Let’s Move to Alamo

Toni Mester
Tuesday November 07, 2017 - 02:22:00 PM

Kevin Burke thinks that people who live in Berkeley should be required to buy sunlight, and presumably other amenities like quiet, privacy, and views. There’s some validity to his modest proposal because such valuable features sell real estate. But I have a better idea. Let’s move to Alamo, where he lives, and enjoy those luxuries together. More than 60 homes are now for sale in this lovely unincorporated community in Contra Costa County, the lowest going for $1 million, about the same as a new backyard condo in West Berkeley, and the highest, 7 Country Oak Lane, a 21 acre estate selling for only $39 million. I could go for that; give me land, lots of land under starry skies above. 

I should be able to buy a house in Alamo because I’m a “rich white woman” according to Watson Ladd, who added that note to his critique of floor area ratio at the last Planning Commission meeting. Mr. Ladd, an activist with East Bay for Everyone, formerly East Bay Forward, doesn’t approve of protective zoning for the same reason as Kevin Burke; it might restrict another property owner’s right to build to the max. Silly me, I thought that maintaining property values was one of the functions of fair zoning, meaning zoning for everyone. 

Having been brought up by land-rich, cash-poor parents and continuing in that tradition, I believed in property ownership as the way to gain financial stability and security. My father taught us to buy a house by age 35 so that at the end of a 30-year mortgage and the beginning of retirement, we would have some equity to leverage into old age. After his death by drunk driver, I got a portion of the settlement, pitifully little to compensate for my loss, but enough to put a down payment on a dilapidated house in West Berkeley. The humongous termite report dissuaded other buyers, but I was young and energetic. So after working forty years day and night, paying off two mortgages, and two hip replacements later, I get to retire in an atmosphere of hostility toward homeowners. This is the deal I offer the young YIMBYs: you can have my house if I could be your age again and get my father back. 

Berkeley homeowners: let’s just sell and move to Alamo. Let’s abandon our efforts to keep our neighborhoods livable, affordable, and equitable. We’re all rich, and Alamo is a wonderful place: low density, quiet with privacy, sunny country views, highly educated residents of mostly European heritage with a median family income of $170K. 46% of the households own two vehicles; 43% own three. The median home price is only $1,890,000. Almost everybody (98%) has health coverage, and 88% are homeowners. They probably all have an opinion about Berkeley. Once there, we can serve as experts on the subject. Let’s move to Alamo.