More Article 26, Measure Z Facts

More Article 26, Measure Z Facts

A letter “Article 26 facts please” appeared in the Alameda Sun’s Aug. 27 edition. It was a good letter, and I’d sleep a lot better if the facts in the letter were so.

The writer is opposed to heavy-handed language that sows fear, like “six-story super high density million-dollar condo units.” Since I am the author of that phrase, I thought I’d explain. It is intended to sow fear, not because it isn’t true, but because it is. I was part of a team that met with the developer of the Encinal project on the estuary, and their plan called for six-, eight-, nine- and 14-story towers of high-density million-dollar condos. The plan is not dead. It has not materialized because of financing difficulties and sea-rise concerns.
The multi-story towers and million-dollar price tags were not — and are not — a deterrent for City planners. Indeed, conversations with City Planner Andrew Thomas and Vice Mayor John Knox White will confirm they both support and desire lots more high-density building in Alameda.

They want it so much they are even willing to fudge. State law allows cities to increase their density if units are built near a transit center, which is fine if we’re talking about the MacArthur BART station, but not so fine if we’re talking about the Number 19 bus.

The Number 19 is a city planning ruse. It’s empty most of the time, which is why AC Transit recently reduced its service. Alameda wanted — and paid for —t he 19 to run every 20 minutes so it could designate the area around the route a transit center, thereby increasing the density of the projects they wish to build on the estuary. Density is their goal, and since 85-90 percent of what gets built in Alameda is market-rate, and since the average price of a home in Alameda is $1.2 million, “six-story super high density million dollar condo units” are a reality unless we do something to stop them.

The second point the writer makes is there’s no need to worry because Alameda’s Municipal Code protects “Alameda’s existing housing stock.” A reading of the Code would seem to support this. However, it’s what’s not in the Code that rules. The Code is subject to variances and waivers, and three votes on the City Council can change almost anything. For example, Del Monte was given a height waiver, a parking waiver and a protected historical façade waiver. Encinal was given a height and parking waiver.

The reason Article 26 was approved by voters was to prohibit City Council—any City Council—from building whatever it wants. For the same reason (placing limits on City Council) the public voted in 2012 to prohibit City Council from selling or disposing of park land without voter approval (which they tried to do, remember Ron Cowan!). Indeed, without limits the entire Municipal Code can be repealed by three people on City Council.

On June 2, City Council voted to place repeal of Article 26-1 (the section that prohibits building multi-family units) on the ballot, and not to repeal Article 26-3 (the section that protects neighborhood integrity and historical preservation). Then on July 7, Mayor Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft and Councilmembers James Oddie and Malia Vella reversed themselves and, along with Knox White, decided to repeal all of Article 26.

This showed their real intent, which is to open all of Alameda for development by wiping out the protections for neighborhood integrity and historical preservation. If Measure Z is approved and all of Article 26 is repealed, the Municipal Code’s limits on what can be built and where it can be built can be repealed or altered by three people on City Council.

Personally, I have no confidence that these three people — or any three people — will always do what is best for the City. That’s why ‘We the People’ put limits and prohibitions on what government can and cannot do. The thought of repealing those limits and allowing any three Councilmembers to build what and where they want is what keeps me up at night. Vote No on Measure Z.