Agency Calls for More Housing Here

Richard Bangert This residential and commercial building is planned for Alameda Point between Main Street and the Seaplane Lagoon, part of a transit-oriented development of 800 residences in the Waterfront-Town Center area. Planning for the area began with a grant from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. Groundbreaking for the first 68 acres is expected in the next month.

 

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) issued a new regional planning document on Aug. 30, with suggested housing numbers to meet state goals. MTC is requesting input from local jurisdictions. 

A draft response from City Planner Andrew Thomas slams the commission’s recommendations as being woefully out of touch with Alameda’s limited regional transit connections.

MTC’s forecast calls for adding roughly 10,000 new homes in Alameda by 2040, with the majority to be added in existing neighborhoods outside of so-called Priority Development Areas (PDAs) like Alameda Point. This would translate into 250 new units per year in existing neighborhoods, according to Thomas. Counting on the state and region to “provide funding for major transportation improvements and affordable housing, if Alameda approves greater growth, is a leap of faith Alameda cannot be expected to make,” said Thomas.

Transit service was better when Alameda’s population was less.

The MTC report seeks to downplay the effect of the suggested increase of housing quotas on communities by stating, “Plan Bay Area 2040 also does not establish new state-mandated Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) numbers for each jurisdiction. RHNA operates on an eight-year cycle, with the next iteration not due until the 2021.” Alameda is currently on track to satisfy its regional housing requirement spelled out in 2013, to provide opportunity for construction of 1,723 new units. 

Plan Bay Area is a nine-county strategy for meeting the goals of California Senate Bill No. 375. The bill requires metropolitan areas to adopt an integrated long-range regional transportation plan and a sustainable communities strategy that reduces per-capita greenhouse gas emissions, as well as providing housing opportunities for the region’s population at all income levels.

Alameda launched its own citywide transportation and transit study in an effort to reduce traffic and enhance public transit options. The city hired a transportation firm to conduct the study at a cost of $400,000. 

Frustrations over inadequate public transit funding continue to mount, even as pressure grows for more housing. The popular ferry service, and how it is funded, offers a case in point. The Water Emergency Transportation Authority (WETA), which operates the San Francisco Bay Ferry system, ended its fiscal year 2016 with $5 million unspent. Executive Director Nina Rannells told the board of directors in August that the extra funds are due to WETA’S own efficiencies and lower-than-expected fuel prices. But instead of being able to hold this money in reserve or dedicate it to projects on WETA’s drawing board, WETA was required to return the $5 million to MTC. 

The return of ferry transit funds to MTC occurred just days after city staff received word from the federal government on July 29 that they would not be receiving a transportation funding grant for the Seaplane Lagoon passenger ferry terminal. The ferry terminal project is short about $8 million. 

The feds also did not award Alameda any funding for other transit infrastructure projects related to Alameda Point development. The city applied for funding to create a special transit corridor along Ralph Appezzato Memorial Parkway from Alameda Point to Webster Street for bus rapid transit, bicycles and pedestrians. The grant application also requested funds for upgrades to Main Street and Stargell Avenue to facilitate faster bus service.   

“The state and region have done very little when it comes to funding transportation and affordable housing to support PDA development and housing in Alameda,” said Thomas. “If the city is going to be expected to continue development… we need concrete financial support from ABAG [Association of Bay Area Governments], MTC, and the state for needed transportation improvements and affordable housing.” 

In contrast, MTC has been generous in funding development planning. Since 2012, MTC has given the city $450,000 for planning new residential and commercial construction next to Alameda Point’s Seaplane Lagoon and in the old Navy residential area known as the Main Street Neighborhood. Another $150,000 was given for transit planning at Alameda Point.

The Planning Board will consider the city’s response to the MTC housing forecast scenario at its Monday, Oct. 10, meeting at City Hall. 

 

 

Richard Bangert posts stories and photos on his blog Alameda Point Environmental Report. Follow on Twitter https://twitter.com/AlamedaPtEnviro.