Council Approves New Housing Element, 4-1

In a 4-1 vote at its meeting on Tuesday, July 17, the city council approved an ordinance that will modify several land use zoning designations to accommodate the city of Alameda's Regional Housing Need Allocation (RHNA).

"I applaud city staff for a skillful job of balancing the requirements of state law while ensuring that Alameda is able to preserve its unique historic neighborhoods and commercial districts," stated Mayor Marie Gilmore in a press release.

To comply with the state housing element law, Alameda had to create enough residential zoning space to hold an additional 2,420 housing units for residential development during the 2007-2014 planning period.

To accomplish this, the city had to change or modify 10 different land-use designations. According to City Manager John Russo, those areas were: the Stargell site, Stargell Avenue and Webster Street; the Shipways site, 1200 Marina Village Parkway; Neptune Point at the foot of McKay Avenue; the former Chevy's Restaurant site on the Oakland Estuary near Cardinal Point; the Del Monte warehouse and Chipman sites on Buena Vista Avenue; Alameda Landing, the Ron Goode site, 1801 to 1825 Park St., the old Island High site at Everett Street and Eagle Avenue: the Coast Guard North Housing site and the Alameda Marina on Clement Avenue.

Three of these sites were changed to a residential-use zone designation — the others either already had residential use or mixeduse zone designations or were switched to a mixed-use or commercial zone designation.

The Neptune Point site went from administrative office (commercial) zone into a planned development with multifamily overlay (residential) zone; the former Chevy's site went from general industrial zone into a planned development with multifamily overlay (residential) zone; the former Island High site was modified from general industrial to planned development with multifamily overlay (residential) zone.

Alameda had to make these changes because the city fell short of its RHNA in the 1999-2006 housing element planning period. This shortfall created a conflict between the state and Alameda.

"When we adopted our 2003 housing element, we thought we would be able to designate residential or mixed use zoning at Alameda Point," said City Planning Services Manager Andrew Thomas. But the city never gained the ability to do so, causing an absence in residential use zoning in the city.

The 2,420 housing-unit figure came from the state. The total unit figure was 4,208, but Alameda constructed or approved 1,764 units during the two planning periods so the remaining RHNA was 2,420 units — this includes a penalty of 374 units given out by the state for not meeting the 1999-2006 housing element requirement — according to a memo from City Manager John Russo.

The city faced harsh ramifications if it did not comply.

"We could have been sued by developers and affordable housing organizations," said Alameda City Attorney Janet Kern.

Several Bay Area cities have been successfully sued including Pleasanton, which Kern cited as an example of a city Alameda does not want to emulate. Punishments from the state would have been just as bad.

"The state definitely lost its patience with the city," said Kern. "We could have lost local control over land-use decisions, we would be unable to receive grant money for future public works projects and the city could have been forced to pay additional fees. The state has a lot of arrows in their quiver."

Councilman Doug deHaan cast the lone dissenting vote. Some Alamedans are also not in agreement with the council's descision. "Changing the zoning on the area along the Alameda Marina will kill jobs," said Karin Lucas, a former Alameda council member who finished her last of three council terms in 1998. "They're putting all this effort into one mandate while neglecting another. Jobs are more important right now."

Lucas believes rezoning the Alameda Marina would cause property value to increase resulting in business owners to sell and the loss of jobs. But Russo does not see it that way.

"We just made a deal with business owners at the marina," said Russo. "They wanted this to happen."

To read the memorandum describing the land use rezoning, visit the city of Alameda website.



+1 #1 Marvin Hamon 2012-07-27 19:08
"We just made a deal with business owners at the marina," said Russo. "They wanted this to happen."

I have had a business in the Alameda Marina for the last two and a half years, Russo never talked to me or made a deal with me and I never told him that I wanted the rezoning to happen so his statement is either not true or he was misquoted.

If the city is going to allow housing to replace businesses it will have to result in a loss of local businesses and jobs. If I can't find an office I like I will have to move my business out of Alameda. It's a pretty simple concept to understand. Then Alameda will just be another bedroom community.

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