Blogging Bayport Alameda

September 27, 2021

You don’t get a win unless you play in the game

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:07 am

On Friday because Alameda is, well, Alameda, and A is the first letter of the alphabet we had our ABAG appeal on deck first out of all of the other communities who filed an appeal. Let’s just say the meeting did not go the way that several of your usual suspect public speakers wanted this to go. But first I wanted assure folks that City Staff, in this case, Andrew Thomas, really did try to sell Alameda’s appeal as best he could. Given what everyone already knew about the parameters of how to appeal and what is appealable, it was the strongest message that Alameda could put forward.

The message was essentially this: yes we do have the land to zone to accommodate all the housing units, we know that you are saying that natural hazard’s don’t count but we are uniquely vulnerable to specific hazards which will be extremely costly to defend against. Are you sure you want to place housing in a place where it will be expensive to defend and you know we can’t afford this right? So are you, ABAG, going to make promises that you’ll help us financially? Oh also , we have this little problem of the Navy cap, it’s going to make building super expensive, is the region going to use its collective might to help us with the feds?

See? Smart. Alameda was not going to win on the merits of any of its arguments because if Alameda were to prevail a bunch of other cities have similar sob stories about how special it is and how they can’t find land or whatever. Alameda was much more strategic and it was reflected both in city staff’s presentation and rebuttals and the public comment of City Councilmember John Knox White.

There were some general questions from the elected officials who sit on this ABAG committee which gets the pleasure of hearing all of these appeals but it was all trending toward: yeah we’re not going to give you a reduction in your numbers.

Interestingly enough, while John Knox White and, of course, Trish Spencer spoke during public comment, the third City Councilmember who voted for filing the appeal did not. Tony Daysog was conspicuously absent considering he was the one whose funny math determined what amount reduction Alameda should ask for. I guess Tony Daysog likes to only embarrass himself locally and not necessarily before the entire region.

Anyway, there was one elected official, Otto Lee, a supervisor from Santa Clara County who really understood what Alameda was pushing for and championed — at first — adding Alameda’s request for ABAG to recognize the financial burden of mitigations for sea level rise and climate change into the denial language. In the end, with the advise of counsel, the committee decided to refer the two asks of Alameda — the financial burden of climate change and Navy cap — to the Executive Committee.

In the end Alameda got more than what we would have had Alameda not filed the appeal. And it just goes to show you that John Knox White and City Staff are out here playing like the most low key strategic game of Terraforming Mars while Trish Spencer and friends are playing some endless loop of Candyland.


  1. Thanks for the report.

    Encouraging that Andrew Thomas and John Knoxwhite were able to use the appeal to lobby for more regional support to defend aginst sea level rise and to remove the Navy cap on the number of units that can be built without reimbursing the Navy for the land.

    Comment by 2wheelsmith — September 27, 2021 @ 7:51 am

  2. What I liked about this appeal is that a progressive politician like JKW allied with more traditional politicians like Spencer and Daysog to work together to advance smart development for our city. Although you constantly attack Daysog and Spencer, it turns out they were correct to file this appeal and that Spencer was persuasive in the hearing- bringing up real issues of the costs of climate change and Alameda’s limits on development imposed by the federal base transfer. Congrats to all.

    Comment by Really — September 27, 2021 @ 7:54 am

    • Uh yes, that is exactly what Trish Spencer and Tony Daysog meant to do all along.

      Comment by JRB — September 27, 2021 @ 10:12 am

    • Yeah you didn’t listen to her comments did you? If you did you would understand she was not appealing to be strategic, she was appealing because she thought that she could get the number lowered and then reallocated to other cities. In fact Alameda was asked where we thought the units we didn’t want should go.

      Comment by Lauren Do — September 27, 2021 @ 11:43 am

  3. In the end, with the advise of counsel, the committee decided to refer the two asks of Alameda — the financial burden of climate change and Navy cap — to the Executive Committee.


    So does this mean the RHNA number is upheld and ABAG will consider throwing us some cash later, or is the RHNA number still subject, pending the Executive Committee’s blessing?

    Comment by dave — September 27, 2021 @ 8:31 am

    • Means the preliminary decision for Alameda and all other cities heard on Friday will be to deny their appeals. (RHNA number holds) but Executive Committee will need to take on the task of throwing money at us and helping us with the Feds.

      Comment by Lauren Do — September 27, 2021 @ 11:39 am

  4. Due to the ever-increasing costs of climate change, perhaps now more than ever before there is a strong case to be made to the US Navy, to not only remove the Navy Cap at Alameda Point, but to remove the $100K financial penalty as well

    Comment by Karen Bey — September 27, 2021 @ 9:24 am

    • I thought the cap is the penalty. You go beyond the cap, it’s $100K. Either you remove the cap or the penalty, it’s the same thing. Maybe I’m mistaken.

      Comment by JRB — September 27, 2021 @ 10:13 am

  5. Lauren, I fully agree with everything in your post with the exception of the unwarranted criticism of Trish Spencer. However, you and your readers need to know that I attended a meeting of the ABAG Methodology Committee in December of 2019 where I learned that the Committee was considering natural hazards as a part of the methodology for determining allocation of the Bay Area RHNA. I noted a map displayed at the meeting that demonstrated the city to city differences in natural hazard impact by the metric of the percentage of each city available for development outside of a hazard zone and noted that Alameda was in the most impacted category, with less than half of our city outside of a hazard zone. I spoke up at that meeting to advocate for the importance of including this factor as to Alameda as an offset against the very positive aspects of our city that would support a high allocation. (good schools, libraries, senior services, proximity to jobs and transportation).

    In January of 2020 I wrote to Council and pertinent city staff informing them of the above and urging them to advocate for the inclusion of natural hazards in the methodology at the next Methodology Committee meeting and warning them that this was their only chance to gain its inclusion. I sent a second email after learning of the initial shallow ground water flooding report presented to the city, which, in effect, places even more of the city in a hazard zone. Council ignored my entreaties. We will never know if strong advocacy by the city would have led to a smaller allocation.

    Notwithstanding all of the above, I lobbied hard for the appeal, realizing that it would be denied, but wanting to finally get some recognition and respect from ABAG concerning this issue. Mr. Thomas’s natural hazard argument in his appeals letter drew greatly from my emails and he presented the issue in a very smart manner for which I have commended him. We have made some progress but the earlier neglect of this issue by City Council greatly troubles me and I have told them so.

    Comment by Paul Foreman — September 27, 2021 @ 10:43 am

    • Except for the fact that the methodology would still have to be approved by HCD. A natural hazard based allocation would be positively chaotic in the land of earthquakes, sea level rise and fire danger.

      Comment by Lauren Do — September 27, 2021 @ 11:41 am

      • Lauren, Not near as chaotic as squeezing many more housing units into those hazard areas, but I agree that the HCD bureaucracy may have rejected it. One of the big flaws in this this law is that lack of any real constraint on HCD, a non-elected body with enormous power.

        Comment by Paul Foreman — September 27, 2021 @ 12:20 pm

    • I’d say it’s pretty warranted. Trish entered the meeting without a real game plan and has never once demonstrated an understanding of the ABAG methodology process. We have seen Trish sit on these ABAG meetings before as mayor and she always managed to embarrass the city one way or another. She was spared some embarrassment this time by Mr. Knox White and Mr. Thomas working to get some concessions out of the meeting.

      Comment by JRB — September 27, 2021 @ 11:49 am

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