homesalameda.org newsletterjanuary, 2008
Last month we shared Helen Sause's editorial comparing the three development schemes currently being promoted for Alameda Point. Perhaps you saw the condensed version in the January 11th Alameda Journal titled "Alameda Point Will Accommodate Growth, Change." This month, we offer a more thorough understanding of density and the State Density Bonus Law advocated by Action Alameda
Action Alameda’s proposal calls for taking advantage of the State’s Density Bonus Law which permits up to a 35% increase in the number of housing units over the otherwise maximum allowable residential density under local law. The density bonus law can be can be read HERE.
What this means is that if a local law permits 22 dwelling units per acre, the Density Bonus Law uses that "22" figure as a basis and permits a developer to obtain up to 30 units per acre if certain criteria are met. The purpose of this law is to offset the lost per-unit revenue when a developer provides affordable housing units; the bonuses do this by increasing the number of units the developer may build.
In the case of Alameda, Measure A establishes the minimum lot size for a single-family unit at 2000 square feet. The Density Bonus Law would simply reduce the lot size to accommodate up to 35% more units. The Density Bonus Law does not address qualitative issues such as the portion of Measure A that deals with the prohibition of multi-unit dwellings. Therefore, the prohibition of apartments, condos, town homes, work/ live units (including the adaptive reuse of certain historic structures for multi-unit dwellings) would still inhibit the creation of housing diversity.
Rather, the Density Bonus would have to be met by packing more cookie-cutter single family and duplex homes into Alameda Point to accommodate the increased density. While some commentators have mistakenly suggested that the density bonus law would override Measure A‘s prohibition of multifamily housing, the law has no such effect.
The increased overall density that may be a good average density which HOMES can agree with, however it does not permit distributing density in certain select areas to support local retail, walk-to-work, effective transit, meaningful historic preservation or open space.
HOMES understands that even with higher housing densities people will not always choose to use public transit. The point is, if density is adequate to support neighborhood retail and business, such as it is in other parts of the Island, there is less need to travel outside the neighborhood for shopping or other needs. Replicating that housing mix at Alameda Point will make it easy for people to walk to the market rather than drive, stop off at a store on the way home from work or encourage children to walk to school. There are simply fewer automobile trips necessary when such amenities are conveniently provided. Having an easy to walk to a bus stop also encourages commuters to use public transit. Overall Alameda's diverse neighborhoods have the highest ridership in the Bay Area. Including areas in the Point development scheme that mirror that diversity, rather than that of newer developments such as Bayport, will support public transit.
In 2007 the pace of activity surrounding the development of Alameda Point moved into high gear. HOMES continued to be a source of information on Alameda Point activity and led the discussion on the necessity of sustainable development and the actions necessary for the community to undertake this optimum type of development.
Master Developer Selection
To date SunCal has held two community meetings and met with numerous community groups. The first community meeting went over constraints to the development, such as soil stability, toxic soils, sea rise, etc. The second presented two development scenarios, one Measure A compliant and an alternative, and asked the community to critique each of these. At this meeting the majority expressed their preference for the alternative. There were over 200 attendees at each community meeting. We are looking forward to the next meeting, which should reflect comments made by the community.
HOMES Education and Advocacy
HOMES continues to urge the City Planning Board to hold its long-promised forum on Measure A, initially agreed upon in July 2006 by the Planning Board. Several attempts to do so have been thwarted by the Keep Measure A activists. Currently a forum is projected to be held in late February 2008.
HOMES formed an advisory group representing experts from many area in the Alameda community, such as publicity, legal, etc., to help us oversee and develop continuing education and advocacy strategies.
Great Communities Collaborative
A huge benefit of being a part of the Great Communities Collaborative was the opportunity to participate in its Leadership Institute in November 2007. Vicki Sedlack participated on behalf of HOMES and gathered valuable information that we anticipate to be very useful in our continuing education and advocacy work.
New Web Site
Along with our interactive web site we are developing more interactive monthly newsletters to better engage our readership.
We are more optimistic than ever that Alameda Point will eventually become an environmentally and people friendly community that reflects the diversity and values of what's best about Alameda and will serve as a model for the entire region for years to come.