Tenants at risk for mass evictions at 470 Central
in Alameda. PHOTOS/Steven Tavares
Old Alameda Victorians being razed in the name of progress during the building boom of the late 1960s and ’70s had frightened many residents. The talking point of “preserving the city’s character” was in many ways born in this era, and still remains potent today. But when an Alameda developer named Ron Cowan sought to build a 10,000-unit housing and recreation utopia on Bay Farm Island, later known as Harbor Bay Isle, the sheer scope of the project startled residents.
Alameda councilmembers at a meeting in early
January at Kofman Auditorium.
Over the years, there has been a constant push-pull between Alamedans hoping to maintain the existing character of the city and those advocating for growth. The two camps had one of their first skirmishes in the run-up to the 1973 passage of Measure A, the landmark charter amendment approved by Island voters. Its passage effectively ended construction of multifamily housing for the next four decades and in many ways fueled Alameda’s current housing crisis.
Renter Bob Davis being pinned down by Alameda
police during a council meeting in November.
With the threatened loss of Alameda’s small town patina as a pretext, Measure A was strong because of its simplicity. Construction of multifamily development with more than two attached units were prohibited. From the measure’s inception up until 2010, numerous attempts at reversing or limiting Measure A repeatedly failed. Mostly notably, in 2010, 85 percent of voters overwhelmingly denied a push to allow an exemption from Measure A for developer SunCal’s plans for Alameda Point.
But if Measure A could not be overturned at the ballot box, it turns out it could be watered down by the City Council. In 2012, a pro-development council majority approved a “density bonus” ordinance that allowed developers to petition the state for waivers to develop restricted zoning areas in exchange for building affordable housing in Alameda. Density bonuses are a zoning tool that let developers build more densely than normally allowed as long as there is public benefit attached, such as the construction of public housing. [CONTINUED AT ALAMEDAMAGAZINE.COM]