Planning Board meeting discussion about Alameda Point’s Main Street Neighborhood Master Plan was a complete revelation on Monday night. I think some members of the Planning Board who weren’t that strong on the whole “hey housing is needed to fund infrastructure at Alameda Point” finally understood the whole concept. Not only that they finally understood why there’s a huge gap between the housing that’s developed (expensive homes) after the developer has taken care of the inclusionary housing requirements.
The magician who finally broke though, and honestly should be tasked with handholding every elected and appointed official who will ever make any decision on housing and development moving forward, is one James Edison. Alameda resident. He’s my new political wonk crush (sorry Andrew Thomas).
This guy was amazing about being unapologetic about how the numbers all work out and being forthcoming with all the challenges moving forward if the city policy is to put out its hand and ask for more, more, more in addition to what is already being required by the City. I mean this guy actually had some of the less development gung ho members of the Planning Board asking about the Navy’s unit cap (1425), the per unit overage cost ($50K/unit), and whether there would be consideration about building more housing units. This is pretty unprecedented.
Here are some of his comments:
The balance that has to be struck is between that [workforce] housing which is less expensive and the need to meet this infrastructure requirement which is really a requirement for the whole base because the based, as I’m sure you all know, has dilapidated infrastructure that’s causing operational problems. For example, I think the Bladium, they and other tenants at Alameda Point have ongoing issues to be remedied and the way to remedy them is to get development to happen and to get infrastructure fixed.
The MIP [Master Infrastructure Plan] is dominated by pretty big ticket items, for example the levee, that needs to get developed no matter how many acres you develop of Main Street. If you leave half of it empty you still have to do the levee.
You can look at it as every unit has the same responsibility but if you look at who’s paying for stuff the larger more expensive units are paying for more stuff. Every time you restrict a unit, make it less expensive, or subsidize it the other units are sort of carrying that weight for them. It’s a zero sum game.
Not to be outdone, Andrew Thomas laid some real talk at the feet of the Planning Board as well:
The way to get more workforce housing; how do we afford to build more small units and still cover all these main big costs. Well the easy answer is you build more units. We are working in a political environment that says, “no.”
A thousand acres of infrastructure needed which ends up being a million dollars an acre. We’ve only got 1425 units total to pay all of the costs. 25[%] need to be deed restricted: very low, low, and moderate income households so you can’t, they’re not going to pay their share. Now the other 75% of 1425 covers the lion’s share of the costs and now we’re going to this next step: wait some of those market rate you want to design them so that they’re small and young families can afford them which means basically let’s make them smaller.
Seriously, just let this guy talk to every naysayer that wants to just turn Alameda Point into one big park. Worth watching if you have any interest in the topic at all.