Approving Housing Element that Densifies Residential and Business Districts Unwise

Approving Housing Element that Densifies Residential and Business Districts Unwise

As a board member of Alameda Citizens Task Force (ACT), I must take issue with City Planning Director Andrew Thomas’ Alameda Sun op-ed, (“Approving the Housing Element is the Right Thing to do,” Nov. 3; that asserts “Others are arguing that the Council should not approve the Housing Element and associated zoning amendments.” The “others” are not identified, but he is obviously responding to the full-page ad in the Oct. 27th Sun that was funded by ACT and the Alameda Architectural Preservation Society that urges citizens to object to four discrete parts of the draft Housing Element.

Thomas is correct in his recitation of the dire consequences that will flow from our failure to timely adopt a Housing Element certified by the State. Our ad does not contest the need to obtain a fully certified Housing Element by the statutory due date Jan. 31, 2023. On the contrary, it argues that the four items to which we object can be adjusted or deleted without endangering State certification. The Housing Element and related zoning amendments will be presented to the City Council for adoption as Item 7-B of the Nov. 15 regular Council meeting. I believe that Thomas wrote his op-ed. in an attempt to inhibit public comment in opposition to those four items.

If Thomas was so concerned about meeting the Jan. 31, 2023, due date, why did he not seek final approval of City Council in September or October? The State letter approving the draft Housing Element is dated August 22, 2022. He has allowed the better part of three months to elapse since that date. We are confident that if the City Council is willing to modify the Housing Element, consideration of these changes can be accomplished, and a Housing Element certified by the State by Jan. 31.

Our specific objections to the Housing Element are as follows:

The draft Housing Element includes proposed massive upzoning of our older established neighborhoods R-1 thru R-6 and historic commercial districts, including:

1. Unlimited residential density in R1 through R6 within the walls of existing structures.
2. Unlimited density and 40’ height limit in R1 through R6 within ¼ mile of a commuter bus line including demolition and replacement of existing buildings.
3. Increased density ranging from 30 to 60 units per acre (36% to 173% above the existing density) in the R3 to R6 zoning districts covering most of central Alameda.
4. Unlimited density and height limits increased to 60’ in the historic portions of Park and Webster and increased to 45’ in the small historic “Stations” districts on Lincoln and Encinal.

These upzonings also include reduced yard space requirements that threaten our beautiful greenhouse gas absorbing urban forest. The recent council action abolishing off-street parking minimums exacerbates congestion in the neighborhoods.

These zoning increases are not needed to meet housing goals, including the 5353 residential unit Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) and state fair housing requirements, and will put our historical housing inventory at risk, resulting in gentrification, with current tenants replaced by non-rent controlled market rate units.

The draft Housing Element specifically provides that none of the units produced by Proposals 2 and 3 will count toward the RHNA and the Planning Board recommended at its Sept. 26 meeting changes to Proposal 1, which is estimated to produce 160 units, that limits the number of regular units in existing buildings to four per parcel plus unlimited accessory dwelling units (ADUs), that mostly mitigate our concerns with that proposal. Proposal 4 is estimated to generate 82 RHNA units, but, like Proposal 1, Proposal 4 can be adjusted to address our concerns. Regarding fair housing, we believe that Proposal 1 combined with relaxed rules for ADUs citywide and the recently approved upzoning of all of Alameda’s single-family neighborhoods will satisfy these objectives.

I strongly urge those who oppose any of the above four items to take three actions.

1. sign the petition at
2. Send emails to the City Council at
3. Make public comments at the Nov. 15 Council meeting.