Blogging Bayport Alameda

December 14, 2020

In for a penny, in for a pound

Filed under: Alameda — Tags: — Lauren Do @ 6:04 am

Remember how I mentioned that some City Councilmembers coughtonydaysogandincomingtrishspencercough ask questions and you’re not really sure if they fully understand the topic at hand. But that there are other City Councilmembers who ask questions and it’s a tee up to get really key information into the public realm? This is the case of the latter.

During the clarifying questions portion John Knox White asked a series of question that will be really important for the whole certifying the Housing Element process we’ll be going through the next year and a half. This is a long bit of back and forth so, as usual, I have the video and transcription at the end of this blog post but I’m going to pull out and highlight some of the key bits.

The first quote is important because it’s validated by Randy Rentschler of MTC/ABAG. It’s to remind people that these cycles are ongoing and that the larger allocations may be a trend and not a one off:

[M]y understanding is, this is the first tranche of many very large tranches of housing allocations that are expected over the next multiple Housing Elements to catch us up to a place as a state is that fair?

That’s right. We think that if we can try to get ABAG, or even the State of California, to reduce our RHNA allocation that we’ll be safe forever. But the fact is — as was pointed out by Randy Rentschler in another transcript, California as a whole has underbuilt for too long and too many years that it’s hard to see the political will to do less around housing.

I’m not going to pull the quote but in the transcript there’s a part where John Knox White verifies that there are ways to certify the Housing Element (via funding affordable housing) without violating the Charter.

There’s also a good back and forth about identifying units to meet the RHNA allocation, that the City can’t just randomly spot zone and call it a day, but that it must discuss the “realistic capacity” of the site and, of course, the availability of the site for development. Like, you can’t just place an MF overlay on any site you want and then claim those units to meet the ABAG allocation, from Andrew Thomas:

The question is: what is the realistic capacity? That’s the second question that HCD will ask: “well what’s the realistic capacity because it looks fully developed to us. Like where do you think this new housing is going to go? Why would, you know, Tucker’s Ice Cream go away? Like what makes you think somebody’s gonna build housing there?”

This though is the real piece that we have to consider and speaks to the tweet from Thursday’s post about coastal cities creating high rise zones to meet the allocation.

Andrew Thomas: I agree I think we’ve been sort of been thinking about this let’s — the shopping centers are a great example. Like it would be useful to sort of just talk about the shopping centers as a group. Like what shopping centers do we want to sort of target. Let’s pick two or three then let’s go talk to those property owners. Then let’s talk about to them about how many units do you think you could actually do if you wanted to do it. Let’s say it’s a 10 acre site and they say, “you know I could do a thousand units.” All right well that’s 100 units the acre. We need a thousand units on your site so we’ll put an MF overlay on your site that says your zoning is 100 units the acre because we’re trying to get a thousand units on your 10 acres that’s our goal. That’s what we want to do.

So 30 units to the acre versus 100 units to the acres — in my book — just as much of a violation. I mean the charter says 21. 30 or 100, they’re both not 21.

John Knox White: And how we get to 4900, at that point, probably doesn’t…

Andrew Thomas: well I think: do you have the land to get to 4900? Absolutely. The question is which land you want to use and how dense do you want to to to build on each of those properties. [emphasis added]

John Knox White: You said doesn’t solve the housing crisis so not only does it — I just want to confirm my understanding is — it doesn’t catch us up to where we need to be right like this is the first, my understanding is, this is the first tranche of many very large tranches of housing allocations that are expected over the next multiple Housing Elements to catch us up to a place as a state is that fair?

Randy Rentschler: I think that’s probably a fairer judgment of the future than other judgments of the future yes. Although it’s always hard to predict the future.

John Knox White: Okay but even if we were to — if the economy collapses we still have a housing crisis and a need for housing even if jobs go away we still have pushed people out into Tracy, to live in Tracy and commute in and we should be having those folks live here with us.

I just wanted — I think you kind of answered this but again just clarify what I heard which is: there is no state requirement for a city to provide a 30 unit per acre multi-family housing overlay that’s a discretionary action that a city can take but there are other actions we can take to meet that same need for affordable housing. Expensive actions but other actions.

Andrew Thomas: That’s right. It’s one option that the City, in its discretion, can use that’s provided under state law to to illustrate how you’re accommodating the lower income categories.

John Knox White: And stipulating — agreeing with your concept that they’re not going to believe that just building housing is going to be affordable in the Bay Area. We’re not going to make that case that would not be a good use. But the other one which is we could fund the affordable housing — which is where the 30 units of the acre issue comes in — is not a violation of our charter.

Andrew Thomas: Not that I know of. No. The Charter says no multi-family housing, no residential density is over 21 units to the acre. State says if you allow multi-family and you allow 30 units to the acre we’ll give you a pass on that.

John Knox White: Yes, so we can meet the Housing Element without Charter violations.

And then the last question is because we’re gonna — like yeah you’ve done a great job of identifying at least the low hanging fruit: 21 units to the acre, even if we put a 30 unit to the acre multi-family overlay that still gets us somewhere near 3000 and still almost 2000 units short of our current allocation. If we start, you know, let’s say we drop a 30 units to acre down Park Street we’re not going to be able to say that all those lots on Park Street are available. We might be able to say 5% of them are or something like that and so we could drop multi-family overlays over the entire city and make that case but I guess my point is like we’re not going to be — we aren’t going to be able to perfectly spot zone unless we have actual available land and the next step is going to be that we’re going to have to start zoning very wide swaths of the island. Large, you know, entire areas of residential if we wanted to use the multi-family overlay to try to meet — of 30 units of the acre.

Andrew Thomas: Yeah I think there’s really two — we have to be thinking about sort of two goal posts. One is the immediate one in 18 months which is we need to get a Housing Element that HCD will say, “you know what? You’ve crossed the finish line. Good job. You’ve shown us available sites.” And I think if you think about Park Street like rezoning Park Street for multi-family housing with multi-family overlay, great. We could do that. The question is: what is the realistic capacity? That’s the second question that HCD will ask: “well what’s the realistic capacity because it looks fully developed to us. Like where do you think this new housing is going to go? Why would, you know, Tucker’s Ice Cream go away? Like what makes you think somebody’s gonna build housing there?”

So I think we would have to combine it with some type of legwork that we do with the Business Association and all their members. Like who on this corridor is interested in building housing over the next eight years because we would like you to step up and, you know, can we tell HCD that your site might be available.

You know CVS is one that jumps to mind — in my mind — right across from City Hall like that’s an ideal site. We have some sites down on lower Park Street so we might have to rezone but it still is to our benefit to rezone the whole corridor even if to cover properties that are not identified as available. So we tell HCD like we think we have available — we’re doing the whole corridor but we think we can get 200 units over the next eight years because these five property owners step forward.

But remember: we have to report to the State every year and this is the other part of state law that’s also tightened up. Like every year we have to report so we’re constantly getting adjusted and/or are tracking our progress. So if somebody comes along after the Housing Element is adopted and builds an extra 20 units on a site we didn’t imagine because we put an MF overlay that’s going to that’s going to help us in the Housing Element process. Not necessarily at certification, but two years later, and that’s going to be very important. So the idea of doing zones with MF overlay even if we don’t — as opposed to just like we did eight years ago where, you know, Ron Goode Toyota — just a teeny little site — got an MR overlay for 10 units. We may not take that approach.

John Knox White: Right. And so if we can’t find enough land to put the MF overlay over and get to 4900, you know, once we’ve gone to an MF overlay of 30 units we’re violating the charter. There’s no reason we couldn’t look at just doing an MF overlay of 60 or 120 units in key places because we might decide that actually, you know, we’ve heard traffic is a major concern and it would be better to build housing on Park and Webster Street and not build a whole bunch of single-family ranch homes across all of the rest of Alameda Point. Which is probably what we would have to do to be compliant with our charter and build the housing we have to build.

Andrew Thomas: I agree I think we’ve been sort of been thinking about this let’s — the shopping centers are a great example. Like it would be useful to sort of just talk about the shopping centers as a group. Like what shopping centers do we want to sort of target. Let’s pick two or three then let’s go talk to those property owners. Then let’s talk about to them about how many units do you think you could actually do if you wanted to do it. Let’s say it’s a 10 acre site and they say, “you know I could do a thousand units.” All right well that’s 100 units the acre. We need a thousand units on your site so we’ll put an MF overlay on your site that says your zoning is 100 units the acre because we’re trying to get a thousand units on your 10 acres that’s our goal. That’s what we want to do.

So 30 units to the acre versus 100 units to the acres — in my book — just as much of a violation. I mean the charter says 21. 30 or 100, they’re both not 21.

John Knox White: And how we get to 4900, at that point, probably doesn’t…

Andrew Thomas: well I think: do you have the land to get to 4900? Absolutely. The question is which land you want to use and how dense do you want to to to build on each of those properties.

3 Comments »

  1. It’ll be interesting to see what Tony Daysog and Trish Spencer will bring to the table for this conversation. I feel like their words and actions will be performative to pander to their NIMBY voters, but the real government leadership in getting our housing elements certified to keep us eligible for state funds will have to be done by the rest of the council and city staff. This discussion between John Knox White and Andrew Thomas is illustrative of that.

    Comment by Reality — December 14, 2020 @ 10:12 am

  2. Trish and Tony are simply going to have to up their game and lead their constituents. I would like to see it.

    Comment by Gaylon — December 14, 2020 @ 2:23 pm

  3. I love you Tony, kiss, kiss!

    Comment by Alameda Bound — December 15, 2020 @ 9:58 pm


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