A break today from politics, while we wait to see what the union- and developer-funded cabal mis-named “Alamedans United” does next to get its slate of candidates elected to local offices.
In the meantime, we draw your attention to Richard Bangert’s piece in the Alameda Point Environmental Report (a shorter version of which appeared in the Sun) about the “draft preferred scenario” issued by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the Association of Bay Area Governments. The regional planners’ handiwork will make you laugh – if you don’t throw up first.
The “scenario” purports to update the “Plan Bay Area 2040” published in July 2013. Among other things, that document “forecasts” housing and job growth between 2010 and 2040 for every city in the Bay Area. A city isn’t legally required to build housing or create jobs to meet the “forecasts” – but its ability to get funds from MTC and ABAG depends largely on what it does to “implement” the Plan.
In the original Plan Bay Area, MTC and ABAG projected that 6,450 households requiring new housing would be added in the City of Alameda between 2010 and 2040. At the end of August, the regional agencies announced that they have upped the “forecast” to 11,600 additional households by 2040 – an 80 per cent increase.
But that isn’t the real news. The real news is where the MTC and ABAG planners say the new housing should go.
In the original Plan Bay Area, the housing growth foreseen for Alameda was concentrated in the two “Priority Development Areas”: Alameda Point and the northern waterfront, which together would account for 4,770 of the projected 5,890 new housing units. Only 1,120 new units would need to be built elsewhere in the City over a 30-year period for the overall forecast to be met.
The “draft preferred scenario” turns this relationship on its head. Now, the PDAs are expected to take care of only 4,150 of the 11,600 additional households requiring new housing. As a result, space will need to be found elsewhere in the City to accommodate the other 7,450 additional households.
And where exactly do the MTC and ABAG planners think Alameda should put the new housing units?
Assistant Community Development Director and City Planner Andrew Thomas had the same question. When he posed it to ABAG, they sent him a link to a web-based platform that showed the new housing on a parcel-by-parcel basis. Mr. Thomas was kind enough to pass the link along to the Merry-Go-Round.
So we suggest that you go to http://mapcraftlabs.github.io/labs/r5080.html. Click on Alameda. You’ll see a map covered with little circles, each of which identifies a parcel on which the planners say new housing or jobs can go. (Wiggle the cursor over a circle and you’ll see the number of residential units; click on it and you’ll get the parcel number).
Now let’s focus on the three biggest circles. From left to right, they represent:
- Parcel 144461: 1,425 housing units. This parcel is located in the area on the southwest side of Alameda Point now zoned as a nature reserve.
- Parcel 144462: 3,000 housing units. This parcel appears to overlap Site A at Alameda Point, where residential development already is planned, and what was formerly known as Site B, which is zoned for “employment and business” uses. The 3,000-unit figure is twice the maximum number of new housing units that can be built without penalty at the entire Point (1,425 units).
- Parcel No. 147429: 4,131 housing units. This parcel encompasses the area now occupied by the South Shore Shopping Center.
We encourage our readers to pick a circle near their own home to find out what new housing the regional planners have in mind for their neighborhood. But this exercise shouldn’t distract from the key point: MTC and ABAG actually expect Alameda to put residential units on a nature reserve and – presumably after tearing it down – an existing shopping center.
Find this appalling? Well, so did Mr. Thomas. Here’s what he told Mr. Bangert would need to happen for the City to realize the “draft preferred scenario”:
- “Some major nonresidential sites like South Shore Shopping Center would have to close, and the city council would have to agree that those major commercial sites should be redeveloped as huge residential sites with 400 to 500 units each.”
- “Bay Ship and Yacht goes away; state tidelands restrictions go away; and city council rezones this major maritime industrial site for residential, yielding 500 units.”
- “The Port of Oakland eliminates restrictive covenants on Harbor Bay Business Park, and city council approves 400-500 units in the business park.”
- “Many individual small business owners on Park Street or Webster Street get together, tear down their businesses, and the city council approves 400-500 units in four- to five-story buildings along these streets.”
Even these steps would yield only about 2,000 additional housing units, Mr. Thomas told Mr. Bangert. “We need 5,000 more [according to the MTC/ABAG planners]. So what other unrealistic thing needs to happen? We currently get about three second-unit requests and inquiries a year. It’s expensive to build a second unit in your back yard. Those requests would need to magically increase to about 200 per year.”
Mr. Thomas did more than vent to Mr. Bangert. With approval from the Planning Board, he also prepared a letter to the regional planners that – politely – challenged the assumptions in their “draft preferred scenario”:
The City of Alameda has consistently informed ABAG and MTC over the last ten years that Alameda’s existing historic neighborhoods cannot be expected to accommodate significant new housing growth. Over the last ten years, the existing neighborhoods have added two to three units per year and they have lost one or two units per year for a net gain of about one unit per year.
The preferred scenario assumes about 250 units per year in existing neighborhoods outside of the PDAs. This assumption means the Preferred Scenario will fail in Alameda.
Mr. Thomas ended his letter by – respectfully – chastising the state and regional planners for failing to “take more aggressive steps” to “directly link” their expectations about housing growth to “concrete commitments of transportation and affordable housing funding.” And he wasn’t just whistling Dixie. At just about the same time MTC and ABAG were saddling Alameda with their updated forecast of additional households requiring new housing, the state Department of Housing and Community Development was turning down the application, backed by the City, for $23.7 million in cap-and-trade funds to help finance the senior- and family- affordable housing projects now in the works for Alameda Point.
Small wonder our City Planner was frustrated. So was Base Reuse and Transportation Director Jennifer Ott, who traveled to Sacramento to object – unsuccessfully – to the cap-and-trade decision before the Strategic Growth Council.
And so are we: We’re not sold on the idea that Alameda is some sort of Statue of Liberty whose duty is to welcome the huddled masses from outer Alameda and Contra Costa Counties to our shores. But if that’s the role the regional planners insist that the City play, at least the state and regional agencies ought to be willing to pick up part of the tab.
If only we had a politically well-connected lobbyist in Sacramento who could make this clear. . . .
Plan Bay Area Jobs, Population & Housing Forecast (July 2013): final_pba_forecast_of_jobs_population_and_housing
Plan Bay Area “draft preferred scenario”: 2016-10-10-ex-1-to-staff-report-to-pb-august-30-2016-letter-from-plan-bay-area-2040; 2016-09-02-staff-memo-re-preferred-land-use-scenario
Andrew Thomas letter to MTC & ABAG (September 28, 2016 draft): 2016-10-10-ex-2-to-staff-report-to-pb-draft-september-29-2016-letter-from-city-of-alameda
Jennifer Ott letter to California Strategic Growth Council: casgc-letter