Letters to the Editor
People who don’t want multiplexes in single-family-home areas are often accused of being NIMBYs, as in, “Not in my backyard.” The NIMBY concept is that people don’t want poor people, or people who are different from them, to move nearby. This is strange to me, since the additional housing that is currently planned is all luxury apartments, only affordable by wealthy dotcommers. My neighborhood used to have a lot of poor people — then the dot com boom happened and rents went through the roof.
Let me talk about my backyard.
In my backyard are two oak trees, more than a century old. My next-door neighbor has an oak tree that is even older. These trees need room for roots and sunlight. If nearby multi-family dwellings cut off either, they will die.
The oak trees support an ecosystem of many different creatures. There are two different species of woodpeckers and a small flock of chickadees. Red squirrels run up and down the branches. There’s a scrub jay, house finches and tiny birds called bushtits. A pair of crows has built a nest in the top branches.
I have many different varieties of plants in my backyard in addition to the oaks. Someone nearby has beehives, and the bees visit my yard. The plants that attract bees need sunlight.
The oak trees have no voice. The chickadees and bees cannot address the City Council. The crows do not speak English.
If your response is that the house finches and the jay can go elsewhere — all nearby ecosystems are filled. That is why one cannot relocate wild animals. The creatures already there do not welcome new competitors for limited food.
If your response is that squirrels and chickadees are not endangered species — I ask if a wild creature only has value when humans have pushed it to near extinction.
The Alameda Sun received a copy of this letter.
Dear Mayor, City Council and City Manager:
“Defunding” the police means re-visioning policing in community. This does not mean getting “rid” of police, but redirecting funds in ways that result in programatic changes that directly addresses the problems tearing our community apart.
Immediate funds are available in Alameda by re-directing funds ear-marked for a licence-plate-reader program and re-directing them to programs and personnel trained in dealing with homelessness, addiction and mental health issues.
Dear Mayor Ashcraft, City Council, and Staff:
City Planner, Andrew Thomas, was recently quoted as asking, “Do you want your City Charter to essentially say we do not want to build any multi-family housing for people who cannot afford to live in single-family housing,” and in that statement he has precisely shown what is wrong with Alameda’s government.
Thomas is referring to the November elections and City Council’s proposed vote to repeal language in Measure A that currently “prohibits” the building of multi-family housing. Note: I am not arguing for or against the repeal. I am arguing for clarity and honesty from our leaders and for them to demand the same from their staff.
Thomas’ statement equates multi-family housing with affordable housing. Thomas apparently wants voters to think they are the same thing, and to think that a vote to repeal Measure A’s multi-family housing “prohibition” is a vote for affordable housing. He wants voters to think the reason we don’t have more affordable housing is because Measure A “prohibits” it. None of this is accurate.
Multi-family housing can be million dollar condos and town-houses. Multi-family housing can be built and offered at current market-rate prices. There is nothing in the phrase multi-family that means, requires, supports or encourages affordable housing, and given Alameda’s history and what is being approved and built in Alameda today, I would expect the vast majority of any new, additional, multi-family units to be market-rate and not affordable.
Measure A does not ban multi-family housing and does not “prohibit” multi-family housing from being built. It did in the past, and maybe that is reason to vote it out, but it does not do so now. It is bypassed every day, every hour in Alameda. The article Thomas was quoted in also says, “…developers of large housing projects, such as those taking place at the former Alameda Naval Air Station, have used state regulations to sidestep the ban….” They can do this because state laws and regulations supersede and override Measure A.
Here’s what I see as the truth:
- Whether or not all or any part of Measure A gets repealed has absolutely nothing to do with more affordable housing being built in Alameda;
- There is no current ban or prohibition on building multi-family units, as the quote above makes clear and anyone who drives around Alameda can see;
- State law (as the quote above states) allows the overriding of local law for purposes of meeting the City’s housing allocations, which means right now, at this moment, Alameda has full authority to build as many multi-family dwellings as it takes to meet its affordable housing allocation;
- The city has approved and/or built four times — 400 percent — of its housing allocation for market-rate housing even though each market-rate unit built reduces and removes available space that could be used to build affordable housing, thereby making future affordable housing goals harder and harder to meet;
- The state approved 2015-2023 Housing Element establishes the building goals for the City. In it, the City identifies the goal of building 975 affordable units, specifically excluding an additional 200 units at Alameda Point. Now, however, the City is including the 200 units as part of the 975, thereby reducing Alameda’s affordable housing goal by 20 percent -- and even with that bit of mathematical magic, the City is still hundreds of units short of its affordable housing goal.
If the City can’t meet its affordable housing allocation numbers now, when it has full authority to do so, why should any of us believe it will do so if Measure A is repealed? If the City really wants to do something about affordable housing, they should, and they should stop making and allowing these misleading and distracting arguments that are constantly, repeatedly made by City officials.
Let’s have the discussion about Measure A — and let’s be clear and honest about what it does and doesn’t do. Then, may the will of an informed citizenry prevail. That’s how good government works.