Mayor Discusses Assembly Bill

Mayor Discusses Assembly Bill

Ekene Ikeme

Alameda Mayor Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft does not expect City Council will use the proposed assembly bill that allows city officials to circumvent local measures to reach state housing mandates.

California Assembly Bill (AB) 1322 would give local governments the ability to “not defend or enforce” any local measure that “conflicts with any of the specified state laws regarding housing.” If the bill is approved, City Councils can set up a special meeting where they will vote to determine whether the local measure conflicts with state housing laws. If voted yes, it would create a path for the council to bypass the measure.

“I understand the motivation for the bill,” said Ashcraft. “We do have a housing crisis. We have not built the housing needed in large part because of measures like Article 26.”

However, Ashcraft believes the city can create a Housing Element that complies with the state-mandated Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) without using AB 1322.

“AB 1322 is a tool in the toolkit,” said Ashcraft. “Is it one we would grab first; no, I don’t think so.”

Instead, Ashcraft wants the city staff to identify specific areas where housing units can be developed under the current housing rules. She emphasized building smaller housing units in the city’s downtown corridors along Park and Webster streets as one possibility for housing growth.

City officials are in the process of updating the Housing Element in the General Plan but have a limited time. The city’s Housing Element must be submitted by January 31, 2023.

The Housing Element must include a plan that shows how the city will satisfy its proposed RHNA of 5,406 new units of housing. Some of those units will have to be high-density, multi-family housing. Also, the city must identify specific sites where affordable housing can be developed or if certain sites need to be rezoned.

The penalties for not complying with state Housing Element law could be severe. A new law gave the California Department Housing and Community Development (HCD) the authority to hold local governments accountable for not adhering to state Housing Element law. Not meeting these requirements makes the city susceptible to penalties from the state ranging from a lawsuit, inability to receive grant funds and more. However, Ashcraft believes if the city continues to make good faith efforts to meet housing mandates the city should avoid drastic penalties.

Article 26 makes it difficult for the city to create a compliant Housing Element, but the city has created ways to bypass Article 26 and comply with state housing mandates in the past. In 2012, the city used multi-family overlay zoning designations to certify the last Housing Element.

Ashcraft said the only way the city would use AB 1322 is if there was no other way to comply with state housing law.

“If it became apparent that we cannot meet our RHNA numbers we may use this, but right now we would rather let the process play out,” said Ashcraft.

The use of AB 1322 would be up to the City Council, not the state or a judge. The Association of Bay Area Governments will calculate the final RHNA number for Alameda. California Assemblymembers approved AB 1322 on May 10. The bill is now being read by the California Senate.

Ekene Ikeme can be reached at eikeme@alamedaun.com.