Blogging Bayport Alameda

December 11, 2020

“Buys into that”

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

Look like folks are quickly losing interest in the Housing Element process. Look folks, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. You gotta conserve your energy if you’re going to try to meaningfully engage with as much information under your belt as possible. Or you can just NextDoor style it and just shoot from the hip using whatever talking point is most convenient. Your choice. Here are a set of questions from the clarifying questions portion of the agenda item which should prove to be most relevant to folks NextDoor styling it because it will — inevitably — come up in some form during this long discussion. Probably multiple times. They’re both questions from Tony Daysog and, unlike some City Councilpeople who are typically teeing up questions to get good information into the public domain, it’s not 100% clear if Tony Daysog thinks that these are legitimate reasons to be able to ask for a reduction in RHNA allocations.

The first is a question about the declining numbers of jobs due to COVID but he says “systemically” which means that Tony Daysog is thinking that there will be a long term nose dive in the economy. I’ve actually seen this argument in the past as well — not from Tony Daysog but from others in the community framed around the conversation of housing — which, in some ways, it was almost a wishing that the economy would nose dive. Understandably this sentiment did not come from anyone who had many working years ahead of them but those with the luxury of not working.

Tony Daysog: I think the question that I have is because there’s a jobs focused of — within the formula is there any possibility that if either the economy changes down the path and the job projections that were what we thought that we would be on are not just temporarily but but systematically altered, you know, could we then alter — could any city, including the city of Alameda, then alter, perhaps downwards, its housing number if there are systematic changes in the larger economy with regards to jobs. But also in terms of changes with regards to jobs not just systematic changes but suppose a city — a jurisdiction –decides that they don’t anticipate having so many jobs in the future could that then also trigger a reassessment at some point of the numbers that have been allocated originally.

Randy Rentschler: It’s a really good question and, like a lot of things with RHNA, because it’s been going on for so long and had so many participants that question has been asked a great deal particularly. So you know given this very unfortunate environment we’re going through right now I think the very best answer I can give you is that it’s very doubtful that this administration in Sacramento will change that number that they’re giving, not just to the Bay Area but to the Los Angeles basin and to San Diego. As you may know over the past number of years the RHNA laws have been strengthened significantly through acts by the legislature and — except for COVID — I think a fair person would have assumed that they would have been strengthened even further this year but COVID just took out the oxygen out of the air out of Sacramento. So I think the best way to answer that question is that in the last 10 years we, the Bay Area, has produced about seven times more jobs than housing and that even under the worst economic scenario — and look a large unemployment drop in jobs is not something people usually cheer for — but even if that were to occur that the state is so far behind in housing and the current administration as you know from listening to them talks this line regularly. That I think is very very doubtful that ABAG or the LA basin or anyone else will get a set of numbers different than what we’re dealing with right now. [emphasis added]

The next questions from Tony Daysog ask (1) what would happen if we don’t meet the RHNA numbers and (2) nothing happened to us the last time we didn’t have a certified Housing Element so why would it be different this time. That second question is a risky move as I pointed out in another post. But one that Tony Daysog seems willing to take given his closing comments that night. Also the language used by Tony Daysog is notable regarding the RHNA allocation. He says, “Suppose we go through the RHNA process and the state says you have to do 4900 and that the City and everyone else buys into that.”

“[B]uys into that,” as though Alameda has a choice to believe the number or a choice whether to comply with the mandate. The list of possible penalties if Alameda does not “buy into that” is certainly something that a sitting Councilmember, who should be looking out for the best interest of all Alamedans and not just his base, is troubling.

Tony Daysog: Quick question, if you know the answer that’d be great. Suppose we go through the RHNA process and the state says you have to do 4900 and that the City and everyone else buys into that. But suppose as we’re looking for places to find housing that we can only come up with 3700 areas. So the question is: are we credited for the fact that we found 70% of what we should or — and is any penalty correspondingly calibrated, that question, if you get that question.

Andrew Thomas: I can take the first shot at and Randy can correct me if I misspeak but essentially the way this works is if and, I just want to clarify this, I know you know this Councilmember Daysog, but for the public. Because we often hear the public, you know, criticizing ABAG as like, “the ABAG numbers.” ABAG doesn’t create the numbers and they don’t have the luxury of reducing the regional number. They have the terrible job of trying to distribute this very big number among all the cities so, but to answer your specific question: no, the threshold — you either pass the green light or you don’t. If you don’t, the way the process works, we submit our Housing Element to HCD before we bring it to the Council for final approval to find out whether they determine whether it is in compliance with State law or not. Meaning did you meet your number or didn’t you. They will tell us whether we have, you know, accomplished the target or not. 75% is not a 100% right so in that case we should anticipate a letter from them saying, no you haven’t done it. And what that means is they don’t certify our Housing Element even if the Council approves it and which means we don’t have a valid General Plan. And if you don’t have a valid General Plan in the state of California then there’s all sorts of consequences for a city in California from not having a valid General Plan which I won’t go into all the details but. And those consquences aren’t calibrated as you were suggesting like, hey you made it 70% so we’ll discount the penalty. It’s either– you’re either black or white.


Just to give you a flavor of what that means when you don’t have a valid General Plan. Over the years with the strengthening of the RHNA process has also come a strengthening of the penalty process and the incentive process so many State grants for open space like the major $2 million grant we got for Jean Sweeney Park for the original construction. We only got that grant because we had a certified Housing Element. If we didn’t have a certified Housing Element we would not even been eligible to apply. More and more transportation funding, open space funding, affordable housing funding is preconditioned. If you don’t have a certified Housing Element don’t even bother applying.

The other issue is if you don’t have a valid General Plan you don’t have the basis for your local land-use decision making because, as you know, every decision the Council makes and the Planning Board makes you have to make a finding is consistent with your General Plan. Well, if you don’t have a valid General Plan you can’t make that finding which makes us very vulnerable to lawsuits. And in those cases if we have that problem and go down and find ourselves in that situation where we are out of compliance and somebody challenges our decision-making ability the State and the Courts can take over that local decision-making authority from us.

Tony Daysog: One more quick question: but when — during the years when we were out of compliance, is it correct to say that development did occur in the City of Alameda?

Andrew Thomas: Yeah, it can continue to occur, the question is: will somebody try to stop us or take our decision-making authority away from us because we don’t have a valid General Plan.


  1. Bottom line: We see the game. ABAG can set whatever housing goals they want, but 95% of communities don’t meet their goals, and ABAG can’t do anything about it except set new goals. But politicians are elected. What if we changed politicians?

    Bill Melugin
    Those close to Governor Newsom are reportedly growing concerned that the current recall effort against him could gain steam and make it onto the ballot amidst ongoing public frustration over his handling of the pandemic & recent negative headlines.

    Comment by Nowyouknow — December 11, 2020 @ 8:04 am

    • Most communities get their Housing Elements certified. That’s the goal.

      Comment by Lauren Do — December 11, 2020 @ 8:22 am

  2. In addition to Andrew Thomas’s comments on the consequences of failing to have a certified housing element here is more on the subject in a Newsletter from from Gab Layton of the Embarcadaro Institute:

    “If cities don’t show they have rezoned for the housing mandated by the state RHNA targets, the state can withhold funding. Cities with non-compliant Housing Elements also risk being sued by the state, which can result in fines of up to $100,000 per month. Cities that remain out of compliance for six months can be fined as much as $600,000 per month.”

    In September Ms. Layton published a report claiming a million unit overcount in the HCD Statewide RHNA.

    Click to access Double-counting-in-the-Latest-Housing-Needs-Assessment-Oct2020.pdf

    The Newsletter at responds to criticisms of that report.
    Both documents are well worth reading whether you agree with her conclusions or not. The Newsletter is written more at a lay person level and really gets into the nuts and bolts of the process.

    As correctly pointed out by Lauren and Andrew Thomas, while ABAG ‘s allocation formula can be questioned, they are stuck with the 441,000 unit Bay Area RHNA dictated by HCD. Thus it should be HCD’s methodology that produced that figure that should be scrutinized. That is what Embarcadaro Institute is doing.

    Comment by Paul Foreman — December 11, 2020 @ 9:33 am

    • Twitter thread on Gab Layton and Embarcadero Institute:

      Comment by Lauren Do — December 11, 2020 @ 9:40 am

      • That tweet in very uniformed. Here is a short Gab Layton bio:

        Gab serves on the board of the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation and the advisory board of Stanford’s Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR). She was formerly VP Product at TicketMaster Online-CitySearch and prior to that worked at McKinsey & Company, but she began her career in hypersonic scramjet engine research. She received her Bachelor’s degree (Mechanical Engineering) and her PhD (Aerospace Engineering) from the University of Queensland, Australia. Her research was funded by NASA, and she is a former Amelia Earhart Fellow.

        By the way, McKinsey and Company is the outfit that developed the 3.5 M unit deficit number.

        Comment by Paul Foreman — December 11, 2020 @ 9:48 am

    • Paul Foreman – what is your connection with Livable California?

      Comment by Reality — December 11, 2020 @ 10:47 am

  3. Lauren, my last post a few minutes ago displays an entire 17 page doc when all I typed in was the link. I had a similar problem with a link I posted yesterday. It is not my intent to clutter up your blog. What am I doing wrong? You can respond directly to my email address if you wish.

    I do want to thank you for this series of posts on the Housing Element. While you and I have markedly different views on housing, I very much appreciate your effort and the quality of what you are posting. I only regret that more folks aren’t participating.

    Comment by Paul Foreman — December 11, 2020 @ 9:41 am

  4. Semantics, Lauren:

    “[B]uys into that,” as though Alameda has a choice to believe the number or a choice whether to comply with the mandate.”

    Actually, citizens in Alameda do have a choice to believe it or not, and a choice to comply. Just like almost half the population of Amerikkka believes el Supremo won the election, and choose not to inaugurate Biden. But, I guess all politics is local, so disregard the national travesty please.

    Comment by abronto4900 — December 11, 2020 @ 10:05 am

  5. What’s in it for you Lauren? Why do you care so much?

    Comment by Alameda Bound — December 12, 2020 @ 2:29 pm

  6. Detached accessory dwelling units, are what all the real estate investors are applying for, post Measure Z’s failure. Tearing down an old garage, and building an entire, new house on already existing property in the garage’s place.

    Comment by Alameda Bound — December 13, 2020 @ 8:37 pm

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