To Z or Not to Z: That is the Question

To Z or Not to Z: That is the Question

As a prelude to this letter about land use in Alameda, I offer honor and respect to the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe, whose land this is. When we discuss Measure Z, it’s not a question of, “Who’s right?” But rather a question of “Who’s leading the way?” People on both sides of Measure Z have more in common than we do differences. If I were stuck on an island with all of you as my only neighbors, I would be happy.

Alameda has a workforce and an affordable housing shortage. Alameda also has systemic racism and sea-level rise problems. As a community, we are leaning into these issues and as individuals we are working together to discover ongoing improvements and solutions. Measure Z props itself up as a solution, but let’s get a little nosey (No Z) about the details:

Measure Z would have us believe that it will create affordable housing in Alameda. The rhetoric the city continues to share is that Alameda has to meet state guidelines on housing development, and as a city we are behind.

What is not shared is that Alameda has indeed met and exceeded the number of market rate (expensive) housing, but has failed to meet the low-income targets, as Alameda’s way to build low income housing is single-threaded. The city approves for-profit developments that require developers to build 15 affordable housing units for every 85 market rate (million dollar) housing units built.

That reeks of the same problem we already have, hundreds of expensive homes built, with minimal impact to affordable housing numbers. Measure Z lets developers profit, in the name of low-income housing. This is boring, dated, and of course increases traffic, puts excess burden on infrastructure and schools, and risks building in areas that will soon be impacted by rising sea level. What Alameda needs is new, community sourced, innovation and leadership.

Who’s funding Measure Z? Follow the money. Corporate developers. In fact a political action committee (PAC) of developers funded the original dollars behind Yes on Z. Yeah, Z smells a little fishy. Furthermore, what Z will do is allow a majority vote of Alameda City Council to approve developments.

This means that the same special interest groups that fund Measure Z will fund City Council campaigns and place incumbents in office who will serve corporate developers instead of serving all Alamedans. The campaigns of Councilmembers Oddie and Vella are examples of this. They received six-figure funding by special interest groups who they then backed in a debacle that cost the city (taxpayers — us!) more than a million dollars.

Measure Z aims to remove the sustainable growth guidelines that were voted in by the people (Measure Z/A-26). These guidelines have kept Alameda chill, but still fresh, fun, and inclusive. It may not be perfect, but we all agree that Alameda is cool.

Measure Z would remove the community led framework that has guided development in Alameda for 50 years and replace it with…. Nothing. With no community oversight in place, Z would usher in a developer free for all. A majority vote of 3 on the Alameda City Council would be the final decision making body for every building decision on the island. Z stinks!

The air smells a lot better without Measure Z! Planting 10,000 trees is a more effective way to reduce Alameda’s carbon footprint than adding 10.000 cars! The Z campaign claims that the community supported framework (measure A/26) keeps us from building climate friendly housing. This is green-washing. All new development is required to meet climate friendly building standards and there are nearly 4,000 climate friendly dwellings under construction in Alameda right now!

The timing of Z is pungent. Our current city council is trying to slip Measure Z by at a time when the global pandemic has forced us behind closed doors and public discussion is limited. Even the public “forums” to discuss Z have been finagled by the Z campaign, and so-called public online spaces such as Alameda Peeps have silenced opposing perspectives.

I’m feeling very NoZ. There are better ways to build affordable housing in Alameda than to ignite a short-sighted building frenzy as measure Z would do.

Community sourced, locally financed, inclusive, and community-led affordable housing solutions exist! Let’s discuss them together when this COVID time is over. Let’s lead with a community vision! Let’s not get bamboozled by a political ruse.

Change is good. And changes are upon us, including Climate Change. The question is, what do we want the future of Alameda to be? It’s clear in both Alameda and across the United States, we need more housing, and we need less racism.

Measure Z would have corporate profiteering developers design the future of Alameda with their proposals. I believe the community will do a better job and should lead the way with visionary and inclusive housing solutions. Keep the power with the people. Vote!


Jon_Spangler's picture

I would like to correct some points where Ms. Gibson played fast and loose with the facts in opposing Measure Z.

1) Measure Z is a positive change to the City Charter, which should *not* contain zoning codes, noise abatement, parking fees, or other city regulations that are the proper responsibility of our elected City Council and its various boards and commissions. Zoning, like parking fees, belongs in city ordinances.

2) Measure Z does *not* change Alameda's current design review, planning procedures, or the authority of the City Council: "a majority vote of 3 on the Alameda City Council" *has ALWAYS had* "the final decision...for [most] building decision[s] on the island." Our City Charter established the City Council's authority in this and most city matters: the City Council's authority neither increases nor decreases if Z passes. (It takes 4 votes to make decisions about city property, BTW.)

3) Alameda's current General Plan, zoning codes, historic preservation ordinance, design guidelines, and planning review processes -- all adopted since 1973 -- were deliberately crafted to protect and enhance Alameda's historic homes and neighborhoods. Section 26 of the City Charter -- a zoning ordinance, remember -- is no longer necessary to protect Victorian or Craftsman homes from being demolished and replaced with apartments or condos as it was in 1973. And no one is about to lay waste to Alameda's design review standards if
Measure Z passes.

4) Passing Measure Z will *not* "[add] 10,000 cars" to Alameda's streets. Nothing in Z mandates any construction at all -- nor does it mandate buying or driving more cars.

5) As a retiree, a renter, former homeowner, and a 23-year-resident of Alameda, I can assure you that Measure Z is supported by homeowners and renters just like me who want to maintain Almeda's unique historic mix of housing types, neighborhood stations, and traditional commercial districts. Why would we ever install a City Council that would destroy what we love?

6) The "current city council" is *not* "trying to slip Measure Z by at a time when the global pandemic has forced us behind closed doors and public discussion is limited." Section 26 of our City Charter has been a legal and financial millstone around Alameda's civic neck for longer than I have lived here (since 1997). Many of us have seen its drawbacks as a charter section and pushed for its removal -- as a matter of good governance and to comply with state law -- for more than two decades. The City of Alameda has lost out on state grant funding opportunities and faced legal challenges from the State of California over the mere presence of the 1973 "Measure A" in the City Charter as Section 26.

Alameda does not need misinformation spread as scare tactics: we need a clean solid, and legally compliant city charter. Don't listen to hysteria -- vote YES on Z.