Yes on Z is long overdue

I was one of many local residents in 1972 who decided a sweeping change was necessary in the politics governing Alameda or it would lose its identify and charm. The previous decade saw hundreds of single-family homes — many on huge lots — torn down and replaced with outsized multi-story apartment complexes. A drive on Santa Clara, Central, Lincoln, Buena Vista, Clinton, Broadway, Encinal and Park Avenue will testify to the results.

But it took the threat of 9,800 new units built on what is now Harbor Bay Isle — and a compliant City Council — to spark a revolt of Alameda residents. Community organizer Paul Miesner graphically demonstrated HBI traffic impacts by running toilet paper along the projected road widening of Otis Drive and High Street.

Everyone lost their front yard!

This galvanized the opposition. There were two options.

One group supported Measure A, a charter amendment to restrict new residential construction to single family or duplex houses. The second group — which Miesner and I started — favored sweeping-out the three council incumbents up for reelection. We have a representative-elected City Council. So let’s elect councilmembers to represent us!

This became the first “slate campaign” when three candidates: George Beckam, Chuck Corica, and Lloyd Hurwitz ran together. They pledged land use planning reforms and public participation at City Hall.

Many voters supported both the slate candidates and Measure A. The charter amendment was an insurance policy if we didn’t take control of the council. The slate and Measure won overwhelmingly.

Nothing was done subsequently to update Alameda’s land use planning even while events were significantly changing in the city. Alameda NAS closed and became Alameda Point. HBI was scaled back to 3,200 family homes and condominiums. The industrial north side of the Island was becoming largely residential.

Over time the Bay Area became a regional government with land use planning and transportation more than provincial concerns. The legislature took more interest and initiative in quality and quantity of housing. It mandated cities to adopt master plans with housing elements.

Today every city has an allocation for how many units each city must build. Most cities don’t like it. But it’s the law and failure to comply will result in loss of state funds for infrastructure and grants for amenities like recreation, open space, and services to seniors.

The sky won’t fall by approving Measure Z. It is a well-reasoned planning document that allows the city to meet its obligations to state law while maintaining local preference for its future.

Skeptical? Many laws and protections exist today that didn’t 47 years ago. Environmental Impact Reports, fire and safety regulations, water and air quality standards, energy saving devices, open space requirements, and alternative transportation mandates. There is far more public access and participation to decisions made.

There is no “back to the future”, however. Alameda will never return to when land was cheap, residential lots were big, and the temptations for profit enormous.

Voting “yes” on Measure Z will help preserve the Alameda you want in your lifetime. Not the past.

— Don Perata California Senate President Pro Tem, ret.