Letters to the Editor
I encourage all Alamedans to vote “yes” on Z. There are many arguments that have been made in favor of Z that are rightly based on considerations around diversity and inclusion. I have nothing eloquent to add to those. My argument is far more pragmatic. Good governance requires the ability of the governing body to adjust to changing situations. As such, constitutional (charter-level) limitations on that governing body should be the exception and not the rule.
Measure A fundamentally limits the ability of the City Council and Planning Board from adjusting zoning and city plans to keep up with changing situations in Alameda and the greater Bay Area. Arguing that repealing Measure A means that all our great homes will be torn down and replaced with skyscrapers is foolish fearmongering. What it does do is give our city planners the ability to create rational plans for housing growth, subject to voter oversite. As such, removing Measure A from the City Charter is the best way to enable good and responsive governance.
As a young college graduate currently living in Alameda, I would implore those who are on the fence about Measure Z to vote “yes”. Article 26, written well over forty years ago, was created for the express purpose of keeping people of lower income out of our city.
For years, proponents of Article 26 have been knocking down proposals to add affordable housing in Alameda, voicing concerns about the destruction of Victorian-era homes (which are already protected under a different law), traffic and other perceived nuisances. Is this all that holds our city back from allowing more people of lesser income to live in it?
College graduates and other young people are finding it exceedingly difficult, if not impossible to afford to live here, even in places of modest quality. Any new housing construction in our city is currently confined to largely expensive, single-family homes. How many countless young families and graduates that would ultimately thrive in Alameda been denied the chance to do so?
Alameda is an amazing city, and I am proud to have grown up here. It would be shameful to not let others share in its quality.
Many people in Alameda have community pride of living in a place where “Everyone Belongs.” This inclusiveness is one of many reasons that Alameda is a great place to live, along with great weather, walk- and bike-ability, easy access to San Francisco and Oakland, and of course access to the water.
However, Article 26 of the City Charter strikes an embarrassing, revealing contrast against the perception of openness. Article 26 was added to the charter in 1973 and amended in 1991, in both cases by ballot measures. The end result is one of the most exclusionary housing policies anywhere in the Bay Area; it prohibits new multifamily housing and expanding housing on lots under 2000 sq. ft.
Measure Z will entirely remove Article 26 from Alameda’s charter. It will do nothing to erase our shameful 47-year history of the adverse impacts on minorities, nor will it change any zoning codes that follow from Article 26. It will, however, be a small step toward resolving this shameful contradiction between our values and our policies and open up the possibility for reasonable zoning that allows Alameda to be the best version of itself.
A more affordable, inclusive, and livable Alameda won’t have any skyscrapers, and our Victorians will continue to be protected with the Historical Preservation Ordinance. What will change is we can have more of the multifamily housing that is part of our heritage before Article 26, ultimately enlarging our tax base and making good on our motto that “Everyone Belongs.”
Please vote “yes” on Measure Z as soon as you receive your vote-by-mail ballot in October!