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Subject: Jan.13, 2020 Planning Board Agenda Item # 7-A Study Session to Discuss Article 26 of the City Charter
Dear Planning Board Members:
The purpose of this letter is to respond to the City Staff Evaluation of Article 26 of the City Charter and to inform you of our position on any potential amendment of the Article.
We are in total disagreement with the staff conclusion that Article 26 does not support the general welfare of the community, does not support the community’s stated General Plan goals, and is not equitable. Therefore, we have attached our point by point critique of the Evaluation.
We further assert that it is pre-mature to consider any changes to be made in Article 26 until the City completes its current review of our General Plan. To do otherwise would be putting the cart before the horse. Any evaluation of Article 26 should be in the broader context of an evaluation of all the City’s land-use and development documents, including the General Plan, revision of which is underway. However, if the Planning Board and City Council determine to consider repealing or amending Article 26 our position is expressed in the following paragraphs.
The Evaluation claims that City planning goals are obstructed by Article 26. Staff wishes to open the Webster and Park Street retail areas to multi-story dwellings and to minimize future residential zoning of vacant land currently zoned commercial, thus reserving land for future commercial development. While we do not necessarily support these goals, we do support providing affordable housing and realize the inevitability of our existing vacant land being rezoned for said housing in order to meet our Housing Element obligations. Thus, we would be open to considering removing Article 26 protection from non-historic commercial areas, including the non-historic parts of Park and Webster Streets.
However, the repeal of Article 26 in toto would open our existing built up residential neighborhoods to high density development if supported by a simple majority of the City Council. Prior to adoption of Article 26 the City suffered through hundreds of developer buyouts of single family residences including many Victorians and their replacement with multi-story, multi-family dwelling units that were entirely inconsistent with the character of those neighborhoods. Article 26 put a stop to these developments. We are opposed to allowing these neighborhoods to be subject to possible up zoning to high density by a simple majority of Council.
We have been told that in most, if not all, of the communities in the Bay Area rezoning is within the discretion of Council. However, we believe that Alameda is unique and that the same factors which justified Article 26 in 1973 and 1991 are even more relevant now. That is:
- We are an island community with the mainland access, public safety, and traffic and parking congestion that this geographic fact entails.
- Our town is the closest residential community to the both the job rich San Francisco and Oakland markets. Thus, removing Article 26 will put tremendous pressure on the City Council to allow the very invasion of our existing built up residential areas that Article 26 is designed to protect.
We believe that there are ways to address our concerns while allowing modification of some of the protections afforded by Article 26. In an email City Planning Director, Andrew Thomas, stated that he does not favor up-zoning existing low density residential neighborhoods, excepting “underutilized” residential areas or historical areas on Park and Webster. This raises the possibility of agreeing, not to a repeal of Article 26, but amending it to apply only to specifically identified neighborhoods, using either a coded map or designation by zoning district. There may be other Charter language that could be developed to protect these neighborhoods, but we will actively oppose any amendment to our Charter that leaves these neighborhoods at risk of high density up-zoning by a simple majority of the City Council.
Alameda Citizens Task Force
Steering Committee Members: Gretchen Lipow, Janet Gibson, Kathleen Schumacher, Patsy Baer, Paul Foreman, Mark Greenside