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City Council Spanked Warmington Homes

Not only did Warmington Homes not get an affordable housing agreement last night that would permit them to build a 16 to 36 unit rental apartment complex on the former Alameda Island High School site, they were denied by City Council, sitting as the Community Improvement Commission the privilege of transferring any affordable housing units offsite from the Grand Marina Village project to the Island High site.

The decision was a setback for Warmington Homes and a victory for Alameda residents opposed to the project. Councilmember Doug deHaan noted that for many years now, the City has had a goal of increasing home ownership to 60%, and that roughly 50% of Alameda’s homes are still rental units. Transferring owner-occupied units from Grand Marina to rental units at Island High was contrary to the spirit of that goal.

The Council chambers was packed with residents of the “wedge” – the Alameda neighborhood bounded by Tilden Way, Park Street and Clement Avenue – who were opposed to a proposed 36-unit complex on the Island High Site, which sits roughly in the middle of the wedge. More than two dozen people spoke against the agreement as presented to the CIC, many noting that the transfer of very-low and low income housing units offsite from Grand Marina was discriminatory and against the goals of the City’s Inclusionary Housing Ordinance. Others noted that they would be willing to work with a much smaller project, on the order of 9 to 12 units, that mixed income levels of all types, or senior housing, or even re-use by Alameda Unified School District of the site as an elementary school to accomodate over-enrollment at Edison school, just 4 blocks away.

Mayor Beverly Johnson chastened Development Services Director Leslie Little for the presumptions made by City Staff that the project would take advantage of the Guyton settlement to build a high-density apartment complex that would otherwise be precluded by Measure A. Mayor Johnson noted that City Council, sitting as the City’s Housing Authority, would have to approve the use of the Guyton exemption for the proposed units. Shortly after midnight, Councilmember Frank Matarrese motioned to approve an affordable housing agreement with Warmington Homes for 10 affordable units at Grand Marina, effectively separating the discussion about the best use of and number of units for the Island High site from the Grand Marina project. Councilmember Marie Gilmore, who is running for re-election this November, was absent.

Also absent from the meeting was Alameda Unified School District Board member Mike McMahon, and AUSD Board member and City Council candidate Tracy Lynn Jensen, both of whom who were present at the poorly-noticed July 23rd meeting at the Main Library where Warmington Homes’ architects first presented the 36-unit apartment complex proposal. AUSD Board President Bill Schaff spoke on behalf of AUSD during public comments. The final public speaker on the issue was Trish Spencer, PTA First Vice President for Lincoln/Alameda High School, and she too opposed the agreement as presented to the CIC. Trish Spencer is running for the AUSD board of trustees this November.

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