As Perplexing as the Loch Ness Monster

As Perplexing as the Loch Ness Monster

For me, the nebulous expression “affordable housing” has always been a mystery or an enigma; right up there with professional wrestling, Area 51 and the Loch Ness Monster. Judging by the dearth of rental units on the local market, one might, lacking nuance, sensitivity and subjectivity, think nearly all Alameda housing is “affordable” given it is all rented.

Even the word “affordable” suspended out there without its partner, “Housing,” is a perplexity ranking well above both the Santa Cruz Mystery Spot and the Winchester Mystery House. Nowadays, many people unknowingly find themselves in the squeeze grip of a solipsism: they narrowly define “Un-Affordable” as something they cannot afford. For me, “Un-Affordable” would mean a Tesla Model-X, a Chivas Regal liquor miniature, an early retirement at age 72 or a fourth divorce.

Don’t test me on this, but “affordable” seems to have some relationship to income and in the case of rental units, “Affordable” would have some connection to the incomes of the people who intend to pay the rent.

Presently I live in a one-bedroom condominium; it is so small that even the mice have round shoulders and my bigger sticks of furniture remain in the hallway and the parking garage. My living room is my assigned parking slot.

For me, eating a plant-based diet is not a matter of political correctness, environmental concern or health; as a social chameleon, I wish it were. Instead, vegetarianism is a choice, I can either eat meat or live indoors. Life is all about choices. What would you choose? A ribeye or running water? Lamb chops or indoor plumbing?

When it comes to available housing in Alameda, the question that surfaces is, “What is our target audience?” Everyone west of Manteca? Everyone west of the Missouri River? Or just plain everyone?

Alameda is a delightful place to live, but it is subject to a bidding war. If demand for housing vastly outstrips availability perhaps the answer is to rundown demand. As the sagacious and perspicacious Yogi Berra once remarked, “Nobody goes there anymore… it’s too crowded.” Just the name “Alameda” means “public walk shaded by trees.”

There’s a clue, cut down the trees and replace them with “No Parking” signs. Next, those stately, hoity-toity Victorians gotta go, they attract the wrong kind of people; the aesthetes and sentimental people of taste.

Go with Albert Speer cubism, if it ain’t a rectangle or a square, it comes down. Next, run up the traffic grid lock: more bike lanes, more traffic lights, more stop signs and close one or two bridges or tunnels. Then, lower the speed limit from 25 mph to 15 mph and ramp up the number of radar traps.

If you can’t feel your face getting warmer driving down Otis, it’s because you are not getting hit with enough radar waves. Although I am a teacher and loathe to mention this, run-up the student to teacher ratio from 35 to 1 to 50 to 1. No one wants to send his or her child to a school where the teacher has not learned the names of his or her students by May or June.

Then hit the landed gentry with more parcel taxes. Taxes to increase firefighter, school superintendent and police pay and reduce their retirement ages to 30 something. Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of profligacy!

Next, get rid of the folksy “Mom and Pop” stores on Park Street. Everything gets replaced by a “Big Box.” If it ain’t a national franchise, it don’t belong. Toy Safari becomes Toys R Us; Ole’s Waffle House is relabeled IHOP; Cera Una Volta becomes Franco-American Spaghetti House; Trabocco becomes Pizza-A-Go-Go. Make Rock Wall sell only New York State wines exclusively. Declare beaches off limits to children under 18 with beach hours from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Once you set aside rational thinking, the possibilities are endless. As my Uncle Cusper used to lecture me, “Never hog-tie yourself with the truth, reason or common sense.”

And finally, Alameda Hospital; how about “Drive Thru Only?”

If the city planners, or whatever those apparatchiks are calling themselves these days, need more ideas, I am free from now to mid-August. As a concerned citizen, unfettered by the rigors of Aristotelian logic and any semblance of linearity, I am here to help. While thinking outside the box has never been a problem, thinking within the realm of possibility has always been a struggle.

LCrd. Jeffrey R. Smith, U.S. Navy (Ret.), teaches mathematics at Encinal High School.