Traffic, Traffic Everywhere and Not a Place to Park

Traffic, Traffic Everywhere and Not a Place to Park

The word “infill” sounds innocuous. Find a hole or dig a hole and fill it in: infill. “Material that fills in something”: infill; the fixer-upper in your neighborhood that a developer buys, tears down, and builds three-to-six story, million-dollar, market-rate condos: infill.

Article 26 of the City Charter, also known as Measure A, prevents this kind of infill. Measure Z, on the Nov. 3 ballot, would repeal Article 26. If Measure A is repealed, the only thing standing between you and “infill” is three votes from the City Council, which is unfortunate because four votes currently support Measure Z — Mayor Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft, Vice-Mayor John Knox White and Councilmembers Malia Vella and Jim Oddie.

They are all on record favoring much higher-density housing (taller buildings with less parking) and much more infill (any neighborhood in Alameda). That’s the future they want and are planning for Alameda. They would have us believe this is a good, democratizing thing, resulting in more diversity through the building of more multi-family housing.

Multi-family housing is a buzzword. It is used by the same four people mentioned above to imply affordable housing, as if multi-family by definition means affordable, but it does not. Multi-family housing can be million-dollar condos and townhouses and given that 85 to 90 percent of all new housing built in Alameda is for-profit, developer-driven, and market-rate; 85 to 90 percent of the multi-family units built will be market-rate, and not affordable.

Most of the people who live in Alameda will not be able to afford most of the housing built here. The median income for a family of four in Alameda County is $102,000. To buy a low-end market-priced housing unit (about $700,000) requires a family income of $160,000 a year.

The people who can afford to buy are investors, lawyers, doctors, techies and retirees who just sold their million-dollar-plus homes. This does not add up to the diverse, integrated, representative, urban community promised. It adds up to Danville, Piedmont and Rossmoor.

The four city councilmembers who want to “infill” and who want to build thousands more million-dollar units (with two cars on average per unit) tell us not to worry about the increased traffic, because they have a plan called traffic demand management (TDM), which is based on four factors:
* Well-paying local jobs (that don’t exist) so people won’t have to drive to work.
* Reliable public transportation (that doesn’t exist)
* Expensive parking fees (which are coming)
* People not owning or driving cars, (which isn’t happening)

This is not a plan; it’s a hope and a prayer. A plan has measurables. A plan has deliverables. A plan has achievable goals, benchmarks and penalties for failure; a plan has alternatives. TDM has none of these.

Every year, more cars are sold than the previous year. Every year more cars are on the road. Take a walk through Bayport or any of the other new neighborhoods built under TDM guidelines. There are cars in the garages and cars filling the streets. There is zero (pre-COVID 19) empirical evidence that the use and ownership of cars is diminishing.
With COVID 19, even fewer people are using what little public transit we have. Plus, almost all transit studies agree that the people least likely to use public transit are people with higher incomes. The math is simple. The more you build, the more cars you get, and the more expensive you build, the greater likelihood people will drive.

If Alameda continues in this direction — with million-dollar, market-rate condo “infill” and the failed TDM, we can expect: a wealthier, uglier, less diverse city that requires parking permits to park in front of your own house, buying permits for people who visit you and want to stay longer than two or four hours, not to mention a few days; speed bumps, one-way streets, road-blocks, traffic circles, traffic diverters, fewer lanes for cars, fewer, much more expensive, places to park, and traffic, traffic, traffic everywhere.

Alameda needs more affordable housing, protection for neighborhood integrity and historical buildings, and a real traffic control plan, not a fantasy TDM. If you agree, vote “no” on Measure Z and vote for Amos White and Trish Spencer.