Letters to the Editor

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When the nation erupted in response to the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and a similar, if not as tragic, incident involved the city’s own police department, Alamedans responded with outrage. Protests before the police department followed and then dancing in the street in solidarity with Mali Watkins. The fervor remains as residents press for changes in the police department and numerous signs affirm that Black Lives Matter.

Hopefully, that fervor will translate Nov. 3 to a desire to pass Measure Z and remove a City Charter amendment that has blocked building multi-family housing in Alameda for 47 years. Known as Measure A, it enshrines a restrictive suburban zoning ethic over the city landscape which features an attractive variety of urban housing developed over 100 years. Whatever the intentions were of the residents in 1973 in voting for Measure A, the effect has been to exclude minorities and severely limit the ability of low-income people to live here.

In the years that followed its passage, you would be hard pressed not to conclude that Measure A was the sacred text for defining those worthy of living here. If you appeared at the city council to question whether Measure A excluded certain people, you needed a tough skin. You faced solid support for it based on a perverse “quality of life” argument with Victorian preservation as a handy cover story — Victorians had long been protected by city design review laws.

You would be told to leave Alameda if you objected to Measure A under the assertion it was the only thing protecting the city from looking like or having the crime problems of Oakland. These coded bigoted statements went largely unchallenged and became gospel.

In the meantime, Alameda’s population of low-income people of color found it increasingly difficult to remain.

One of the few large affordable apartment complexes — the Harbor Island apartments (now Summer House) faced two upheavals in 1989 and 2004. A major rent increase in the first case and in the second, wholesale eviction by investors. In both cases, hundreds of families were forced to leave because the city did little or nothing and there was no alternative housing. So successful was Measure A at blocking anything remotely affordable from being built.

Voters must decide if banning multi-family housing in fact creates a sustainable city. Can we thrive if only people who can afford single family homes live here? How about those essential workers who are keeping us going right now?

Let’s not be just another town of white liberals that can talk the talk, but not walk the walk. Approving Measure Z demonstrates that black lives really matter here. It’s a first step to healing past injustices. Measure A was all about fear. We must cast that away. We should be about hope, resilience and love of our neighbors. Our youth and our collective future demand it of us. Let’s respond by voting Yes on Measure Z on Nov. 3.

— Laura Thomas Alameda Justice Alliance

One of the popular pastimes during the pandemic has been cleaning out the junk from the garage. This has been a great opportunity to get rid of items that do not serve any purpose and also a chance to clean out any hazardous waste that damage family members or the environment.

Article 26 in the City Charter is probably top of the list of unnecessary and harmful trash that should be tossed. Let’s talk about why Article 26 is unnecessary.

It never did accomplish its stated goal of stopping Victorians from being demolished. In fact, nowhere in the language of the charter amendment does it even mention Victorians! Article 26 simply prohibited the building of anything larger than a duplex, and limited lot sizes to at least 2,00 square feet.

A whole bundle of laws has been passed since then to protect and preserve not just Victorians, but any older building, as well as the neighborhood feel and density of areas with older buildings. In other words, Article 26 doesn’t serve any useful purpose.

Worse though, Article 26 is like hazardous waste, causing potential harm to loved ones, neighbors and the environment. Article 26 limits construction to single family homes. Single-family homes have been shown to be the most environmentally damaging housing out there. They take up precious natural resource space and have to be built further and further away from urban areas due to space needs, forcing more and more households into long-distance high pollution commutes.

Article 26 also harms family members and neighbors by limiting the diversity of housing that can be built. Those quaint cottages you see in parts of Alameda? Your elder parents cannot build one to downsize to because Article 26 says those lots are too small. A fourplex similar to ones common among Victorian-era homes where young families can grow up together? Cannot be built because Article 26 doesn’t allow it.

This November, take out the useless and damaging language of our Charter, Vote yes on Measure Z to repeal Article 26.

— Doug Biggs

I am an East End resident writing to express concern about the proposed housing project slated for South Shore Shopping Center. At 1,200 housing units, something about this proposal isn’t adding up. By way of comparison, let’s look at the 1,400 homes slated for Alameda Point.

To mitigate Alameda Point traffic impacts, officials have put into place an expensive multi-pronged approach involving the following concessions. Developers must contribute to:

n New seaplane lagoon ferry terminal that will soon open
n New high-tech bus infrastructure called “bus rapid transit”
n A shuttle contractually guaranteed to come around so frequently that morning commuters will only have to wait on average 7 to 8 minutes
n AC Transit will also continue to separately serve Alameda Point residents, who will receive bus passes from the developer.

We are in a position to obtain these concessions because we own the land at Alameda Point. In the case of South Shore, we don’t own the land, so we don’t have the same leverage over that Southshore developer.

However, Article 26 of the City Charter is one tool we can leverage to force the South Shore developer to come-up with a housing count far less than 1,200 units, and to come-up with multi-pronged traffic mitigations as sophisticated as Alameda Point’s traffic plan.

Please do not vote for the November ballot measure called “Measure Z,” which seeks to eliminate Article 26. If “Measure Z” succeeds, we lose the leverage we have over the Southshore developer. Vote “no.”

— Carolyn Monks