Pending State Senate Bills Will Change Alameda

Pending State Senate Bills Will Change Alameda

State housing effort puts particular strain on Island City

Paul Foreman

This summer three State Senate bills already approved by that body will be in the State Assembly committee process and eventually on the floor of the Assembly. They will eradicate Article 26 of our charter (Measure A) and the density limits of our zoning ordinances, opening the entire city to high density development.

Alameda’s current Charter Article 26 and our zoning ordinances allow the construction of residential housing on lots not smaller than 5000 sq. ft. for either single family home lots (R-1) or one dwelling for every 2000 square feet. (R-2 thru R-6). The only exceptions are where City Council has placed a multi-family overlay allowing 30 units per acre on a limited number of lots to comply with a state law requiring higher density to provide housing for lower income residents.

SB 9 will end single family zoning in our R-1 districts like the Gold Coast, Fernside, and most of Bay Farm by mandating that the city must allow two houses on each lot and also allowing the subdivision of a lot into two lots with two houses on each lot, thus quadrupling density.

At least two accessory dwelling units (granny flats) can be added, bringing the total units to 6! Off street parking would be limited to one space per unit or eliminated entirely for units within a ½ mile walk from a transit stop (much of Alameda). Building projects authorized by SB9 are exempted from addressing environmental impacts.

SB 478 will end the current density limitations in the remainder of our residential areas (R-2 to R-6) by mandating the allowance of up to 10 dwelling units per lot. Where a standard 5000 square foot lot currently allows two units, now up to 10 will be allowed!

This bill does not deal with off street parking, but another pending bill, AB 1401 would prohibit the city from placing any parking requirement on any development, be it residential or commercial if within ½-mile walking distance of public transit. Unfortunately our State Senator Nancy Skinner is a co-author of this bill!

SB 10, unlike SB 9 and SB 478, is not a mandate. Still, it authorizes a city council to allow the construction of 10-unit residential dwelling structures anywhere they deem fit notwithstanding a citizen initiative to the contrary. Based upon the current majority on our city council strongly supporting the repeal of Article 26 of our Charter in the roundly defeated Measure Z last November, can there be any doubt that they will exercise this new authority and repeal Article 26?

None of these bills require the construction of affordable housing. Instead, they declare open season for developers to entice homeowners to sell their property to allow replacement of low density with high density dwellings. These offers to buy will be more lucrative than a homeowner ever anticipated because the vastly increased density allowance makes the property much more valuable. It will be a windfall for some, but those of us who are left will be living in a much different town.

The new Alameda will have inadequate parking and utility infrastructure, out of control traffic, loss of yards and carbon absorbing trees, and much more population density. If these bills were providing affordable housing for our working class citizens it might justify these negative impacts, but these are market-rate homes. Working class folks will not be able to afford living here. Instead, they will be commuting here to provide services for the new market-rate residents.

The only chance to stop this land grab is to submit a letter to the Assembly through the Legislative Portal. Instructions on doing this can be found at livable¬california.org and clicking on the Act Now tab. There is no time to waste!

Paul Foreman lives in Alameda.