Blogging Bayport Alameda

February 22, 2021

Island in the streamline

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:02 am

At tonight’s Planning Board meeting there’s an interesting bit of clean up being proposed to the municipal code specifically around multifamily housing. As if passing A/26 in 1973 wasn’t enough to make building multifamily housing nearly impossible in Alameda, the City doubled down in 1975 with requirements which only served to make the building of multifamily housing more expensive. From the staff report:

A 1975 ordinance established utility requirements for multi-family residential development under Section 30-5.13 Multiple Houses.  Specifically, this section requires multiple houses (condominiums) to provide:

•                     Separate utility meters with individual shut-off values for all utilities for each unit (excluding water);

•                     Space and connections for laundry facilities in every unit;

•                     At least 100 square feet of enclosed, weatherproof, lockable storage space for each unit, not counting cabinets, pantries and closets. 

According to the Housing Authority, which recently completed the very expensive project near Park Street which clocked in at nearly $1 million per unit, these requirements in the municipal code make costs higher than necessary:

Staff and housing developers have found the open space requirements confusing and not conducive to design creativity that may yield better open space options. The prescriptive requirements generally dictate building designs with balconies on upper floors and fenced-in patios on the ground floor.  In 2018, the Alameda Housing Authority argued, as part of its Rosefield Village affordable housing development that the increased cost of providing balconies for every upper level unit would require reducing costs elsewhere, including reducing the number of units in the project.  Moreover, mandating private open space for every unit would come at the expense of reducing common amenities and other outdoor programming space that might otherwise better serve the needs of the residents.

According to staff the utility meter rule is conflicting and/or redundant to rules in the California Building Code and laundry and storage should be a decision made by the property owner. Also any project using the density bonus ordinance can ask for waivers of these rules anyway so they’re redundant for larger projects but can add cost to smaller projects which don’t have the benefit of the density bonus ordinance.

Staff is recommending that the Planning Board recommend an adoption of the same language currently being used in the North Park Street District that allows for a swapsies of private outdoor space to a larger public one:

“The Planning Board may consider provision of off-site open space in lieu of onsite open space provided that the Planning Board is able to find that the off-site open space: 1) will be provided concurrent with the development, 2) is located within a two (2) block radius of the residential development; and 3) will benefit a greater number of people than open space provided on site.”

I think these changes are great and it’s awesome that staff is being proactive with this streamlining and trying to remove barriers to building housing. This will help our case to certify the Housing Element if we hit the inevitable bump in the road to certification.

1 Comment »

  1. While they are at it, staff should look at requirements that make it nearly impossible for the owner of a large home in an R4 zone to actually convert it to more than two units. i suspect this is a holdover from changes made in response to A/26, but it is disadvantaging homeowners who want to age/downsize in place as well as keeping new rentals from being created to ease the housing shortage.

    Comment by Allan Mann — February 22, 2021 @ 9:13 am


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