in the RHNA methodology also addresses concerns about natural hazards. While there is understandably considerable concern among committee members about ensuring Bay Area communities grow in ways that will minimize their potential risks from natural hazards—particularly wildfires—HMC members did not support adding a hazards-related factor to the methodology. The issue of wildfire risk is specifically addressed in the Plan Bay Area 2050 Blueprint, which is used as the baseline allocation for the RHNA methodology. The Blueprint does not focus additional growth in areas with high wildfire risks. Local governments will have the opportunity to consider the most appropriate places for planning for housing in lower-risk areas when they update the Housing Elements of their General Plans.

Because I wonder how inner ring cities like Alameda would have fared in a high/natural hazard factor considering that it is not at risk of wildfires and has a similar risk to other cities of sea level rise, earthquakes, and liquefaction.

The ABAG Regional Planning Committee meets today, it is a public hearing so I imagine that some Alamedans will come on and embarrass the city by asking for the committee to include in the methodology a factor which was already weighed and determined to be not right for the RHNA process. Whatever, Trish Spencer used to be our rep on ABAG so we’re kinda used to being embarrassed on a regional level.


  1. I am fully aware of the report of the ABAG Executive director which you quote extensively above. I take issue with the very last sentence contained in your quotation. “Local governments will have the opportunity to consider the most appropriate places for planning for housing in lower-risk areas when they update the Housing Elements of their General Plans.” That sentence does not hold true in Alameda. My letter to ABAG expressing that disagreement is below. It is neither “laughable”, nor an embarrassment to Alameda. I invite your serious critique of the same.

    Dear Regional Planning Committee Chairperson Mitchoff and Committee Members:

    The purpose of this letter is to express my concern with the ABAG Executive Board’s tentative adoption of a methodology that does not include natural hazards in the allocation formula. On page 5 of the Oct. 15 report of the Executive Director he comments on the decision to omit this factor from the methodology with the parting sentence, “Local governments will have the opportunity to consider the most appropriate places for planning for housing in lower-risk areas when they update the Housing Elements of their General Plans.” That may be true of most cities in the Bay area, but it is certainly not true of my City, Alameda.

    The ABAG Natural Hazard map at indicates that Alameda is among those cities with the lowest percentage of urbanized area outside of a hazard zone (less than 50%). It is obvious that the primary hazard that causes this is sea level rise. See which indicates the current projections for year 2100 are 66 inches with a storm surge level of 84 inches. A review of flood visualization maps shows that the portion of Alameda that is outside of a hazard zone is the center of the island which is already a very densely built up area. Therefore Alameda has no choice but to build new housing directly in the flood hazard zone In fact, the 4000 plus new units that have been approved in the present cycle are primarily in the flood hazard zone.

    Add to all of the above the fact that Almeda is an island with very limited ingress /egress over antiquated tubes and bridges and the fact that most of our police and fire first responders live off the island.

    None of the above is intended to argue that Alameda should not have a significant RHNA. We are a high resource City that fits very well into the equity factor. However, a fair allocation demands that our negative natural hazards factor should be an element of the final allocation.To fail to do so endangers not only present residents but also those who will be occupying the new housing.


    Paul S Foreman

    Comment by Paul Foreman — November 12, 2020 @ 7:11 am

    • All cities are at risk of natural disasters. Alameda is one of the few with an actual ferry fleet that would help service it in a natural disaster.

      Tell the Berkeley Hills, which had evacuation warnings this summer due to threat of fire, that their fire threat compounded with the same risk from earthquakes are less important than Alameda’s.

      Comment by Lauren Do — November 12, 2020 @ 10:15 am

    • For what it’s worth, as a property owner in Alameda, I’m a bit nonplussed by Alameda Citizens Task Force, former mayor Spencer, and CM Daysog apparently all settling on a strategy of saying Alameda is a uniquely dangerous place to live. What I keep hearing are arguments that those of us who live here should actually have lower property values and higher insurance premiums.

      I don’t mean to seriously suggest that new buyers in Alameda are going to read public comments at a gov’t meeting or an insurance adjuster cares what councilmembers claim. And I imagine it will be a different objection the next time there is something to oppose. But still, it’s disappointing that folks who are against change in Alameda use whatever negative framing is at hand to do so, with disregard to the implications.

      Comment by Drew DA — November 12, 2020 @ 4:20 pm

  2. Between the old base and areas north of Bayport, plus the Del Monte building, there are a fair number of units currently under construction. Anyone know if they will go toward next RHNA number, or is that requirement over and above these pending units?

    Comment by dave — November 12, 2020 @ 7:13 am

    • If the zoned units were already counted in a previous RHNA cycle, they can’t be counted for a future cycle.

      Comment by Lauren Do — November 12, 2020 @ 10:16 am

      • When is a unit counted? When permit granted, or when ground broken, or when first available for occupancy?

        Comment by dave — November 12, 2020 @ 10:20 am

        • When it’s identified in the Housing Element to meet the RHNA allocation.

          Comment by Lauren Do — November 12, 2020 @ 10:23 am

        • Does that mean parcels/areas legally available for building x/y units or that there are plans to build? The first part happens within the municipal gov’t, the second usually requires third parties. Could a city like Atherton, which is kinda in the heart of Silicon Valley (North) – had it been given a significant allocation (which it was not) – meet its duties by upzoning large amount of its land, currently zoned and occupied by large SFR parcels, even if it would take a while for the owners to decide to subdivide or convert the SFRs into multi-unit housing?

          Looking at the map, Atherton has an area smaller but still comparable to Alameda, but with less than 1/10th the population.

          Comment by MP — November 12, 2020 @ 11:00 am

        • There do not need to be plans to build for a unit to count toward the allocation, but there can’t be barriers either. If you’re zoning property that you know will never, ever become multifamily housing that seems to not meet the spirit of what RHNA is seeking to do.

          Comment by Lauren Do — November 12, 2020 @ 11:12 am

        • I would agree. Pointing to unbuildable steep terrain would not be in the spirit. But – at the risk of overusing the Atherton example – I wonder why it is given such a low allocation. I haven’t been there for a long time, but I recall flat terrain and biggish lots – big enough to put in six-plexes. Remove zoning barriers (that I assume exist) and surely there would be an economic incentive to build. Does the RHNA methodology give deference to the existing zoning and essentially declare that Atherton is built out already; move on to next city?

          Comment by MP — November 12, 2020 @ 11:28 am

        • In the link in the original post there’s a diagram as to how units are allocated based on the proposed methodology.

          Comment by Lauren Do — November 12, 2020 @ 11:31 am

        • To get a certified Housing Element they look at zoned capacity to meet the RHNA, but a unit gets “counted” towards actually meeting your Housing Element when building permits are pulled. So North Housing/Encinal Terminals/etc. could end up applying toward the next cycle’s progress. I think if you fall short in this cycle, those units get rolled over into the next when deciding if you are “meeting your goals” for certain accountability bills as well. #ItsComplicated

          Comment by BMac — November 12, 2020 @ 3:59 pm

  3. Those are already baked in, and 2023-2030 we will need to zone for 4,900 more. That’s why we tried to make six plexes legal across the city. We are now in a pickle. Tony et al. know this.

    Comment by Gaylon — November 12, 2020 @ 7:25 am

    • Had the effort been limited to North of Buena Vista/Atlantic and West of Main, it would have easily passed. The “across the city” part is what doomed it.

      Comment by dave — November 12, 2020 @ 9:34 am

      • It’s what is required. Tony et al. know this.

        Comment by Gaylon — November 12, 2020 @ 9:55 am

      • or another words not in my part of town. just keep development on the Northside or in the West End. doesn’t sound very neighborly to me.

        Comment by trumpisalameduck — November 12, 2020 @ 11:11 am

        • The rest of the city outside those 2 areas is pretty well built out, and approx 45% of the housing is multifamily. Most people recognize the need for a mix of housing in new areas similar to that of older areas.

          Most people also see the difference between nicer old buildings and the 60s Motel 6 style of architecture that was one of the drivers of the original A/26. They don’t want the neighborhood they’ve invested a lot of money in to be bulldozed in that way.

          It’s not a matter of a failure to be neighborly, it’s wanting to preserve the neighborhood they’ve got. If the next initiative is structured to help build out the new areas, while preserving inviolate the older ones, I predict it passes handily.

          Wanna bet?

          Comment by dave — November 12, 2020 @ 5:01 pm

    • So, in other words, what was tried, because it was required, would have ended SFR zoning and voided private CCR/HOA agreements, or any other obstacle to building a 6-plex anywhere “across the city”? Dave, I’m confused.

      Comment by MP — November 12, 2020 @ 10:08 am

      • How would it have ended SFR zoning? R-1 exists all over the city of Alameda.

        Comment by Lauren Do — November 12, 2020 @ 10:10 am

        • I suppose the confusion is Gaylon’s statement that 6-plexes being “required all over the city” which seems to conflict with R-1, HOA, historic preservation and other laws/policies.

          But I stand by previous comment that the city wide nature of Z is what doomed it. The measure would have easily passed if limited to areas of new development.

          Comment by dave — November 12, 2020 @ 10:24 am

        • A/26 is already circumvented in “new” areas of development.

          Comment by Lauren Do — November 12, 2020 @ 10:26 am

        • Had it been limited in that way, would that have been sufficient to eliminate or reduce the risk to CDBGs and/or a collision with state law?

          Comment by MP — November 12, 2020 @ 10:31 am

  4. I’m pretty sure ACT is going to lose this one. I could be wrong but there does seem to be a will at the state level to override local objections and solve the housing problem that’s been fifty years in the making. In a way, you can’t blame ACT. It’s a tragedy of the commons situation. People want (I hope) housing for people, but they selfishly want it somewhere else. Every city wants the same thing, so there’s a big undersupply, which isn’t in the broad social interest. You need to solve it at a supra-city level. ACT is simply being rationally selfish.

    Comment by BC — November 12, 2020 @ 10:45 am

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