For the past couple of years, we’ve suggested that exercising the density bonus law might be a valid way to build no more than 2,000 homes at Alameda Point to side-step Measure A where low-income and senior housing is provided, to allow for a mixed-use, transit-oriented-development. It seems that SunCal is ready to abuse the density bonus – and Alameda voters’ trust – to add another 1,500 homes to the project, bringing the total close to 6,000.
The State-mandated density bonus law provides a developer can add up to 35% additional homes to a project when the right mix of low-income and senior housing is included in the project. The low-income housing is subsidized by the additional market rate homes allowed as a “bonus.” For SunCal’s proposed 4,356 new homes at Alameda Point, the maximum 35% density bonus would allow an additional 1,521 new housing units, for a total of 5,867.
The City of Alameda’s summary report on the ballot initiative acknowledges this potential increase in units:
The Initiative states that when an applicant seeks a density bonus for a housing project within the Plan Area, the City shall provide the applicant with incentives and concessions for the production of housing units and child-care facilities as described in Government Code sec. 65915. Under sec. 65915, individual projects may request and must receive a five percent to 35 percent density bonus above the maximum allowed by the General Plan, Zoning or Specific Plan, if the project provides a prescribed percentage of affordable housing units. A density bonus project would also be able to request, and must be granted exceptions from the development regulations within the Initiative. Therefore, a density bonus project could be granted an exception from the setback, height or other development regulations established by the Initiative, if those exceptions result in identifiable, financially sufficient, and actual cost reductions for the density bonus project. The Initiative is unclear as to whether additional units granted to individual projects within Alameda Point will be counted toward the 4,841-unit cap established by the Initiative.
(The 4,841 unit number includes both existing and new housing at Alameda Point. 35% of 4,841 would be an additional 1,600 homes!)
However, there is no reason within the context of the initiative for SunCal to ask for a density bonus other than to allow themselves an additional 1,500 to 1,600 additional housing units on top of the 4,346 new homes they provide.
They aren’t using the density bonus to side-step Measure A – the initiative grants them an exemption from Measure A for Alameda Point. And the initiative gives SunCal pretty much carte blanche to do what they want at Alameda Point, so it’s unlikely they would need to use the density bonus to gain an exception from a setback or other development regulation within the initiative.
It’s clear that SunCal plans to abuse the density bonus to tell voters that this is a 4,346 home plan, but then actually come back under state law to demand an additional 1,500 to 1,600 approved units, for 6,000 or more homes.