Blogging Bayport Alameda

February 16, 2021

My mirror staring back at me

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:06 am

Last week this op-ed went up and it’s what we’ve known about Callifornia’s special brand of progressiveness. That we’re really good on national issues but it often fails to reflect into our own lives personally and what we do in our own backyards. Highlights”

Watching SB50, State Senator Scott Wiener’s ambitious bill to allow dense construction near mass transit, fail has become an annual political ritual. Last year, Toni Atkins, the Democratic State Senate leader, sponsored a modest bill to allow duplexes on single-family lots. It passed the Senate, and then passed the Assembly in slightly amended form, and then died because it was sent back to the Senate with only three minutes left in the legislative session. All this in a state racked by a history — and a present — of housing racism.

This is a crisis that reveals California’s conservatism — not the political conservatism that privatizes Medicare, but the temperamental conservatism that stands athwart change and yells “Stop!” In much of San Francisco, you can’t walk 20 feet without seeing a multicolored sign declaring that Black lives matter, kindness is everything and no human being is illegal. Those signs sit in yards zoned for single families, in communities that organize against efforts to add the new homes that would bring those values closer to reality. Poorer families — disproportionately nonwhite and immigrant — are pushed into long commutes, overcrowded housing and homelessness. Those inequalities have turned deadly during the pandemic.

“If you’re living eight or 10 people to a home, it’s hard to protect yourself from the virus,” Senator Wiener told me. “Yet what we see at times is people with a Bernie Sanders sign and a ‘Black Lives Matter’ sign in their window, but they’re opposing an affordable housing project or an apartment complex down the street.”

The California Environmental Quality Act wasn’t passed to stop mass transit — a fact California finally acknowledged when it recently passed legislation carving out exemptions. The profusion of councils and public hearings that let NIMBYs block new homes are a legacy of a progressivism that wanted to stop big developers from slicing communities up with highways, not help wealthy homeowners fight affordable apartments. California wants to be the future, but its governing institutions are stuck in the past. Its structures of decision making too often privilege incumbents who like things the way they are over those who need them to change.


  1. Amen. Black, Latinx, People of Color, low-income lives matter as long as they don’t move to new homes in my neighborhood. California – a national leader in progressive hypocrisy.

    Comment by 2wheelsmith — February 16, 2021 @ 9:48 am

  2. Agreed. It is long past time to reverse the 40-to-80-year drought in multifamily housing construction as well as deal explicitly with the roots of our discrimination an against people of color, women, poor folk, the homeless, immigrants, and others who are “different.”

    Many people who strongly oppose multifamily housing also seem to be members of politically-conservative religious organizations. While I cannot address traditions outside my own Judeo-Christian background, here is a link to some of the Bible’s direction to us about “welcoming the stranger”:

    I hope my fellow Christians and other followers of Judeo-Christian ethics will pay heed to the clear message from the Creator of the Universe about immigration, racism, the sheltering all people, and housing justice. (Not trying to proselytize here or say that being a Christian is “the only way,” just point out what the Scriptures tell us about how to make this phrase real: “love one another.”

    After all, “faith without works is dead.”

    Comment by Jon Spangler — February 16, 2021 @ 10:23 am

  3. Where are all you angry folks who say that Alameda needs to stay the same?

    Is it that you can’t handle the truth? That maybe you’re not as liberal or compassionate as you think you are?

    You’re all so very loud on this site, but when called out to build more housing, it’s shockingly silent.

    Comment by Angela — February 16, 2021 @ 2:02 pm

    • Loud, eh?

      When we asked for architectural preservation, we were loudly called racists.
      When we expressed concern over traffic, we were loudly called racists.
      When we worried about property values, we were loudly called racists.

      In response, we were only loud once. On Z day. By 20 points.

      Comment by Loud n Proud — February 17, 2021 @ 6:20 am

      • Public sentiment is with you in this struggle to preserve our legal and time-honored rights.

        If you stand fast, we can win!

        Comment by Morgan Bellinger — February 17, 2021 @ 5:53 pm

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