Council Directs Rescue Plan Spending

The city may build a  housing facility in the  Bottle Parcel on Fifth  Street. The parcel —  wedged between the  Bayport housing develpment and College of  Alameda’s athletic field  — takes its name from the  unusual shape.
City of Alameda - The city may build a housing facility in the Bottle Parcel on Fifth Street. The parcel — wedged between the Bayport housing develpment and College of Alameda’s athletic field — takes its name from the unusual shape.

Council Directs Rescue Plan Spending

Karin Kim Jensen

On Tuesday, Sept. 7, City Council provided direction to city staff regarding allocating $28.68 million in funding provided by the Federal Government through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) of 2021.

The money is earmarked to assist with recovery from the economic and public health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Jennifer Tell, Budget Finance Department budget manager, explained that half the funding was received in June 2021. The city expects to receive the second half in 2022.

At the Tuesday, July 20 meeting, Council made a motion to focus the spending plan on housing with additional funding for Wi-Fi hotspots to help low-income families bridge the digital divide. The spending plan included:

A Transitional Housing Program by the Community Development Department at $2 million in initial expenses and $600,000 in ongoing annual expenses

Permanent Supportive Housing by the Community Development Department through the acquisition of Marina Village Inn or a facility built from the ground-up on the Bottle Parcel at 2530 Fifth St. at an initial cost of $15 million with ongoing annual expenses of $1.5 million. Named for its shape the .8-acre Bottle Parcel is a remnant of the former U.S. Navy Fleet Industrial Supply Center.

A Wireless Hotspot Lending Program by the Alameda Free Library at $50,000 in initial expenses and $3,600 in ongoing annual expenses.

Supplementing the Feed Alameda Program for a one-time cost of $23,625. Feed Alameda pays restaurants to make hot and healthy meals for Alameda’s unsheltered residents.

Alameda Housing Authority projects, which could be built within the next 9 to 18 months at a cost between $10 to $20-plus million.

Among them would be 90 units of permanent supportive housing, 30 units of affordable housing and the purchase of lease-to-own multifamily/motel suites restricted to low-income seniors.

Altogether, the spending plan would exceed the City’s first-year allocation of $14.34 million.

Consequently, staff sought direction from the City Council on further refining their plan for the first year of funding, providing four options for moving forward:

Using the Transitional Housing Program, Permanent Supportive Housing Program, and Wireless Hotspot projects.

Supporting requests from the Alameda Housing Authority.

Initiating work on some projects now and report on progress and available funds in the future.

Considering funding assistance to both small businesses and not-for-profits.

Mayor Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft, Vice Mayor Malia Vella, and Council Members Tony Daysog, Trish Herrera-Spencer and John Knox-White discussed and debated the options. No members of the public commented. The Commission on Disability Issues submitted a letter supporting funding for mental health services.

The meeting concluded with the Council choosing Option One with direction to reduce the cost of the Bottle Parcel development and to develop Keep Alameda Housed and Community Land Trust programs like those in Oakland.

The Keep Oakland Housed program prevents residents from losing housing by providing legal representation, emergency financial assistance, and supportive services.

The Oakland Community Land Trust works to expand and preserve housing and economic development opportunities for low-income residents and to steward them in trust to ensure they remain affordable.

Staff will now revise the spending plan based on this further direction and return to the City Council with requests for budget appropriations. Also, there will be a later discussion on how to use the second half of the federal funding.

Karin Kim Jensen is a free-lance writer. She will be covering the City Council for the Alameda Sun.