Blogging Bayport Alameda

July 9, 2021

NIMBY flags aloft

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

As we get deeper into the whole Housing Element discussion it appears that NIMBYs across the Bay Area and probably all of California are starting to wave their NIMBY flags proudly, but also revealing the true intent of their opposition to housing. The Chronicle felt compelled to write an editorial about it after multiple high profile WTF moments. It’s not Alameda specific, but it is Alameda adjacent given our high and vocal NIMBY population.


The term “affordable housing” often functions as California code for no housing. Thanks to a scarcity of homes driven by residents and officials who pretend to support housing subject to its affordability, along with all manner of other more transparently trivial specifications, affordable housing serves as a theoretical construct excusing opposition to all actual construction.

I’m gonna stop right here because we actually saw this line of attack at the Tuesday City Council meeting from Councilmember Trish Spencer who lamented about the $1 million new homes which aren’t affordable to the majority of people. No shit lady. But that’s what happens when (1) you have a housing shortage, (2) you build in requirements for market rate developers to pay for all the back bone infrastructure costs, and (3) you build in requirements for market rate developers to pay for goodies like affordable housing fees, transportation demand management fees, park fees, school fees, public art fees, etc and so forth.

What people who parade the “we should only be building affordable housing” line around won’t acknowledge is how expensive it is to build affordable housing these days and that the people being housed in affordable housing definitely couldn’t afford this unless it was heavily subsidized either. Our two most recent projects: one completed and one under construction right now are pricing out at nearly $1 million per unit to build. The issue is that no one who has paraded the “we should only be building affordable housing” line has accompanied that with calls for an extensive affordable housing bond to pay for this.

More from the editorial:

In both places, the pretexts for the opposition are many and familiar: parking, traffic, toxic waste, scale, character. A Livermore official said the racist part out loud when he worried about the area becoming a “ghetto.” Likewise, the Sunset development, with seven stories and a six-figure income limit, has been disparaged as a “high-rise slum” that would “become the best place in San Francisco to buy heroin.” Neighbors are even griping about the shadow it would cast on one of the most notoriously sunless corners of California.

We’ve heard this to in Alameda but we’re a little more circumspect in our discussions right now because we haven’t had any multifamily housing developments (other than Everett Commons which wasn’t smack in the middle of the East End) in areas where the status quo means locking the neighborhood in amber. We hear statements like “neighborhood character” and “quality of life” which is essentially no different than calling a possible multifamily development a “ghetto” and a “slum” conjuring up pre-stocked images in our mind of WHO occupies slums and ghettos and thereby stoking fears.

But no worries, given the possibility of the affordable housing AUSD project in the East End it’s just a matter of time before we start seeing “neighborhood character” and “quality of life” morph into arguments about “ghettos” and “slums.”


  1. There is definitely an argument for building ONLY affordable housing in the face of market rate housing over $1 million, but it must be placed in the proper context and used to begin the discussion of how more housing doesn’t seem to be responding to the laws of supply and demand and bringing down the cost of home ownership. Unfortunately, that ONLY affordable housing argument is used by NIMBY factions to construct a false humility about their aims. They are merely upholding their current privilege, whether or not it was based on humble working class origins.

    How do we get only affordable housing at this point? By fighting against the phenomenon of the commodification of housing, the purchase of empty units by investment groups and by starting build social housing programs available to all people regardless of their income, as they have done in Singapore and Vienna. Housing as a human right. Period.

    With guaranteed housing, many of our social ills will go away.

    Comment by Laura Thomas — July 9, 2021 @ 9:36 am

    • What do those investment groups do with the units they purchase? Do they demolish them? Do they keep them empty? No. They RENT them. To tenants, who are people that live in those units.

      If you want more housing, then you want more investment groups.

      Comment by Hoo boy — July 9, 2021 @ 10:00 am

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Say what you want

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Blog at