Blogging Bayport Alameda

November 13, 2020

Elections have consequences

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:03 am

Looks like the leaders of ACT are in full “oh shit” mode now that they’ve realized what the failure of Measure Z means from a practical standpoint. As folks have pointed out time and time again is that A/26 remains intact because the City Council over the years has, for all purposes, ignored the existence of A/26 in planning land use policy. Through the density bonus ordinance and the multi-family housing overlay we’ve gotten around scrutiny from the state over the existence of A/26 in our charter because we’ve all just seemed to agree that we’re going to violate that part of the charter without consequence.

However, now that the voters of the city of Alameda have opted to defeat Measure Z which would have removed from the charter all of the provisions of A/26 we’re left in quite a pickle. The only thing that we can surmise from the vote is that voters want to double down on A/26 and citizens of Alameda can no longer expect their City Council to continue to violate the City Charter by ignoring A/26.

With that, Vice Mayor John Knox White has a Council Referral on next Tuesday’s agenda to start the process of aligning our land use policy with the will of the voters:

With Measure Z’s demise, staff should return to the meeting on ABAG RHNA methodology with steps to ensure that our zoning and general plan are aligned with our recently re-affirmed City Charter. These would include:

•   Return at the special meeting with what steps would be needed to take action towards compliance

•    Identify communications necessary to region and state re: ability to remain compliant with housing law and meet our current and future RHNA numbers

•    Identify community impacts related to complying with recent vote

•   Identify legal risks that can be disclosed to the public for complying and not complying with Article 26

While ACT believes that the vote on election day was just to keep the status quo, the status quo is in violation of the A/26. If the argument is, yes, we should continue to violate the City Charter, I have a very long, hard side-eye for that argument.

It’s important, given this vote that we, as a city, understand exactly what the impacts of the vote are and we should not expect our City Council to continue violating the City Charter because we thought a no on Measure Z would mean everything stays the same. After all, we had one City Council candidate running around saying Measure Z would mean wide scale demolition of homes all over Alameda and that A/26 should be protected at all costs.

If we align our General Plan and our new Housing Element (even if we get the smaller number of units) with a reaffirmed A/26 (and not allowing for any new multifamily housing overlays), we’re not going to be able to meet our numbers and should have some plan. I can’t wait to hear pro A/26ers tell the Council they need to continue to ignore A/26 and continue to violate the City Charter.


  1. Some interesting preliminary numbers from the Alameda League of Women Voters about the Measure Z and City Council campaigns and election. No easy correlations here as different dynamics are obviously at play in the two different races and the money totals here don’t capture everything. Still, this might urge some caution before plunging into full confrontation with Measure A.

    Council candidates supporting Measure Z (Oddie 18.6% & Vella 22.6%) = 41.2% approx. of total City Council votes

    Campaign funding: Oddie $85k approx, Vella $110k approx. (combined approx 83% of $235k total in City Council race)

    Council candidates opposing or ambivalent Measure Z (Codiga 18.2%, White 20%, Spencer 20.1%) = 58.3% approx. of total City Council votes

    Campaign funding: White $10k approx, Spencer $12k approx, Codiga $18k approx. (combined approx 17% of $235 total in City Council race)

    Yes on Measure Z 40% of vote
    Campaign funding $95k = 86% of $110k total on Measure Z

    No on Measure Z 60% of vote
    Campaign funding $15k = 14% of $110k total on Measure Z

    And Measure A/A26 does not stifle all action by the Council. Put another way, not all Council action “violates” Measure A:

    “The City Council also had plenary power to enact Ordinance 2784, and it acted within its powers when it determined that the definition of “dwelling” did not extend to work/live studios. The City Council’s conclusion that Measure A prohibited the construction of multiple dwelling units only in certain districts or zones was also valid in light of the fact that it had previously defined the term “multiple dwelling units” as a “residential building … located in districts or zones authorized therefor. …” Because the prohibition against multiple dwelling units applied only to certain districts or zones, the City Council acted reasonably in limiting the construction of work/live studios to commercial and industrial areas of the City.”

    Matthew v. City of Alameda (Cal. Ct. App., Apr. 19, 2007, No. A113144)

    Comment by MP — November 13, 2020 @ 7:52 am

    • As an example, the main post seems to suggest that the density bonus ordinance adopted by the city council is a violation of the city charter. This is not any sort of complete analysis, but state law seems to require local governments to adopt ordinances to implement the state density bonus law. Government Code 65915. (a) (1): “…… A city, county, or city and county shall adopt an ordinance that specifies how compliance with this section will be…” Maybe our local ordinance was not adopted pursuant to 65915, but if it was (or was adopted pursuant to a similar state law), I think it would be hard to argue that the Council “violated” the charter (which is subordinate to state law) by adopting an ordinance pursuant to 65915 or similar state law.

      Comment by MP — November 13, 2020 @ 8:05 am

  2. “The only thing that we can surmise from the vote is that voters want to double down on A/26 and citizens of Alameda can no longer expect their City Council to continue to violate the City Charter by ignoring A/26.” Do you really believe that this is the sole and exclusive reason(s) that 25,000 plus voters defeated Measure Z? A rejection of the complete repeal of A/26 does not equate to an affirmation of the charter amendment.

    Comment by Jeff Cambra — November 13, 2020 @ 7:59 am

    • There was more than one motivation behind the original 1973 Measure. Some voted for architectural reasons, others for traffic, for example.

      There surely was more than one driver of this year’s vote as well. One that should be considered, and so in this exchange hasn’t, is that some potion of voters explicitly and completely backed the original measure. These voters disliked the city ignoring the charter and voted to affirm if and reject its bastardization.

      Comment by dave — November 13, 2020 @ 8:23 am

      • Hey Dave. Agreed on both the multiple motivations for both establishing A/26 back in the day and the multiple reasons for either trying to change it in a particular way or rejecting the specific way the Council decided to change it (by removing it altogether). I do see their action differently. I think the Council was well within its jurisdiction to provide the voters “with the opportunity to reconsider A/26.” The issue might be the binary choice voters were given. So, while the 25000 voters were not interested in the wholesale repeal of A/26, which was their only other choice, they may still have an interest in amending the provision to accomplish other objectives.

        Comment by Jeff Cambra — November 13, 2020 @ 11:43 am

        • A very wise and thoughtful fellow has suggested that a partial repeal of 26, in which repeal is confined to areas of new development, would help those areas match the existing mixed use nature of the rest of the city AND be easily passed by voters. The zealots chose to put dogma instead pragmatism on the ballot, though, and zealotry was soundly defeated.

          Comment by dave — November 13, 2020 @ 1:29 pm

        • In the interest of promoting effective communication, I might reframe your comment along these lines:

          While it is clear that the greater majority of voters rejected the full repeal of A/26, it does not mean that they reaffirm and support the negative impacts the Article has on the environment and equity. Perhaps voters would be willing to support an amendment jointly drafted by more stakeholders that “attempted” to address as many of the community’s concerns (environment, equity, traffic mitigation, historical preservation, etc. ) as possible would have a better chance of getting 60% affirmative approval.

          Comment by Jeff Cambra — November 13, 2020 @ 2:18 pm

  3. Congratulations to Trish Spencer, who overcame a vicious campaign of lies against her and was the only candidate fully against Measure Z.

    Meanwhile, JKW is in the middle of further destroying his political credibility with a petty and self-serving attempt to attack the voters of Alameda who overwhelmingly rejected Measure Z. Here’s what JKW thinks about the anti-Z voters:

    “Those voters were fools, he suggested, having been taken in by “false statements and false promises” made by the measure’s opponents. (In contrast, of course, to the truth spoken by Mr. Knox White himself.) What’s worse, they were scofflaws, having signified by their votes that “they do not support us following state law.”

    The Vice Mayor ended with what we believe is called a passive-aggressive flourish. The voters were gullible miscreants, but, as a Council member, he was bound to “stand behind” them. So he needed advice from staff about, among other things, just “what communications are going to be necessary now that the City has a policy that is out of compliance with what the state says is required. . . .”

    Too bad proponents of Measure Z didn’t take that $95,000 provided by developers and the $85,000 spent on Oddie (to finish 4th out of 5) and donate it to homeless charities in Alameda, instead of trying to convince Alamedans they were racist.

    Comment by Nowyouknow — November 13, 2020 @ 8:35 am

    • Nowyouknow, I realize that truth doesn’t really matter to you, and grammar may also not be a strong point, but John Knox White didn’t actually say the things you attribute to them. The parts outside of quotes in sullwolds latest treaty are words he made up and attributed to Mr. Knox White. Maybe change your handle to Iknownothing?

      Comment by notadave — November 13, 2020 @ 9:09 am

  4. Lauren, you say above that, “I can’t wait to hear pro A/26ers tell the Council they need to continue to ignore A/26 and continue to violate the City Charter”. You need not wait any longer. See my letter below. I have not received a reply.

    Dear Council Member Knox-White:

    I am writing to request clarification of your above captioned referral at This will be posted as an open letter on Nextdoor so that the public can benefit from your response so as to enable informed public comment on the matter on Nov. 17.

    You are proposing that, “With Measure Z’s demise, staff should return to the meeting on ABAG RHNA methodology with steps to ensure that our zoning and general plan are aligned with our recently re-affirmed City Charter.” However, my understanding is that the voter rejection of Measure Z did nothing more than retain the status quo.

    Our zoning and general plan are aligned with the City Charter except in the instance where pre-empted by the State law requirement that we upzone sufficient land to meet the our very low and low income dwelling allocation assigned to us by ABAG. In our current 2015-2022 Housing Element we accomplished this by placing a multi-family zoning overlay on enough land to meet that requirement. There is no impediment to placing the same overlay on enough additional land to meet our 2023-2031 obligation.

    Based on the above it is difficult for me and others to understand your request. I am hoping that you will provide clarification by posting a response to this letter on Nextdoor well before the Nov. 17 meeting.


    Paul S Foreman

    Comment by Paul Foreman — November 13, 2020 @ 10:26 am

    • Paul Foreman – you seem to be conveniently ignoring that the multi-family zoning overlay IS a direct violation of Article 26. Either we uphold the charter, or we don’t – there’s no carve-out in Article 26 related to new multifamily builds. Your “No on Z” campaign fliers and website specifically say we need to preserve Article 26. I’m sorry, but I’m growing weary of ACT’s contortionist logic and hypocrisy, and specifically your culpability. ACT ran on a campaign of keeping corruption out of city hall, and yet your group (ACT/ABA) endorsed Trish Spencer, who’s the most controversial and corrupt political figure we’ve had in years. Perhaps you need to take a break from Alameda politics, because you’re doing more harm than good. You’re like Alameda’s Rudy Giuliani, drawing on your experience and reputation to push terribly misguided agendas. That is your legacy, Paul Foreman.

      Comment by Reality — November 13, 2020 @ 10:47 am

  5. What a waste of time and energy. Measure A is overridden by state laws and has been for years. Measure Z was only going to clean up the Charter to reflect the reality. But the fact that Measure Z did not pass does not change the underlying reality. This really isn’t all that different than some states that still have unenforceable laws against cohabitation, oral sex or whatnot.

    Measure Z did not pass. Our Charter is not in compliance with state law. State law prevails. Measure A will remain in the Charter, but cannot really be enforced. Surely there are actual issues that the City Council would like to address other than ginning up more support for Trish Spencer and her minions on this non issue.

    Comment by JohnB — November 13, 2020 @ 1:50 pm

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