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File #: 2016-3303   
Type: Regular Agenda Item
Body: Planning Board
On agenda: 9/12/2016
Title: Recommend that the City Council Approve the City of Alameda Housing Element Annual Report and Implementation Priorities. Approval of an annual report is not subject to review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), nor is an annual report defined as a "project" under CEQA. No future review is required.
Attachments: 1. Exhibit 1 - Annual Report, 2. Exhibit 2 - July 19, 2016 Draft Universal Design Ordinance



Recommend that the City Council Approve the City of Alameda Housing Element Annual Report and Implementation Priorities. Approval of an annual report is not subject to review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), nor is an annual report defined as a “project” under CEQA.  No future review is required.





To:                                          Honorable President and

                                          Members of the Planning Board                     

From:            Andrew Thomas

                                         Assistant Community Development Director



Per Government Code § 65300 et seq., every city and county in California is required to maintain a General Plan.  The statute requires that each city and county in California address issues that are of State-wide importance in the General Plan, and the State has determined that:

                     Provision of housing for all segments of California society is a matter of statewide importance;

                     Availability of an adequate supply of housing affordable to all segments of society is critical to the State's long-term economic competitiveness and quality of life; and

                     Local zoning provisions play an important role in the State’s ability to provide housing.

The City of Alameda should also be ensuring that Alameda’s planning and development policies and regulations provide for the full range and diversity of housing types needed to accommodate California's diverse population, including seniors, families with disabilities, and lower income households.   

In July of 2014, the City Council adopted an updated Housing Element for the period 2015-2023 consistent with the requirements of the State of California Government Code § 65300 et seq.   The 2015 Housing Element and State Government Code require that the City report annually to the State of California, on forms provided by the State, on the City’s annual progress on Housing Element implementation.  The required 2015 annual report has been completed and is attached as Exhibit 1.

Further, the 2015 Housing Element includes Program 1.1, which requires an annual public hearing by the Planning Board to consider the annual report to the State and

“...consider improvements to the development review process and requirements to ensure that processes and requirements do not create unnecessary costs or delays and increase the cost of housing in Alameda....“

Based upon the annual review, the Planning Board may recommend to the City Council any changes to the City’s development regulations necessary to support Housing Element implementation.


Based on staff’s annual review of housing development in Alameda, staff finds that: 

                     The City of Alameda is producing a diversity of housing types to meet its Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA), including multifamily housing, senior housing, universally designed units, and housing for lower income households; and

                     The City’s regulatory policies and ordinances and project review processes are not causing any undue constraint on housing development in Alameda, nor are they constraining housing development for any particular segment of the community.

The following sections describe the current housing being developed and a brief assessment of each of the major ordinances that govern housing development in Alameda.  

Housing Construction Forecast:  2015-2023:    

As the result of a robust regional housing market, strong Alameda community support for new housing opportunities to meet Alameda’s diverse housing needs, and the  zoning amendments completed by the City in 2010 (Density Bonus Ordinance) and 2012 (site specific re-zonings and Multi-family Overlay Ordinance) to bring the City of Alameda zoning regulations into conformance with State Law, the City of Alameda’s regulatory structure and development review process is producing a variety of new housing units.  If the existing economic conditions continue over the eight-year planning period, the City will exceed its eight-year RHNA of 1,725 for the 2015-2023 period.

Table 1: Housing Pipeline 2015-2023












Projects Approved, Completed, or Under Construction

Cardinal Point II: (Multi-family Senior Housing)











Alameda Landing (194 multi-family units and 91 single-family units)











Marina Shores (39 multi-family units and 50 single family units.











Del Monte (360 and 20 senior units.)











2437 Eagle Ave (21 multi-family units)











Alameda Point Site A (800 multi-family units)











Boatworks (multifamily and single family)











1435 Webster Street (multifamily units)











2100 Clement (52 multi-family units.)























In addition to the housing pipeline projects described above in Table 1, which are completed, under construction or already approved, the City has received applications for three other major projects:

Alameda Landing Waterfront.  The City has received a preliminary application from the Catellus Development Company to change the plan for the Alameda Landing Waterfront.  The Alameda Landing Master Plan calls for an 8 acre park, 400,000 square feet of office, and approximately 10,000 square feet of ground floor retail.  Catellus would like permission to change the plan and construct an 8 acre park, 375 housing units, a hotel, and approximately 10,000 square feet of ground floor retail.  They are also exploring possibilities to retain Starlight Marines four tug boats at the site.  An environmental assessment of the proposed project is underway. An Environmental Impact Report (EIR) was prepared in 2006 for the original plan.  

Encinal Terminals:  The City has received an application for a Master Plan and Density Bonus for a residential mixed use development on the Encinal Terminals site north of the Del Monte Building.  The application proposes 589 housing units 160 boat slips, and approximately 50,000 square feet of non-residential uses.  An (EIR) is being prepared.

Alameda Marina: The City has received an application for a Master Plan for a residential mixed use development on the Alameda Marina site on Clement Avenue.  The application proposes 610 housing units, which would include 152 affordable senior units (25% of the total). The applicant is not requesting a density bonus.  The plan also includes between 100,000 and 160,000 square feet of maritime commercial uses and 550 boat slips. An EIR is being prepared for the project.

All three proposals are currently being evaluated by the City for consistency with the City’s General Plan and Zoning Ordinance, and any existing entitlements.

Design Review Ordinance

The Housing Element includes programs and policies (Program 1.3 and 3.1) that emphasize the need to expedite the development review process for projects that include affordable housing and special needs housing.   Prioritizing and expediting the design review process for projects with affordable housing should continue to be prioritized. 

In 2015, the Planning Board approved the final designs for the Eagle affordable housing project and the 2100 Clement Avenue project with nine affordable housing units.  In both cases the Planning Board processed the design review applications without causing unnecessary delays for the development process.

Universal Design Ordinance

Housing Element Program 4.2 establishes the need for a Universal Ordinance to better serve the City’s senior population, residents that wish to "age in place", and the 16% of Alameda families that report living with a family member with a disability.

Earlier this month, staff released a “preliminary draft Universal Design Ordinance” (See Exhibit 2) to a subcommittee of the Planning Board and Commission on Disability Issues.  Formal hearings on the draft ordinance before the Planning Board are expected this fall, with final Council consideration in the end of 2016. The draft ordinance, once adopted, will replace and streamline the current efforts to negotiate project specific universal design requirements on a project-by-project basis, which has been relatively successful since 2012.

On August 31, 2016, staff met with the Planning Board/Commission on Disability Commission Joint Subcommittee to review the Preliminary Draft Ordinance.  From staff’s perspective, the comments received were very helpful, and staff is working on a revised draft Ordinance for review by the Joint Subcommittee in mid to late September.  Staff believes the Joint Subcommittee will be able to make a final recommendation to the Planning Board in late October or early November 2016.  If all goes well, the Planning Board will be able to put the City Council in position to consider the Universal Design ordinance in December 2016 or January 2017.

Inclusionary Housing Ordinance

Although not required by State law, the City of Alameda adopted an Inclusionary Housing Ordinance in 2003, which requires that 15% of all units in projects of 10 or more units must be deed restricted for very low (4%), low (4%) and moderate (7%) income households. Projects with between five and nine units can pay an in-lieu fee instead of providing affordable units. 

As the result of the Inclusionary Housing Ordinance, the Density Bonus Ordinance (described below), and the City Council-imposed 25% inclusionary housing requirements for  City-owned land at Alameda Point, the projects in Table 1 above will result in 370 deed-restricted housing units for very low-, low-, and moderate-income units.

The State of California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) considers inclusionary zoning regulations to be a "constraint" on housing production because it places a financial burden on the for-profit housing development community, which provides the majority of the new housing in California.   As a result, HCD requires that the City of Alameda annually review its ordinance to ensure that it is not constraining housing development.  Given that the City is actively producing housing to exceed its RHNA obligation of 1,725 units, staff finds that the Inclusionary Housing Ordinance has not been a constraint on housing development in Alameda.

Over the last year, a number of residents have suggested that the City should amend its ordinance to either increase the number of affordable housing units required in each development and/or add a new requirement for “work force” housing, that might include housing for household making between 120% and 150% of the area wide median income.  Others have suggested that a more comprehensive update is needed to re-evaluate and potentially increase the 15% requirement.

The City’s current inclusionary requirement for 4% very low, 4% low and 7% moderate-income units ensures that each project does not automatically qualify for affordable housing density bonus and development standard waivers under the Density Bonus Ordinance.   If a developer volunteers to provide, or the City requires 5% very low income, 10% low-income, or 10% moderate-income units, the City must provide the developer with specific density bonuses and waivers from City of Alameda development standards (e.g. height limits, open space requirements, etc.).

Over the last four years that the Density Bonus Ordinance has been in place, most developers in Alameda who have requested density bonuses and/or waivers, have chosen to increase their very low-income housing requirement by 1% to 5%, which qualifies them for a 20% density bonus.  Therefore, the number of affordable units is increased by 1%, the project size increases by 20% and the overall percentage of affordable units in the project ends up being somewhere around 13%.

A new “workforce” requirement could be added to the Inclusionary Ordinance, which would increase the City’s requirements over the existing 15% deed restricted units, without changing the relationships between the Inclusionary Ordinance and the Density Bonus ordinance. (The new workforce requirements would not “trigger” density bonuses.) Additionally, the City could discuss changing the existing 15% requirement to change the relationship between the Inclusionary Ordinance and the Density Bonus Ordinance.  Different ratio requirements could result in fewer or more density bonus applications or change the size of density bonuses granted. 

Any future discussions about future amendments will also need to consider the following factors:

                     Since the market rate units in the project subsidize the costs of the affordable units, an increase in the cost of housing development may result in higher housing costs for the non-deed restricted units in each development.


                     Increasing the inclusionary housing requirement could increase the cost of housing development such that it serves to reduce the private sector’s ability to produce housing, which could result in less market-rate and less affordable housing being constructed.


                     The ordinance might be amended to allow more flexibility for senior affordable housing or more flexibility for creative partnerships with the Alameda Housing Authority.


                     Any future amendments might consider new standards related to home ownership and rental housing for low income households.

Initiating a public discussion of the Inclusionary Housing Ordinance, and then processing the necessary amendments through the public process will require a substantial commitment of city staff and City Planning Board, community, and City Council time and resources.  If the Planning Board or City Council believes that the City should initiate this effort, staff would recommend that the Planning Board and City Council complete the current effort to adopt the Universal Design Ordinance first before starting the Inclusionary update.  To start the inclusionary update at this time, will result in further delay to the current efforts to complete the Universal Design Ordinance and other existing City initiatives.

Secondary Unit Ordinance

Housing Element Program 4.1 establishes the need to support secondary units for small households and seniors.  Sometimes referred to as "in-law units" or "granny flats", these  small one-bedroom or studio units built on properties that are already occupied by a single-family home in an existing neighborhood provide an excellent way for a community to add small, affordable units that are attractive to young residents, seniors, and/or residents with a disability.

In 2015, the City of Alameda did not add any secondary units to the housing stock.

In 2016, the City Council held a public hearing to review a series of 2015 Planning Board- recommended changes to the City ordinance to facilitate secondary units. The Council requested that staff consider a number of additional changes and return at a future date for final Council consideration of the ordinance.   Meanwhile, a number of significant changes to the State of California regulations regarding secondary units are under active consideration by the State Legislature, which would impact the City of Alameda’s ordinance.  For that reason, staff has chosen to allow time for the State Legislature to complete its deliberations before making any final recommendations to the Planning Board or City Council for changes to the local ordinance.

Density Bonus Ordinance

In 1979, the State legislature enacted the Density Bonus Law, (Government Code Sections 65915-65918) to address the shortage of affordable housing in California.  The statute requires that when a developer offers to construct a certain percentage of the units in a housing development for low- or very low-income households, the city must, upon request of the developer, grant the developer one or more of the following:

                     A density bonus to help cover the costs of the affordable units.  State law specifies exactly how many additional units must be provided.

                     Incentives and/or concessions from City standards to help cover the costs of the affordable housing.

                     Waivers from city’s development standards, such as the AMC Section 30-53 Prohibition on Multifamily Housing, to enable the project to physically fit on the property.

In 2010, in compliance with State law, the City adopted Section 30-17 Density Bonus Ordinance. The provisions of the City's Density Bonus Ordinance are largely dictated by State law; therefore, the City is not able to fundamentally change any of the basic requirements.

To improve public understanding and implementation of the local ordinance, the Planning Board recommended, and the City Council adopted, a series of amendments to the ordinance in June 2015, related to the application submittal requirements.

At this time, staff does not have any suggested changes to the ordinance.  

Parking Ordinance

Residential parking requirements for housing projects with five or more units continues to be a source of much debate and discussion for each project.  The public review of each project must ensure that:

                     The project does not provide too much parking, which increased development costs and encourages automobile ownership, use and traffic.

                     The project provides enough parking for its residents so that the adjacent neighbors will not be impacted by the project.  

Although these discussions have been difficult, and occasionally not everyone agrees with the final decision, these decisions have not been constrained or unreasonably restricted by the Parking Ordinance, because the Parking Ordinance allows the Planning Board and City Council to customize the parking plan for each project.

At this time, staff does not have any suggestions for improving the parking ordinance.  


Staff finds that the City is producing new housing consistent with its State of California RHNA obligations.  Although the City is making progress to address housing needs, the City's regulatory framework governing housing development can continue to be improved to facilitate high quality, diverse, housing for the Alameda community.  The implementation priorities for the next year should be:

                     Continue to expedite the review of projects that include affordable housing, including Encinal Terminals and Alameda Marina,

                     If application is submitted, decide whether to pursue a new residential mixed use development plan for the Alameda Landing project, and

                     Complete the Universal Design Ordinance.


Approval of an annual report is not subject to review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), nor is an annual report defined as a “project” under CEQA.  No future review is required. 


Recommend that the City Council approve the City of Alameda Housing Element Annual Report and Implementation Priorities.


Respectfully Submitted By:


Andrew Thomas, Assistant Community Development Director



1.                     Annual Report

2.                     July 19, 2016 Draft Universal Design Ordinance