Forum Reveals Candidates’ Positions


On Sept. 7, I moderated the Alameda Citizens Task Force (ACT) forum to meet the candidates for City Council. 

ACT led the successful fight against the former City Council’s attempt to sell public land to a private developer at Crab Cove and Crown Beach, which Marilyn Ashcraft strongly supported. ACT also worked and successfully stopped SunCal’s development of 5,000 residential units at Alameda Point, which Lena Tam strongly supported and the city’s attempted giveaway of the Mif Albright golf course to Ron Cowan, which Lena Tam initially supported. 

ACT represents slow, considered, careful growth for Alameda and opposes giveaways of public and coastal land and the continued, ongoing building of expensive, over-sized, market-priced residential units that are currently being approved by City Council. 

Here, in abbreviated form, are the questions asked at the forum. They reflect the interests and concerns of ACT, and, I think, the interests and concerns of most of the people who live on our Island:

1. What is your position on rent control?

2. What is your plan to deal with the additional 5,000 to 10,000 more cars that will be on Alameda’s roads if the City Council continues to approve building to the extent that the Housing Element allows, as it is currently doing? 

3. Would you support a 180-day moratorium on the building of market-priced residences that directs City Council to: (a) increase the minimal percentage of required affordable units from the current 15 to 30 percent; (b) charges the developer $25,000 for every market-priced unit they build and require that money be used to buy or develop affordable housing?

4. Recently the City Council approved the building of a five-story hotel and parking lot on the coastal waterways of Harbor Bay Island. Do you support using our coastal lands this way, and will you support a City Council-approved Tidelands and Coastal Lands policy that protects and maintains the waterways for the public and maritime use? 

5. Alameda’s job-to-housing ratio is one of the worst in the Bay Area. What is your plan for protecting commercial property and jobs along the estuary? 

The assessment that follows is my own, not ACT’s or anyone else’s:

Not surprisingly, Marilyn Ashcraft — the build, build, build; more, higher, denser; don’t worry about the traffic, lost jobs and open space, we have a plan, incumbent — was a no-show. She chose to attend another function.

Lena Tam presented at the forum and said the same old Lena Tam things. If you liked the former City Council majority of Gilmore, Chen, Bonta, and Tam, you’ll love having Lena back.

Malia Vella is interesting, smart, articulate and a lawyer. Her answers touched every base of every question, and the result was I couldn’t quite figure out where she stood on anything. On rent control, the other candidates supported L1, the city ordinance over M1, the ARC initiative. Vella was neutral on both. See what I mean? On which side is she on anything? When I look at her list of supporters, contributors and endorsers (Gilmore, Bonta, John Knox White) I can guess.

Tony Daysog was the most experienced and knowledgeable presenter. His positions were clear, straightforward and authentic. He favors building more housing units, but voted against several developments because his concerns about increasing traffic and congestions were not addressed. He voted for the hotel on Harbor Bay Island but hopes BCDC will reduce the size and scope and alter the design. He’s a strong supporter of protecting commercial enterprises on the estuary and saving jobs.

Jennifer Roloff is the newbie. She’s not a politician or a politician wannabee. She has no political aspirations other than making Alameda the best place it can be. Her catch-phrase, “Build Better, Not Bigger,” rings true. She’s not as experienced or knowledgeable as Daysog or as articulate as Vella, but her answers to the questions were direct, head-on, and complete. 

Of all the candidates, she is the candidate of smart growth, careful growth, considered growth and the candidate most likely to protect jobs — especially marine jobs — the tidelands and open space. She is also the candidate who will take our concerns and fears about traffic and congestion most seriously. I should note that  Jennifer’s mother, Gretchen Lipow, is an active member of ACT, but ACT has not endorsed and will not endorse any candidate. 

This assessment is mine and mine alone, but the issues and concerns expressed in the five questions are all of ours. Vote for the candidate you think will support them the most.



Mark Greenside is a resident of Alameda and a retired professor of Political Science, history, and English from Merritt College.