Approving a Housing Element that massively densifies all of our residential and historic business districts is unwise and unnecessary.
As a board member of Alameda Citizens Task Force (ACT), I must take issue with City Planning, Building, and Transportation Director Andrew Thomas’s editorial, which asserts that “Others are arguing that the Council should not approve the Housing Element and associated zoning amendments.” The “others” are not identified, but he obviously is responding to advertising funded by ACT and the Alameda Architectural Preservation Society, which urges citizens to object to four discrete parts of the Draft Housing Element.
Mr. Thomas is correct in his recitation of the dire consequences that will flow from our failure to timely adopt a Housing Element certified by the State. Our ad does not contest the need to obtain a fully certified Housing Element by the statutory due date, January 31, 2023. On the contrary, it argues that the four items to which we object can be adjusted or deleted without endangering State certification. The Draft Housing Element and related zoning amendments will be presented to the City Council for adoption as Item 7-B at the November 15 Council meeting. I believe that Mr. Thomas has written his editorial in an attempt to inhibit public comment in opposition to those four items.
If Mr. Thomas was so concerned about meeting the January 31, 2023, due date, why did he not seek final approval of City Council in September or October? The State letter approving the Draft Housing Element is dated August 22, 2022. He has allowed the better part of three months to elapse since that date. We are confident that if the City Council is willing to modify the Housing Element, consideration of these changes can be accomplished, and a Housing Element certified by the State by January 31.
Our specific objections to the Housing Element are as follows. The Draft Housing Element includes proposed massive upzoning of our older established neighborhoods R-1 thru R-6 and historic commercial districts, including:
- Unlimited residential density in R1 through R6 within the walls of existing structures.
- Unlimited density and 40-feet height limit in R1 through R6 within a quarter-mile of a commuter bus line, including demolition and replacement of existing buildings.
- Increased density ranging from 30 to 60 units per acre (36 percent to 173 percent above the existing density) in the R3 to R6 zoning districts covering most of central Alameda.
- Unlimited density and height limits increased to 60 feet in the historic portions of Park and Webster streets and increased to 45 feet in the small historic “Stations” districts on Lincoln and Encinal avenues.
These upzonings also include reduced yard space requirements that threaten our beautiful greenhouse-gas-absorbing urban forest. The recent Council action abolishing off-street parking minimums exacerbates congestion in the neighborhoods.
These zoning increases are not needed to meet housing goals, including the 5,353 residential unit Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) and state fair housing requirements, and will put our historical housing inventory at risk, resulting in gentrification, with current tenants replaced by non-rent controlled market rate units.
The Draft Housing Element specifically provides that none of the units produced by Proposals 2 and 3 will count toward the RHNA and the Planning Board recommended at its September 26 meeting changes to Proposal 1, which is estimated to produce 160 units, that limits the number of regular units in existing buildings to four per parcel plus unlimited accessory dwelling units (ADUs), that mostly mitigate our concerns with the proposal. Proposal 4 is estimated to generate 82 RHNA units, but like Proposal 1, Proposal 4 can be adjusted to address our concerns. Regarding fair housing, we believe that Proposal 1, combined with relaxed rules for ADUs citywide and the recently approved upzoning of all of Alameda‘s single-family neighborhoods, will satisfy these objectives.
I strongly urge those who oppose any of the above four items to take three actions: Sign the petition at https://www.change.org/PreserveNeighborhoods, send emails to the City Council at [email protected], and make public comments at the November 15 Council meeting.
Board Member of Alameda Citizens Task Force
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