Blogging Bayport Alameda

December 1, 2020

What left to overlay, part 2

Filed under: Alameda — Tags: — Lauren Do @ 6:01 am

I know some people were really counting on Alameda Point to bear the weight of all the RHNA housing allocation and leave the rest of Alameda alone. As I pointed out yesterday there’s not that much left to overlay at Alameda Point and it’s unclear if, given the per unit penalty for housing units, if HCD would consider Alameda Point units as sufficient to meet Alameda’s RHNA. In this exercise, we’re making the assumption that we can’t count on any units at Alameda Point because of that per unit penalty.

So, where else could Alameda place some MF overlays? Well the obvious is South Shore:

At one point the former owners of South Shore had floated a development for 1215 units which would put a small dent in our RHNA number which could be anywhere from 3500 – 4800. Of course the entire zoning would need to be changed for that site (a vote of a majority of the City Council will be needed) and, naturally, the MF overlay.

This would leave another 2285 – 3585 units to find land to overlay. Arguably, the South Shore site is the biggest site available of what remains.

The next site was the hobgoblin of the campaign designed to scare Bay Farm voters: Harbor Bay Landing Shopping Center:

It’s definitely a smaller footprint than South Shore and we don’t have any plans for this particular site which are available to estimate possible units. So let’s say 400 units. Which would leave the remaining allocation at 1885 – 3185. This would also require a rezoning and a MF overlay.

Another Bay Farm site which had interest at one point is the parcel which currently hosts the Harbor Bay Club. There was a plan for 80 – 160 units:

Again would need rezoning (which is what they were trying to get during the land swap attempt). An overlay might get this site closer to the 160 units so let’s just go with that number and we’re at 1725 – 3025 units to go toward meeting our RHNA.

Then perhaps an overlay could be done over Bridgeside Shopping Center:

And Marina Village Shopping Center:

Which, we’ll be generous here and say both would be in the range of the Harbor Bay Club since they’re about the same size parcels. 160 a piece for a total of 320. Leaves us with 1405 – 2705. We’ve nearly exhausted all large shopping centers with the exception of Alameda Landing:

This listing says it covers 72 acres, and the residential which was built nearby didn’t exceed 300 units so we’ll guesstimate this one at a generous 300 units. Which leaves 1105 – 2405.

Now we have a few more options, but they’re more creative. First is the College of Alameda, there are some empty spots near the baseball field and close to In-N-Out as well as bordering RAMP.

It won’t get a ton of units but a few. Then there’s Ballena Bay:

Only Ballena Bay would need to be rezoned as the COA site is already R-4. Both of these we could, generously estimate at 300 a piece leaving between 505 – 1805 units left. Then we could overlay all historic business corridors like Park and Webster but I don’t know if it would bridge the gap of the allocation.

Of course the numbers I was guesstimating was overly generous. I didn’t add more politically fraught sites like Lum Elementary and Thompson field because it would involve many more moving pieces, but that still would leave Alameda short.


  1. Are you aware of this resistance to the Southern California RHNA? It seems that many cities are actively seeking reductions notwithstanding the fact that it shifts the numbers to other cities in the region.

    I am sure that you are aware of the shallow groundwater problem which rising sea levels will bring to Alameda. It is ironic to me that our City has been in the forefront of developing plans for this severe risk to the community, but our City Council does not see it as something to be raised with ABAG as a factor in determining our RHNA.

    Comment by Paul Foreman — December 1, 2020 @ 6:38 am

  2. Anyone else recall the angry denials by Zealots insisting that no plans for shopping centers were considered?

    Voters smelled that rat…

    Comment by dave — December 1, 2020 @ 7:22 am

    • But it wouldn’t have happened if Measure Z passed.

      Comment by MP — December 1, 2020 @ 9:10 am

    • As we said during the election, if measure Z passed, we would need to consider the shopping centers. We said this several times in fact in the face of the misinformation mailed to people in Harbor Bay.

      Comment by Zac Bowling - Housing is a human right 🥑 (@zbowling) — December 1, 2020 @ 9:35 am

      • Are you saying Thomas said “Pass Z or the shopping centers are gone?”

        Are you sure he said that?

        Comment by dave — December 1, 2020 @ 10:17 am

        • Sorry, that was for JRB, re his claim below. . Please, JRB, cite the quote in which Thomas said that.

          Comment by dave — December 1, 2020 @ 10:18 am

      • This question is for you, Zac:

        “As we said during the election, if measure Z passed, we would need to consider the shopping centers.”

        Does that mean plans for those centers were happening even if you got what you wanted (Z passing)?

        And if you do mean what you wrote, was the “misinformation mailed to people in Harbor Bay” Thomas’s letter of denial, copied in this post?

        Comment by dave — December 1, 2020 @ 10:24 am

        • Wodpress is freaking out and wouldn’t let me follow up or reply or edit my comment for some reason. Meant to say “we would *not* need to consider”

          Comment by zbowling — December 1, 2020 @ 11:04 am

    • dave – you’re terribly misunderstanding the issue. If Z had passed, the pressure to build on shopping centers would’ve greatly been reduced, because you could build out homes more strategically without using overlays, such as along shopping corridors to support small businesses. This was what city planner Andrew Thomas tried to warn us back in July. But because Z failed, these are the options we now need to seriously explore to meet RHNA housing allocations.

      Voters were sold a false promise that if Article 26 stayed in place, there would be no construction… Sorry, but the state of California and ABAG do not recognize nor care for Article 26.

      Comment by JRB — December 1, 2020 @ 9:52 am

      • From the No On Z website:

        Does Article 26 stop development in Alameda? No, Article 26 put restrictions on development but does not stop it.

        Tell me, where is the “false promise” of “no construction”?

        Comment by dave — December 1, 2020 @ 10:41 am

        • dave – you were one of many people who kept pointing out Alameda’s density and traffic as reasons to vote No on Z. This very clearly created a false correlation that Yes on Z would lead to more development, and ergo No on Z would not. So did you or Tony Daysog or Paul Foreman or Trish Spencer ever once clarified something like, “Actually, no Z will actually still lead to the same amount of construction”? No, absolutely not. I can guarantee you when the voters see more of these large construction projects happen in the next few years even with A26 still in place, most of them will feel they were fed only half-truths and false assumptions, if perhaps not outright false promises.

          Comment by JRB — December 1, 2020 @ 11:10 am

        • Answer the question: where is the “false promise” of “no construction”?

          Comment by dave — December 1, 2020 @ 11:13 am

      • JRB- You are correct that passage of Z would have allowed for smaller units and that would be a good thing. That is why I would have voted for a ballot measure approved by the 4-1 June vote of Council to repeal 26-1 and defer consideration of modifying 26-3 to 2022, with the current general plan revision process identifying the specific areas of the City that could be exempted from 26-3 (like our mixed use parcels in our business districts). However, when the same 4-1 majority in July reversed themselves and decided to attempt to repeal Art. 26 entirely and thus give Council discretion to up zone existing single family neighborhoods, that was a bridge too far for me.

        Comment by Paul Foreman — December 1, 2020 @ 1:16 pm

        • JRB I can’t speak for Tony or Trish but I have consistently stated that the repeal or retention of Art. 26 would have no impact in our housing allocation. It will be the same either way. However I also asserted that no on Z would keep our maximum density for lower income housing at 30 units/acre plus applicable density bonus, whereas yes on Z would allow Council to increase density to whatever it wished and wherever it wished.

          Comment by Paul Foreman — December 1, 2020 @ 1:47 pm

    • Nah, what people were saying was that, unlike what was being said by Tony Daysog and others, there were/are no current plans for rezoning or plans at all for Harbor Bay Shopping Center. With the failure of Z it is, as explained above, one of the few large parcels available to add a MF overlay to meet the RHNA numbers.

      As pointed out by others, removal of A/26 would have removed the pressure for the City to look at non residential sites to meet the RHNA numbers. We no longer have that option after November’s vote.

      Comment by Lauren Do — December 1, 2020 @ 10:08 am

      • A leader of the Z campaign typed above that had it won, plans would have been considered:

        “As we said during the election, if measure Z passed, we would need to consider the shopping centers.”

        Comment by dave — December 1, 2020 @ 10:33 am

        • dave – I know for a fact that Zac misspoke (either he meant to say “if Article 26 withstood” or “if Z failed,” which can be confusing because you’d want Measure Z to pass to fail Measure A, and vice versa), but please do capitalize on it to score your political points instead of contributing to a meaningful discussion of this issue.

          Comment by JRB — December 1, 2020 @ 10:53 am

        • If that’s a typo, it’s a helluva Freudian one.

          And if he did, shouldn’t you let him be the one to declare a typo?

          Comment by dave — December 1, 2020 @ 10:56 am

        • Just a typo dave.

          Comment by zbowling — December 1, 2020 @ 11:05 am

        • Fair enough, we all make typos.

          Comment by dave — December 1, 2020 @ 11:11 am

  3. If you meant your column to be absurd, you succeeded, laying out a dystopian future for Alameda, packed with tacky little houses, narrowing streets, homeless encampments, crowded thoroughfares, and without “amenities, “ like small businesses, shopping centers and health clubs. It is truly what Joe Biden called a “dark winter.”

    97% of California cities and counties don’t meet their “goals” and Governor Newsom, who is currently trying to live down his own flaunting of Covid lockdown rules, is unlikely to bring any more political or financial pressure on cities due to his national political ambitions, and a necessity to placate rebellious voters who recently kicked out four Ca, Democrat Congressmen while rejecting state-wide propositions calling for more taxation, and social engineering.

    Not happening…


    Comment by Nowyouknow — December 1, 2020 @ 7:47 am

    • PS: Trump lost. Get over it.

      Comment by john doe — December 1, 2020 @ 3:49 pm

  4. You projections as to where we will find parcels to include in our housing element inventory do demonstrate the stress we will be under to find sites, but you are missing an important mitigating factor. Andrew Thomas has a assured me on more than one occasion that we can include portions currently approved projects for which building permits have not been issued at the time when the new inventory must be submitted. One clear example is Encinal Terminals which has a capacity of close to 600 units. Even Alameda Marina units can be included to the extent that permits have not been issued as of the inventory due date. I assume that Boatworks would be another project where we could include more units. Site A may also have units not yet permitted at that date.

    I do agree with you that additional units at Alameda Point are limited. The trigger point for the $50,000/unit payment to the Navy is anything in excess of 1425 units and we have already approved about 1,000, so at best, only 425 remain.

    One more point, the overlay does not have to cover our entire allocation. It only has to cover sufficient parcels to cover our lower income allocation. ABAG is currently indicating that about 42% of our total Bay Area regional allocation is for lower income. If the 4900 unit allocation sticks, that would be 2000 units. As practical matter we will need to exceed that number to satisfy ABAG, but not the full 4900 allocation. Certainly some of our market rate allocation can be accommodated at the Art. 26 density level.

    Comment by Paul Foreman — December 1, 2020 @ 9:32 am

    • Paul – Good luck building homes with nearly 50% below market rate units. 25% at Alameda Point is already tough enough to make happen. Overturning Article 26-3 would have allowed us to build smaller affordable-by-design homes that are still market rate homes but hundreds of thousands of dollars more affordable than the larger homes currently being allowed to be built by A26. Many young professionals, empty nesters, and retirees do not need these huge new homes, and they could have helped us meet RHNA numbers with units sparsely spread out throughout the city without requiring too many of these massive development projects.

      Comment by JRB — December 1, 2020 @ 10:00 am

      • JRB, you are correct that Repealing Z would allow smaller units and that would be a very good thing, but we were not given the choice of modifying Art. 26 to allow for smaller units in discrete locations like mixed use areas. We were only given the choice of complete repeal which would have made our existing old residential districts open to high density development. Mayor Ashcraft led a 4-1 council majority to that end in June when she moved to repeal Art. 26-1 and allow modification of Art. 26-3 to be considered in an orderly fashion in the general plan revision process. I would have supported that. However, in July Council completely reversed itself which left us where we are now. Yes on Z wants to blame misinformed voters. I blame a bad decision by Council that totally misjudged the electorate.

        Comment by Paul Foreman — December 1, 2020 @ 11:45 am

        • Bingo

          A plan that protected areas already developed would have easily passed.

          Comment by dave — December 1, 2020 @ 11:49 am

    • I don’t think you can double count units for future Housing Elements which have already been used to satisfy previous Housing Elements even if building permits have not been pulled. Perhaps the city can argue that the approved master plan for Encinal Terminals is now 598 and they only counted 234 for the 2015-2023 cycle but these are really small numbers when we’re staring down 3500 – 4800 units and it doesn’t seem to be in the spirit of RHNA to count 234 units for last cycle and this upcoming cycle simply because permits were not pulled/issued. That would incentivize jurisdictions to delay issuing permits to game the system.

      The point of the exercise above is to show there is not enough land, excluding AP, to cover the entire allocation even with the overlay.

      Comment by Lauren Do — December 1, 2020 @ 10:01 am

      • Lauren, I am just relying on Mr. Thomas’s expertise here. However this not “double counting” As you have said before HCD only credits cities for permits issued, not for project approvals. Therefore the city should be able to place approved, but not permitted units in the 2023-2031 inventory. Otherwise they would be short-changed on both ends, not getting credit for these units in either the 2015-2023 or 2023-2031 cycles.

        I do understand and appreciate the point of your article today. Obviously, with each cycle locating appropriate sites gets more and more difficult.

        Comment by Paul Foreman — December 1, 2020 @ 1:33 pm

  5. I would like to see many of the RHNA allocation go to Alameda Point for obvious reasons, and I think Alameda Landing could take on an additional 300 units as you say, and yes Ballena Village and Marina Village Shopping center can take on some units, but the other site that intrigues me is the South Shore site.

    I’ve long held a desire to see Alameda South Shore updated with new apartments, condos, shops, and restaurants facing the beach. I think a reconfiguration of this site is long over due. No developer to date has ever taken advantage of one of the largest assets we have in Alameda – and that is our beach. So yes, I would be excited to finally see a beach front oriented development at South Shore Alameda

    Comment by Karen Bey — December 1, 2020 @ 9:56 am

    • The beach front going from the (historic – Eastern Bloc – Brutalist) post office to sushi house?

      Comment by MP — December 1, 2020 @ 10:28 am

      • I’d rather wait and see their updated plans, assuming they’ve updated them. But the owners of this site have a great reputation for great developments.

        Comment by Karen Bey — December 1, 2020 @ 11:22 am

  6. I’m glad you mentioned the Northern Waterfront sites like Encinal Terminals, and Alameda Marina — I agree with Andrew Thomas that these sites should be included in the new RHNA numbers. These sites have already been approved for the MF overlay.

    Comment by Karen Bey — December 1, 2020 @ 10:09 am

  7. I keep saying it, because it’s true: I look forward to Tony and Trish leading Alameda through this.

    Comment by Gaylon — December 1, 2020 @ 10:39 am

    • Because they’ll do such a competent and thoughtful job, or because they will be a boon to popcorn retailers? I, for one, look forward to hearing Trish conjure up new contortionist logics on the issue – my favorite claim of hers is how preventing new construction keeps home prices low, because renters find aging and derelict units more affordable than new ones, which might almost make sense if you completely ignore the whole pesky supply and demand thing.

      Comment by JRB — December 1, 2020 @ 10:49 am

  8. City staff is surely overworked, so we won’t ask them, but can anyone else show with maps how the 4800 units would have been achieved had Measure Z passed?

    Comment by MP — December 1, 2020 @ 11:50 am

    • MP, That is a really great question. My view is that the same parcels might be in play as now, except Council would raise the density above 30 units per acre to allow more units, including some smaller units. Andrew Thomas actually said this in answer to a question from Ms. Vella at the July Council meeting where he argued for full repeal. Thus, you would have a need for less land to meet the allocation and it would likely lead to taller buildings.

      Comment by Paul Foreman — December 1, 2020 @ 2:09 pm

      • Paul – I’m not aware of anything that currently prevents the council from raising density above 30 units per acre on MF overlay properties. They could do this now, with or without Measure Z – in fact, with the failure of Z you’re more likely to have these taller buildings because there’s less land available, so there’s now greater pressure to increase beyond 30 units per acre.

        Comment by JRB — December 1, 2020 @ 3:27 pm

        • i won’t say there is no risk of Council attempting to raise the overlay density level. However, I think that the reason that our current overlay was set at 30 units per acre is that City staff believed that they could not set a level higher than the State mandated 30 units/acre minimum level because Art 26 is preempted only to the extent needed to comply with State law. The statement of Andrew Thomas at the July 2020 Council meeting that Z would allow him to increase density indicates that he is still of that mind. Also, Mr. Knox-White’s campaign statements that Z would enable Council to negotiate with developers without depending solely on the density bonus leads me think that he believed that he needed to repeal Art. 26 to increase density.

          Comment by Paul Foreman — December 1, 2020 @ 4:17 pm

        • What if it was determined that the only, or best, way of meeting the overall the Housing Element Law RHNA number (assuming the city’s protests, if any, about ABAG’s Alameda allocation are received unsympathetically) was to increase densities higher than the base 30 in a second edition of the MF overlay? Does the HEL respect A26 Sec 3 more than Sec 1?

          Comment by MP — December 1, 2020 @ 4:41 pm

        • If increasing the density was the “only” way to achieve a certified housing element that could justify raising density above 30 units per acre, but that would be very hard to prove. I don’t think the “best” argument would work at all. Of course it would be up to a court to rule on this in a challenge to an overlay that increased the density. I think there is a much less contentious way to do this, that is to reach a community consensus on exceptions to 26-3. I may be an optimist but I believe that is very doable. I personally am open to consider exceptions so long as Art. 26 protection for our existing built up neighborhoods and historical buildings is preserved.

          Comment by Paul Foreman — December 1, 2020 @ 5:53 pm

  9. Has the city published numbers on ADUs recently?

    Comment by MP — December 1, 2020 @ 11:53 am

    • Less than double digits. What is unfortunate is ADUs can only be rented. Don’t open up ownership opportunities.

      Comment by zbowling — December 1, 2020 @ 2:36 pm

  10. Building is going to happen with or without Z. I voted for Z, thought it was a good idea to get the kind of development we want for the city.
    I had an interesting conversation with a friend a couple of weeks ago. She lives mid-island. It came up during our talk that she voted “no” on Z, which suprised me, so I asked her why. She told me there’s a dental office on her block and she’s afraid that when they retire if they can’t sell their practice, they’ll sell to a developer who would tear it down and put an apartment building in its place. That seems farfetched to me, but it is along the Santa Clara bus corridor, so, not outside the realm of possibilities. She’s also a renter, which makes it even more of a head scratcher, but then she also drives and has no driveway or parking privileges, so maybe she thinks she’s defending her street-parking turf. Which begs the question–if we had area parking (like Oakland, SF, Berkeley, etc.) then at least the city would be making a few bucks off her ilk. As it is now, most people can have as much free parking as they want.

    Comment by Kristen — December 1, 2020 @ 6:25 pm

  11. So… here’s something I wonder about. Exactly what kind of measures is the city taking when it comes to construction along the South Shore area. As someone who lives in the area I can tell you firsthand- the WHOLE area is built on more or less beach sand. My yard has no actual “soil”. Its impossible to grow grass. Most yards are made out of gravel.If I dig anything in my yard its literally nothing but sand. The sidewalks around here are constantly sinking and cracking. I’ve seen sink holes open up. Even my own yard has a few areas that show some levels of settlement. In other words, its VERY unstable. I would not be one bit surprised if come a big earthquake that a lot of multi-story buildings around here simply came crashing down when the sand underneath liquefies. That’s why one of the schools nearby was closed. Building anything substantial here that would have a hope of surviving the “Big one” would need MAJOR surface changes to a massive degree. How much will that cost? How will we pay for it? Whats the liability going to be?

    Comment by john doe — December 2, 2020 @ 8:02 am

    • Here is a letter I sent to City Council last night which relates to your question. On top of earthquake and sea level rise flooding, we have a very significant problem with the sea level rise forcing our shallow groundwater to emerge to the surface and cause flooding during wet winters that could cover more than half the City. We need to have a public workshop explaining this and addressing the costs of adaptation and mitigation and to the extent to which new developers will have to shoulder that cost for their developments. To view the report cited in this letter see:

      Click to access slr2020.pdf

      Dear Mayor Ashcraft, and Council Members Knox-White, Vella, Daysog and Oddie:

      This weekend I became aware of the Sept. 2020 Silvestrum Climate Associates report to the City entitled THE RESPONSE OF THE SHALLOW GROUNDWATER LAYER AND CONTAMINANTS TO SEA LEVEL RISE. It provided the following information:

      As the seawater level rises, the shallow ground water also rises. It increases the liquefaction risk in an earthquake. In high pollution areas like Alameda Point polluted earth is covered with clean earth to block it, but if the ground water level rises it permeates the polluted earth and the good earth above it to pollute the entire mass. It also threatens building foundations and endangers our underground utilities including our water supply. Sea walls do nothing to stop this.

      Even more troubling is the portion of the report at Figures 4.4 thru 4.6 showing that during wet winters this groundwater will emerge above the land surface at the three, four and 5 ½ foot levels (all well within sea level rise predictions through 2050) with more than half the island submerged at the 5 ½ foot level. Moreover this will occur before the sea water invades our shores.

      The report does offer adaptations and mitigations to deal with all of the above, but they will obviously be of great cost. I urge the Council to take the following action:

      1. Invite the authors to make a power point presentation at a public workshop so that we may listen, learn and proffer questions.
      2. Give serious consideration that this be brought to the attention of ABAG as a factor to be considered in determining our housing allocation.


      Paul S Foreman

      Comment by Paul Foreman — December 2, 2020 @ 9:09 am

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: