Blogging Bayport Alameda

November 9, 2015

Supply for demand

Filed under: Alameda, City Council, Development — Lauren Do @ 6:09 am

So much still to talk about regarding Wednesday’s events, but the Planning Board is important too in light of the rental housing crisis and housing crisis in general in Alameda.  Two housing projects are on the agenda to house populations that almost everyone will agree needs housing the most: seniors and families needing affordable housing.

This will be the second look at the old Island High property project that will bring 22 affordable housing units to the Wedge neighborhood near Park Street.  The applicant is the Housing Authority of Alameda so these should be permanently affordable housing units. If approved it will be interesting to see is this project gets appealed or called for review by the City Council.  The Planning Board will be making a determination on the design review and granting a density bonus for the project.



November 2, 2015

In the study

Filed under: Alameda, Business, City Council, Development — Lauren Do @ 6:02 am

One of the most interesting pieces to come out of the materials posted in advance of the big meeting on rising rents is the rent study, it’s the first Exhibit.  While some folks are concerned with the limited focus at the conclusion of the study of ways to preserve or increase the affordable housing supply, for me, it’s not that big of a deal given the healthy skepticism that exists on the City Council with regard to anything that is consultant produced.  And, besides, we already know of what can be done, it’s simply a matter of whether this City Council is bold enough to move forward with policies that currently exist to protect and increase the supply of affordable housing in Alameda.   We don’t have a shortage of ideas and practices that work in other cities, what we have is an issue of leadership.  Whether this City Council has the will and the ability to move forward these issues.

So let me pull out some of the more relevant facts that should inform this discussion about rising rents and should affect political positions on these issues.

Approximately 16,793 units, or more than 53% of Alameda’s total housing stock, are rental units.


October 21, 2015

Sick and tired of being sick and tired

Filed under: Alameda, City Council, Development, Public Resources — Lauren Do @ 6:01 am

This is timely considering the discussion on rents, how much is too much of an annual rent increase, and why shouldn’t landlords be able to raise rents larger percentages when the economy is good to make up for the leaner times.  Vox has a piece on the recently released report from the White House detailing the role of rents on inequality.  So, I’ll admit a lot of the economic speak was a lot over my head so it would be helpful for the economists type folks in the house (I know there’s at least two of you in the audience, maybe more) to help layspeak it for the rest of us.  I mean I understand it on the level of “hey this is in English and I have good comprehension skills” but that’s about it.  Except for Box 1, I totally understood Box 1 and I’m going to fixate on that after excerpting the Vox piece.

From the Vox piece:

This phenomenon — a decline in the labor share of income — hadn’t really happened before. In fact, economists had kind of convinced themselves that it couldn’t happen, and that the labor share was something like a fixed property of the economy.

But obviously that was wrong. And the most natural interpretation of why it’s wrong is that the bosses are getting one over on the rest of us. Maybe it’s globalization, maybe it’s automation, maybe it’s the decline of labor unions, maybe it’s neoliberal hegemony (why not), or maybe it’s something to do with workplace skills. But whatever it is, it means that the American worker’s power to bargain for wages and benefits has declined, hence the declining share of income going to workers’ wages and benefits.

Except that’s wrong, too. Check out this chart — it shows that the rise in the share of national income going to the owners of businesses has only nudged up very slightly. The rise is in the share of income going to the owners of houses.


October 16, 2015

Unpaving the way

Filed under: Alameda, Development, Transportation — Lauren Do @ 6:06 am

Hold on a sec, I might need to do a “hypocrisy check” from now on so that I can fully disclose ahead of time if I am supporting something that I have no intention of ever being a consumer of or am not a current consumer.

All right folks, in a preview of today’s post, I currently am not going to be a consumer of affordable (low-income) housing nor in the near future will I require affordable senior housing.  Nor, knock on wood, do I currently require the special needs housing.  According to the metric laid out in Wednesday’s comments section, I am a hypocrite for encouraging the construction of this type of housing because I do not currently live in said housing nor do I have an intent to move into said housing.  Now that’s all settled.  On October 9th, the Governor signed into law a really encouraging new bill regarding the construction of affordable and senior housing.  From Streetsblog:

A.B. 744, authored by Ed Chau (D-Monterey Park), is limited to a few very specific types of housing, all meant to house population groups that tend to own few cars and drive less than the general population. Those are: housing for seniors, housing for special needs populations, and housing for low-income and very-low income people. It also applies to mixed-income developments that include a minimum number of affordable units. All categories are required to have a specified level of transit access.

Under the new law, if a developer of these types of housing asks to be allowed to build less parking than required by zoning regulations, a city has to allow it—as defined in the statute, see below—unless it can demonstrate that more parking is necessary. And A.B. 744 specifies what that “demonstration” would entail, not leaving it to a vague “parking study.” A parking study to show that a development needs more parking would have to be somewhat recent and based on “substantial evidence,” including area-wide parking availability, transit access, potential for shared parking, the effect of parking requirements on the cost of developments, and rates of car ownership among low-income, senior, and special needs individuals.

This shifts the burden of proof from the developer to the city, in the process codifying the assumption that in general these populations need and use fewer parking spots. And while it’s a win for affordable housing developers, it’s also a win for sustainable transportation, clean air, and climate change efforts.


October 15, 2015

Justify my love

Filed under: Alameda, City Council, Development — Lauren Do @ 6:05 am

Even though most everyone else without a real definitive position on the whole Special meeting regarding the old Harbor Bay Club site at Packet Landing could not figure out why Trish Spencer abstained in voting to affirm the existing zoning at the site.  This was low hanging fruit in the world of politics.  It’s not really making any decision since there was no application before the City Council, in the grand scheme of things this should have been an easy gimme for all the members of the City Council to vote in favor of, particularly the City Councilmembers celebrated by the Harbor Bay Neighbors as the protectors of the Harbor Bay’s “feel.”

But instead of puzzling out why it was that Trish Spencer abstained, the Harbor Bay Neighbors took her at her word that she abstained out of “an abundance of caution” as a means to justify their past and continued support of Mayor Trish.

I wonder if other City Councilmembers that were not Trish Spencer would have been given such the benefit of the doubt had they opted to abstain.  My guess is they would not.  In Twitter postings, one of the leaders of HBN further justified her non vote by offering a “well we already had three votes so it didn’t matter anyway.”

Ah, profiles in courage!


October 14, 2015

If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em

Filed under: Alameda, Development — Lauren Do @ 6:04 am

During election season one of the most confusing things to be has almost always been the local Sierra Club endorsement process.  There’s always something behind the scenes drama where the local folks can always dictate who to support and then get approval from the larger regional organization.  Unless someone steps in and says, “wait a minute, these folks don’t really espouse the ideals of the Sierra Club” typically it’s a rubber stamp through the process which, often times, renders the candidate and the positions taken by the local Sierra Club to be a lot less progressive that the national Sierra Club.

Apparently the San Francisco Bay Area Renters Federation (SF BARF) is going to be the first housing advocacy group to make the change from inside the Sierra Club, from the SF Business Times:

As election season approaches, a pro-density housing group is trying to stage a coup at the Sierra Club, with accusations that the environmental group is blocking high-density housing and abandoning its mission of protecting the environment.

The San Francisco Bay Area Renters Federation, which has also threatened lawsuits to increase housing production, is trying to get five pro-density candidates elected to the Sierra Club’s San Francisco group executive committee, which is one of eight groups in the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter.


October 8, 2015

Mind the CAT gap

Filed under: Alameda, Development, Transportation — Lauren Do @ 6:08 am

Tonight the Rec and Park Commission will be reviewing and making a recommendation on the Cross Alameda Trail portion of the Jean Sweeney Open Space Park.  While this is going to be a feel good agenda item, here’s what the Rec and Park Commission should be concerned about in addition to back patting and sending accolades to staff on a job well done: the job’s not quite done.

Here’s the concern.  While the trail will be protected on Atlantic (RAMP) between Main and Webster and then the Sweeney Open Space Park will provide a protected connection through the stretch of that street there is a terrible gap between Webster and Constitution where, I guess, people on bikes will be forced on to the sidewalks and streets to get between the two pieces of the Cross Alameda Trail.  Somehow this is an acceptable proposition for the City right now.  But it should not be an acceptable condition for the Rec and Park Commission whose biking constituency will be unceremoniously dumped from protected bike lane to protected bike lane and expected to fend for themselves in a crazy busy stretch of street.

Sources say that the funding, the $2.9 million from grants and Measure B money was supposed to be spent on the Cross Alameda Trail from Sherman all the way to Webster, but the renderings for discussion tonight only speak to the Cross Alameda Trail portion that runs through the Open Space land ending at Constitution where, arguably, the need for a safe bike connection is the most needed.


October 5, 2015

Everywhere, USA

Filed under: Alameda, Alameda-ish, City Council, Development — Lauren Do @ 6:05 am

Just so folks don’t think it’s a strictly Alameda phenomenon of opposing development, recently the Planning Board in Berkeley approved a large downtown project that would bring 302 residential spaces to Berkeley.   That proposal met a fair amount of oppositions, but look at how the opposition and proponents were described:

Opponents cited the scale of the project, flaws in the approval process, concerns about earthquake safety and worries about the impact of construction on nearby Berkeley High School. Advocates called for more housing in Berkeley and for increased activity downtown. To a remarkable extent, the divide in opinion was generational: older commenters were opposed; younger ones approved.

“We have to stop letting the perfect be the enemy of the good and get housing built now,” said Eric Panzer, chair of Livable Berkeley. He said many opponents had secured housing in Berkeley years ago and wanted to “pull up the drawbridge.”

Also, check out some of the strong comments from the Board members:


October 2, 2015

Building a mystery

Filed under: Alameda, City Council, Development — Lauren Do @ 6:02 am

After many many many letters to the editor and signs cropping up all over the island, there is a chance, once and for all for all the cards to be figuratively laid on the table with regard to the whole new Harbor Bay Club and what will happen with the space that is left if neu-HBC is built.

The funny thing about all the handwringing over the whole topic is that it was assumed that some how the approvals for the housing at the current HBC site was fait accompli and being actively pushed by City Staff, but while the City Manager has changed, the staff that writes the reports and aligns the staff recommendations with what is best for the City of Alameda as a whole has not.  I guess it must have come as a surprise to some folks that staff is suggesting that the City Council not move forward with rezoning the current HBC site.  From the staff report:

Amending the General Plan is a policy decision that requires that the community and the City Council balance and value different, and sometimes competing, public interests.  In this case, staff recommends that the City Council move to affirm the current General Plan and Zoning designations for the property.  The staff recommendation is based upon the following:

•  The City of Alameda General Plan and Zoning Ordinance provides enough land for residential use to meet the City’s regional housing needs through 2023.  In 2023, the City Council may need to re-evaluate its residential land supply as part of the next State-mandated Housing Element update.  At this time, no rezoning for housing is needed.

• The Alameda community as a whole has an expressed need for recreational services and facilities.  To ensure that the City maintains lands designated for these purposes, staff recommends that the City Council maintain the Commercial Recreational designated lands to address the commercial recreational needs of current and future generations of Alameda residents.


September 30, 2015

From the desk of…

Filed under: Alameda, City Council, Development — Lauren Do @ 6:00 am

Raise your hand if you actually believe that Frank Matarrese has unironic stationary that reads: “From the desk of Frank Matarrese.”  I totally believe he does.

Anyway, from the desk of Frank Matarrese to you is Frank Matarrese attempting to tackle kinda sorta the whole problem with Alameda families and individuals losing their housing without actually having to add any supply to the housing inventory or actual institute any sort of real rental protections, here are his “solutions”:

To help protect renters from unfair evictions, I want to expand the scope of the RRAC to include evictions

To provide more affordable housing without overbuilding, I want to increase the numbers of affordable units by offering amnesty to owners of illegal units in exchange for turning them into affordable housing

To discourage landlords from reaping unreasonable profits from unwarranted and extreme rent increases, I propose increasing their Alameda business license tax based on their increased profits

First, “expanding” the scope of the RRAC without giving the RRAC any real powers is sort of useless.  Unless the RRAC becomes a body that has the actual ability to fine and lien property owners for not complying with the rulings, then you might as well have the RRAC in charge of ponies and rainbows while you’re at it for all the good it will do.


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