A controversial project to build 242 housing units at the northern Alameda waterfront along the Oakland-Alameda estuary near Park Street is on the Planning Board agenda tonight. If the project is approved and built, it is would be the first Alameda housing project built under the City’s recently-adopted density bonus law ordinance, undermining calls to relax Measure A, a 1973 City of Alameda Charter amendment that restricts high-density housing projects. Critics say the project rejects neighborhood desires for a long-planned estuary park.
According to City of Alameda Planning Services department reports to Alameda City Council, the “project qualifies for a 30% density bonus (42 units for a total of 182 units) because the applicant proposes to provide 9% of the 140 units to households that qualify as very low income. In addition to the 13 very low-income units, the project is also providing 8 units for moderate-income households.”
Under a density bonus ordinance waiver, the developer is permitted to build a total number of units in excess of what would normally be permitted, in return for building low-income housing. Qualification for low-income housing is determined by the applicant’s income relative to area median income.
The developer, Francis Collins, is requesting a waiver from Alameda Municipal Code’s (AMC) Section 30-53.2’s prohibition against multifamily housing, and a waiver from AMC Section 30-4.2’s 2,000 square foot minimum lot size. These AMC sections are long-standing provisions against high-density housing development in Alameda, along with the 1973 charter amendment, which are the basis for legislation that Alameda residents colloquially refer to as as “Measure A.”
The building of 40 duplex, or “duet” homes and 67 attached town homes is predicated on the waiver of these municipal code provisions, and the 1973 charter amendment. The waiver relies on a 1979 State of California Density Bonus Law, which requires local municipalities to adopt a density bonus ordinance designed to facilitate the construction of low-income housing. Such an ordinance was adopted by the City of Alameda in 2010.
Some Alameda residents have called for changes to “Measure A” for Alameda Point, to permit the development of high-density housing projects, including low-income housing, at the former Naval Air Station Alameda at the western end of the island. If the so-called Francis Collins Boatworks project is built, it may undermine those claims by showing a path to building low-income housing without changing local ordinances.
The City of Alameda staff reports to Council note that “In 1991, the property was designated in the General Plan as a site that should be redeveloped for residential use with a public waterfront park. The General Plan called for the City to purchase approximately 4.5 acres of the property for a 10-acre park. Despite several attempts to raise the funds since 1991, the City has been unable to raise the funds necessary to acquire the land for the proposed 10-acre park.”
Neighborhood critics of the project say that the proposed development provides too narrow and too limited access to the waterfront.