Blogging Bayport Alameda

January 5, 2021

Real Alamedans who love Alameda

Filed under: Alameda — Tags: — Lauren Do @ 6:05 am

Apparently Alamedans who love Alameda don’t care what allocations are given to Alameda by ABAG. But, unfortunately, RHNA numbers are not just academic exercises which can be scoffed away by these real Alamedans who love Alameda (RAWLA). There are actual real world consequences that perhaps are unknown to RAWLAs or perhaps they are willing to risk these consequences in an effort to show Alameda how much they love Alameda.

For the rest of us non-RAWLAs who understand that actions have consequences and that Alameda doesn’t not exist in a separate time or space Brigadoon-like let’s examine what happened to one city who thought it could thumb its nose at these pesky State regulations and come out on top: Huntington Beach. In 2019 Huntington Beach was sued by the State of California for downzoning a site they had identified in their Housing Element for affordable housing. The Housing and Community Development Department decertified Huntington Beach’s Housing Element which started the clock ticking on a lawsuit. From an AP story:

[W]ealthy Huntington Beach, which dubs itself “Surf City USA,” has been considered out of compliance since 2015, when it slashed the number of affordable housing units from a development plan for its northeastern area, reducing them from more than 400 to just 70.

Huntington Beach. much like Alameda, tried the “we’re a Charter City we can do what we want” tact but that didn’t fly. In 2019, then Attorney General (now incoming HHS Secretary! US Senator) Xavier Becerra filed a lawsuit and in early 2020 the two sides reached a settlement largely because of the carrot being taken away from Huntington Beach:

For years, Huntington Beach argued that as a charter city it has greater autonomy over zoning issues like those in the state’s affordable housing law.

But the city manager’s statement implies Huntington Beach decided to reverse that stance after learning it can’t get state grants for homeless response programs until it has an approved housing plan.

“After review, it was identified that to comply with state regulations, the city’s … housing element would have to be updated in order to access (homeless response) funding,” City Manager Chi’s statement said. “On Nov. 4, the city council directed that staff prepare the requisite housing element amendments.”

Another Southern California city, worried about the Huntington Beach outcome and the looming new RHNA cycle, is looking forward and wary of the consequences if they fail to certify their Housing Element. From the Voice of OC:

“We don’t get to pick and choose which laws we comply with. We have the obligation to comply with the laws that have come down from the state of California so long as they’re valid. I don’t see a situation where we would simply ignore a state mandate and suffer the consequences of that,” [Newport Beach Mayor Will] O’Neill said.

O’Neill said his understanding is that the city could potentially lose the ability to run its own community development department if they don’t comply with the mandate.

“This housing element is the most challenging housing element that’s ever come across the cities in the state of California and the reason why is because the state has changed the compliance rules, the rules are now harder and tougher,” said Seimone Jurjis, Community Development Director, at a April 14 meeting.

If the city fails to meet the deadline they can receive fines that range from $10,000 to $600,000 a month, according to state law.

As some of us non-RAWLAs know, it’s not just State homeless response funding that exists out there. There’s lots of funding which is contingent on applicant city to have a certified Housing Element to have a valid General Plan. There’s also a monthly penalty which could be levied for a non-certified Housing Element. There’s also the possibility of a loss of local control to approve any development project which is one outcome of an out of compliance Housing Element.

But RAWLAs don’t need to be bothered with pesky details about what we have reaped from 40 some odd plus years of sown Alameda housing policy. Nor do they need to be fussed about the consequences Alameda might face because they don’t care about State requirements. They expect to blithely be able to prattle on about “neighborhood character” and rail against folks who actually end up making the hard choices for Alameda in the face of roadblock after roadblock. And RAWLAs will excuse (and sometimes elevate) the useless among our elected officials who continue to pander to their highly specific love of Alameda which — at the core — is centered around exclusion.

Oh, for those who may want to shake their fist at ABAG/MTC over the methodology, there’s a webinar today at 9:30 AM.


  1. Waiting for Dave to come along and explain why the two elected “Real Alamedans who Love Alameda” leaders, Trish Spencer and Tony Daysog, should not have to deal with the burden of reaping what they sow and that it should totally be on the 3-council majority to clean up others’ mess.

    Comment by DavesNotHereYetMan — January 5, 2021 @ 7:20 am

    • dave merely repeats his point —which hasn’t been successfully disputed — that the whining about Tony & Trish is unnecessary and a waste of effort. Density advocates retain the majority. They should use it while they have it instead of whining that the council includes an infidel or two.

      As for the “mess,” if by that you mean an election in which the people voted resoundingly for their neighborhoods to remain intact, it’s laughable to put that on one councilman. The mayor and three others supported Z. Z campaign had money, major endorsers including regional newspapers, etc etc. Z didn’t fail because of one councilman. It failed because it went too far.

      I should probably set my F1 key to say this because I have to keep repeating it, but one last time: Voters understand the need for housing diversity. They see it already in a town which is about half multifamily already. They are ok with overturning A/26 in areas under redevelopment. They are NOT ok with exposing their established neighborhoods to the wrecking ball or the whims of a council majority. Write a Plan Z 2.0 with such protections and it passes easily.

      (Colombo voice): Just one more thing…

      Please pick one handle and stick with it

      Comment by dave — January 5, 2021 @ 7:58 am

      • I’ll bite, Dave. What would Plan Z 2.0 look like? And why shouldn’t Trish and Tony take the lead in crafting it? As many others have said, it’s very easy to do performative populist leadership, but much harder to do real governance. There’s a reason why Trish never accomplished anything of note while as mayor.

        As for what the people voted for, ask how many thought they were voting for growth versus no growth rather than city-controlled growth, versus the risk of state-controlled growth and penalties.

        Comment by DavesDefinitelyHereMan — January 5, 2021 @ 8:46 am

        • I can only answer with my own Plan Z, 2.0

          It has two major planks:

          -Amend A/26 to allow various zoning types in new development areas (West of Main, North of Clement*) with the goal of reasonably approximating the housing mix and population density in the rest of the city. The language and execution of “reasonable approximation” here could be a bit dicey, I admit, but hey, that’s why we elect leaders, right?

          -Reaffirm A/26’s and all other zoning protections for the rest of the city. This part should be easy, as Z’s cheerleaders told us repeatedly they had no desire to mess with existing neighborhoods.

          As for what people voted for, I say they voted FOR preserving existing neighborhoods and AGAINST bulldozing them. They see the ugly Motel 6 apartment blocks shoehorned in between nice older buildings, both single and multi family, and they want no part of that. People who live in a nice town will reliably vote to keep it that way. Give them a measure that allows them to keep the positive attributes while building out the rest of the land, and it will pass easily.

          Comment by dave — January 5, 2021 @ 10:20 am

        • Dave, we can do all of the things you want in the Zoning codes, we don’t need them in the City Charter. Also I’m going back to John P.

          Comment by John P. — January 5, 2021 @ 10:39 am

        • Dave, the problem is all these protections for neighborhoods already exist via historical preservation ordinances, review boards, zoning plans, etc, so you’re presenting a false choice dichotomy as if we don’t already have safeguards that have made Article 26 redundant. “The whims of a council majority” is simply fearmongering, because those councilmembers would be voted out before the ink on a blueprint ever dries – we elect a new council every 2 years, and how long does a major project take? Couple years just for planning alone, another year or two for construction – Del Monte is taking many years, and Alameda Point is taking decades. And you absolutely should not be using a city charter, our city’s constitution, to map out very specific housing rules. That is simply bad governance.

          Comment by DavesNotAllThereMan — January 5, 2021 @ 10:45 am

        • If people trusted “the whims of council” they’d have voted for Z. If we need to overturn A/26 in new development areas — and most including me agree that we do — then preserve those protections in existing areas. That will win. Trusting council didn’t win, and won’t again.

          I am flummoxed by the inability some have to grasp this simple notion.

          Comment by dave — January 5, 2021 @ 11:01 am

        • Dave Hart: you know quite well that it’s easier for people to vote “no” if it’s something they don’t fully understand (in no part due to folks actively muddying the information floating out there, thanks to people like Trish and Tony), or to preserve the status quo, unaware that the status quo is being upended by mechanisms happening at the state level. Article 26 repeal was unthinkable 5 years ago. We’ve come a long way, but we still need to move faster if we wish to stave off the consequences of our collective inaction. That is what Trish and Tony want, to try and finish out their terms without having to do anything, and then put the blame on either the next council or those who do want to do actual government work.

          Comment by DavesNotHereMan — January 5, 2021 @ 12:09 pm

      • Dave, I like the idea of removing A/26 from Alameda Point, and other selected sites that can be agreed upon, in exchange for reaffirming zoning protections in other areas of the city.

        It’s a beginning, but this could be a step in the right direction to resolve the conflict.

        Comment by Karen Bey — January 5, 2021 @ 12:05 pm

        • It’s pragmatic & realistic. Good luck getting the ideologues and zealots backing something so sensible.

          Comment by dave — January 5, 2021 @ 12:20 pm

        • This idea is not actually realistic or pragmatic, because Alameda Point is entirely spoken for already. There isn’t another Alameda Point lying around. That is entirely the problem. Peace, but please internalize this.

          Comment by Gaylon — January 5, 2021 @ 2:21 pm

        • Perhaps you misread the above comment. No point was made about changing the plan at the base or magically finding another one. The point is simply that Z could and should have specified changes happening ONLY at Alameda Point and other areas under new development, while stipulating no changes in other areas.

          That was the point. And such a measure would have passed, easily.

          Comment by dave — January 5, 2021 @ 2:38 pm

        • Alameda Point land may be spoken for, but changes can be made to the original General Master Plan to increase density and other reconfigurations to allow for more housing.

          The Alameda FISC site, now known as BayPort Alameda/Alameda Landing changed their General Master Plan several times over the 20 years of development.

          Comment by Karen Bey — January 5, 2021 @ 3:47 pm

        • Yeah, Karen (and Paul), I didn’t quite get what Alameda Point being “spoken for” means, either. Is it spoken for in ways that other areas of Alameda are not?

          I assume the existence of “land available for urban development” is a factor in Alameda’s tentative RHNA number (by way of the incorporation of the Plan Bay Area 2050 Blueprint as the baseline allocation). I also assume that Alameda Point, or some part of it, is “land available for urban development” that caused Alameda’s RHNA (now tentatively 5,400, overall) to be higher than if that land did not exist. I stand to be be corrected on both points – and even if both are technically true, it might be the case that the “land available” factor turns out to be negligible when it comes to Alameda’s RHNA numbers. I don’t know and the internet is not giving me instant answers.

          I also don’t know when Alameda Point got “spoken for”, but assume it was well before the number 5,400, especially since that did not happen until a few weeks ago (up from 4900).

          Assuming the foregoing, I would tend to agree that even if something is “spoken for”, it can be revisited, or at least be “spoken about”……except for the cap and the per unit fee for exceeding the cap at the base, perhaps.

          As to the latter, I assume – because I assume ABAG wants the methodology to have a rational explanation – that either

          (a) ABAG discounts the availability of land at Alameda Point for purposes of the RHNA (because the cap and fee is not a local plan or zoning), or that

          (b) Alameda won’t be deprived of needed state funds for attempting to list in its inventory as many units – of all income levels – at the base as are fairly attributable to the “availability” of that land for urban development in Alameda’s RHNA number, even if the cap and fee make below market units less feasible there. Surely ABAG is not assuming the availability of that land for purposes of (increasing) Alameda’s RHNA quotas while at the same time limiting the number of units Alameda can attribute to it in its inventory because of a federal, not local, mandate.

          Comment by MP — January 5, 2021 @ 4:54 pm

        • …or, I suppose it is possible that ABAG treats Alameda Point as a lot of available land when considering Alameda’s RHNA quotas, but HCD won’t give us as much credit for it in terms of below market inventory – for all the local zoning accommodations we might make there – because of a federally-controlled cap.

          Does anyone have an idea of how the concept of “land available for urban development” is quantified, if at all, for purposes of the RHNA (or Plan Bay Area 20XX) and where Alameda’s numbers might be found?

          Comment by MP — January 5, 2021 @ 5:05 pm

  2. I hope that tonight Tony Daysog takes a leadership position. His referral came on the same day that the new RNHA numbers were shared. What is his plan for the city that doesn’t cost us fines, or result in loss of local control and funding opportunities? Populists are good at winning elections; now let’s see some honest, workable governing. I look forward to it.

    Comment by Gaylon — January 5, 2021 @ 7:46 am

  3. Minor correction: Becerra is not an incoming U.S. Senator. That’s Padilla. Becerra is nominated to head HHS.

    Comment by Allan Mann — January 5, 2021 @ 8:18 am

    • Correction #2, paragraph 3:

      Is it tactic, or (less suitably) tack? It surely is not “tact.”

      Comment by dave — January 5, 2021 @ 8:36 am

  4. A housing element that only zones multifamily in one area of town (put it at the base!), is not a housing element that will get approved, so we are still here. If there’s a counter-example out there I would love to see it. Tony should provide that to the city, if it exists.

    Also, the voters may or may not be aware that all the land at the base is spoken for. There’s not another former naval base lying around. Tony knows this, and yet…

    But I am open to surprise, and if Tony or Trish manage to come up with a practical plan forward that doesn’t violate state law or the city charter I will be very surprised indeed. Delighted, even.

    Comment by Gaylon — January 5, 2021 @ 8:47 am

    • More than 40% of the households in the already-developed part of the city (East of Main, South of Clement) are already multifamily. I’m not sure how any plan could ever say “put it at the base!” That ship sailed many decades ago.

      Tony’s put up his plan: MF Overlay and push back on RHNA. I don’t know him (outside of a couple of cursory hellos & handshakes) but I’ll hazard a guess that he’s probably flexible on the details of that.

      But again, I repeat: the majority does not need Tony or Trish. They have the votes they need for their own plan. Why is so much effort wasted whining about those two when the other three still have 3/5 of the votes?

      And I repeat this as well: Tony is well known to oppose major increases in density (he’s ok with incremental). Demanding he come up with a plan in opposition to his long-stated opinion is odd. Would anyone demand JKW to vote for more gas guzzlers or Grover Norquist to support tax increases? That would be absurdly unrealistic.

      What IS realistic is for the majority — the majority that can vote its whim — to craft and enact its own plan.

      Comment by dave — January 5, 2021 @ 9:57 am

      • I agree it’s unlikely that we will see more than Tony being a mouthpiece for exclusion, but as I say I am open to surprise. I also think both he and Trish are not productive council members, but let’s see what they manage to accomplish. Will it be more than “pushback” and saying no? Time will tell!

        Comment by Gaylon — January 5, 2021 @ 10:50 am

        • For the umpteenth time I ask, why do you care if they say no?

          You have enough yeses.

          Comment by dave — January 5, 2021 @ 11:03 am

  5. Hard to shake your fist too hard at ABAG’s methodology when it keeps changing.

    Atherton and Alameda both begin with the letter “A”, so maybe they won’t notice if we switch the names on the applications.

    Atherton is (a) within walking distance of a job center called “Facebook”, (b) occupies fully half the land area of Alameda, but at about one unit per acre, yet (c) will be called on the State, through ABAG’s methodology and tentative allocations, to facilitate the creation of only 300 new units (compared with 5, 400 for Alameda).

    Without ignoring our obligations, would we feel bad if Atherton had to work a little harder than a *tiny* fraction of Alameda’s expected effort in order for Atherton to keep its State homeless response funding and lots of other funding which is contingent on a certified Housing Element.

    Technical question: is an acre of land at Alameda Point that is “suitable for urban development” treated the same as an acre of suitable land anywhere when it comes to factoring in available land to the RHNA allocations? Did the unit cap and fees (not subject to unilateral modification by the City) at Alameda Point figure in to whatever weight Alameda Point was given by ABAG in determining the “availability of land suitable for urban development” in Alameda [Government Code §65584.04(d)] in the process of determining Alameda’s (tentative) 5,400 unit allocation?

    Comment by MP — January 5, 2021 @ 9:03 am

    • Does ABAG’s methodology include the land West of Spirits Alley in the denominator for available area? It shouldn’t and if it does, leadership needs to immediately correct that.

      Does their methodology include the $50,000 penalty per unit for building more than 1400 at the base? It should, and if it doesn’t, leadership needs to immediately correct that also.

      Comment by dave — January 5, 2021 @ 10:04 am

  6. Why does anyone keep carrying the developers water? Major ripoff..

    Cost of each low cost “Tiny House” (9ft. By 8 ft/64 sq. Ft.) in LA is $134,000 per unit in building project.

    Comment by Nowyouknow — January 5, 2021 @ 10:30 am

  7. I can cite you at least 20 different California cities that have some element of residential land use restriction in their Charter, none as comprehensive as A26, but land use restrictions, none the less. We need this protection because simply voting out the Councilmembers who densify our established old neighborhoods doers not protect us. Once this densification is placed in an ordinance a developer can develop at that level if he files his application prior to any repeal of the ordinance. Thus, any number of developers can file applications and lock in the density for their projects.

    I don’t know who these RAWLA people are that Lauren talks about. I was very much involved in No on Z and I know nobody who supports us not having a certified housing element or who doesn’t support extension of the overlay to achieve certification. I do agree that any Councilmember who wants to limit development in a particular site, be it Southshore or anywhere else, has an obligation to engage in identifying other sites to reach our RHNA.

    Finally, I don’t believe that Alameda Point is unavailable. We need to re-negotiate our deal with the Navy to obtain a waiver of the $50,000 per unit surcharge for anything over the current limit of 1425 units, much of which has been spoken for. I also don’t think that HCD is going to be concerned about most of the new development going to the west end. There is no good place to put all of this new housing, but AP at least has the ferry as a transportation option.

    Comment by Paul Foreman — January 5, 2021 @ 4:24 pm

  8. MP, I don’t think “land available for development” has any bearing on how they calculate our RHNA. They assume there is always verticality available. I believe the phrase is related to qualifying a site for inclusion in the Housing Element. It order to qualify, it must be available for development, That is an easy standard to meet if land is vacant, but much more difficult if land is already occupied. That is why Southshore is in the forefront, because we have a land owner who is already proposing to remove commercial buildings and replace them with residential.

    Comment by Paul Foreman — January 5, 2021 @ 5:25 pm

    • Paul – I may have misquoted the phrase. ABAG’s literature refers to “The availability of land suitable for urban development or for conversion to residential use, the availability of underutilized land, and opportunities for infill development and increased residential densities”.

      It may be that the above concept is not quantified in a way that makes it into the mathematical formulas that ultimately determine individual ABAG constituent jurisdictions’ RHNA numbers. Nevertheless, the lack of undeveloped land (because of full occupation by a one unit per acre development pattern), or something similar, has been offered here by a commenter as one possible explanation (among others offered) for Atherton – a mere stone’s throw away from Facebook HQ – being asked to add only 300 units in a land area half as big as Alameda’s (where the “ask” is 5400 units).

      Below is the way the concept is discussed in “REGIONAL HOUSING NEEDS ALLOCATION PROPOSED METHODOLOGY: San Francisco Bay Area, 2023-2031”. Whether it has any concrete bearing on Alameda’s RHNA numbers, it seems that the idea of land availability is discussed not just in terms of land made available and included in a jurisdiction’s inventory (for certifying its HE) – after any necessary zoning changes and perhaps some level of willingness on the part of the property owner – but also earlier in the process, and in broader terms (“availability of land suitable for urban development….”), as something bearing on or related to individual jurisdictions’ RHNA numbers:

      “RHNA Methodology Factors

      Housing Element Law also identifies factors that ABAG must consider in developing its RHNA methodology, to the extent sufficient data is available. The statutory factors, and the ways in which the Bay Area’s proposed RHNA methodology meets them, are described below. Additionally, these factors were considered as part of the local jurisdiction survey conducted by ABAG. A summary of the results of the local jurisdiction survey, which helped provide local context on local conditions during the development of the methodology, is included as Appendix 4.*

      2. The opportunities and constraints to development of additional housing in each member jurisdiction, including all of the following:

      b. The availability of land suitable for urban development or for conversion to residential use, the availability of underutilized land, and opportunities for infill development and increased residential densities. The council of governments may not limit its consideration of suitable housing sites or land suitable for urban development to existing zoning ordinances and land use restrictions of a locality, but shall consider the potential for increased residential development under alternative zoning ordinances and land use restrictions…

      The opportunities and constraints to housing development
      are addressed through the incorporation of the Plan
      Bay Area 2050 Blueprint as the baseline allocation in the
      proposed RHNA methodology. In developing the Plan
      Bay Area 2050 Blueprint, ABAG-MTC staff worked with
      local governments to gather information about local plans,
      zoning, physical characteristics and potential development
      opportunities and constraints for each jurisdiction.

      This information is an input into the UrbanSim 2.0 model that
      uses a simulation of buyers and sellers in local real estate
      markets to estimate housing feasibility. In assessing
      feasibility, the UrbanSim 2.0 model also integrates
      the higher cost of building on parcels with physical
      development constraints, e.g., steep hillsides. Protected
      park land and open space are excluded from development
      in the model.

      However, the Blueprint does not limit a jurisdiction’s
      housing allocation based on local plans or zoning.
      The UrbanSim 2.0 model is used to forecast expanded
      growth potential in growth geographies identified in the
      Blueprint, such as Transit-Rich Areas and High Resource
      Areas. This allows additional feasible growth within
      the urban footprint by increasing residential densities
      and expanding housing into areas currently zoned for
      commercial and industrial uses.”

      * – A quick read of Appendix 4 didn’t give much of an answer, as it refers mostly to survey results from cities in which lack of availability of developable land is a frequently cited to by cities as a barrier to the development housing the Bay Area, as opposed to how that concept might be quantified in a way that might, say, result in relatively higher allocations where such land does exist, among the many other factors that go into the RHNA.

      I get it that the numbers will ultimately, and most likely, be the numbers because….because. But i still wonder why.

      Comment by MP — January 5, 2021 @ 6:34 pm

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