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I had planned to retire this site when I left office, but there have been requests to post my views as a private citizen. I will post the newsletter as items come up. It will not be on the tight semi-monthly schedule as it was before.
Measure A Input Muzzled
Ad Hoc Committee
Planning Board Big Box
New Location for the Target?
Ad Hoc Committee Meeting II
Friday the Thirteenth
AD Hoc Committee
First Meeting was Unnecessarily Contentious
Mistakes made at Clamp Swing could bring disaster to Northside
Planning Board Exceeds Its Authority
Planning Staff Report 03/26/07
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The forum on Measure A that was proposed by the Planning Board has now become a public hearing on a new Housing Element. Because of the efforts on the part of the three members of the Planning Board who were appointed to an ad hoc committee to design a forum, this upcoming hearing on the Housing Element will allow no presentations which are favorable to Measure A.
Anne Cook, the now-president of the Planning Board had led the effort to get that board to put on a forum on Measure A. She had referred to correspondence from HOMES, an anti Measure A group. At the March 26, 2007 Planning Board meeting she apologized to staff for pushing them to the point of putting this item ( developing a Measure A workshop) on the agenda. While the Planning Director cautioned that the expense of a forum would cut into funds for other planning efforts, Andrew Thomas , an employee of the department, broke in with his one-step-at a time plan. He supported that the formation of a subcommittee of the board be established to return to the board to present logistics for the forum and proposals for its structure. His proposal, which was approved by the board, was appealed to the City Council.
The City Council denied the appeal on May 15, 2007. However, they decided to add three members of the appellants to the ad hoc committee. The approved motion stated that the workshop (forum) deliverables were to be establishing facts, limitations, and benefits of Measure A in the context of the Housing element and transportation. At this point the workshop was still to be one on Measure A.
During the ad hoc committee meetings, the Planning Director stated that the expense of the workshop would be funded with the money set aside for the public hearing on the proposed Housing Element. As I understood it, she further stated that the workshop would be a public hearing for the Housing Element. The purpose of the workshop had changed from an educational forum on Measure A. This is a very important point because the Housing Element is a governing policy document of the City of Alameda.
At the second ad hoc committee meeting the three Planning Board members refused to live up to an agreements reached in the first ad hoc committee meeting and in the beginning of the second meeting. Those agreements were to allow each side to pick their own speakers. Furthermore the Planning Board members backed out on a committee agreement to have open public input at workshop. They instead substituted the small-groups format for open public discussion. The small-groups format is easily manipulated by the facilitator, and the unedited opinions of the public never get to the City Council. The refusal to allow any speakers to be chosen by the pro Measure a members of the committee and the elimination of open public input led to an impasse.
This impasse was bought to the City Council during oral communications on July 17, 2007. The Council majority appeared to me to be comfortable with a format which would not allow any pro-Measure A presentations, and that the purpose of the forum would no longer be Measure A. Even though the benefits of Measure A were part of the Council motion, those benefits will not be presented if the only speakers allowed will be chosen by anti Measure A forces.
AD HOC COMMITTEE IMPLODES ON 7/13/07
This spring, the Planning Board decided that they wanted the City of Alameda to host a forum to discuss changing Measure A, otherwise known as Article 26 in the City Charter. It reads as follows:
ALAMEDA CITY CHARTER
Article XXVI Multiple Dwelling Units
Sec. 26-1. There shall be no multiple dwelling units built in the City of Alameda.
Sec. 26-2. Exception being the Alameda Housing Authority replacement of existing low cost housing units and the proposed Senior Citizens low cost housing complex, pursuant to Article XXV of the Charter of the City of Alameda.
Sec. 26-3. The maximum density for any residential development within the City of Alameda shall be one housing unit per 2,000 square feet of land. This limitation shall not apply to the repair or replacement of existing residential units, whether single-family or multiple-unit, which are damaged or destroyed by fire or other disaster; provided that the total number of residential units on any lot may not be increased. This limitation also shall not apply to replacement units under Section 26-2.
Articles 26.1 and 26.2 were passed in 1973.
An attempt to amend paragraphs 26-1 and 26-2 was attempted in 1984 by the developer of Marina Village. He wanted to put multiple apartments into an historic building in Marina Village. It became known as the Red Brick Building vote. It failed by a substantial margin.
Article 26.3 was passed in 1991. The Journal reported its passing by a four to one vote.
Developers and their friends have wanted to get rid of this part of our City Charter so that they may build to a high density and maximize their profits. The Planning Board voted to form an ad hoc committee to structure the forum on changing Measure A. Since at least two of the Planning Board members selected to be on the ad hoc committee have come out against Measure A, a group of citizens which included three former members of the City Council, appealed the Planning Board's decision to the City Council. The Council did not make the clean decision not to have a city-funded forum on Measure A. They upheld the formation of the ad hoc committee. However they added three members of the appellants to the committee. So we ended up with the following committee:. Anne Cook, Marilyn Ezzy-Ashcraft, and Rebecca Kohlstrand for the Planning Board, and Pat Bail, Diane Coler-Dark, and myself for the appellants.
At the first ad hoc committee meeting we had agreed that each side would pick their own speakers if the six members could not agree on who should speak. That's in writing. We took a vote at the second meeting and found that we could not agree on speakers . So at the second meeting it was agreed that each side would pick their own speakers. That's on tape.
Then the three Planning Board members members huddled during a break and came back and announced that they would not honor either agreement. In other words, they broke their own word. It appeared to be mostly Ezzy-Ashcraft's doing as she had been insisting during both meetings that the topics be limited to her list of what she thought should be covered.. After another huddle the Planning Board Members wanted two forums on two days...six hours each. They wanted the first meeting to be on housing; the second, on transportation.
Pat Bail made a motion, which it took another hour to get to a vote. She moved that we go back to Council for direction since Council had decreed one forum. Cathy Woodbury, The Director of Planning, explained that direction for a one-meeting forum to the Planning Board members and pointed out it was in the City Council minutes. The Planning Board members held out for a two-day forum, but would consider one 12 hour day. Then they started to come down to an eight hour day, but they were still pushing for two days.
Diane voted for Pat's motion because she said we had lost all focus on educating the public. I voted for it because the Planning Board members had not been willing to honor their agreements. I decided that any further discussion would be a waste of time, since I did not trust the three Planning Board members not to go back on any further decisions that the committee might make. Since they had demonstrated, in my opinion, that they were not honorable people, I no longer even wanted to be in the same room with them. Life is too short.
So it's back up the organizational ladder again.
Calling All Raccoons!
The June 26, 2007, Planning Board Meeting, Item 9-B, Staff Report, on proposed structures at Alameda Landing included the following statements:
The design of the two LARGE FORMAT stores (Building A and B)..........Building A poses a major design challenge given its size (122,500 square feet) but through careful selection and use of material, better articulation of the front elevation to reflect the smaller size buildings,.............Property owners and residents within 300 feet of the project's boundaries were notified of the public hearing and given the opportunity to review and comment on the proposal. Staff has not received any response to the notice and is not a aware of any opposition to the proposal.
Three hundred feet! Who were they expecting? You mean that all of the raccoons out at FISC didn't show up at City Hall for the meeting?
Ad Hoc Second Meeting
Second Ad Hoc committee meeting to be held on Friday the Thirteenth at 1 PM in Conference Room A at the Main Library.
First Ad Hoc Committee Meeting 6/7/07
A meeting of the Measure A Forum Ad Hoc Committee was held as scheduled on Thursday afternoon on June 7th. The members of the committee were Planning Board members Anne Cook, Marilyn Ezzy-Ashcraft, and Rebecca Kohlstrand. Pat Bail, Diane Coler-Dark, and Barbara Kerr from the group which had appealed a decision of the Planning Board also sat on the committee. The appealed Planning Board vote had been to form an ad hoc committee with a different structure to design a forum on Measure A.
The anti-Measure A groups in Alameda had supported a forum which had the same structure as the first MTC forum held at the Mastic Senior Center on March 29. The presentation at the MTC meeting that of f a non-Measure A compliant plan for housing at Alameda Point....only. The MTC grant was based on transportation, and it did not limit plans to only those which did not comply with Measure A. As far as I can tell, the consultant had been given marching orders by staff. I have never respected most outside consultants, because my observations as a City Councilmember for eight years is that their reports are tailored to please the staff who hire them in hopes of getting future contracts.
A facilitator , David Early, was hired by staff to run the ad hoc committee meeting occurring on June 7. His fee is $210 per hour. Early is from the firm whose website is www.dceplanning.com. His firm has done Housing Element updates. One of those updates was for the County of Napa, so it is possible that the work there was done in conjunction with the President of the Planning Board. Early may or may not be hoping to get a contract for the pending update of the Alameda Housing Element.
Early's approach was a controlling one, not a facilitating one in my opinion. I moved a half an hour into the meeting that the Planning Board members pick half of the speakers for the forum, and that the appellants pick the other half. The topics would be up to the persons picking the speakers as long as they were in conformance with the direction of the City Council. Anyone who had passed kindergarten would know that that was the only plan on which all committee members could agree on. We could have all gone home early. The facilitator would not let the committee come to a consensus on that motion. Two and a half hours later, after the facilitator allowed consideration, that motion was agreed to by the committee with a few modifications. The only way to educate the public on Measure A is to hear from both sides.
There was some heated discussion on the public input at the forum. All members of the committee felt that public input was a very important part of the forum. The facilitator was not encouraging about this idea. He felt that public input by each resident present would be time consuming, and that there would be a split on the issues. We pointed out that there was already a split on Measure A. No one on the committee was dismayed by the direct public process time possibility. Early wanted to have the small group form of public comment which has been used in Alameda several times. It filters or eliminates the ability of an individual to communicate with his/her government. It is OK in some instances, but not for public input to a governmental body. In the past, people from other cities have come into these groups and been able to dominate the reports from the groups.
Suggestions for speakers for the forum will be solicited from the public. These will be discussed at the next meeting which will probably be held in the second week of July.
The owner of the Clamp Swing building at 2515 Blanding has done a commendable job of rehabilitating the building. She did surprise the community by announcing that there would be a theatre in addition to the seven work/live units in the building. The theatre, according to her press release, would attract up to 50,000 persons a year. The Planning Board, according to the resolution, was not told about the theatre at the meeting at which the Use Permit, UP04-0019, was approved. Two "retail or commercial spaces" were included.
The work/live ordinance, Chapter 30, Section 15 of the AMC requires that any activity in a work/live building which is not in a work/live studio, must not adversely affect the surrounding neighborhood. Parking for this project is only being provided for the seven work/live studios, But a vehicle-heavy use like a theatre, will take away the available street parking from the other businesses on Blanding. The staff OK'd the theatre because that is a use allowed in an M-2 district, but they did not consider the additional requirements of the work/live ordinance. They required no additional parking for the theatre at all because the building is more than ten years. That is OK only if the the requirements of the work/live ordinance are ignored.
The second work/live project which may happen will be in the Del Monte building at the corner of Buena Vista and Sherman. If the staff shows what is, in my opinion, the same negligence, at the Del Monte building conversion as they showed at the Clamp Swing building, then the northside neighborhoods near the Del Monte building will be destroyed. Imagine what would happen if a large retail or hotel use in the Del Monte building were not required to provide any parking because the building is more than ten years old?
Littlejohn Park would become unusable because the surrounding streets would be full. Might as well pull the baseball field, the much used picnic area and the recreation center, because the residents of Alameda would not be able to get near them.
The hearing on the EIR and the North Waterfront General Plan Amendment will be held at the City Council meeting on June 19, at 7:30. The reuse of the Del Monte building is part of this hearing.
April 3, 2007
The Honorable Mayor Beverly Johnson
Honorable Members of the Alameda City Council
We are appealing to the City Council the Planning Board's action of March 26, 2007, Agenda Item 9-C. This appeal is to reverse the decision of the Planning Board to set up an ad hoc committee to construct a forum to discuss the implications of Measure A on housing throughout Alameda. The Planning Board discussion on this item was about eliminating Measure A in the entire city.
The Planning Board overstepped its authority. The City Charter gives this board the authority to investigate and recommend plans for future development. Advocating overturning the City Charter does not fall within the definition of their duties.
The forum for which the Ad Hoc committee was appointed was billed as necessary to update the Housing Element. That is not true. No Alameda Housing Element has ever advocated overturning Measure A. It is not necessary. The last Housing Element that was state certified was written in the 1980's by a citizens committee because the staff version was so unacceptable to the then City Council. Yet the Planning Director's memo in the packet for the 3/26/07 meeting stated that the proposed forum was needed because of the update of the Housing Element due in 2008. The planning staff is repeating the egregious zealousness of the 1980's.
The forum proposed at the Planning Board meeting on 3/26/07 has no chance of being a fair and balanced venue. That forum was described in the packet information for that Planning Board meeting as a public workshop to discuss the implications of Measure A throughout Alameda. Note that the gloves are off. Staff is not just gunning for Measure A at Alameda Point any more. Yet the willingness to mislead the public about the purpose of a future forum on Measure A was illustrated by the Planning Director's Packet on 3/26/07 in which she described the purpose of the first forum, held on 3/29/07, as a forum to discuss housing types that are both Measure A compliant and non Measure A compliant. No discussion of Measure A compliant housing was discussed on Thursday, 3/29/07. The Ad Hoc committee was voted in at the meeting on 3/26/07 based on untruths in the packet.
The proposed forums were described by a planning manager as mandated by the acceptance of an MTC grant by the City Council. Yet that grant was accepted by Council to study transportation. Staff has decided to use the money to study housing instead. So the ad hoc committee was formed at a meeting based on bad information and at the urging of the planning manager furnishing that information.
Part of the discussion by Planning Board members on the formation of the ad hoc committee was based on the idea that Measure A is responsible for the design of Bayport. That is not true. We have many attractive housing developments that were designed under Measure A.
The City is not allowed to pay for campaign material. The planned forums to discuss Measure A including the one on March 29, 2007, to discuss eliminating Measure A are campaign activities, not discussions. The City of Alameda has no business paying for campaign meetings. The taxpayers should not have to pay or support propaganda from the anti-Measure A force. The forum on March 29 was not a discussion which was how it had been described by the Planning Board majority and the Planning staff. Only one side of the issue was presented.
An excuse for calling these forums "discussions" might be marginally justified by having a debate in which people from both sides of the issue were sitting at the head table and actually debating.
The proposed propaganda meeting was well described by a public speaker at the Planning Board Meeting on March 26, 2007. He said that it was like a Fuller Brush man coming to the door. With a little persuasion he talks himself into the living room by saying he only wants to show a dust brush. Before he leaves, he has been in every room of the house selling every product his company manufactures. These forums are intended to vacuum Measure A out of Alameda.
The members of the ad hoc committee proclaimed at the Planning Board meeting that they needed the forums because they needed education on Measure A. Yet they volunteered to be on the ad hoc committee because of their expertise. Two members of the ad hoc committee have stated at a Planning Board meeting that they want to change Measure A throughout Alameda. Those statement are on tape. That eliminates any hope that the forums would be balanced.
The Planning Board should spend its time solving problems for the people who are already here. There is a serious shortage of recreation spaces for Alameda's children now. If they haven't solved existing problems, they are not qualified to plan for future developments.
There was no recognition at the Planning Board meeting that the main island has limited access. The "solution" seems to be to run all traffic from Alameda Point along the north side of the city to the Fruitvale BART station.
The Planning Board majority advocated high density in the name of "affordable" housing, yet they appear willing to destroy one of the main existing supplies of moderate income housing in Alameda, the north side neighborhoods, in order to build high density at Alameda Point. An ad hoc committee that hasn't looked at a map should not be allowed to guide a Planning Director.
The housing quotas which the Planning Board majority uses to justify high density are based on fictional numbers. The ABAG housing numbers were calculated for a jobs/housing balance. But they calculated the total jobs by keeping all of the Navy jobs and NADEP jobs on the books, even though these jobs had gone when the base was closed. They then added in future civilian. jobs that would become available at the base only if the Navy had left. They then added these two mutually-exclusive numbers to get a fictional job total to justify a large housing requirement. Yet the members of the ad hoc committee have never recognized this. They are not qualified to advise the Planning Director.
Thirty five petroleum plumes on Navy property are not due to be cleaned up until 2015. There will still be marsh crust, and all of the polyaeromatic hydrocarbons that are scattered over the base. Alameda Point is a Super Fund site. Children will be playing not just in the houses, but all over the site.
For every housing unit over the original plan, the Navy expects the purchaser of the property to pay a surcharge because the Navy expects us to provide jobs for the ones that were lost.
Mayor Johnson had "Protect Measure A" on her lawn signs. The majority of her election gives a good idea of what people in Alameda think about Measure A. This fact negates the claim by the Planning Director in the 3/26/07 packet that their was support from community members.
The only valid forum on Measure A is a vote of the people. That was the original forum. The thirty or so people who want to overturn Measure A can always go out and get the signatures to put it on the ballot. That they have not tells you that here is almost no support for overturning Measure A. The Planning Board majority is deliberately trying to override the wishes of the people of Alameda. That is not their job. The claim in the staff report is that the formation of an ad hoc committee was due to a significant community desire is simply not true.
The ad-hoc committee meetings will be secret. Bad government. If the Planning Board wants to have discussions on Measure A, then they should do it in an open meeting where it is televised. Every resident of Alameda is aggrieved by bad government.
Every one at the Planning Board meeting on March 26th knew that the plan was to pressure the City Council into putting the repeal of Measure A on the ballot in which case it would have a better chance to pass than if it were initiated by a few activists.
SUMMARY: The formation of the ad hoc committee was not within the authority of the Planning Board, and it was based on the quicksand of untruths.
Attachment: Planning Director's Packet for Item 9-C
The Honorable Lil Arnerich, Former Vice Mayor
Diane Coler-Dark, Former Economic Development Commissioner
The Honorable Barbara Kerr, Former City Councilmember, Former Chair of the Housing Element Committee
Jean Sweeney, Former Member of the North Waterfront Specific Plan Committee
James Sweeney, Esq., Former Member of the Economic Strategic Plan Committee
The Honorable Barbara Thomas, Former Vice Mayor
AGENDA ITEM 9-C
MARCH 26, 2007 PLANNING BOARD MEETING
To: President Lynch and Members of the Planning Board
From: Cathy Woodbury, Planning and Building Director
Re: Appointment of and Ad Hoc committee to work with the Planning and Building Director on a Housing/Measure A Workshop.
Over the course of the last year the Planning board considered site plans, architectural designs and other entitlements for several mixed-use and residential developments which prompted questions about how these projects might be developed differently in the absence of Measure A (City Charter 26) restrictions. As a result the board and community members expressed a strong desire for a public forum regarding the land use implications of Measure A in today's environment.
The recently initiated planning effort to develop a Station Area Plan for Alameda Point includes a public work shop on March 29, 2007 to discuss land use and transportation alternatives including site plans and designs for housing types that are both Measure A compliant and and those that are not in conformance with measure A. This workshop will lay the foundation for a subsequent community forum to discuss the implications of Measure A on housing throughout Alameda. In light of Alameda's responsibility to update the Housing Element by June 2008, the forum will also provide an opportunity to evaluate the accomplishments of the previous element, identify current needs, resources and constraints, and to assist in the development of community goals, policies, and actions.
It would be beneficial to have 2-3 Planning Board members assist staff in developing the workshop forum and framing housing/Measure A discussion to ensure that it addresses the Board's and community's questions.
Appoint an Ad Hoc Committee of up to 3 Planning Board Members to work with the Planning and Building director on a Housing/Measure A Workshop.
Alameda Planning Board
Meeting of March 12, 2007
ABAG Association of Bay Area Governments
APAC New name for the Base Reuse Advisory Group (BRAG)
APCP Alameda Point Community Partners, the Master Developer for Alameda Point
APD Alameda Police Department
ARRA Alameda Reuse and Redevelopment Authority
AUSD Alameda Unified School District.
BWIP Business and Waterfront Improvement Project (redevelopment area, business districts, north waterfront)
CERT Community Emergency Response Team
CIC Community Improvement Commission (Alameda's redevelopment agency)
CAA Conditional Acquisition Agreement
DDA Design and Development Agreement
DTSC State Department of Toxic Substances
EBMUD East Bay Municipal Utilities District.
EDAB Economic Development Alliance for Business (an alliance of East Bay business interests)
EIR Environmental Impact Report
ENA Exclusive Negotiating Agreement
HAB Historical Advisory Board
HUD Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development
MTC Metropolitan Transportation Commission
NCPA Northern California Power Association
PUB Public Utilities Board
RAB Restoration Advisory Board (Toxic Clean Up)
RWQCB Regional Water Quality Control Board
TTT Traffic Technical Team
VIP Volunteers in Policing
WABA West Alameda Business Association
WECIP West End Community Improvement Project (redevelopment area commonly known as marina Village)