Blogging Bayport Alameda

June 3, 2021

Out of (local ) control

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

This was a fun little AP article in light of the seeming renewed effort by Bay Farm denizens to make a push to exclude Bay Farm from bearing any of the load that will come when it’s time to roll up our sleeves and start rezoning efforts to meet our RHNA numbers. A reminder that some Bay Farm residents want hands off both the Harbor Bay Club site and Harbor Bay Landing shopping center even though the shopping center is a sad, sad retail desert and could, honestly use a few hundred units to breath some life into the business just trying to make a go of it.

From the AP:

California state lawmakers are grappling with a particularly 21st-century problem: What to do with the growing number of shopping malls and big box retail stores left empty by consumers shifting their purchases to the web.

A possible answer in crowded California cities is to build housing on these sites, which already have ample parking and are close to existing neighborhoods.

But local zoning laws often don’t allow housing at these locations. Changing the zoning is such a hassle that many developers don’t bother trying. And it’s often not worth it for local governments to change the designations. They would prefer to find new retailers because sales taxes produce more revenue than residential property taxes.

However, with a stubborn housing shortage pushing prices to all-time highs, state lawmakers are moving to pass new laws to get around those barriers.

A bill that cleared the state Senate last week would let developers build houses on most commercial sites without changing the zoning. Another proposal would pay local governments to change the zoning to let developers build affordable housing.

Personally the paying local governments thing is not going to work. Some communities would rather have the city go bankrupt before allowing one more housing unit to be built. No, California legislation, you have to use the stick or just bypass the local government altogether when it comes to land use. Allow local government to deal with the aesthetic design but the determination of what land use can go in fallow malls? Remove the pressures of dealing with NIMBYs from your local, volunteer boards and councils.


Even before the pandemic, big-box retail stores were struggling to adapt as more people began buying things online. In 2019, after purchasing Sears and Kmart, Transformco closed 96 stores across the country — including 29 in California.

The pandemic, of course, accelerated this trend, prompting major retailers like J.C. Penney, Neiman Marcus and J. Crew to file for bankruptcy protection. An analysis by the investment firm UBS shows online shopping will grow to 25% of all retail sales by 2025. The analysis predicted that up to 100,000 stores across the country could close.

The piece goes on to depressingly note that California needs to build 180,000 units a year to keep up with demand but only makes it to 80,000 per year which, you know, math shows us that we’re already working from behind and we can see it in the outlandish home prices which have been splashed all over the news.

Look, we’re never going to get another huge anchor store again, not unless Amazon uses its considerable and deep pockets to essentially replace Walmart so we have to rethink what will happen to shopping center like South Shore, Marina Village, and Harbor Bay Landing. We can just leave it to rotate through restaurant openings and deaths or we can make it actually useful and then have the people close enough to the remaining retail that it will not only keep that retail alive, it should be enough to help it thrive.


  1. This Bay Farmian wants more housing here. There is plenty of room here. The 27 unused tennis courts at the dilapidated HB Club that seems always on the verge of going out of business is one obvious spot. I could imagine very nice housing along Harbor Bay mixed with the existing commercial too. Ron Cowan Pkwy is great access to the freeway and I often go that way even if heading north since it is so fast, multiple lanes and few stops.

    Comment by bjsvec — June 3, 2021 @ 9:38 am

  2. Wow! Lauren, Twice in the last week we appear to be of a somewhat common mind. I am not taking a position on where our new RHNA required developments should go because I think that needs a lot more study. However they have to go somewhere and continued resistance to mixed use development in retail areas will result in mandates from the State that will remove any element of local choice. Article 26 of our Charter provides no protection from State mandates.

    Comment by Paul Foreman — June 3, 2021 @ 10:41 am

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