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.