‘Yes’ for Measure Z a ‘Yes’ for Families

‘Yes’ for Measure Z a ‘Yes’ for Families

Is it too much for a father to want his grown kids to return to the fold, or at least the same town? Yes, yes it is. As a realist and appreciating the richness of living in new and diverse locales, I don’t expect, or even want, my kids to want to live in Alameda any time soon.

After college, I never again lived in my hometown or anywhere near the city my mother moved to. Yet, this area dad holds out hope, backed by research and economics, that someday (maybe when they start a family of their own) my kids might come back to Alameda.

Unfortunately, the exclusionary zoning provisions found in Article 26 of the Alameda Charter are not on the side of families, particularly Alameda families with limited economic means and families of color which have suffered the impact of generations of discriminatory housing policies.

As reported in the New York Times in 2015, research shows, “The typical adult lives only 18 miles from his or her mother.” I like to think that my kids will similarly want to live that close (or closer) to my home in Alameda because they cannot imagine life without puns, my broiled salmon, and watching classic films. But I’d be wrong. Adults live near their parents for more prosaic reasons. As that same story reported, we are “a country of close-knit families, with members of multiple generations leaning on one another for financial and practical support.”

Unfortunately, returning home or really anywhere close, is not realistic for many of our kids. In Alameda, the median price of a home is well over $1 million. Renting in Alameda is also out of reach for many. The problem is regional and local. The problem is about homelessness and the problem is about families. The problem is greatest for our community of color due to gaps in generational wealth, exacerbated by exclusionary zoning laws like Article 26. Moreover, the problem is one of supply and demand.

There is no single solution to the housing crisis, but one thing is clear: more housing will help. In Alameda, Article 26 stands in the way of building the affordable multi-family homes we need, and it stands in the way of adding that new housing in the most sensible way.

As a homeowner and as someone who commutes off-island for work (except during the shelter-in-place order), I, too, worry about property values, traffic, parking, and the character of our town. But new housing will be built whatever happens to Article 26; state law mandates that Alameda build its fair share of housing. With Article 26 in place, much of the new housing would be relegated to locations less well-served by transit, like Alameda Point.

If we remove Article 26 from the charter, the City will have greater flexibility to build more multi-family homes in the Park Street and Webster Street corridors. New residents living along or near those transit-supported districts will be more likely to hop on a bus, thus reducing commute congestion.
With Article 26 removed from the charter we need not fear real estate development run amok. In Alameda, we have a zoning code, historic protection for our neighborhoods and old housing stock, and a citizenry actively involved in city governance.

We won’t see high-rises on Park Street. We won’t see buildings with only luxury units. If, like me, you want to see sensible housing development, join me in supporting Measure Z and thereafter staying involved and making our voices heard. Those opportunities abound in Alameda, with city boards and commissions to sit on, active social media, accessible elected city officials to contact, and open meetings to attend.

To my kids, I say venture forth, see the world, come back to visit once in a while and we’ll go out to breakfast at your favorite Alameda diner, walk on the beach, and ride our bikes. To my neighbors, I say please join me in voting “yes” on Measure Z. More multi-family housing units means more affordability across the home buying/renting spectrum. It’s time to say no to exclusivity and yes to inclusivity and equity, and it’s time to do our part to increase affordable housing.