Blogging Bayport Alameda

June 26, 2017

Across the universal design

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:06 am

Back on the Planning Board’s agenda for tonight is the universal design ordinance which has been tweaked a little bit, note these rules apply for new housing and does not include accessory dwelling units (ADUs):

Visitability. (The 100% Requirement) Section 18.4.a establishes standards to ensure that every new unit built in Alameda subject to this ordinance can be visited by a person with mobility issues. Section 18.4.a requires that a visitor can get to and through the front door, access a room in which to visit and a ground floor open space, and use the bathroom without having to negotiate stairs. The other bedrooms and bathrooms, the kitchen, and all other spaces within the home may be on upper levels accessed by stairs. The definition of “accessible entry” provides flexibility to allow use of alternate entry into the accessible ground floor spaces if the design of the new home includes a “primary” entry accessed by a raised front porch, which is a common architectural feature in Alameda and recommended by in the City of Alameda Residential Design Guidelines.

Universal Design. (The 30% Requirement) Section 18.4.b requires that any residential project with five or more units must ensure that 30% of the units include specific features to ensure that the units are “usable by the greatest number of people with the widest reasonable range of abilities or disabilities, to the greatest extent feasible.” Section 18.4.b. requires that 30% of the units provide an accessible route of travel from the front door to an accessible kitchen, bedroom, common area, bathroom, and laundry facility. Additional bedrooms and bathrooms may be provided on an upper level accessed by stairs.

However, there is a concern that the ordinance will make housing units more expensive to build and therefore to buy or to rent depending on the unit.  It’s a concern reflected in a letter from the Building Industry Association and called out in the staff report:

In 2017, rising housing costs are the single largest challenge confronting the City’s Housing Element goals to provide housing for all socio-economic segments of the Alameda community.  For this reason, the City must carefully consider any new development regulations that increase the cost to construct housing which may result in a corresponding increase in housing costs for future renters or buyers of new housing in Alameda.

It is very difficult to assign a specific dollar cost to each provision of the Ordinance because construction costs vary over time, site-specific conditions (site size, site topography) can make it more or less expensive to meet these requirements and project-specific design features will impact the cost of meeting these requirements.  For these reasons, the draft Ordinance includes the ability to adjust the requirements as necessary to address site-specific issues.

It’s a delicate balance between making sure that new construction is accessible, but also making sure that these regulations don’t add additional costs to already costly housing.



  1. “Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” –Steve Jobs

    Comment by Retiredteacher — June 26, 2017 @ 6:26 am

  2. “…makeing sure that these regulations don’t additional costs..”

    What dream world do you live in?

    Comment by jack — June 26, 2017 @ 7:17 am

  3. the first thing I would always tell my remodeling customers, “we can do anything you want, it just costs money”.

    Comment by JohnP.TrumpisnotmyPresident. — June 26, 2017 @ 8:21 am

  4. Quality, speed, price. Choose two.

    Comment by dave — June 26, 2017 @ 12:41 pm

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