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.