New Housing Measure on Upcoming Ballot

New Housing Measure on Upcoming Ballot

Alameda voters will decide whether to allow construction of multi-family housing units in Alameda in the upcoming November election.

The ordinance will be on the ballot as Measure Z. Passing Measure Z would repeal Article 26 of the City Charter, which prohibits multiple dwelling units from being built.

The Measure Z question states, “Shall the measure amending the City Charter to repeal the prohibition against the building of multi-family housing in Alameda and amending the City Charter and the General Plan to repeal the citywide density limitation of one housing unit per 2,000 square feet of land be adopted?”

Alameda voters passed Measure A, which became Article 26, in 1973. The initial measure had two parts. First, the prohibition of multiple dwelling units. Second, was an exception to the first part to allow Alameda Housing Authority to replace existing low-cost housing units and to create a proposed Senior Citizens low cost housing complex pursuant to Article XXV of the City Charter.

A second Measure A in 1991 adopted the rule that permitted one housing unit per 2,000 square feet of land. The three parts were voted into the City Charter as Sections 26.1, 26.2 and 26.3.

In December 2018, Mayor Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft appointed a subcommittee to recommend potential revisions to the City Charter. The subcommittee decided to investigate Article 26. City staff released a report that determined Article 26 does not comply with state law.

“California Government Code Section 65583(c)(1) states that the city’s General Plan and Zoning must ‘facilitate and encourage the development of a variety of types of housing for all income levels, including multifamily rental housing,’” stated the report, authored by Andrew Thomas, the city’s planning director.

The report also states that Article 26 undermines the City’s ability to implement adopted General Plan policies including expanding the City’s supply of affordable housing for extremely low- to moderate-income households and ensuring equal housing opportunities to prevent housing discrimination in the local market.

The Planning Board agreed. At its Jan. 13 meeting, boardmembers said, “Measure A’s ‘one size fits all’ standard does not make sense for Alameda,” according to a City Council memorandum.

City staff gave the Council five recommendations to move forward (“Council Subcommittee Exploring Housing Rules,” May 14). First, keep Article 26 in its current form. Second, remove Article 26 entirely from the City Charter. Third, eliminate Section 26.1, but leave section 26.3. Fourth, modify Section 26.1 and 26.3 to recognize state mandates. Fifth, which was labeled option 4B in the staff report, was to eliminate Section 26.1, but modify Section 26.3.

The Council voted 4-1 to remove Article 26 from the City Charter at its June 2 meeting (“Charter Amendment Headed for Ballot” June 11). Councilmember Tong Daysog had the lone dissenting vote. He said it was an abuse of power to remove Measure A without signature gathering. A signature gathering effort put Measure A on the ballot in 1973.

Measure A has also faced allegations of being racially biased against Black people.

“Exclusionary zoning reduces housing stock, which excludes multifamily housing, and raises the proportion of single-family detached dwellings. This all reduces affordability and indirectly excludes low-income families and people of color, particularly Black people,” wrote Rasheed Shabazz in an article in the Alameda Sun (“Another History of Measure A” Jan. 7).

At the June 2 meeting, Daysog said Measure A has not stopped Blacks from living in Alameda. He cited Alameda Black population growing from 2 percent in 1970, before Measure A was passed, to 7.1 percent today. Councilmember Jim Oddie said more racial diversity is not the only goal of eliminating Article 26.1.

“What we’re missing a lot of is economic diversity and I think we lost that,” said Oddie.

The election takes place Tuesday, Nov. 3. A ballot will be mailed to every registered voter. Ballots can be returned via mail or in drop boxes, which will open Oct. 5, 2020.