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Livermore commissioner apologizes, faces expulsion after referring to downtown affordable housing as 'ghetto'

City Council hears comments Monday, to decide Stein's fate on May 3

Livermore Planning Commissioner John Stein issued a public apology to the community during the City Council meeting Monday night for controversial comments he made about a proposed downtown affordable housing project during a city discussion one week earlier.

Screenshot of Livermore Planning Commissioner John Stein during the virtual April 20 Planning Commission meeting.

The Planning Commission on April 20 discussed Eden Housing's latest proposed community that would provide 130 new affordable homes ranging from one to three bedrooms for low-income families in downtown Livermore.

During that conversation, Stein -- who has been on the commission since 2019, after previously serving on the City Council -- referred to the project as a "ghetto."

"I really don't want to see the downtown become a ghetto of affordable housing, and I support inclusionary housing both on a macro and micro scale. I think it should be distributed throughout the city and if we see high-density housing downtown, it should be market rate with maybe 20% affordable rather than entire affordable," Stein said during the April 20 meeting.

He said he attributed his perspective to his past experience with failures in public housing in New York.

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Stein's remarks sparked backlash in the community, prompting the council to revise its meeting agenda Monday to include an additional item specifically addressing the issue. The public conversation kicked off with remarks from the embattled commissioner.

"First of all, I'd like to say that I do feel my comments were intemperate or unfortunate. And I have personally apologized to the people who have contacted me, with a few exceptions, and I have written a letter of public apology in the 'Letters to the Editor' of The Independent and I'm currently composing a letter to send to the East Bay Times," Stein said.

"I would also like to apologize to the city, I guess," he continued. "The comments were my own and nowhere reflect any other planning commissioners, City Council or staff opinions or positions. I believe that Livermore should have inclusionary housing -- a broad range of housing types to serve all segments of the community. I also believe that as a planning commissioner it's my role to treat the public with respect, compassion and be willing to meet their expectations and again, I apologize if I have not done that."

Stein added that it was not his intent to disparage service workers and low-income residents, recalling his own past service industry jobs in college as well as various service jobs his children have previously held.

He said that to some extent, he believes his comments were "misinterpreted" and that while he supports "inclusionary housing," he thinks it should be distributed throughout the community as opposed to concentrated in one area. He said that his reasoning for opposing the Eden Housing project planned for downtown was based on its parking plan, which he feels is inadequate.

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"Intent matters but impact matters more," Councilmember Brittni Kiick said, following Stein's comments Monday.

"What I heard in an apology was 'I'm sorry that you misunderstood my comments,' and I don't think that was really taking account for the actions that were said," Kiick said. "The impact of those words are very strong, as someone who used to be an elected official, as someone who is now serving at the pleasure of the council should know better that those words have meaning."

Vice Mayor Trish Munro and Councilmember Bob Carling also addressed other contentious comments Stein made during the April 20 meeting, including that Livermore has become the center of homelessness in the valley and that he didn't want Livermore to become the go-to city in the valley for affordable housing.

Carling argued Stein's comments on unhoused people in Livermore were erroneous.

"I've been to the encampment many times and one question I always ask is, 'Where are you from?' At least 75% of the time the answer is, 'I'm from Livermore," Carling said. "I think those who provide services to the homeless would agree, the majority of the homeless in Livermore are from Livermore. This is where they feel comfortable and this is their home."

In regards to Livermore becoming the "go-to" place in the Tri-Valley for affordable housing, Carling added that regional housing needs allocation (RHNA) standards are set by the state, and Livermore has not yet met its RHNA obligations, nor have its neighboring cities.

Although the council could not take any action during Monday night's meeting, Carling expressed that his opinion is that Stein should be taken off the Planning Commission.

After further discussion and deliberation, the council voted to bring the issue back on May 3 at which time they will decide whether there will be any disciplinary action from the council, including but not limited to removing Stein from the commission.

A complete recording of Monday night's City Council meeting is available here.

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Livermore commissioner apologizes, faces expulsion after referring to downtown affordable housing as 'ghetto'

City Council hears comments Monday, to decide Stein's fate on May 3

by / Pleasanton Weekly

Uploaded: Tue, Apr 27, 2021, 5:48 pm

Livermore Planning Commissioner John Stein issued a public apology to the community during the City Council meeting Monday night for controversial comments he made about a proposed downtown affordable housing project during a city discussion one week earlier.

The Planning Commission on April 20 discussed Eden Housing's latest proposed community that would provide 130 new affordable homes ranging from one to three bedrooms for low-income families in downtown Livermore.

During that conversation, Stein -- who has been on the commission since 2019, after previously serving on the City Council -- referred to the project as a "ghetto."

"I really don't want to see the downtown become a ghetto of affordable housing, and I support inclusionary housing both on a macro and micro scale. I think it should be distributed throughout the city and if we see high-density housing downtown, it should be market rate with maybe 20% affordable rather than entire affordable," Stein said during the April 20 meeting.

He said he attributed his perspective to his past experience with failures in public housing in New York.

Stein's remarks sparked backlash in the community, prompting the council to revise its meeting agenda Monday to include an additional item specifically addressing the issue. The public conversation kicked off with remarks from the embattled commissioner.

"First of all, I'd like to say that I do feel my comments were intemperate or unfortunate. And I have personally apologized to the people who have contacted me, with a few exceptions, and I have written a letter of public apology in the 'Letters to the Editor' of The Independent and I'm currently composing a letter to send to the East Bay Times," Stein said.

"I would also like to apologize to the city, I guess," he continued. "The comments were my own and nowhere reflect any other planning commissioners, City Council or staff opinions or positions. I believe that Livermore should have inclusionary housing -- a broad range of housing types to serve all segments of the community. I also believe that as a planning commissioner it's my role to treat the public with respect, compassion and be willing to meet their expectations and again, I apologize if I have not done that."

Stein added that it was not his intent to disparage service workers and low-income residents, recalling his own past service industry jobs in college as well as various service jobs his children have previously held.

He said that to some extent, he believes his comments were "misinterpreted" and that while he supports "inclusionary housing," he thinks it should be distributed throughout the community as opposed to concentrated in one area. He said that his reasoning for opposing the Eden Housing project planned for downtown was based on its parking plan, which he feels is inadequate.

"Intent matters but impact matters more," Councilmember Brittni Kiick said, following Stein's comments Monday.

"What I heard in an apology was 'I'm sorry that you misunderstood my comments,' and I don't think that was really taking account for the actions that were said," Kiick said. "The impact of those words are very strong, as someone who used to be an elected official, as someone who is now serving at the pleasure of the council should know better that those words have meaning."

Vice Mayor Trish Munro and Councilmember Bob Carling also addressed other contentious comments Stein made during the April 20 meeting, including that Livermore has become the center of homelessness in the valley and that he didn't want Livermore to become the go-to city in the valley for affordable housing.

Carling argued Stein's comments on unhoused people in Livermore were erroneous.

"I've been to the encampment many times and one question I always ask is, 'Where are you from?' At least 75% of the time the answer is, 'I'm from Livermore," Carling said. "I think those who provide services to the homeless would agree, the majority of the homeless in Livermore are from Livermore. This is where they feel comfortable and this is their home."

In regards to Livermore becoming the "go-to" place in the Tri-Valley for affordable housing, Carling added that regional housing needs allocation (RHNA) standards are set by the state, and Livermore has not yet met its RHNA obligations, nor have its neighboring cities.

Although the council could not take any action during Monday night's meeting, Carling expressed that his opinion is that Stein should be taken off the Planning Commission.

After further discussion and deliberation, the council voted to bring the issue back on May 3 at which time they will decide whether there will be any disciplinary action from the council, including but not limited to removing Stein from the commission.

A complete recording of Monday night's City Council meeting is available here.

Comments

Rich Buckley
Registered user
Livermore
on Apr 28, 2021 at 9:48 am
Rich Buckley, Livermore
Registered user
on Apr 28, 2021 at 9:48 am

We are lucky to have John Stein On the Livermore Planning Commission. The over-reactive, emotional, politically correct class serving on the planning commission needs to take a deep breath or two, and reset their independence meters.

I'm slowly learning, we need more people like John on the City Council or running the city as Mayor.

John's point is very relevant.... what's a better term than the offensive "G" word?

How about these 3-words: "bait and switch"

Even Eden Housing architect apologized for not being able to deliver as promised. Although these is evidence they all new from the get-go. Inadequate parking of the magnitude associated with the existing Eden Housing plan, is a terrible design experiment to burden our downtown.

There are two alternative projects not being helpfully analysed in public by the city as promised by the Mayor during his election campaign.

One project located on the West 150-feet, the other project on the North 150-feet.

TO THE WEST: Just condemn the bedrooms and units and space needed out of the new rental project being developed on the old Groth Bros. site. It has sufficient parking, set backs, designs, fixed cost (not subject to runaway inflation) and satisfied other environmental concerns. Rough order of magnitude of costs savings over the current Eden Housing project should be at least equal to the additional costs of the acquisition and provide open space of a wanted larger city park on the old Lucky Store super block that can be used by everyone.

ON THE NORTH: Save Downtown Livermore contingency Web Link behind it that has worked up a development scenario perhaps even more attractive, than my preferred idea on the West Side.

During his election our current mayor promised us a serious look at alternatives yet fails to do so. He's leaving a few thousand of use feeling like no one is listening. Web Link


Barbara Costello
Registered user
Highland Oaks
on Apr 28, 2021 at 9:49 am
Barbara Costello, Highland Oaks
Registered user
on Apr 28, 2021 at 9:49 am

I am concerned that the reaction to Planning Commissioner John Stein's remarks regarding low-income housing are another indication that we cannot have a dialogue about anything. His choice of the word "ghetto" was unfortunate, but his point is valid. Why can't we have a discussion without forcing someone out of their job because you disagree with their point of view. We used to call this having a discussion. Now we just force people to quit because they said something that "has impact". Soon we won't be able to dialogue at all about anything. How will anything ever get done if only one point of view can be represented.


FronnF
Registered user
Livermore
on Apr 28, 2021 at 12:18 pm
FronnF, Livermore
Registered user
on Apr 28, 2021 at 12:18 pm

Intolerance will not be tolerated. Anything we dont like will not be tolerated. This is the attitude today. The language is sheeps clothing for selfish aspirations and is very poor behavior. John Stein, a man of experience, made a valuable point for livermore business and property owners. Those who stand to profit on the front side dont like what he said. An old story used to trick the feeble minded. It’s a travesty upending a persons life for profit and outrageous we allow it to happen.


Rodger
Registered user
another community
on Apr 28, 2021 at 12:58 pm
Rodger, another community
Registered user
on Apr 28, 2021 at 12:58 pm

There goes the neighborhood


Monday
Registered user
Vineyard Hills
on Apr 28, 2021 at 8:08 pm
Monday, Vineyard Hills
Registered user
on Apr 28, 2021 at 8:08 pm

Poor choice of a word, but I think his thoughts about affordable housing being distributed throughout the city and 20% affordable in the downtown area makes sense. Why should high-density housing in desirable downtown be 100% affordable? Years ago, in the Fisherman's Wharf area in S.F., there was a large housing project there. You had to watch your laundry at the laundromat, because your laundry would get stolen, and our car got stolen while we went out to dinner.


Fifty Years Here
Registered user
Pleasanton Heights
on Apr 29, 2021 at 8:52 am
Fifty Years Here, Pleasanton Heights
Registered user
on Apr 29, 2021 at 8:52 am

Who is he apologizing to? For using the word "ghetto?" All the do-gooders could learn a lot by following the example of John Stein rather than condemning him for expressing his opinion. He's put his butt out there, been elected to office... been voted out of office... stayed involved and active... attends city meetings and raises very good questions, holding our electeds accountable... We need more like him!


Jake Waters
Registered user
Birdland
on Apr 29, 2021 at 9:38 am
Jake Waters, Birdland
Registered user
on Apr 29, 2021 at 9:38 am

He diffidently isn’t a Liberal apparently, because they never apologize about any of their sins. Is the FBI Division of ‘Illegal Word Use’ going to take up the investigation? I can see it now: search warrants, no-fly list, IRS audits, and an in-depth search for anything written or said back to when he was 5. Ok, I’m over exaggerating of course, or is that possible?


Michael Austin
Registered user
Pleasanton Meadows
on Apr 29, 2021 at 3:07 pm
Michael Austin , Pleasanton Meadows
Registered user
on Apr 29, 2021 at 3:07 pm

"Being completely uninformed is precisely how most liberals stay liberal"....Ann Coulter.


Joseph
Registered user
Amador Valley High School
on Apr 30, 2021 at 3:32 am
Joseph, Amador Valley High School
Registered user
on Apr 30, 2021 at 3:32 am

I'm so glad the comments here have more backbone that the Livermore city higher ups. The city is going to become lost and lose its identity on what made it great thanks to stuff like affordable housing because, let's be honestly, they usually attract certain demographics. Livermore has seen a big increase in crime rates due to the increased Hispanic population. There is no need to hide this fact. Diversity/multiculturalism is our biggest weakness.


Mark Dunn
Registered user
Livermore
on Apr 30, 2021 at 4:01 pm
Mark Dunn, Livermore
Registered user
on Apr 30, 2021 at 4:01 pm

Maybe people should learn a little more about the project before jumping to conclusions? Residents will be paying rent. They are not giving away apartments. Income level qualifications will vary. Here is a chart that gives a good example Web Link


BobB
Registered user
Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 30, 2021 at 10:47 pm
BobB, Another Pleasanton neighborhood
Registered user
on Apr 30, 2021 at 10:47 pm

@Joseph,

Your remarks are just plain racist.


John
Registered user
Birdland
on May 1, 2021 at 7:55 am
John, Birdland
Registered user
on May 1, 2021 at 7:55 am

BobB, Facts are facts. Deal with it. Wear a mask, wash your hands, and socially distance.


BobB
Registered user
Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 1, 2021 at 8:57 am
BobB, Another Pleasanton neighborhood
Registered user
on May 1, 2021 at 8:57 am

@Joseph,

Your remarks are just plain racist.

John is a troll.


Jake Waters
Registered user
Birdland
on May 1, 2021 at 10:01 am
Jake Waters, Birdland
Registered user
on May 1, 2021 at 10:01 am

Here we go again. The far left calling anyone that doesn’t speak in terms of their ideology a racist. To them, facts are hate speech. They don’t want a conversation, they just want to lecture the rest of us. You disagree, you’re a racist, a troll, an antivaxer. It gets old, lazy, and ignorant.


BobB
Registered user
Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 1, 2021 at 11:20 am
BobB, Another Pleasanton neighborhood
Registered user
on May 1, 2021 at 11:20 am

@Jake Waters,

You are an anti-vaxer. That is a fact. Blaming crime on "increased Hispanic population" is racist. John is a troll.


John
Registered user
Birdland
on May 1, 2021 at 1:10 pm
John, Birdland
Registered user
on May 1, 2021 at 1:10 pm

How come BobB gets to call everyone names that disagree with him. Racist is very serious name calling. BobB need to calm down and realize that he is just one opinion of 330 million citizens and he is not all knowing. Use civilized communication skills BobB and not name calling.


Jennifer
Registered user
another community
on May 1, 2021 at 3:00 pm
Jennifer, another community
Registered user
on May 1, 2021 at 3:00 pm

Certain cultures do commit a higher percentage of crime. That's not racism, that's realism. Asian's commit the least per capita. That's realism too. For the record, I'm not Asian -- but I am a realist.


BobB
Registered user
Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 1, 2021 at 6:08 pm
BobB, Another Pleasanton neighborhood
Registered user
on May 1, 2021 at 6:08 pm

@Jennifer,

Asian is not a culture.


Jennifer
Registered user
another community
on May 1, 2021 at 6:39 pm
Jennifer, another community
Registered user
on May 1, 2021 at 6:39 pm

Bob -- I intentionally didn't use the word "race." It's too inflammatory these days. I was born in the 60s, so I remember the 60s as the most innocent time of my life. But I keep hearing from people older than me -- "the political climate we're in is worse than the 60s." It's probably true. What we're dealing with isn't healthy for any of us. I hope things get better -- for everyone's sanity.


BobB
Registered user
Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 1, 2021 at 7:18 pm
BobB, Another Pleasanton neighborhood
Registered user
on May 1, 2021 at 7:18 pm

Jennifer,

I remember the sixties well. A lot of the bad that was going on was hidden from view in comparison to today. There weren't ubiquitous cell phones with cameras, social media, and 100s of cable channels. Look at who was mainly dying in Vietnam. A lot of poor people and minorities. Black people were jailed just for dating white people. Racism was not only widespread, it was institutionalized in laws from voting restrictions to prohibitions on interracial marriage. In October 1962, the world was on the brink of global thermonuclear war. Politics were chaotic. The Democratic national convention in 1968 was frightening. There were multiple assassinations.

In my opinion things are much better today, especially for non-whites. Most of us are living better than we did in the sixties.


John
Registered user
Birdland
on May 1, 2021 at 7:52 pm
John, Birdland
Registered user
on May 1, 2021 at 7:52 pm

As usual you are spouting facts according to BobB. I Spent 13 months in Viet Nam and hear are the facts. Please go away BobB. You are ill informed.


Enlisted USA USMC USN USAF
White 28044 (83.5) 11888 (85.5) 1823 (94.7) 735 (81.1)
Black 5095 (15.1) 1860 (13.3) 78 (4.0) 82 (9.0)
Amer.Ind. 138 (.4) 73 (.5) 7 (.3) 1 (0.5)
Asian 241 (.7) 76 (.5) 17 (.8) 9 (1.0)
Unknown 26 (.07) 1 (.007) -- 79 (8.7)
Of all enlisted men who died in V'nam, blacks made up 14.1% of the total. This came at a time when they made up 11.0% of the young male population nationwide. If we add officer casualties to enlisted then the black percentage is reduced to 12.5% of all casualties.


Name hidden
Valley Trails

Registered user
on May 1, 2021 at 8:56 pm
Name hidden, Valley Trails

Registered user
on May 1, 2021 at 8:56 pm

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?


Rich
Registered user
Birdland
on May 1, 2021 at 9:05 pm
Rich, Birdland
Registered user
on May 1, 2021 at 9:05 pm

"Racism was not only widespread, it was institutionalized in laws from voting restrictions to prohibitions on interracial marriage."

@BobB...then apparently you do have an idea of what actual racism is, so shame on you for tossing around that label because you don't like another's opinion. Those of you who do so have completely devalued the words racist and racism. Try using actual debate with facts instead of trying to marginalize others.


BobB
Registered user
Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 2, 2021 at 11:35 am
BobB, Another Pleasanton neighborhood
Registered user
on May 2, 2021 at 11:35 am

John,

Thank you for your service.


BobB
Registered user
Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 2, 2021 at 11:41 am
BobB, Another Pleasanton neighborhood
Registered user
on May 2, 2021 at 11:41 am

@Rich,

Laws restricting voting by racial minorities in the South in the fifties and sixties and prohibitions on interracial marriage aren't racist policies? Are you kidding? And I haven't even mentioned legally enforced racial segregation in public transportation, schools, and housing. Of course the US had racist laws on the books in the fifties and sixties. You can't be denying that?


FronnF
Registered user
Livermore
on May 2, 2021 at 12:07 pm
FronnF, Livermore
Registered user
on May 2, 2021 at 12:07 pm

Typical. The propagandists win again and we hand over a little more freedom.


John
Registered user
Birdland
on May 2, 2021 at 2:29 pm
John, Birdland
Registered user
on May 2, 2021 at 2:29 pm

There were places that had racist policies in the past, in the past. If anything the elimination of those racist policies have been over compensated for. Primarily in the form of informative action. Are there racists out there. Yes. Black racists, mexican racists asian racisst white racists, all kinds of racists. Do we have systemic racism in this country, no. Quite the contrary, most people go overboard to not be a racist. It is very easy to throw the term around.


buklau
Registered user
Avila
on May 3, 2021 at 1:07 pm
buklau, Avila
Registered user
on May 3, 2021 at 1:07 pm

The strong American men & women before us fought through ww2, the spanish flu, and the great depression...now soyboys are crying and want anything that offends them cancelled.

There's a direct correlation between public housing and crime increase (same reason Bart resulted in Stoneridge mall crime increase).

Pleasanton residents are worried when robberies (ie: near the sports park) are on the rise...yet the PC city councils refuse to acknowledge any of their tolerant policies that allow these crime increases.


Rich
Registered user
Birdland
on May 3, 2021 at 6:26 pm
Rich, Birdland
Registered user
on May 3, 2021 at 6:26 pm

@BobB

You have completely missed my point. I'm well aware of the ugly racism of past decades; Jim Crow Laws, segregation, opposition to the Civil Rights Act...and you are too. You also stated above; "In my opinion things are much better today, especially for non-whites. Most of us are living better than we did in the sixties." That's true.

My issue with you is that you flippantly toss around the word "racist" (and apparently "anti-vaxer" and "troll") to attack others. It's an attempt to marginalize and silence those who have a different opinion. It also shows that you are incapable of having a meaningful debate about issues.

I agree with the poster above; I'm not sure why the moderator allows you to violate the terms of use.


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