Measure Z’s Time Has Now Arrived

Measure Z’s Time Has Now Arrived

Four decades ago, Alamedans voted for Measure A, putting into the City Charter Article 26, which prohibited new multi-family dwelling units. A later measure set a maximum density of one housing unit per 2,000 square feet of land. The motivation of those voters surely varied and has been the subject of much debate. But today, in 2020, we put that debate aside and focus on the impact of Article 26, not its intent. The impact of Article 26 is an anti-Alamedan exclusivity that disproportionately impacts our community of color, and that is why we should repeal it by voting Yes on Measure Z.

Fewer multi-family dwellings mean less supply of more affordable homes and higher housing prices for that young family trying to buy a starter home, the local teacher who wants to live in town rather than commuting 45 minutes each way, or a retiree moving to an apartment near their kids. And, as we’ve heard from our community of color, this impact — this exclusiveness — disproportionately harms people of color. This is no surprise.

There is, in this country, an enormous wealth gap between Black and white families. An exclusionary law like Article 26 only perpetuates that gap; it has the impact of saying “you are not welcome here.” This is unacceptable, heartbreaking, and cannot stand.

It is also against the character of Alameda, which is not just our trees, Victorians or strolling on Park Street. Our character is our people. And the character of our people, at root, is one of inclusivity, diversity, and a welcoming attitude. But Article 26 stands in the way of the inclusivity that is Alameda.

Even if Article 26 stays on the books, more housing will come to Alameda. State law requires Alameda to construct housing. We have a legal obligation to the region to add our fair share of housing and we should build it right. Doing it right means doing it without the blunt instrument constraints of Article 26.

The traffic and climate impacts of this added housing are best mitigated by placing that housing in the transit corridors, such as on Park Street or Webster Street, but Article 26 has no flexibility or subtly and stands in the way of such projects. This highlights why zoning laws should not be in a city charter, which is essentially the city’s constitution; zoning laws belong in ordinances and should be fine-tuned, not heavy handed.

Luckily, the trees, the beautiful old houses, bike riding on Central Avenue, our wondrous Fourth of July parade, and a certain pace of life will not be lost when Measure Z passes. The tools in our tool chest to protect the character of Alameda are extensive, including various city code zoning laws, a Historical Advisory Board, and the Planning Board. But the most important tool in our character-toolchest is our people and we cannot retain what is special about Alameda while making it exclusive.

Vote for inclusivity, vote for racial justice, vote for our neighbors, vote “yes” on Measure Z.