Concerns for Measure Z

One of the most contentious debates for Alamedans in the November election is whether to repeal Article 26 of the Alameda City Charter.

Measure Z is the initiative that would repeal Article 26 if approved by Alameda voters. Article 26, also known as Measure A, prohibits multiple dwelling units and caps the density for residential development to one housing unit per 2,000 square feet of land — there are several exemptions to these rules.

Measure A has created friction amongst residents and public officials since its inception in 1973. This friction has only amplified as the election draws near.

People in favor of repealing Article 26 say it is discriminatory, contributes to the lack of rental housing stock and causes high rents in the city.

“We found that Article 26 continues a legacy of exclusionary zoning that discriminates against families based upon income,” said City of Alameda planning director Andrew Thomas at the July 7 City Council meeting. Thomas also said Article 26 has had a negative effect on the potential to create new affordable housing units in Alameda. At the meeting Thomas said developers have refused build housing projects in Alameda due to restraints caused by Measure A.

However, those in favor of Article 26 say it is needed to suppress overzealous developers.

“I see Article 26 as a firewall,” said Joyce Boyd, a 19-year Alameda resident. “It stops unlimited building of luxury apartments. If there are no limits, there will be developers building luxury condos. Look at the housing they’re building. It’s not affordable housing.”

Boyd, a member of the Alameda Architectural Preservation Society, also expressed a lack of trust in the Council.

Boyd fears a repeal of Article 26 can lead to a tear down of Victorians in her neighborhood, which was one reason voters approved the initial Measure A. Even though the city does have the Alameda Historical Preservation Ordinance that establishes processes, which requires public review before historic buildings are changed, some feel this is not enough of a protection against developers.

“It’s an ordinance that can be repealed by the Council,” said Paul Foreman, a 30-year Alameda resident.

Foreman, a member of the Alameda Citizen’s Task Force, said repealing Article 26 will only make Alamedans more exposed to developers.

“Repealing Article 26 does not do anything except give Council discretion to raise density. Alameda is a prime target for developers. We are between two job rich towns (Oakland and San Francisco).”

Alameda resident and chair of the Preservation Action Committee Chris Buckley said he agrees with repealing Sec. 1 of Article 26, which states there shall be no multiple dwelling units built in the City of Alameda. However, he does not want to repeal Sec. 3, which caps residential development to one housing unit per 2,000 square feet. Instead, Buckley suggested modifying Sec. 3.

Buckley sent a letter to Thomas proposed the city exclude raising density limits in certain parts of Alameda. “Residential density increases above the current 2,000 sq. ft. of lot area per residential unit and other intensity increases shall not occur in R-1 through R-6 Zones, portions of the North Park Street area, and the C-1 Zone; also the historic portions of the Park and Webster Street Business Districts; and properties that are on the City of Alameda Historical Monument or Historic Building Study Lists” the letter stated.

However, Vice Mayor John Knox White disagreed. “I always was in favor of a full repeal,” said Knox White. “I felt a partial repeal would be disingenuous.”

The Council initially voted to repeal just Sec. 1 at its June 2 Council meeting. Foreman said Councilmember Jim Oddie was on the fence about a full repeal after speaking to him before the June vote. However, Oddie was adamant about a full repeal at the July 7 Council meeting.

Knox White and Mayor Marilyn Ashcraft are the co-chairs of the “Yes on Measure Z campaign, while Councilmember Tony Daysog is chairing the No on Measure Z campaign.