To a casual observer, the scene that played out during at the Alameda City Council’s January 2 discussion about the Marina Cove housing development may have held some surprises. The city’s top planner, Andrew Thomas, was detailing his efforts to prod developer Trident Partners to build more homes on the 7.14 acre Marina Cove II site, which now holds a warehouse. The developer’s representative had insisted that the company only wanted to build the 69 homes originally approved for the site.
“This is very unusual when the planner for the city is telling a developer, ‘We want more units,’” Thomas told the council. “But it’s something that’s going to be happening much more often.”
The head of the East Bay Regional Park District is threatening to sue the city over a decision to allow housing development on a piece of federal property across the street from the Crab Cove Visitors Center, which the park district had hoped to acquire for a parking lot and other uses.
The lawsuit threat is the latest twist in the park district’s six-year battle to acquire the 3.899-acre property known as Neptune Pointe and to fend off residential development there. And city staffers fear it could put a dent in the city’s recently won state approval of its plan to address Alameda’s affordable housing needs.
The Planning Board’s discussion Monday about a proposal to build 89 homes where at Chipman Relocation warehouse now stands took a unique turn: Some Planning Board members said they want more homes built on the site, while the developer seeking to build there said he’d be happy to construct fewer of them.
The City Council voted Tuesday to release a confidential memo laying out staffers’ case for new rules allowing apartments and other multifamily housing despite voter-approved restrictions put in place by Measure A.
The memo lays out potential legal challenges the city could face – including a lawsuit housing advocates had already threatened to file – if its leaders failed to gain state approval of a new housing element to its general plan that demonstrated the city had sites zoned to allow multifamily housing to be developed. It also detailed ways city staffers could address opposition from Measure A backers.
When city leaders voted last week to allow new apartment buildings to be built on 10 sites in Alameda – in apparent contravention Measure A, which bars such development – they were facing the very real possibility of a court challenge that could have nullified the four-decade-old voter initiative Island-wide.
“I strongly believe we would have been sued,” Planning Services Manager Andrew Thomas said.
Measure A conflicts with the state’s housing element law, Thomas and other city staffers said. And if there were a legal battle between the two, they said state law would prevail.
The City Council on Tuesday approved new zoning rules allowing the development of multifamily housing in Alameda for the first time since Measure A passed in 1973. The vote was 4-1, with Councilman Doug deHaan casting the lone “no” vote.
City leaders could seek to boost park acreage and create new trails, sports fields, urban farms and a new community center under a parks master plan accepted by the City Council on Tuesday.
The plan will serve as a reference point for future efforts to enhance Alameda’s park offerings.
Alameda’s city leaders are attempting once again to revise the city’s plan for housing to comply with state law and to avoid state funding losses and lawsuits. Alameda’s so-called housing element, which is designed to show that a city’s got enough land zoned in a way that allows its housing needs to be met, has been out of compliance with state law since 1999.