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File #: 2021-666   
Type: Regular Agenda Item
Body: Planning Board
On agenda: 2/22/2021
Title: PLN21-0009 - Zoning Text Amendments - Citywide - Applicant: City of Alameda. Public Hearing to Consider Recommending City Council Adoption of an Ordinance Amending Alameda Municipal Code Chapter 30 (Development Regulations) to Streamline Residential Open Space Requirements and Remove Utility Requirements for Multiple Houses (Condominiums). The proposed zoning text amendments are exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) pursuant to CEQA Guidelines Section 15061(b)(3), where it can be seen with certainty that the proposed text amendments will not have a significant effect on the environment, and 15183, projects consistent with a community plan, General Plan or zoning.
Attachments: 1. Exhibit 1 Draft Ordinance

Title

 

PLN21-0009 - Zoning Text Amendments - Citywide - Applicant: City of Alameda.  Public Hearing to Consider Recommending City Council Adoption of an Ordinance Amending Alameda Municipal Code Chapter 30 (Development Regulations) to Streamline Residential Open Space Requirements and Remove Utility Requirements for Multiple Houses (Condominiums).  The proposed zoning text amendments are exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) pursuant to CEQA Guidelines Section 15061(b)(3), where it can be seen with certainty that the proposed text amendments will not have a significant effect on the environment, and 15183, projects consistent with a community plan, General Plan or zoning. 

 

Body

 

To: Honorable President and Members of the Planning Board

 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

 

In recent years, the City Council, Planning Board, and staff have been working to streamline entitlement processes and remove constraints to residential development. The work program to eliminate unnecessary governmental barriers to housing production is also prescribed in the Housing Element and State Housing Law.

 

Staff is currently proposing for Planning Board and public consideration a set of zoning amendments to simplify the residential open space standards, in particular, eliminating the separate requirements for private and common open space as well as eliminating prescriptive requirements on open space configuration. The amendments do not change the total amount of open space required.   Separately, staff is also proposing amendments to remove regulations that mandate certain amounts of storage area, utility and in-unit laundry facilities for Multiple Houses (condominiums).  The proposed amendments are intended to streamline regulations and reduce cost for housing development in Alameda.  

 

BACKGROUND:

 

Residential Open Space Regulations

 

AMC Section 30-5.12 establishes residential open space requirements.  The requirements prescribe total open space based on the number of housing units, including a minimum amount of private open space (private patio or balcony) per unit, and a minimum amount of common (shared) open space for the residents within a residential development.  The requirements also prescribe minimum dimensions, eligible locations, and configuration requirements.  For example, the rules prohibit yard areas along side and rear property lines to be counted as private open space.  An example of a location and configuration requirement would be that private open space in a front yard must have a minimum dimension of 10 feet in one direction but cannot extend across half the width of the building or half the depth of the front yard.

Staff and housing developers have found the open space requirements confusing and not conducive to design creativity that may yield better open space options. The prescriptive requirements generally dictate building designs with balconies on upper floors and fenced-in patios on the ground floor.  In 2018, the Alameda Housing Authority argued, as part of its Rosefield Village affordable housing development that the increased cost of providing balconies for every upper level unit would require reducing costs elsewhere, including reducing the number of units in the project.  Moreover, mandating private open space for every unit would come at the expense of reducing common amenities and other outdoor programming space that might otherwise better serve the needs of the residents.

DISCUSSION

Proposed Amendment

Staff’s recommended approach is to require total usable open space (e.g., 300 square feet per unit) and allow a property owner to provide that open space as either common or private open space, or a mix that best suits the development.  This would give applicants the flexibility to design and distribute private and common open space amenities based on individual project needs. The draft ordinance maintains the existing minimum standards for different types of space (e.g., any outdoor open space must have a dimension of 8 feet wide to be counted as usable open space).

Under the draft ordinance, a 100-unit building with an open space requirement of 300 square feet per unit can have 100 balconies which add up to 30,000 feet, or it can have a 30,000 square foot common open yard area. Alternatively, the same project can have 50 balconies that add up to 15,000 square feet and a 15,000 square foot yard area, or a different mix of common and private open space, as long as the total area of open space adds up to 30,000 square feet.

Staff also recommends that the AMC be amended to authorize the Planning Board to accept offsite open space in lieu of onsite open space, as currently allowed only in the North Park Street District, as follows: 

“The Planning Board may consider provision of off-site open space in lieu of onsite open space provided that the Planning Board is able to find that the off-site open space: 1) will be provided concurrent with the development, 2) is located within a two (2) block radius of the residential development; and 3) will benefit a greater number of people than open space provided on site.”

This provision allows the Planning Board to approve projects that contribute toward an offsite open space solution, such as a City park or other public amenities within a two block distance.  This provision currently exists in the North Park Street District zoning regulations, and staff proposes inserting the same text into the residential open space section in AMC 30-5.12.

 

Multiple House Utility Requirements

A 1975 ordinance established utility requirements for multi-family residential development under Section 30-5.13 Multiple Houses.  Specifically, this section requires multiple houses (condominiums) to provide:

                     Separate utility meters with individual shut-off values for all utilities for each unit (excluding water);

                     Space and connections for laundry facilities in every unit;

                     At least 100 square feet of enclosed, weatherproof, lockable storage space for each unit, not counting cabinets, pantries and closets. 

In addition to these utility requirements, this section requires every condominium association to register a point of contact with the Building Official to be contacted should there be code violations.  Furthermore, changes to the point of contact must be reported to the City within 10 days.  It is staff’s knowledge that these provisions have not been enforced within the past 20 years.

The section is problematic for the following reasons. First, the California Building Code provides standards for utility metering, and addressing such matter in the zoning code creates conflict and unnecessary redundancy.  Second, staff believes the provision of laundry and onsite storage facilities, whether in-unit or in a common area, should be a decision by the property owner and developer based on project design, tenant needs, and market demand.  Specific requirements related to in-unit amenities are a classic example of a governmental constraint that adds cost to housing production.  Lastly, certain multifamily residential development projects in Alameda qualify for waivers and incentives or concessions under State density bonus law and the City’s density bonus ordinance, and frequently request reductions or waivers of such development standards.  Therefore, staff recommends removing Section 30-5.13 Multiple Houses in its entirety.

ALTERNATIVES

 

The Planning Board may:

 

                     Recommend the City Council adopt the Draft Ordinance.

 

                     Recommend the ordinance with modifications.

 

                     Not recommend City Council adoption of the ordinance, thereby maintaining the existing private and common open space requirements for residential development projects and utility requirements in Section 30-5.12 Multiple Houses.

 

FINANCIAL IMPACT

 

The proposed amendment would not result in a negative financial impact on the General Fund.  

 

MUNICIPAL CODE/POLICY DOCUMENT CROSS REFERENCE

 

The analysis provided above describes the municipal code and policy context for the recommendation. 

 

ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEW

 

Adoption of this ordinance is exempt from environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act pursuant to CEQA Guidelines Sections 15061(b)(3), the general rule that CEQA applies only to projects which have the potential for causing a significant effect on the environment, and 15183, projects consistent with a community plan, general plan, or zoning, each as a separate and independent basis.

 

CLIMATE IMPACTS

 

The proposed change would not have any significant or measurable implications for the City’s Climate protection and greenhouse gas reduction goals.    

 

RECOMMENDATION

 

Hold a public hearing and recommend by motion the City Council adopt the draft ordinance (Exhibit 1).

 

 

Respectfully submitted,

Andrew Thomas, Planning Building and Transportation Director

 

By,

Allen Tai, City Planner

 

Exhibit: 

1.                     Draft Ordinance