Touching sacred cows: Alameda’s Measure A

Last week I wrote a column for the Alameda Journal about Measure A, a sacred cow of Alameda politics. I said that we ought to think about means of controlling growth that allow for thoughtful and comprehensive (rather than reactionary) planning. I wrote:

It is well within human ingenuity to craft laws that allow for the construction of apartments where it is appropriate and still protect handsome old houses. And it is folly to cling so tightly to a law passed out of fear and anger. It’s time for Alameda to show that it can protect what is valuable about its past at the same time as it embraces the future.

You can, of course, read the whole column here.


  • Crabtree

    good fo have the guts to just do it…a debate is always needed in this town…yay for you keep it coming!

  • Jon Spangler


    The fact that it takes “guts” to even suggest discussing changes to our City Charter is a sad statement, indeed, about the health of our body politic.

    I completely agree with your reasoning, and do not understand why some people feel so threatened by the possibility that we might develop better ways to approach and manage density and development. But then again, I’m not one to believe that the sky is falling or that there is a bogeyman (developer?) hiding under my bed….

  • DL Morrison

    Eve: I understand that the Journal has a policy of refusing to print letters from the same person within a 30-day period — is that correct? So our chain-owned newspaper won’t print our letters? Swell.

    Jon: If SunCal’s plan to develop 5000 homes at Alameda Point is such a great idea, then why doesn’t SunCal tell its signature gatherers to make sure everybody knows what they’re supporting? Wouldn’t that make sense?

    And further, I have to say: I’ve spent a great deal of time reading about this development and discussing it, and I’d be happy to discuss it with you as well, in particular, to find out how much you really know about it. My best guess would be not much at all, but you’re still staunchly in favor of it.

    You’re welcome to ask Eve Pearlman or Lauren Do for my email address.

  • dave

    If we can define “unsophisticated” to mean failing to observe understand nuance, complexity, and consequence then I can name a few things that could certainly be called unsophisticated.

    Moving into an established polity & calling for wholesale change while ignoring the community’s history & mores is rather unsophisticated.

    Failing to understand the political reality of a Charter Amendment’s strength vis-a-vis 3 easily swayed council members and the stability that provides could be construed as unsophisticated.

    Advocating for a major project while blithely ignoring the financial & traffic impacts is definitely unsophisticated, if we’re speaking politely. There are other, less polite, descriptions that could apply.

    I can think of others, but suffice to say that labeling a simple, vital & very successful ordinance as “unsophisticated” is mere sophistry.

  • Eve P

    Morning, Dave,

    We have a situation in Alameda where debate and discussion stall around certain road blocks. Measure A being one. I think we should be asking, “What do we want our community to look like?” Rather than, “What are we most afraid of?” Sort of a how-good-could-it-get orientation rather than a how-do-we-hold-on-to-exactly-what-we-have one.

    And a point: I’ve taken no stance on development at Alameda Point. (Though I have no blanket opposition to, should it be developed, there being more than two-unit dwellings included.) But I am not, for example, yet sure how I will vote in the upcoming election.

    I will say that the alarmist structure of the debate is quite off-putting. On the one hand we’ve got, if we don’t do this SunCal plan right now nothing will ever happen there v. if we do anything at the Point, Alameda as we know it will die.

    I am quite sure neither position is correct.


  • dave

    I find the Measure A debate to lively, active & ongoing. That you have failed to sway (m)any does not mean that it’s “stalled.”

    And when you say “upcoming election” does that mean that Suncal has secured its signatures? Is it officially on the ballot yet?

  • Eve Pearlman

    Morning again, Dave,

    I find the debate to be dogmatic and polarized/polarizing. Instead of talking about land use comprehensively we say ‘yes A’ or ‘no A,’ end of story.

    Eve P.

    P.S. I’m assuming the SunCal plan will make the ballot.

  • DL Morrison

    Eve: Yes, I get discouraged w/ this discussion too, tho from a different perspective, of course. I think you could dispense w/ any reference to Measure A (at least temporarily) and just look at the traffic issues instead. What is the capacity of the tube? If traffic should be seriously delayed there, what’s likely to be the result? What about the buses using the tube — should they be delayed as well?

    And of course, this is obviously the issue and of course, it’s been said a million times, so why haven’t you addressed it here? If you don’t think it’s a problem, then what’s your solution?

    And since I’ve asked the question elsewhere with no answer, I’ll ask it here as well: Why does Alameda “need” development anyway, especially the massive development that SunCal is proposing? What’s in it for us?

    Incidentally, it’s not an all or nothing at Alameda Point — a development w/ maybe half the homes that SunCal is proposing (~2400 units) would be possible under Measure A, with the state density bonus law applied. The density bonus would allow the developer to vary the form of housing as well. A development of this size would not require a ballot measure or anything else, since of course it’s permissible under existing local laws.

  • dave


    You write a sermon expressing your desire to overturn Measure A, and yet you are undecided on a vote that does just that West of Main? Forgive me if your conclusion seems already foregone…

  • Charlyn Hook

    I agree with DL Morrison. Who says we NEED 4,500 more units in Alameda? How are all of those people going to get on and off the island in the morning commute? And why are SunCal representatives hanging out in front of Trader Joes telling people that “they just want to let the people decide” when in fact, they really have to get it on the ballot b/c the project is not consistent with Measure A’s limits on high density housing? I also noticed that SunCal’s last brochure NEVER mentions the 4,500 houses to be built.

  • Eve P

    Hi, DL,

    I think your “What’s in it for us?” question re the point is particularly important. And I think it is one we should all be asking a lot: What can be in it for us? How can/might development benefit/support/improve things for the whole island/city?

    Eve P

  • Eve P

    Hi, Dave, again,

    Just b/c I think we ought be able to come up with better measures than A for guiding growth, doesn’t mean I have formed a conclusion yet about the SunCal plan and what it means to Alameda as a city. There are so many variables uncertain: from earthquakes to climate change, to the economy and, yes, traffic and toxic clean up. My biggest concerns, though, I think are about how/who will safeguard the city’s interests and resources.

    Eve P

  • DL Morrison

    #11: “My biggest concerns, though, I think are about how/who will safeguard the city’s interests and resources.”

    If not the voters (in the absence of Measure A), then the City Council, who else makes these decisions?? If you can’t figure that much out, then you shouldn’t be writing a column in the local paper.

    Read the Initiative itself, Section 14(a)(2) in particular. It states very clearly that only two provisions are not subject to amendment, and everything else may be “amended or repealed … upon written application to the City Council” by SunCal.

    Again, if you can’t figure that out, then you’re in no position to be holding forth on the citizens’ various “fears” about amending Measure A.

  • dave

    As I clicked on this page to check on progress, I noticed that it falls under the subhead “Race & Racism” among others. Splain, please.

  • DL Morrison

    Regarding the question re: “what’s in it for us?” and how can development benefit us: If we could have an “ideal” form of development, something on a reasonable scale that would be carried out in a very responsible, predictable fashion, then it might make sense to ask “how best” to do this. The problem, tho, is that we’re stuck w/ a very imperfect process in reality, that could wind up being controlled (badly) by a handful of city officials, and could overwhelm the Island w/ traffic and other impacts.

    Some moderate form of development could work, if we could get that (and in fact, some moderate developments probably will happen). I think the “high density at all costs” mindset is very harmful to the discussion as well — speaking of kneejerk reactions — because it leaves no room for compromise. I mean, at what point would the SunCal supporters find fault w/ SunCal’s plans, seriously? Would 10,000 units be okay? How do we have a discussion w/ people who are so tied to this blind insistence on high density? I know where it’s coming from, the intention is good, but the execution is just too dogmatic.

  • dave

    re: 14

    Eve, I’m dying to hear your response.

  • Steve M.

    Interesting that Eve never responded to Item 14.

    Cuz, see, when you act to control growth, you must be a racist.

    I guess she was too chicken to write it.