Jean Quan continues to be totally out of touch

So this morning, Ron Dellums and Sandre Swanson held an event at the new Forest City Uptown Project to, I don’t know, talk about how great it is or something. Never one to miss an opportunity to stand in front of a camera, Jean Quan showed up. She jumped in to share her thoughts about the project, telling everyone that it’s important to remember that unlike most new developments downtown, the Forest City project is rental units, not ownership. This is true. It is important to remember that. Not nearly enough rental housing gets built in this town. But then she lost me, when she followed that statement with:

This ensures that families who can’t afford to buy condos can live downtown.

She then repeated variations of that sentence like 4 times, with multiple references to “working people.” (As if everyone who buys a condo just sits around all day eating peeled grapes and living off a trust fund or something.)

So, there’s no question that Uptown is totally drool worthy, and a wonderful addition to downtown. I’m not planning on moving in, but I am hoping to make friends with someone who does, so I can hang out at their pool. But at $2,400/month for a two bedroom apartment, I’m thinking Quan has a very different idea of what’s within the reach of all these “working people” than me or just about anyone else in Oakland.

Related Posts:

18 thoughts on “Jean Quan continues to be totally out of touch

  1. Chris Kidd

    Wow, that’s just too much. What’s even worse is that the she had a great opportunity to segue into the need for more rental housing in Oakland(which I would assume was the point she was trying to make) and she totally dropped the ball. Deflating home values and much tighter lending standards are making people far less inclined to buy houses and these same people are flooding the rental market. At the same time the city’s had a shrinking pool of rental spaces available (somebody had trotted that stat out recently) over the last few years. Now is the time that the city should be encouraging developers to boost the rental market. Quan and all the others had a golden opportunity to highlight that. Instead, they claim that families can afford $2,400/mo. apartments. Great. *Half* of that would be a reasonable place to start when talking about what “working people” can afford.

  2. Carrie

    I’ll be interested to see how quickly the Uptown fills up. If you can afford $2000/month for a one-bedroom, wouldn’t you be buying a condo anyways? What we really need in Oakland are $700-$1500/month apartments that actual working people can afford. I’m worried that lack of interest in these apartments will lead to people declaring that apparently there’s no real demand for rental housing, oh well, better not bother building.

    By the way, a Jr. 1-bedroom at the uptown costs more than my three bedroom victorian flat two blocks away. With enough left over to pay for a membership at the Y and just use their pool.

  3. oakie

    Two words: rent control. That’s our housing policy. Landlords look at how they’re treated, and people thinking about building new rental units observe exactly at that, and can decide if they want to build here or in Emeryville or Alameda. You do the calculations.

    All the jibberish in this town about “sustainability.” About 99% of the time, the word has absolutely no meaning any more. But with rent control: is the rental housing stock sustainable? I think not. And census data will show it will continue, until housing policy changes.

  4. Ralph

    what families are these that Quan speaks? generally speaking across this great country of ours when “they” speak of cities being revitalized it is by seniors, the young and unmarried, 30s and just married – maybe with a small child, who want to be closer to the entertainment center…

    $700 rent for new construction is simply a dream

    from what i can tell when i toured Uptown “working people” live there

  5. Joanna/OnTheGoJo


    “If you can afford $2000/month for a one-bedroom, wouldn’t you be buying a condo anyways?” That seems like it would be true, but consider that despite the “low” prices of some of the units on the market, there is still a $400-$600 HOA fee to consider. These new condos have some pretty hefty HOA fees. The lowest priced condos are also not such great spaces – low floors, tiny square footage, bad floorplans, etc. There’s also the issue of getting a loan, which is no where near as easy as it was even a year ago.

    Others, who do have the money, are concerned that prices will still continue to drop, so they’d rather spend more money renting a nicer, newer space, than renting an older more affordable unit. To me, the older units have more personality and charm, but everyone has their own idea.

    Jean Quan is yet again out of touch with the real world when she says, “This ensures that families who can’t afford to buy condos can live downtown.” More likely, you can’t afford either. And if you’re a family, do you really want to live in downtown where there are few parks and I won’t even touch the issue of schools since I don’t have kids. In the Jack London District we see yuppies move in, maybe have a boyfriend/girlfriend move in, get married, get a dog, and then have a kid. It’s the kid – or very soon after – that almost every time has them moving out, whether it’s the hills or the ‘burbs.

  6. Max Allstadt

    At one point, many years ago, the guideline they told us in home economics class about rent went a little something like this:

    1/4 of your gross monthly income should go to rent. That $2400 two bed would require a household income of $115,200 a year to make that guideline. That’s only a little under Piedmont’s median household income! Oakland’s was $40,055 at the 2000 census. Family income was $44,000.

    Of course recently the people who create these guidelines have downgraded them. It’s now 1/3 of your monthly income that should go to rent. That means a median family income in Oakland can afford about $1200.

    So there you have it, even if we fudge our guidelines to accommodate the ongoing, never ending ass-reaming of the middle class, those Uptown apartments cost twice what the average Oakland family can afford.

  7. Ralph

    A number of people at Uptown are either priced out of SF or are looking for a shorter commute from the outer burbs. Others who do this deal may have bad credit that prevents them from buying at this time.

    I would disagree on the low priced condos. I have seen some very attractive condos within the affordability of first time buyers and those of average income. Market Square, Jade, 8 Orchids, B/G all have great spaces. I will agree that the HOAs can be killer at someplaces (the infamous CityWalk come to mind), but it is negotiable. Still even if you negotiate the HOA as you state getting a loan may be tough w/o a down pymt.

    That said, I have no numbers on good credit people who pay $2K/mo in rent but don’t have the downpymt, but i hope it is low. If high, those are the ones I would worry about the most. For if they just cut bak on their spending and saved they too could afford to buy. And for my money ownership is where it’s at?

    I almost think it is silly to delay purchasing b/c you think the price will continue to fall. Yes, prices have probably dropped upwards of 10% for people who bought last year. But the reality is if you plan on staying for a number of years, then the price will recover. When buyers come back to the market, they won’t be paying depressed prices. Instead, they will be paying market, which will be equal to or better than pre-drop price. I’ll take tax deduction today for $200 please Alex.

    Buyer psychology kills me…

  8. Joanna/OnTheGoJo


    It’s not that I disagree with you re tax issue, but some people seriously do not look at it this way.

    But negotiating HOA fees? How? You mean negotiating on a new building for the developer to pay the fees for a certain amount of time? Okay, that I can buy. But ultimately HOA fees are determined by the costs and budget of a building, along with funding a reserve as required by law. I have a fair amount of experience with watching my partner act as treasurer for our HOA for the past seven or eight years. The laws have substantially changed over those years and mortgage companies are looking harder at HOA fees.

    For developers that give away HOA fees for X number of months, it is interesting… for example, 428 Alice offered free HOA fees through August 2008, and that time is fast approaching. Recently I’ve seen a rash of moving vans. Coincidence? Maybe.

    Buyer psychology is indeed odd, but what looks good to you might not look so good to someone else, just as the tax reasoning makes perfect sense to me, but not to some of my friends, even a few with MBA’s and Accounting degrees.

  9. Ralph

    I really just understood why those who don’t look at the tax issue don’t.

    Re; negotiating HOAs. I think it is significantly easier to do with new construction, but when I was looking my agent told me there were ways to negotiate an equivalent savings. I know I spent a lot of time asking about reserves and assessments when i was looking. But the trick like everything else is not to overextend. If the 428 Alice people are moving due to HOA issues, then they failed to plan. One seriously needs to plan and have the funds in place for when the piper comes a callin.

    Me, I would never buy on a 90 day same as cash if i could not see myself haing the cash in 90 days. So, why buy a condo with 2 years prepd HOAs if you can’t see yourself being able to pay when the bill comes due. (Assumes people are not moving for extraordinary reasons such as loss of job, spouse, partner etc)

    Must be MBAs with a marketing concentration

  10. Joanna/OnTheGoJo

    Ralph, I think many of those that bought at 428 Alice and are moving out were betting that the market would have improved by now and that they’d be able to sell and make some good dough. Some might have gained, while others may have lost. It could also be that some are thinking that it’s better to move now then in the next six months as people realize how hard it is to come up with that $500-$700 per month.

    Oh, I understand what you mean by negotiating HOA fees. Not the actual fees themselves, but the overall price taking the HOA fees into consideration. And smart you, thinking about future assessments and asking about reserves. You’d be surprised how many people just think that it’s fine – nothing to worry about, much less take into consideration.

    We had an owner move in a few years ago who got extremely po’d that there was an assessment within six months of his moving in. Uh, dude – did you read the disclosure paperwork? Your signature is there for having received and read it, but do you have any reading comprehension skills? Uh, no. I hear that ALL the time. Even from seemingly smart people who move in and then get po’d that a new building under construction is going to block their views. It’s very hard to have sympathy when people fail to read, get involved, or plan for the future.

  11. snappingturtle

    The elementary school for the Jack London district is the one in Chinatown, Lincoln Elementary. Most people here have no idea that its actually a great school. Test scores are better than all but the top 3 or 4 hills schools, and thats mostly beacause most of the kids come from non-english speaking homes. It has a 98% daily attendance rate, and it was one of only two california schools a couple of years ago to win a Distinguished School award. The principal actually attended the school as a child and is very invested in it. The only complaint I’ve heard about it was that there’s too much homework! (asian style education, I guess) We live in the JL district and plan to send our daugther there when she’s ready for kindergarten (hence my research about the school). OPS has massive problems of course, but there are still some really good schools at the elementary level.
    I’ve met a few folks with babies/toddlers in the neighborhood who are totally unaware of Lincoln, and seem to have written off public school without even checking it out…I’m trying to open some minds. Hopefully they will discover Lincoln and stay around.

  12. Ralph

    a bit of a digression, but i think more schools need to have more hmwk in the early grades. my brother didn’t have any but it was under much different circumstances.

    today’s kids don’t believe in hard work. to go from no hmwk to hmwk, must be a shock to the system. and this kids being the insolent sorts that they are rebel.

  13. Ralph

    damn those fees are high, citywalk was also high, thankfully, i won’t have that nut to pay. i am curious whatever happened to all the buyers who had units under contract at cw.

  14. Sam Hustin

    The democrats have to come up with something better than Junior Seanator Barach Hussein Obama being indangered by the news that he was going to leave for his trip on a certain day.President Bush previous travel dates have been reported to the public, with no alarm by the democrats. Now their pride and joy is going on a fact finding expedition to Iraq and possibly Afganistan.So what, I am sure he will be well protected by our marines over there as well as the three news people accompaning him on his fact finding expedition.This courtesy has never been offered to John Mc Cain on his numerours trips over there.

    It will be interesting to see how Barach reacts to being in a hostile environment, other than his own parties anti-war organization.

  15. Jeffrey

    Classic Quanisms…

    I sent the V Smoothe posting to Councilperson Quan. Below is Quan’s response to V. Smoothe…

    RE: Classic Quanisms
    Monday, July 21, 2008 7:34 PM
    “Quan, Jean”
    Add sender to Contacts

    If she’d asked me why I would have noted: 1) All Forest City apts includes 15% affordable housing units, 2) It also includes the Fox Courts Project, 400 affordable units. And 3) Yes she is right, almost all new building permits downtown are for condos, not rentals…so this helped the mix.

    Sorry I annoyed her so much…I’ll rethink the rhetoric of working people, could have used blue/pink collar…people who make less than our median income.

  16. V Smoothe Post author

    You know, someone else asked me, when I relayed the story to them, if it was possible that Quan was referring to the “affordable” component of the Uptown project in her comments. My response to them was that while it may have been possible that was what she was thinking of, it was very much not what she said, which could not have been interpreted that way by any stretch of the imagination. She was very direct, repeating several times that the fact that the Uptown was all rental housing meant that it was for families who couldn’t buy. What she’s claiming in her e-mail wouldn’t have made sense in the context of her comments anyway – there’s “affordable” for-sale housing downtown as well, including the Fox Courts building, and since all she commented on was the fact that it was rental versus for-sale, well…