Equity, housing, students, safety are top concerns. Also, Staff presents budget proposal; South Shore tenants protest rent increase
On May 2, City Council accepted a Community Needs Assessment, which reports Alameda’s social service needs and resources required to help. The report identified top concerns of racial equity, housing, personal safety, student mental health, and language issues.
Staff presented its proposed operating budget for the next two fiscal years, which reveals the City remains in a solid financial position. Council also heard from numerous tenants of South Shore Apartments who object to a plan to pass through the cost of capital improvements in the form of rent increases.
Community Needs Assessment
Over the last year, members of the Social Service Human Relations Board (SSHRB) volunteered hundreds of hours to prepare the 2023 Community Needs Assessment (CNA) in order to inform City Council of Alameda residents’ needs. The following themes emerged:
- Racial equity: The median household income of households of color was significantly lower than households that identified as white. American Indian and Alaskan Native median household incomes were 44% lower, Black and African American households 41% lower, and Hispanic and Latino median households 32% lower. Students of color were more likely than white students to drop out of public schools before high school graduation.
- Student mental health and support: Student social connectedness decreased with age. The assessment showed 72% of fifth graders felt connected, but just 57% of ninth and 11th graders did. Only 53% of ninth graders identified a caring adult at school.
- Housing burden: More than a third of households have a significant housing burden, defined as spending more than 30% of income on housing. Unsheltered homelessness increased by 27% between 2019 and 2022.
- Personal safety: Felony domestic violence cases increased by 36% between 2019 and 2021. Fewer than two-thirds of students in all grades reported feeling “safe” or “very safe” at school.
- English as a second language: More than a third of residents speak a language other than English at home.
In addition to informing the Council of residents’ needs, the CNA helps nonprofit organizations document community needs in their funding applications and gives granting agencies information to guide their giving. Council unanimously accepted the report.
Operating budget overview
City Manager Jennifer Ott presented an overview of staff’s proposed operating budget for the next two fiscal years (FY). The City Manager proposed a General Fund budget of $153,007,187 for FY 2023-24, including $15 million for the Aquatic Center and $140,846,146 for FY 2024-25.
The City is in a solid financial position, thanks to stable property tax revenues and residual funds, and operating revenues fully cover operating expenses. Nonetheless, the budget is tight due to increased expenditures and conservative revenue forecasts resulting from economic uncertainty.
The budget invests in City Council-identified priority areas, including:
- House All Alamedans: Resources and staff to address housing issues, including one new management analyst, will shift from Community Development to the City Manager’s Office to improve program management and service delivery.
- Sustainability and Resilience: The budget funds an update to the Climate Action Resilience Plan (CARP) and revised groundwater analysis.
- Enhancing Community Safety and Services: Unspent funds from the current fiscal year are budgeted to replace police radios, two fire engines, and a battalion vehicle.
- Transportation and Infrastructure: Residual funds will cover numerous capital improvements, such as Civic Center Garage upgrades, a City building security project, playground replacements, and lighting for streets, parks, and parking lots.
Department Directors will review their specific Department accomplishments and needs for Council on May 4, possibly continuing on May 11. Staff will seek direction from Council on fund allocation for the next two fiscal years.
South Shore Apartments Capital Improvement Project
In other business, Council heard from numerous tenants of South Shore Apartments who had attended the Rent Program Community Meeting on May 1. They strongly objected to the property owner’s application to recover approximately $24 million of capital improvement costs through rent increases. The tenants petitioned for an emergency moratorium on the Capital Improvement Project (CIP) pass-through. Speakers said the CIP allowance threatens tenant livelihoods and housing stability. City Attorney Yibin Shen noted that Council will consider the matter at a special meeting on May 11.
Contributing writer Karin K. Jensen covers boards and commissions for the Alameda Post. Contact her via [email protected]. Her writing is collected at https://linktr.ee/karinkjensen and https://alamedapost.com/Karin-K-Jensen.