Monday, April 27, 2009

Stop, Listen and Learn

What I love about community events is you get an opportunity to connect with old friends and new neighbors. The gathering allows for discourse and discussion of all things important to the City of Alameda. At this Staurday’s Earth Day, I ran into both Council Members Marie Gilmore and Frank Matarrese, saw SOCA and CASA promoting their ideas for the point. Signature gathers for both the Suncal Measure A change and the Firefighters were out promoting their causes.

I was drawn into a conversation about what should be with Alameda Point and during that conversation we had the opportunity to hear input from someone who has spent more than seven year following the issue. Councilmember Mataresse gave the small group some facts about the base, the clean-up necessary by the Navy and any developer and some basics about the referendum process including Article 26 (a.k.a Measure A).

With these types of discussion, if your mind is open, you will learn something new about something a subject you thought you had a good grasp of the concepts. I believed I was fairly proficient about the Measure, but I was wrong. As the Councilmember pointed out the language of the density Measure has already been modified by its enforcement. Section 26-1 states that “There shall be no multiple dwelling units built in the City of Alameda.”

According to the strict language of this Section it means no duplexes allowed; not just larger units. As Councilmember Mataresse pointed out he looked multiple and the definition is “consisting of, including, or involving more than one.”

The only exception is laid out in Section 26-2: Exception being the Alameda Housing Authority replacement of existing low cost housing units and the proposed Senior Citizens low cost housing complex, pursuant to Article XXV of the Charter of the City of Alameda.

And Section 26-3 goes into maximum density for any residential development within the City of Alameda shall be one housing unit per 2,000 square feet of land. This limitation shall not apply to the repair or replacement of existing residential units, whether single-family or multiple-unit, which are damaged or destroyed by fire or other disaster; provided that the total number of residential units on any lot may not be increased. This limitation also shall not apply to replacement units under Section 26-2.

After the referendum was added to the City Charter there was an exception made. Yes a a change to the sacred cow, but not from the electorate.

In Section 30-50.1 Declaration of Policy a City Council declared at the time
determines:a. The proliferation throughout the City of residential dwellings in
attached groups of more than two (2) units has created and, if continued, will
further create, land use densities and other undesirable effects to a degree
which affects adversely the environment and the quality of living conditions
necessary to and desirable by the people. For this and other reasons the Charter
amendment should be interpreted in accordance with the intent of the framers
thereof, which intent is hereby found to be a prohibition against the
construction of dwelling units of more than two (2) attached in the same
structure as hereinbelow set forth.

So a sitting elected group made a change to the interpretation of the language. I wonder if the hardcore “Measure A” people would only want single family houses. I also wonder how the City deals with conflicting language in the Charter.

I understand, and I need to make a public request, that there is a memo written after the implementation of Article 26 that states that Measure A may not stand up to true legal challenge. As I understand, every time the Charter Amendment has come under siege, concessions have been made to keep it in place.

In addition, the Charter Amendment seems to conflict with State policy, and if a developer really wants to take the City to task under the State of California Density Bonus Ordinance there is not much the Council can do about it, even if the project does not conform under Article 26.

Measure A, was a good tool when it was implemented, but as the old saying goes when you have a hammer everything looks like a nail. Since the Measure has been modified in the past by a “Declaration” and may be antiquated given the requirements from State it seems like with the development of Alameda Point this is a great time to review what the goal is and how we move forward.

I like to remember that this originally was brought into the Charter through the referendum process, and now it is that same process that is being used it may be time to modify the 36-year old sentence that “There shall be no multiple dwelling units built in the City of Alameda.”

This week's Inventory Data


Total: 160
94501: 120
94502: 40
SFR: 95
Condo: 38
Multi-Family: 26
Short Sale: 22
Foreclosure: 6
Price Reductions: 60
High List: $2,345,000
Low List: $199,900


  1. I've heard about that memo too I think it would be an interesting one to uncover if it exists. But you make a good point about how Measure A has never truly been challenged in a court of law.

  2. The 1973 Measure A/Charter amendment used a simple and unsophisticated legislative tool to stop undesirable development and redevelopment in Alameda, but the community has changed since then.

    We now have far more sophisticated (and less damaging) ways to limit the kinds and styles of housing that are allowed in Alameda, and we have a pressing need to redevelop Alameda Point using environmentally sound principles. The SunCal-sponsored amendments to Measure A/Section 26 provide a careful and thoughtful framework for the intelligent "peace conversion" of the former Alameda Naval Air Station.

    We did not need or deserve the insensitive robo-call and other PR tactics that SunCal's people used because they did not know Alameda. But the poor tactics do not detract from the soundness of the underlying plan. I hope that the negativity and emotionalism of some Alamedans will not keep the rest of us from having a serious and informed discussion of the plan, its details, and its benefits between now and November, and from approving a worthy development plan.

  3. Would you mind explaining to me how "we now have far more sophisticated (and less damaging) ways to limit the kinds and styles of housing" and as long as you are explaining that would you mind telling me about the "enviromentally sound principles" of the SunCal plan, especially when it comes to traffic.......