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Alameda’s Bad Math

It doesn’t take a genius to know Alameda needs fewer cars on the streets and more affordable housing. Unfortunately, the Transportation Commission, Planning Board, Mayor Ashcraft, and Councilmember Vella can’t / don’t / won’t do the math. The result is the ongoing degrading of pedestrians’, bicyclists’, and drivers’ day-to-day life.

Alameda Post - a sign that says "no parking"

A look at two large, recently completed developments that the City approved will explain how and why, but first some basic facts:

  • According to the U.S. Census Quickfacts, as of July 1, last year, Alameda has about 30,500 households with 2.53 persons per household.
  • According to Data USA, “The largest share of households in Alameda, California have two cars.”
  • According to Zumper, the current average rent of a studio or one bedroom apartment in Alameda is $2,100 per month. The average rent of a two-bedroom apartment is $2,800.

The Launch recently opened on Clement Avenue. Studio apartments start at $2,700 per month. The cheapest available one I found cost $2,900. Others are renting for as much as $3,200—for a studio! One-bedroom apartments rent for $3,000 to $4,200 per month, and two bedrooms from $4,200 to $5,500. There are 368 units and 373 parking places, which cost an additional $165/mo.

Since the largest share of households in Alameda have two cars, those 368 units can be expected to add approximately 700 cars to the city. And since there are only 373 parking spaces for residents, available at a cost of $165 per month, 350 to 400 cars will have nowhere to park except on the streets. And if renters think they won’t need a car—because that’s what the City’s leaders have told them—they should think again. gave the area a Transit Score of 44% and said, “You’ll likely want a car when living in this area since it has few transit options.”

Alta Star Harbor (the former Del Monte building) on Buena Vista Avenue also recently opened. It has 380 units. Studio apartments start at $2,600 per month. One-bedroom apartments rent for $2,750 to $4,000, and two bedroom apartments rent for $4,000 to $4,900. There are 505 parking spaces available, at a cost of $150 per month inside and $75 per month outside. At least one of its ads says, “Luxury Awaits.” I say, no kidding!

Since most households in Alameda have two cars, Alta Star Harbor’s 380 units will add approximately 700 cars to the city, and since there are only 505 parking spaces, approximately 200 cars will have to park on the streets. gave the area a Transit Score of 45% and said, “You might be able to get out and walk when living in this area. Some errands can be accomplished on foot, but for others you’ll need a car.”

Here’s the math: The two new Alameda developments add 743 new housing units and 1,400 more cars, 500 to 600 of which will be parked on the streets. There’s also this: 85% of all new housing units built in Alameda are and will be market rate/luxury housing. The people who can afford to pay these rents are the demographic group most likely to have cars, drive them, and drive solo—and the least likely to rely on public transport. It’s bad math any way you figure it.

Alameda’s 2023-31 Housing Element, which does not include Launch and Alta Star Harbor, calls for 5,353 new housing units. Using the two-cars-per-household formula, that could add as many as 10,706 more cars to Alameda. If the City continues to use the same parking formulas it used at Launch and Alta Star Harbor, there will be thousands more cars parked on the streets. Since the City is also building bike lanes that are too narrow to be safe while reducing driving lanes, impeding traffic flow, and decreasing the number of public parking spaces, the math for safe walking, biking, and driving does not add up.

Alameda needs new math. The City needs to use the two-cars-per-household parking formula for those 5,353 new units and needs to find a way to make at least 20% of those units truly affordable. This won’t solve all the problems, but it will help. Continuing the present course—and math—won’t. The clock is ticking, as every day it takes longer and is less safe for all of us to get anywhere.

Mark Greenside is a member of Alameda Citizen’s Taskforce (ACT) and submitted this guest editorial on their behalf.

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