ALAMEDA: Former mayor says you can’t be a NIMBY if you don’t have a backyard

Former Alameda Mayor Trish Herrera Spencer, acting as a supporter of the Alameda special election ballot measure aiming to block a senior and homeless center near the city’s shoreline, offered Alameda County Democrats a new spin on the often pejorative term, NIMBY, or Not In My Backyard.

But not before Alameda County Democratic Central Committee members voted Wednesday night to endorse Measure A, the city-backed initiative that reaffirms the council’s decision to allow a facility on McKay Avenue near Crab Cove to house homeless seniors, in addition, to services for Alamedans who may be on the verge of homelessness.

The central committee also voted to oppose Measure B, which seeks to block construction of the facility, to be called the Alameda Wellness Center, with an eye on the former federal property one day becoming open space.

Opponents of Measure B strongly assert the initiative backed by neighbors across the street from the proposed facility fits the definition of NIMBYism.

Speaking on behalf of Measure B Wednesday night, Spencer said it was incorrect to apply the term to this group since residents at the modest condominium complex adjacent to the proposed facility have no backyard. “The term NIMBY, I’m not sure it applies if you don’t have a backyard,” said Spencer.

She also labelled the backers of the initiative opposing Measure B as rich Alamedans with “$1 million homes on Central Avenue.”

Alameda Councilmember John Knox White reiterated the space on McKay Avenue has never been a park and never will be since the city has no money available for additional open space.

Spencer admitted proponents of Measure B do not have a funding strategy for the open space they are seeking. “Honestly, I’m going to submit that no, we don’t have a plan for how to pay for additional fees,” said Spencer.

In addition, they have no back up plan for addressing the homeless issue in Alameda if Measure B is successful in blocking the homeless center. The reason being, she said, because the city is already saddled with massive unfunded liabilities and $500 million in deferred maintenance costs.

Proponents of Measure B also initially sidestepped a question requesting they list their top three campaign contributors and then refused to offer details altogether. “It’s very simple. Where did you get your money from?” asked Robin Torello, the chair of the Alameda County Democratic Central Committee.

A majority of the funding for Measure B, through the group Friends of Crab Cove, comes by way of Harvey Rosenthal, the owner of Neptune Plaza, the shopping center near the proposed homeless center. The group raised more than $25,000 through the end of last year, according to finance records.

But it got worse for Spencer when the vice-chair of the central committee, Andy Kelley, personally slammed her in his comments opposing Measure B. Although Spencer is a registered Democrat, she has long been deeply unpopular among party leaders due, in part, to her opposition to city employee unions.

“I’m so glad the former mayor of Alameda came to speak on this tonight because I can’t think of a better person Measure B should send for why we should vote against it,” said Kelley.

He added no environmental organization is sponsoring Measure B despite its claim for open space. And the East Bay Regional Park District also does not want the land for open space. “Trish Spencer is lying,” he said, rebutting a claim Spencer made earlier about the district’s interest in the property.

After the voice vote to oppose Measure B, an unidentified central committee member yelled out, “We just voted against NIMBYism!”

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