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Alameda City Council Votes to Chill Dissent From Planning Decisions

In a 4-1 vote, with Vice Mayor Doug deHaan voting against, Alameda City Council last night approved increases in the fees that Alameda residents will pay to appeal planning decisions made by the Planning Board and Historical Advisory Board. The move makes it more difficult for Alameda residents to seek civil redress for disagreements over planning and development issues in Alameda.

The fees for appeals of decisions pertaining to residential (single family homes and duplexes) planning decisions are now a $250 flat rate, plus up to $500 in city staff expenses for time and materials, or a total of $750, representing an increase of 7.5 times.

The new fees for appeals of commercial property (residential properties of 3 or more units, and commercial property) are now comprise of a $350 flat fee, plus up to $2,500 of time and materials expense, for a total of $2,850, or an increase of 28.5 times.

Mayor Johnson made a good point when she questioned why City of Alameda staff are so involved in the appeals of residential planning decisions. But she dodged the real issue, and the real question – why are city staff so involved in commercial property appeals? The majority of past appeals that City Council considered last night were appeals against commercial property planning decisions related to projects that the City of Alameda, via various City Council members, and Planning Department or Redevelopment Services Department Staff, are pushing through on behalf of commercial property owners, as often as not, against the will of the people. Mayor Johnson didn’t want to acknowledge it, but the reason city staff time and materials expenses are so high on commercial property appeals, is that city staff are advocating for and invested in these projects, in one way or another, often on behalf of individual council members, or their campaign contributors.

Last night, City Council, as they did when they raised appeal fees during the Megaplex debate several years back, have deliberately raised a large obstacle – community groups opposed to commercial projects covertly supported by the City will now have to raise $2,850 to file an appeal – in the path of residents who question or oppose decisions made by a compliant City of Alameda Planning Board.

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