Blogging Bayport Alameda

December 15, 2015

They can’t afford what we’ve got

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:05 am

Two important housing related items on the City Council agenda tonight.  If anyone is concerned about the the supply of affordable housing in Alameda these are items of interest.  First is the proposed Exclusive Negotiation Agreement with a consortium of non profits (MidPen Housing, Alameda Point Collaborative, Building Futures with Women and Children, and Operation Dignity) for a piece of land at Alameda Point.  The parcel would be a “swap” of sorts of APC’s existing parcels into a consolidate site where new housing could be built.  The rationale for the ENA is to allow the development team to start applying for funding which requires that they have control, at least on paper, of the land.  From the staff report:

To build these new facilities and replace their existing housing, the Collaborating Partners have been working closely with City staff to come up with a plan that consolidates their existing leased campus of 34 acres (with 200 units) to a smaller footprint of 13.2 acres, which would allow them to own their own property and build new much-needed facilities designed specifically for their needs … The remaining land, under the sole discretion of the city, would be available for private development and portions could be assembled, sold and developed by a market rate developer to potentially help fund the expensive development costs.

Here’s the map of the current sites under APC’s control and where the consolidate site would be:

Screen Shot 2015-12-10 at 4.17.10 PM

This site is great because it pulls APC closer to Site A and closes to RAMP.   Hopefully this should be a no brainer in terms of City Council approval.

The next issue might be slightly contentious but it’s something that was identified in the Housing Element as a way to increase the supply of housing units incrementally.  Right now there is a second unit ordinance but it’s extremely unwieldy and has only resulted in a handful of units being built severely reducing the efficacy of the ordinance. From the staff report:

The proposed amendments to the Second Unit Ordinance and Accessory Building Regulations are recommended to address Alameda’s current housing crisis.  Second units (sometimes called “granny units” or “in-law units”) are small studio or one-bedroom rental units (less than 700 square-foot) that are located on a property with a single-family home.

Allowing second units in existing neighborhood is an important strategy for cities like Alameda to add small affordable units for small families and seniors whose income levels exceed limits to qualify for affordable housing yet their earnings are not enough to afford market rate homes.

The provision of second units is facilitated by State legislation, which requires cities to adopt processes to allow second units in single-family and multi-family zoning districts. In passing the Second Unit Law, the State Legislature established a specific CEQA Statutory Exemption for local ordinances implementing the Second Unit Law to preclude CEQA challenges by NIMBY (“Not in My Back Yard”) opposition in local communities (CEQA Guidelines Section 15282(h)).  As a result, local ordinances implementing Second Unit Law do not require environmental impact analysis.

And these are the major revisions, per the staff report of what the Planning Board has recommended:

•    Reduce Lot Size Requirement: The proposed amendment reduces the minimum lot size requirement from 7,500 square feet to 4,000 square feet in size.  The 4,000 square foot minimum requirement reflects the maximum density allowed under “Measure A” of one unit per 2,000 square feet of lot area.

•    Adjust Parking Requirement: The proposed amendment would require eligible properties to have two parking spaces, one for the main dwelling and one for the second unit.  These parking spaces may be in tandem configuration.  In Alameda, single-family rectangular lots are often configured with a driveway on one side leading to a garage or accessory building in the rear.  The existing long driveways provide opportunities for parking without requiring additional pavement in the backyard.

•    Allow Second Units in Accessory Buildings: The proposed amendment eliminates conflicts between the Second Unit Ordinance and the Accessory Building Regulations. Specifically, it would remove regulations that preclude property owners from using existing accessory buildings as living space or building small backyard cottages for second units.  Existing requirements that the detached second unit match the architectural style of the main dwelling would remain unchanged.  Accessory buildings converted for living space are subject to applicable building and safety codes.

Even with the proposed changes, staff mentions that they don’t believe that the ordinance will still be widely used. If it is used it will probably be for small in-law units for elderly parents or perhaps for adult children not able to afford market rate rents.  If even 10 units get built next year, I’ll be shocked, but at least it will be 10 units that are affordable by design and can help those 10 individuals afford to stay in Alameda.

Edited to add: Vancouver has been adding accessory unit dwellings to manage their housing crisis as well.  Good article on the topic.



  1. Lauren, ” at least it will be 10 units that are affordable by design and can help those 10 individuals afford to stay in Alameda.” curious why you think these will be affordable, just because of their size? Or is there something in state law or our ordinance that mandates that they be legally ‘affordable’? Couldn’t a landlord Jack the rent up to an obscene level like a lot of others are doing?

    Comment by Not.A.Alamedan — December 15, 2015 @ 9:24 am

  2. Plus, they’re smart enough to use the (now) discounted shipping containers from Park St.

    Comment by jack — December 15, 2015 @ 9:29 am

  3. NAA: absolutely the landlord could jack the rent up really high, but the things that make building new units really expensive in the Bay Area (land) won’t be an issue here. Plus, more likely than not, the units would be used for extended family because of the proximity to the “main” unit.

    Comment by Lauren Do — December 15, 2015 @ 9:36 am

  4. When we were in Singapore, I read in the paper that new housing was in development that was built specifically for multi-generational use. There were large living units with a smaller, sort of bed-sitter unit with a small cook top and refrigerator and counter at one end, its own bathroom and access to the larger unit. This was for Grandma and Grandpa or the maiden aunt or whomever so that they could retreat to their own private space but be with the family. They were designed with accessibility and a lot of storage. Not only would spaces like these help with affordable units, in some cases, they would cut down on the need for putting some elderly folks into board and care facilities and provide the younger generation with caregivers for the kids when they went out to work. Of course not every family would want to do that but it is a way that families can utilize the benefits of multiple generations with less cost and still provide privacy for everyone.

    Comment by Kate Quick — December 15, 2015 @ 1:49 pm

  5. Kate they are doing the same in the US in many different places. Here is one.

    Comment by frank m — December 15, 2015 @ 2:04 pm

  6. I’ll bet, if you wanted to take on the neighborhood dogs, visiting backyards here would show a number of the garages are actually studio/1br residences and have been for years. Same with basements. Many conversions were done during war years, for instance. They are still with us.

    Comment by Li_ — December 15, 2015 @ 6:28 pm

  7. I have been walking by Ploughshares Nursery. Would this exchange also include that property? Also does anyone know the status on the New Nursery building they laid the slab and started the building and it been stalled for like 3 or more years now? Are they planning on replacing the Chickens?

    Comment by joelsf — April 19, 2016 @ 5:44 pm

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