Blogging Bayport Alameda

May 22, 2015

[Insert name here] doesn’t live here anymore

Filed under: Alameda, Public Resources — Lauren Do @ 6:02 am

If memory serves somewhere in the City Charter or the municipal code there’s something about residency requirement for the City Manager and City Attorney positions in Alameda.  I vaguely remember something about this because during the reign of Ann Marie Gallant I think it was the City Attorney that did not live in Alameda at the time.  I seem to remember sending an email to the City Attorney about it, but was told it was not enforceable or something like that.  I don’t think I ended up writing about it because residency requirements seem to be a bit heavy handed, but I can see that rationale of wanting public safety staff living in Alameda because of the proximity in case of emergency.

Doing a quick google search there are a bunch of articles about residency requirement for public service employees, and it’s used in varying degree by governments large and small.  I can get behind the general sentiment of wanting public servants also to be invested in the community that they serve, but the topic is much more nuanced than just that sentiment.

For me, I found this compelling from the NY Times in 1991, that residency requirements could be used as a de facto discrimination tool, particularly in wealthy cities where lower income people simply cannot afford to live.  From the article:

The civil rights advocates contend that residency requirements can lead to racial discrimination, particularly in towns that have few minority residents but are near cities with large minority populations. .

“We found that blacks and Hispanics from urban areas were categorically being denied employment in suburban towns because of residency requirements,” said Keith M. Jones, president of the New Jersey chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

He said, for example, that a person who lived in Newark would essentially be barred from municipal employment in nearby Harrison because Harrison residents were given preference for jobs there.

The most recent article that I could find about challenges to residency requirements was an article from Milwaukee where the residency rule, which was struck down by a lower court, had made its way to the oral argument stage of the Court of Appeals.  From the 2014 article about the residency rule being ruled invalid:

Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Paul Van Grunsven on Monday declared Milwaukee’s 75-year-old residency rule, which requires city workers to live within city limits, void and unenforceable.

Van Grunsven said a measure signed into law last summer by Gov. Scott Walker applied uniformly to all local government units in the state. That state law, he said, removes the issue of residency from the scope of home rule authority.

But the rule was deemed invalid because the state government had passed into law removal of the residency requirement which turned the issue into an issue of statewide concern.  Just like California’s state law:

A city or county, including any chartered city or chartered county, or public district, may not require that its employees be residents of such city, county, or district; except that such employees may be required to reside within a reasonable and specific distance of their place of employment or other designated location.

In Alameda’s case, it would probably be better — if this is a policy issue that folks feel is worth instituting — is to find a way (at the bargaining table) to provide an incentive for public service employees to live in Alameda.  Instead of trying to force them, by means of a residency requirement, to live in Alameda.


  1. You are correct that incentives are better than requirements, but most (if not all) economic incentives that the City of Alameda might be able to offer employees–especially public safety employees, if the commenters’ concerns in your May 20 post are representative–cost serious money.

    Subsidizing loan interest rates, providing down payments for housing, or offering a rent subsidy for public safety employees may be cost-effective in achieving the goal of having more employees live where they work, but they would cost millions of dollars to implement city-wide for the 200 or so public safety employes who would qualify.

    Would our City Council–or the community at large–feel that such an additional expenditure is justified, given our budgetary situation? If the $5 million debt service for building an Emergency Operations Center is a major concern, wouldn’t a similar expenditure for workforce housing subsidies also be seen as a questionable use of city funds?

    Comment by Jon Spangler — May 22, 2015 @ 9:13 am

  2. Will wonders never cease. Finally, you are actually READING our state’s constitution! (which is the only citation that matters, in this case)
    Obviously a city residency requirement would be illegal.

    but isn’t this how we got situations like Bell and Vernon, small California cities of mostly minority working-class individuals, whose coffers were looted by corrupt city management officials who played the cities they were supposed to be managing?

    Comment by vigi — May 22, 2015 @ 9:35 am

  3. The biggest threat to Alameda is the same threat that faces the entire country and the ramifications, when it actually occurs, will immediately lop a hundred plus years off the present. And when it happens it will not make a hoot of a difference where “public safety employees” live. When it occurs, and the threat grows exponentially year by year, the only resource individuals will have is themselves and their neighbors (if they trust them).

    The country is totally unprepared for a cyber attack. And believe me, such an attack could happen at any time from those who seek to destroy this nation or even through a massive solar storm.

    Think about what will happen when there are no water supplies, no gas supplies, no food, no transportation, no phones, no anything that has any solid state device in it or in its support chain.

    The sad part of it is, most people don’t have a clue that an EMP is a threat or even what it is. Anecdotal point, my wife and I were recently on a cruise and our dining companions live in Sunnyvale Ca and work for Lockheed Space Systems Satellite Division. We were discussing their work and I asked them if Lockheed’s satellites were EMP hardened. Neither one knew what EMP was. The wife said, ‘oh, yes, they are fully encrypted’. Encryption has nothing to do with EMP hardening…so we drifted our conversation on to something less.

    Comment by jack — May 22, 2015 @ 10:24 am

  4. I believe the legal standard has been read to be within 50 miles from the municipality of employment. Many police and fire from Alameda live on the edge, of that limitation (Tracy) or in Benicia/Vallejo/Martinez.

    Comment by Futbol Fan — May 22, 2015 @ 10:29 am

  5. good one Jack. I read one article in New Yorker. So earthquake maybe takes runner up, but don’t dismiss it because when the fault breaks you won’t remember EMP either.

    Comment by MI — May 22, 2015 @ 10:56 am

  6. Jack, that’s why I Subscribe to Space Weather for up to the minute solar flare and geomagnetic storm news;

    Comment by vigi — May 22, 2015 @ 4:32 pm

  7. 2: Vigi, why the references to corruption? Now that the disgraced former fire chief and interim city manager are gone, we are not dealing with corruption like the cases you mentioned…

    Comment by Jon Spangler — May 25, 2015 @ 9:59 am

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