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Nimbys vs. Newbies

by Dennis Green

One of the local Alameda blogs, “Blogging Bayport,” describes its opponents, the preservationists, as “Nimbys” — Not In My Back Yard. Most of the fans of that website, and one a little more subtle in its bias, Michele Ellson’s “The Island,” frequented by many of the same partisans as Bayport, are regarded as “Newbies” by those of us not blindly dedicated to rampant population growth and development. The face-off between the two is viral, rabid and fascinating.

For me personally — an “Oldie” by any measure — the Newbies are out of touch with the basic character of this community, which is by no means hyper-moderne, fashion-forward or in need of 5,000-10,000 more households. I’m sure that many of these later arrivals are motivated by a concern over property values. They paid too much, and only more and unregulated growth can support the prices they paid.

That’s why they supported the new, monstrous school parcel tax initiative, Measure E, in June, and why, back in March, they voted for Measure B, the initiative to give carte blanche to an Orange County developer, SunCal, for Alameda Point, the former Naval Air Station. In both instances, they were defeated, on Measure B by 85% to 15%.

I find particularly intriguing the Newbies’ claim that they are merely supporting “transit-oriented development.” This is the theory that hyper-dense development in the inner city and core suburbs, all the new traffic mitigated by public mass transit, will prevent exurban sprawl, long commutes and the damage they generate.

The first problem with that theory is that it doesn’t apply to a small island like Alameda, with its severely limited access and egress via bridges and tubes. The Newbies proposed some sort of “Skyway” from Alameda Point to the West Oakland BART Station, a doozy of a dream, but a fantasy.

Moreover, if anything, public transit in America is shrinking, not a growth industry. Control by the unions makes driver pensions exhorbitant, and such lines as MUNI and AC Transit are cutting runs rather than expanding them. BART becomes more expensive every few months, with ticket and parking fees reducing its value as an option. Car-pooling is way down since the institution of a toll for car-pool lanes. The ferry system languishes.

We are the only industrialized nation in the world without high-speed rail.

And the infamous Peter Calthorpe plan for SunCal’s vision of Alameda Point had no practical provisions for “transit-oriented” traffic relief. The tubes on the West End are clogged at commute hours now; imagine what they would be like with another 5,000-10,000 cars!

And now the NIMBYS and the NEWBIES have another bone to chew — the upcoming Alameda elections for city council and mayor — with a suspicious group of candidates who have supported SunCal in the past being endorsed by Blogging Bayport. Marie Gilmore, Lena Tam and Rob Bonta are now being referred to by more attentive NIMBYS as “The SunCal Slate.”

Change is inevitable. Progress is not. In the 22 years I’ve lived in Alameda, I’ve seen a huge increase in traffic, a few new welcome retail stores, and a recent, small influx of pro-development home buyers. They think “NIMBY” is a great insult. I wear the title with pride.

17 comments to Nimbys vs. Newbies

  • Richard Hausman

    Mr. Green can you state a fact as to when Mr. Bonta supported Suncal? (BTW, I’ve lived here for 29 years.)

  • anon

    dave needles wrote a letter to the editor in the sun a coupla weeks ago that documented bonta expressing support for suncal last year at democractic club meetings

  • Ask Dave Needle, who was actually there. (I wasn’t.) As I recall, it was a Chamber of Commerce meeting. but I also saw first hand your letter to the Sun implying that Jon Spangler was never on SunCal’s payroll, (he was an unpaid SunCal “advisor” who recommended the SunCal Slate in that same newspaper), and then you proceeded to minimize the importance of the lopsided 85/15 percent defeat of Measure B. You continue to deny SunCal’s involvement in our November election, in spite of continuing evidence to the contrary. So you will forgive our skepticism where your objectivity and credibility are concerned, I’m sure!

  • Barb

    Aptly put, Dennis. NEWBIES move here because of 1) lower prices than SF, 2) small town atmosphere or 3) resultant higher quality of life. If these formed part of their motivation, then many NEWBIES appear deadfastly aimed at destroying that which brought them here in the first place. They do not appreciate what it has taken to preserve Alameda’s unique character. Alamedans have fought long and hard to preserve our quality of life. The NEWBIES can’t see past the end of their own driveways. If they learned local history, they would understand the reality created by our geography. They read words on paper and believe those words will overcome human nature and Alameda being an island. Just as Peter Calthorpe thought planning to build volleyball and tennis courts in the middle of the wind vortex created by the geography would make the wind vortex somehow not happen. Guess the man never went to Candlestick. Mother nature always wins.

    I was leaving town this AM via Doolittle. As I crossed the BFI bridge I was struck by how congested the traffic was as HBI residents crowded into the traffic lanes heading towards the High Street Bridge. How much more congestion would there have been, if Cowan prevailed in his quest to build 3 times the number of homes that the City ultimately allowed? His original plan was for 12,500 homes, twelve schools, and millions of more car trips. Ultimately less than 4500 homes were built. But it took people like Rosalie MacPherson, and Walter Moeller to fight City Hall and bring those numbers down.

    If Bonta, Tam and Gilmore are elected to office in November, the efforts of all those who fought so hard to keep traffic in check and livable, will have been in vain. SUNCAL will add 22 minutes to the time to leave through the tubes on Webster. Drivers will seek alternative paths over Park, High, Fruitvale and BFI Bridges. The time required to get off the island will triple. The quality of life for those who have to leave the island on a regular work schedule will seriously degrade. Firefighters who have only to commute to Alameda from their homes out of town once every 3 or 4 days, will not be greatly affected by the exacerbated commute. They will get a new station, and more firefighters to be hired.

    When TAM was first elected to office, she swore an oath of loyalty to the citizens of Alameda. Not just those who elected her, but to all of the citizens of Alameda. She betrayed that oath when she sent confidential emails to SUNCAL’s Vice-President Keleher. TAM also blindcopied GILMORE emails that were in flagrant disregard for the legal requirements of the Brown Act. GILMORE, a trained attorney, failed to report TAM’s conduct to the authorities. These acts reflected that GILMORE not only condoned such betrayals of the citizens of Alameda by TAM, but promoted more of it. BONTA has chosen to hold hands with these two persons, which reflects on his judgement. His quest to gain a foothold in Alameda is paid for by out of town money. Who spends $100,000 to get elected to a position that pays $50 a meeting twice monthly? Why? BONTA would have been better off running on his own merit. These 3 will do nothing to preserve the quality of life as we know it in Alameda. They cannot be trusted to keep SUNCAL out. They are the scorpion on the back of the turtle as it swims across the river to safety. When the turtle is stung, and they both drown, we will have no one to blame but ourselves. After all, a scorpion never changes. It will be true to its nature, no matter what it says, no matter how it says it, or what oath it takes.

  • Barb, I have a somewhat unique perspective. I moved here to work with Ron Cowan, mostly on KJAZ, but also for the real estate development projects and wrote a history. I like Ron personally, but came to see what HBI could have been like. From people like you, Bill Godfrey, Andy Pagano, Ralph Appezatto, Don Roberts, Jean Sweeney, Chuck Corrica and others, I came to respect and appreciate the preservationist perspective here, and how ignorant, as a Newbie, I truly was!

    But I’m confidant we can push back against the SunCal agenda, and find ways to control our own vision for Alameda Point.

  • Some newbies get it… I may have only lived in Alameda since 2002, but I recognize what makes this City special, and what needs to be done to keep it that way. I am willing to stand up and challenge the smug group of self-appointed insiders who think they get to make all the choices for our City, and say the things that others fear to say, in service to my neighbors.

    I hope by the time I am an old man, still living here in Alameda, I’ll have earned the respect of those who have been here since time began. I’ll never stop working to gain the support of those who want to keep Alameda in the hands of our Citizens and promoting our own best interests, not those of outside investors, SunCal, or other similarly ethically challenged folks.

  • Vania

    In terms of “non-objective journalism” SunCal’s attorneys have demonstrated that Lauren Do is in their camp. In a written filing with the Alameda Superior Court, in Case No. RG10537988, the SunCal case against the City of Alameda filed under the Public Records Act, SunCal’s young lawyer griped to the judge that Lauren Do’s Public Records Act requests to the city were not responded to in the manner HE wanted. Has he forgotten who his client is, SunCal or Do?

    Should somebody tell the SF Chronicle editors they have a scorpion blogger in their online woodpile? [Chuckle to yourselves here]

  • Adam, you earned my vote for council on my absentee ballot for standing up to Lauren Do and that whole rat pack. Your tenure of eight years is obviously long enough to see through their bull. I hope you win a seat!

  • Hot R

    Dennis: You are an outsider who cannot reasonably criticize Rob Bonta. I applaud him for running for a position for no discernible reason except to serve the public – Yale law? What’s not to like? Would you rather vote for the local barber? Those were the days, weren’t they old timer?

    The reality is that old time Alamedans have always voted to preserve our schools. You did not. The people you name – Bill Godfrey, Ralph Appezatto, and Andy Pagano all supported public schools. You are not a native Alamedan, only a visitor with pretensions who attempts to obfuscate the issues with lame attacks against public servants and idiotic arguments about increased traffic from a developer who will never develop the base. Seriously Dennis, you really don’t know what you are talking about. If you were really concerned about traffic, you would also consider that the consolidation of schools caused by the parcel tax which you opposed will result in an incredible increase in traffic around the one high school and middle school.

    What do Gilmore and Bonta have in common? They are young, smart and educated. What does Tam have that you don’t have? The support of the Asian community which you and your supporters cannot ever attain or affect regardless of your tired charges against her which the DA found had no merit. It’s a brand new day Dennis.

    You are right the choice is clear. Old NIMBY Alameda, represented by DeHaan, Sweeney and Johnson, vs. New Alameda, represented by Gilmore, Bonta and Tam. Probably the election results will be a compromise. Unlike you, I do not think it will be a disaster if DeHaan, Sweeney and Johnson win, but it will just be no progress for a few years. Let me get this straight – you are not against change (yound and smart), just not in your backyard, right? How is that 8 track tape working out for you?

  • dlm

    As Barb says: “NEWBIES move here because of 1) lower prices than SF, 2) small town atmosphere or 3) resultant higher quality of life. If these formed part of their motivation, then many NEWBIES appear deadfastly aimed at destroying that which brought them here in the first place”.

    That about covers it. The long-term residents here seem to be genuinely concerned about the best interests of the community, whereas the “newbies”, especially the most vocal, seem to be pursuing their own interests as often as not.

  • Barb

    That ‘Old barber” did more for the City of Alameda than any other single person in the history of Alameda. So much for the NEWBIE lack of interest in history and lack of knowledge. Inez Capellas, Abe Kofman, Ina Ratto? None of these mean anything, any more than Abraham Lincoln to some people. Mayor Chuck Corica was the local barber. And served 4 terms as Mayor and or Councilmember. He did more to stave off the inevitable overrunning of Alameda by outside development interests in their unquenchable thirst for profits than anyone else has before or since. Born here, raised my children here, will probably die here. Lived here long enough to become a NIMBY by choice and proud of it.

    Harvard Law doesn’t mean diddly squat. Again the words may impress someone who doesn’t spend any time in a courtroom, but give me a Tony Serra, Doug Horngrad, a Casey Bates, or John Meehan any day. Not some syncophatic pog who works in the SF City Attorneys office. What does he do there? Why isn’t he the City Attorney of SF? Now that would be something. Show me a Kamela Harris or Diane Feinstein, lawyers with drive and intelligence. Where someone gets his or her law degree means only one thing: (s)he had the money and time to get it. Nothing more. It is what they do afterwards that matters. And spending $100,000 raised by outside interests to further SUNCAL’s interests smacks to me of someone without too much else going on in his career. Perhaps he has drafted some serious legislation or won some major piece of litigation single handedly? Please feel free to share.

  • Hot R! Good to hear from you. Always entertaining. You say Bonta got his degree from Yale Law? Well, so did George W. Bush, and look where he got us. And I’m typing this on my iPad 3GS, Dude.

    Modesty, accuracy, objectivity — hardly the hallmarks of our more viral blogs, such as Bayport, where Hot R often hangs. One of those “Anti-Social Networks,” where only one or two commentors like Denise Shelton, ever make any sense.

    But Hot R, for an AUSD hottie, is strangely anti- intellectual as well. Just entertaining.

  • Richard Hausman

    Mr. Green, if you ascribe an overheard statment to someone else, you ask Dave Needle, preferably before you make a scurrilous statement. Also, if stating facts minimizes your position, well the facts speak for themselves.

  • I propose a new game: everyone takes a drink of the beverage of their choice when Richard Hausman says “scurrilous.”

  • anon

    o Lena Tam admitted forwarding City of Alameda confidential e-mails to SunCal. (Sept. 9th council meeting.)

    o Tam openly supported SunCal right up until and through the July 20th vote that effectively terminated the ENA with SunCal.

    o Tam and Rob Bonta have the same campaign consultants – Alliance Strategies. (Campaign filings on City website.)

    o Tam and Bonta have the same campaign treasurer – Benjamin Reyes. (Campaign filings on City website.)

    o Bonta was Tam’s campaign manager in her 2006 election campaign. (Documented in Alameda Sun article in 2007)

    o At least three attorneys at Keker Van Nest, the criminal defense law firm that defended Lena Tam, have contributed to Rob Bonta’s campaign. (Campaign filings on City website.)

    o Tam’s campaign literature shows Doug Linney and Rob Bonta in the picture. Linney was a paid consultant to SunCal during the Measure B campaign to the tune of several tens of thousands of dollars. (Well documented in the press and campaign filings.)

    o Linney was an advisor to HOMES, a group that supported SunCal’s Measure B campaign and took $5,000 from SunCal during Measure B. (Documented in SunCal’s escrow statements.)

    o Marie Gilmore has supported Lena Tam every step of the way regarding the investigation into Tam’s misconduct – leaking e-mails, violating the Brown Act. Gilmore, like Tam, has been calling for the resignation of the City Manager for her investigation into Tam’s behavior.

    o Linney was a campaign consultant to Marie Gilmore for her 2008 re-election campaign.

    o Gilmore’s husband is a real estate attorney based in Palo Alto with a potential interest in the outcome at Alameda Point. (CBC Properties)

    o Gilmore’s vote against SunCal on July 20th was irrelevant – she knew that there were already 3 votes against SunCal, so it cost her nothing to vote “no” as well.

  • Barb

    You know Adam, I am really getting to like you.

    If the SUNCAL slate of 3 BONTAM and GIVEMORE gets in, the Keker firm will get its money repaid in spades.

  • joel

    Hey what make is an Alamedan ?
    Just like American 98 % come from somwhere else at one time or another .