Letters to the Editor
I love Alameda and would love to be able to grow old here. My home is a single-family house that will be challenging to navigate with mobility issues.
When I imagine a future Alameda that’s inclusive and livable, I envision a safe and walkable city with many housing types including small bungalow courts along with low-rise condominiums and apartments, suitable for elders and young families of many income levels.
It’s too bad that since 1973, our charter has said those housing types don’t belong here, even in places that combine small businesses and housing. A gentle density can ensure that we have housing to accommodate all types of households, helps us meet our state-mandated housing numbers, and provides much needed foot traffic for small businesses.
For example, in the various station districts such as Chestnut Station and Morton Station on Encinal Avenue and Grand Station on Lincoln Avenue.
It’s too bad that we have a zoning ordinance hammered into our charter that hamstrings our community’s ability to make decisions about what housing types could be best suited to various locations in the city. Let’s make a start toward fixing that. Vote “yes” on Measure Z.
On Sept. 10, the Alameda Sun published an article entitled “Concerns for Measure Z” largely devoted to airing some Alamedans’ concerns about repealing Article 26 of the City Charter. Article 26 was originally put in place by Measure A in 1973, banning the construction of multi-unit housing; a second Measure A in 1991 set the maximum density for new homes at 2,000 square feet per unit.
The article included several spurious objections to passing Measure Z and removing Article 26 but is surprisingly straightforward about the primary concern of these self-identified preservationists: preserving the disproportionate power and influence of past and present Measure A advocates over the desires of Alameda voters today.
Joyce Boyd, a member of the Alameda Architectural Preservation Society, credits Article 26 with standing between “overzealous developers” and the “unlimited building of luxury apartments.” Let’s be clear: unlimited apartment construction was never on the table and will not be in the foreseeable future. Current zoning, which cannot be changed without years of public comment and environmental study, currently conforms to the limits imposed by Article 26. Ms. Boyd also gestures toward affordability, but how much of a concern can this be for someone who wants to maintain the city’s ban on multifamily housing?
In addition, Boyd laments the possible risk to Victorians in her neighborhood. While it’s true that this was one of the original rallying points for Measure A, Article 26 does not preserve any type of building whatsoever, as she surely knows. On the other hand, the Alameda Historical Preservation Ordinance, which will not be affected in any way by the passage of Measure Z, exists to do just that. Our Victorians are in no danger.
Here is where the article dispenses with these canards and voices preservationists’ actual fear: that Measure Z would empower Alameda’s elected representatives. Paul Foreman gives up the game, correctly stating that “repealing Article 26 does not do anything except give Council discretion to raise density.”
Why would this be a problem? Foreman suspects that given the opportunity, City Council would liberalize Alameda zoning because things have changed since 1973 and that is what their constituents want. It’s not what Mr. Foreman wants, though, so he is adamant that Article 26 stay in place to prevent Council from ever getting the chance. This is the anti-democratic effect of Article 26 that its defenders are ultimately concerned with preserving: it allows the voters of 1973 to frustrate the will of Alameda voters in 2020.
Article 26 isn’t a “firewall” against development, as Boyd claims; it’s a firewall against democracy and self-determination. Fortunately, voters in 2020 have the opportunity to take this power back from Mr. Foreman and his ilk by passing Measure Z, giving us a shot at a more inclusive, affordable and livable Alameda in the future.
The coronavirus pandemic and wildfires both arose from mismanagement of our natural resources. The virus spread with ease from animals due to worldwide habitat loss and the international wildlife trade. Man-made climate change has worsened wildfires.
But there’s another often-overlooked crisis that threatens our future: mass extinction. According to the World Wildlife Fund, the world’s wildlife has declined by 70 percent in the past 50 years. Why? Well, we humans are to blame. We have overexploited countless species and destroyed savannas, forests and virtually all wetlands. Pollution and climate change are also contributing.
This wildlife loss has accelerated alarmingly in recent decades. So much so that we are now entering the sixth mass extinction of earth’s entire history. And tragically, the Trump Administration has weakened protections for endangered species when we need them most.
It’s all very bleak. But we cannot let scary numbers numb us. We must act. If we want future generations to enjoy the diverse abundance of this wondrous planet, we all have to speak out. We must raise this issue on social media and with neighbors and elected officials. We must volunteer in our communities to protect and increase wildlife habitats.
Because this is not someone else’s problem. As atmospheric chemist Sir Robert Watson says, “we are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide.”
And perhaps most importantly, we must vote. We must speak up for “all creatures great and small” before it’s too late.