Housing Element Redo May Touch Measure A

Dennis Evanosky

Mayor Marie Gilmore and Vice-Mayor Rob Bonta look out over Alameda Landing during a special city council meeting on the Oakland Estuary last year. The city identified the landing as a prime spot for a "multi-family overlay." Target broke ground for its store at Alameda Landing on Wednesday.

Members of the city council were getting ready to lay their hands on Alameda's "third rail," an issue so sacred that no has wanted to touch it. Tuesday evening, proponents of Article 26 of the city charter, popularly known as "Measure A," gathered to cry "foul."

In 1973 Measure A modified the city charter to prohibit the construction of "multiple dwelling units"; it has been part of the city's fabric for almost 40 years.

A developer once tried to skirt Measure A. In 1984 he attempted to turn the cavernous 1918 Union Iron Works Turbine Machine Works Building (affectionately known as the "Red Brick Building") into apartments. The voters said "no." The building was torn down that same year.


The city has tinkered with Article 26 only once and that was more than 20 years ago.

In 1991 the city amended the article to limit housing density in town. "The maximum density for any residential development within the City of Alameda shall be one housing unit per 2,000 square feet of land," the amendment read in full.

But times have changed, and the state of California is requiring the city to acknowledge those changes by submitting a "housing element" that the state is comfortable enough with to certify. Without this certification the city says it would lose access to money from the state. For example, the city receives state transportation funds for projects like Willie Stargell Extension and street resurfacing projects across the city, but there's more on the line than just street-improvement funds.

"Noncompliant communities are, or will become ineligible for certain state park, planning and housing grant programs," the state stipulated in a 2008 law.

Changes ordained by the new ordinance include amending zoning ordinance maps to allow a new element called an "MF (Multi-Family) District."

According to the ordinance before the council an "MF District" is an overlay zone for places that the council considers "well located for transit oriented multifamily housing."

The intent of the new zoning district is also to make provisions for affordable housing in the city, and to respond to housing growth allocations to the city of Alameda.

At its July 3 meeting, city council approved a housing element that runs though 2014.

All that is needed is a vote by the majority of the council to turn that approval into an ordinance and make it the new law of the land.

The city has designated 11 sites as candidate sites for the new higher density zoning district, including the aforementioned shipways site at 1200 Marina Village Parkway. The list also suggests the possibility of seeing housing sprout up at the old Del Monte warehouse at Buena Vista Avenue and Sherman Street; at Neptune Point at the foot of McKay Avenue and at Alameda Landing where Target just broke ground for its new store.


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