As part of the great Alameda Peeps campaign forum the other night there was a question about development and traffic, natch. Jennifer Roloff had a tough time answering most of the questions offered by the audience in a meaningful and thoughtful way.
Actually, most of Jennifer Roloff’s answers came out sounding like answer given by a student who crammed at the last minute and then was sort of trying to BS her way through an exam, particularly when paired up against Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft, by the way this in a nutshell sort of defines Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft:
Also being compared to other “fresh face” Malia Vella, who is as informed as she is articulate, Jennifer Roloff comes off as out of her depth.
No more is her weakness more exposed than when she tries to tackle development issues. Here was a particularly problematic part of Jennifer Roloff’s answer to a question around housing, development, traffic, and limited cooperation with regional transit agencies. She un-ironically talked about the need for the City Council to not react in a knee jerk way and cave to the “loudest in the room” which, if she has ever watched any big development battle, typically would be made of her mother and her cohort of Alamedans against something or the other. So Jennifer Roloff begins talking about the RHNA numbers and pointing out that more market rate aka above moderate units are slated to be built. She then says:
And if we look at how the City has generally built affordable housing today, we’ve looked at one metric, bring in market rate housing and have those developers subsidize that housing and it’s been about 15%. It’s a mandate. Now at the point at Site A, we’re right around 30% and look at that, the developer over at Site A is doing 30% affordable housing and he still has a lucrative business model and he’s going to do well there. Why aren’t we holding other developers to high percentages? Why isn’t 30% or higher than 15 the right number.
Well, Jennifer Roloff, let me answer your questions and your non questions, first:
the developer over at Site A is doing 30% affordable housing and he still has a lucrative business model and he’s going to do well there.
First, the developer at Site A is proposing 200 affordable housing units and 600 market rate units. Of the total 800 units, 200 units is 25% affordable.
Second, all of Alameda Point has a 25% affordable housing mandate, so the 25% is required not out of some magic business formula that works for this developer alone. Also, remember there is this little thing in Alameda called Measure A which doesn’t allow for anything greater than a duplex to be built in Alameda. Because the 25% affordable housing mandate at Alameda Point automatically triggers the an automatic density bonus award.
A Density Bonus is an award to the developer of additional market rate units for affordable housing units built. You can search my blog for endless posts about Alameda’s density bonus ordinance which is required by state law and to keep Alameda in compliance with the State of California.
Why aren’t we holding other developers to high percentages? Why isn’t 30% or higher than 15 the right number.
Well, the number is not higher than 15% required affordable housing for non Alameda Point sites because if the number were higher, like say 25%, this would automatically trigger a density bonus for any non Alameda Point project. This very issue was brought up in 2009 when the density bonus ordinance was crafted:
The second issue of note is the reduction in redevelopment project areas from 25% to 15% for required affordable housing in new projects. The argument from staff is that if the number were to stay at 25%, the incentive for a developer to provide affordable housing would be low since the required percentage of affordable housing already triggers the Density Bonus Ordinance (and concessions/incentives) by simply complying with the policy currently established. The only area this would not affect would be Alameda Point due to the settlement negotiated by the City.
Here is the example used by staff:
“For example, a 100-unit project in a redevelopment area is required to provide six very low-income units. The minimum number of very low income units needed to be eligible for a 20% density bonus is five; thus, in this scenario the developer would be entitled to an additional 20 market-rate dwelling units , plus an incentive. If the inclusionary unit policy was changed from 25% to 15%, a developer would not automatically be entitled to a density bonus and incentive because the required number of very low income units is four, which does not meet the density bonus unit threshold of five.”
Again, while not easy stuff for average people like me or you, this should be basic basic Alameda 101 for a prospective City Council member. The fact that Jennifer Roloff doesn’t know this information but wants to excoriate past City Council members as though somehow they were foolish enough to not ask for greater concession at the outset is pretty ridiculous.