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File #: 2021-1419   
Type: Regular Agenda Item
Body: Planning Board
On agenda: 10/25/2021
Title: A Public Workshop to Review and Comment on the Draft Housing Element Update to accommodate the Regional Housing Needs Allocation for the Period 2023-2031 in Compliance with State Law
Attachments: 1. Exhibit 1 October Draft Housing Element, 2. Exhibit 2 July 6, 2021 City Council Report, 3. Item 7-B Public Comments as of October 26, 2021



A Public Workshop to Review and Comment on the Draft Housing Element Update to accommodate the Regional Housing Needs Allocation for the Period 2023-2031 in Compliance with State Law




To:                     Honorable President and

Members of the Planning Board


From:                     Andrew Thomas, Planning, Building and Transportation Director




The Housing Element workshop provides an opportunity for the Planning Board and community members to review, comment and ask questions about the October 2021 draft Housing Element update. 

The draft Housing Element update is attached as Exhibit 1 and is designed to meet state law requirements.   The draft Element was originally posted on the City website in June and has undergone several revisions since then based upon public comments and recommendations from the City’s planning consultants.  This “October Draft” Element benefited from several meetings with the Planning Board subcommittee, which has been meeting to discuss policy issues related to the Housing Element.   

No final action is required at this time.  Staff is requesting Planning Board and community comments on the October Draft.    Staff and the Planning Board subcommittee will then use this feedback and direction for the preparation of the next draft of the document.  The feedback will also inform a City Council workshop scheduled for November 16, 2021.  



The purpose of the workshop is to inform the Alameda community about the City’s responsibilities to address the Regional Housing Needs Allocation for the period 2023-2031 and address state requirements to affirmatively further fair housing requirements.  The workshop provides an opportunity for the community to review and comment on the draft Housing Element update, which is designed to comply with state law.  Staff plans to continue to improve the draft Element with the help of the community, the Planning Board, and the Planning Board Subcommittee over the next three months, at which time staff plans to send a “February 2022” version to the Department of Housing and Community Development for review and comment. 

To inform the public workshop, staff has prepared responses to a number of frequently asked questions. 



Can the City Council simply refuse to update the Housing Element?  

No.  State law requires that the City Council adopt a Housing Element update for the period 2023-2031 that meets the requirements of state law.  (See Gov. Code, § 65580 et seq.)  If the City Council does not adopt a Housing Element update that complies with state law, the City could face litigation or enforcement action brought against the City.  As described in more detail in the July 6, 2021 City Council Staff Report (Exhibit 2), if the City fails to adopt a compliant Housing Element, the City could be subject to litigation costs, fines, loss of State funding sources for open space, transportation, and affordable housing, and potentially loss of local land use control. 

What is the RHNA?

The Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) is the State of California required process that seeks to ensure that all cities and counties are planning for enough housing to accommodate all economic segments of the community. The State assigns each region in California a region wide housing target that is distributed to jurisdictions through a methodology prepared by the regional councils of government.  For the 2023-2031 RHNA cycle, the State issued an allocation of 441,176 housing units for the 101 cities and counties in the San Francisco Bay Area region.

State law requires the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) to develop a methodology for distributing the Bay Area’s allocation of the state housing needs to local governments within the nine-county region that is consistent with State requirements and the regional Sustainable Communities Strategy.  The ABAG methodology is a formula designed to support a pattern of housing growth for the Bay Area that meets the needs of all Bay Area residents and:

                     Increase housing supply and mix of housing types, tenure and affordability in all cities and counties in an equitable manner; 

                     Promote infill development and socioeconomic equity, protect environmental and agricultural resources, encourage efficient development patterns and achieve greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets;

                     Promote improved intraregional jobs-housing relationship, including balance between low wage jobs and affordable housing; 

                     Balance disproportionate household income distributions; and

                     Affirmatively further fair housing.

Can the City’s RHNA be reduced? 

On July 6, 2021, the City Council directed staff to file an appeal to reduce the City’s RHNA.  The City’s appeal was considered by the ABAG Executive Committee at a public hearing on September 24, 2021, and at the conclusion of the hearing, the appeal was denied.     At this time, Alameda must assume that its RHNA for the period 2023-2031 is 5,353 units.  If ABAG approves any reductions for any other cities during the appeals process, ABAG will apply a proportional distribution to all Bay Area jurisdictions, which will result in an increase to Alameda’s RHNA allocation.

Can Alameda accommodate a RHNA of 5,353 units?

Yes.  As described in Chapter 2 of the draft Housing Element, Alameda does have enough land to accommodate 5,353 units, but it will require that the City Council revise a number of local zoning regulations that are currently preventing housing from being built on that land.  The draft Housing Element describes and identifies certain zoning regulations and entitlements that need to be removed or modified.  In summary, the draft Housing Element accommodates the RHNA as follows: 

Approved Projects                                             1,400

Alameda Point                                                                 1,282

Encinal Terminals                                                                   589

Shopping Center Districts                                          1,000

Residential Districts                                              500

Accessory Dwelling Units.                           480

Park Street and Webster Street                           200

Total                                                                                                          5,451

RHNA                                                                                                         5,353


What does it mean to “affirmatively further fair housing”? 

State law requires that all cities ensure that their laws, programs and activities affirmatively further fair housing.  (Gov. Code, § 65583(c)(5).)  The phrase “affirmatively furthering fair housing” means “taking meaningful actions, in addition to combating discrimination, that overcome patterns of segregation and foster inclusive communities free from barriers that restrict access to opportunity based on protected characteristics.”  (Gov. Code, § 65584(e).)  Meaningful actions include actions that will promote fair housing opportunities for low- and moderate- income tenants and tenants of affordable housing, including subsidized housing.

The Housing Element must contain an assessment of fair housing, and the Housing Element land inventory and identification of sites must be consistent with a jurisdiction’s duty to affirmatively further fair housing.  (Gov. Code, §§ 65583(c)(10)(A), 65583.2.)  A program to affirmatively further fair housing must include meaningful actions that, taken together, address significant disparities in housing needs and in access to opportunity for all groups by replacing segregated living patterns with integrated and balanced living patterns; transforming racially and ethnically concentrated areas of poverty into areas of opportunity (without displacement); and fostering and maintaining compliance with civil rights and fair housing laws.

Does the citywide prohibition on multifamily housing and the citywide prohibition on residential densities above one unit per 2,000 square feet of land affirmatively further fair housing? 

No, it does not, because it creates barriers to families that can only afford multifamily housing with less land costs.  Housing and land costs in Alameda and the Bay Area are extremely high.  Many families can only afford to rent or purchase a home in a multifamily building, because these homes are less expensive than single family homes.  They are less expensive because each unit requires less land.  The City’s voter approved prohibition of multifamily housing and density limitation serves as a barrier to fair housing opportunities for certain economic segments of the community. 

In a 2009 letter to the City of Alameda, the State Department of Housing and Community Development stated:  

“Prohibiting multifamily or limiting density is a fundamental constraint with significant impacts on the cost and supply of housing and particularly a variety of housing types. In addition, Measure A severely restricts promoting higher density housing and mixed-use development near jobs and transit to maximize land resources and address climate change.  


“Pursuant to Government Code Sections 65583.2 and 65583(c), the City is required to make zoning available to encourage and facilitate multifamily development and address and remove constraints. As a result, the element must include programs to address and remove or modify the constraint, including making zoning available to allow multifamily housing.”


Government Code sections 65583.2 and 65583(c) provide that all cities in California must make zoning available for all types of housing, including multifamily housing.  Alameda City Charter Article 26 prohibits construction of multifamily housing.

Government Code section 65583.2 provides that the Housing Element and the City’s zoning must support housing for all income levels in its RHNA, and that residential densities under 30 units per acre do not support construction of housing for lower income households.  Alameda City Charter Article 26 prohibits residential densities above 21 units per acre.

If the U.S. Navy were to waive the fee on additional market rate housing at Alameda Point, could the Housing Element place all 5,353 units at Alameda Point?

No.  Fair housing requirements provide that the City affirmatively further fair housing by taking meaningful actions that overcome patterns of segregation and foster inclusive communities free from barriers that restrict access to opportunity.  Historically, the more wealthy people in Alameda have lived on the east side of Alameda, and the less wealthy people live on the west side.  In addition, the better schools, parks, and services (access to “opportunities”) are located on the east side of Alameda.  This pattern of economic segregation continues today in Alameda.  Therefore, to affirmatively further fair housing, the City must distribute its RHNA across all neighborhoods in Alameda and not place its entire RHNA in West Alameda. 

Is Harbor Bay included in this Housing Element? 

Yes, as described in Chapter 2 of the draft Housing Element, City staff proposes changes to the R-1, R-2, and C-2 zoning provisions to encourage and facilitate infill housing in existing neighborhoods and centers.  Harbor Bay neighborhoods are zoned R-1 and R-2 and the Harbor Bay shopping center is zoned C-2. The October draft Housing Element does not rely on new housing at the Harbor Bay Club; however, the site zoning currently conditionally permits residential use above ground floor commercial uses.   

Can the City Council adopt the Housing Element on a 3-2 vote?

Yes, the City Council can adopt the Housing Element update with a 3-2 vote, however, the Housing Element update (Exhibit 1) relies on the City Council’s approval of entitlements for housing at Alameda Point (1,282 residential units) and Encinal Terminals (589 residential units).  Both of these projects require a supermajority, or at least 4 votes, to be approved.  If one or both of these projects is not approved, the next draft of the Housing Element will need to move up to 1,871 of the required 5,353 residential units into existing developed areas of the City.  Therefore, City staff intends to bring the Encinal Terminals and Alameda Point entitlements for consideration by the City Council in the near future. 

What are the next steps in the Housing Element update process?

November 16, 2021 - City Council workshop to review and comment on October draft Housing Element.

December 2021 - Staff releases December draft and Planning Board reviews and comments on December draft Housing Element and initial zoning amendments.

January 2022 - City Council takes action on Encinal Terminals entitlements.

January 2022 - Planning Board make recommendation on Alameda Point entitlements

February 2022 - City Council takes action on Alameda Point entitlements for Housing Element.

March 2022 - Staff releases March draft and Planning Board reviews and comments on March draft Housing Element and draft zoning amendments, then City sends March Draft Housing Element to State for initial review.

April/May 2022- Planning Board considers comments from State and makes necessary revisions.

Summer 2022 - Planning Board Public Hearings to make final recommendations on Housing Element and associated zoning amendments

Fall 2022 - City Council Public Hearings to make final decisions on Housing Element and associated zoning amendments.

State certifies Alameda Housing Element as compliant with State Law.



Reviewing and commenting on a draft Housing Element is not a project under Public Resources Code section 21065 and CEQA Guidelines section 15378.  Final adoption of the Housing Element will be subject to review under the California Environmental Quality Act.  



A Housing Element that accommodates the RHNA supports the region’s Sustainable Communities Strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  A decision by the City to not meet the RHNA would likely have a negative impact on the region’s ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.




That the Planning Board review and comment on October draft Housing Element (Exhibit 1.)


Respectfully submitted,

Andrew Thomas, Planning, Building and Transportation Director



1.                October Draft Housing Element

2.                      July 6, 2021 City Council Report