File #: 2022-1666   
Type: Regular Agenda Item
Body: Planning Board
On agenda: 1/24/2022
Title: A Public Workshop to Review and Comment on the Draft Housing Element Update Zoning Code Amendments Regarding Definitions and Regulations for Residential and Related Land Uses.
Attachments: 1. Exhibit 1 - Residential Uses – Proposed Regulations, 2. Exhibit 2 - Zoning Map, 3. Exhibit 3 - Proposed Amendments to Section 30-2, Definitions, 4. Item 7-B Public Comment



A Public Workshop to Review and Comment on the Draft Housing Element Update Zoning Code Amendments Regarding Definitions and Regulations for Residential and Related Land Uses.




To:                     Honorable President and Members of the Planning Board

From:  Andrew Thomas, Planning Director

Date:                     January 24, 2022



This workshop provides an opportunity for the Planning Board and community members to review and comment on proposed regulations for residential land uses. Staff is seeking input on where various types of housing should be permitted, conditionally permitted, and prohibited in Alameda.

The direction and input from this workshop will inform staff work on draft zoning amendments to the residential and mixed-use zoning districts necessary to accommodate the City of Alameda Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) and comply with State Housing Law.  The specific residential land uses to be discussed are: 

1.                     One-family, two-family, and multi-family dwellings

2.                     Shared living

3.                     Transitional and Supportive Housing

4.                     Residential care/assisted living

5.                     Low barrier navigation centers

6.                     Warming centers


Exhibit 1 is a table of proposed land use regulations, for discussion. The land uses/housing types are listed in each row, and Alameda’s zoning districts are listed in each column. Exhibit 2 shows the Zoning Map.  Exhibit 3 includes draft definitions for several residential and related land uses that are not currently defined or well defined in the Alameda Municipal Code (AMC). The draft definitions are written to reflect and be consistent with state law. 

No final action is required at this time. Staff is requesting Planning Board and community comments on land use regulations for various housing types.



The Draft Housing Element Update for the period 2023 - 2031 identifies changes to the zoning regulations needed to further fair housing and accommodate Alameda’s RHNA, as required by state law.  Several California laws mandate that local jurisdictions allow certain land uses in certain types of zoning districts. For example, there are state laws that govern the location of small residential care facilities, supportive and transitional housing, emergency shelters, and low-barrier navigation centers.  

As described in the Draft Housing Element update, staff anticipates the need to process amendments to the R-2 through R-6 zoning districts and the mixed-use zoning districts (C-1, C-2, and CC) to accommodate the RHNA and address fair housing requirements in state law.  Staff is also working on multi-family overlay districts that may be used in specific areas to accommodate the RHNA, such as the shopping center sites.   These amendments will accomplish two objectives:

                     Remove or lessen governmental constraints on housing development to increase production of housing in each district to help accommodate the RHNA.

                     Bring the AMC into compliance with state law, including fair housing law.

This workshop focuses on the second objective, ensuring that Alameda’s zoning regulations do not discriminate or exclude certain types of housing that are needed to address the housing needs of all segments of the community as required by Government Code Section 65583.  



This discussion focuses on residential types for which changes are recommended in order to comply with state law or implement the Draft Housing Element Update for the 2023 - 2031 cycle.  For each residential type, the discussion describes any relevant state laws, the existing code requirements, and staff’s recommended changes to the code to comply with state law or achieve General Plan objectives.    

One- Two- and Multi-family Dwellings   One-, two, and multi-family dwellings are all residential uses of property. They are distinguished by the number of dwelling units that are connected to each other within a building. The discussion of dwelling units in this context does not include Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU), because under state law ADUs are accessory uses and they are not to be counted towards density limits and other situations where the number of dwelling units matters.


Section 30-2 of the AMC includes the following definitions:


Dwelling, one-family shall mean a detached building designed and intended for occupancy by one (1) family, and containing not more than one (1) kitchen.


Dwelling, two-family shall mean a building containing two (2) kitchens, designed and/or used to house not more than two (2) families living independently of each other.


Dwelling, multi-family shall mean a building designed and/or used to house three (3) or more families, living independently of each other.


Section 30-2 defines “family” as "One or more persons, related or unrelated, such as a group of employees, living together in a dwelling unit, with common access to, and common use of all living, kitchen, and eating areas within the dwelling unit."


Section 30-53, Multiple Dwelling Units Prohibited, prohibits the issuance of a building permit or a land use entitlement for a multiple dwelling unit anywhere in Alameda.  (AMC § 30-53.2.)  Section 30-53 was adopted in 1973 after the voters passed Measure A.


Section 30-17, Density Bonus Ordinance (and State Density Bonus Law, Government Code Section 65915, et seq.) allows applicants to propose a waiver or reduction to development standards that physically preclude construction of a project with the permitted density bonus.     Every major residential development constructed in the last 15 years in Alameda have utilized the Density Bonus Ordinance  to waive the prohibition on multifamily housing and/or the 21 units per acre residential density limit established by Article 26 of the City Charter and Section 30-53.  


Section 30-4.23, Multi-family Residential Combining Zone (MF Overlay District), allows multi-family housing by right on designated sites, notwithstanding the multi-family prohibition in Section 30-53.


The R-1 through R-6 neighborhoods all include existing multi-family dwellings, but the AMC prohibits new multi-family dwellings in the R-1 through R-6 districts.


The mixed-use districts (C-1, C-2, and CC) all include existing multi-family housing, but the AMC prohibits new multi-family dwellings.  All of the housing on Park and Webster Streets is multi-family housing, and it was all constructed before the adoption of Measure A in 1973.  As a result of Measure A, no new multi-family housing has been built in the C-1, C-2 or CC districts since 1973. 


State Government Code Section 65583 requires that jurisdictions identify adequate sites to be made available through appropriate zoning and development standards “to affirmatively further fair housing and to facilitate and encourage the development of a variety of types of housing for all income levels, including multi-family rental housing, factory-built housing, mobilehomes, housing for agricultural employees, supportive housing, single-room occupancy units, emergency shelters, and transitional housing.”  (Gov. Code, § 65583(c)(1) [emphasis added].)


The Alameda 2040 General Plan also supports these housing types.  Policy LU-2 Complete Neighborhoods states: “Maintain complete, safe, healthy, and connected neighborhoods that support a mix of uses and meet the needs of residents of all ages, physical abilities, cultural backgrounds and incomes.”  Policy LU-2 Action f., Multi-family and Shared Housing, states, “Permit well-designed multi-family and shared housing opportunities, including co-housing, congregate housing, senior assisted living, single room occupancy housing, transitional housing, emergency warming shelters, and shelters for the homeless in all residential zoning districts and in all mixed-use zoning districts.” 


Staff Recommendation on One-Family and Multi-family Housing: In order to help Alameda meet its RHNA, comply with state law, and update the AMC to clarify internal contradictions and conflicts, staff recommends the following changes:


                     Permit multi-family dwellings by right in the R-2 through R-6 districts, as well as in the C-1, C-2, and CC districts.

                     Prohibit new one-family dwellings and townhomes in zones intended for higher-density, mixed-use residential development, such as the C-1, C-2, and CC districts and the MF Overlay District. 

                     Eliminate or significantly revise AMC Section 30-53, Multiple Dwelling Units Prohibited.


Shared Living.  “Shared living” refers to a housing configuration in which each unit typically does not have its own kitchen. Shared living includes boarding houses, single room occupancy (SRO) hotels, dormitories, and senior shared living.


Government Code Section 65583(c)(1) provides that a housing element must identify sites “to affirmatively further fair housing and to facilitate and encourage the development of a variety of types of housing for all income levels, including multi-family rental housing, factory-built housing, mobilehomes, housing for agricultural employees, supportive housing, single-room occupancy units, emergency shelters, and transitional housing.”  (Gov. Code, § 65583(c)(1) [emphasis added].) 


Currently, shared living is not permitted in the R-1 through R-4 districts. It is permitted by right in R-5, R-6, the NP-G subdistrict of North Park Street, and the MF Overlay District. In the C-1, C-2, and CC districts, shared living is conditionally permitted if located above the ground floor. Shared Living is not mentioned, and therefore not permitted, in the regulations of other districts. 

Staff Recommendation on Shared Living:   Staff recommends the following amendments to ensure greater conformance with Government Code Section 65583(c)(1):

                     Making minor adjustments to the definition in AMC section 30-2, as follows:

Shared living means a residential building, or portion thereof, other than a hotel, that provides private living quarters without private, independent kitchen facilities. A shared common kitchen and common activity area may be provided. Shared living also includes dormitories, rooming houses, and single room occupancy (SRO) units, which provide housing for very low-income persons that typically consist of a single room with access to a shared bath. Shared living may be restricted to seniors or be available to persons of all ages.

                     Permitting shared living in the R-1 through R-4 districts, the C-1, C-2, and CC districts, and the North Park Street subdistricts that permit residential uses.  In all cases, shared living would be subject to development regulations for other residential uses in the respective district.  

Supportive and Transitional Housing. Supportive housing and transitional housing are two different types of housing that are subject to the same state law on local zoning. Supportive housing is permanent rental housing that connects residents to on- or off-site supportive services. It is occupied by a “target population,” such as people recovering from addiction, living with HIV/AIDS, or aging out of foster care. Transitional housing is a type of housing used to facilitate the movement of people experiencing homelessness into permanent housing.  Transitional housing is temporary rental housing for people who were previously unhoused or are experiencing a crisis and is occupied for a period of six months or longer.


Government Code Section 65583(c)(3) requires that transitional housing and supportive housing be considered residential uses of property and subject only to those restrictions that apply to other residential dwellings of the same type in the same zone. Government Code Section 65651 requires that affordable housing projects that include supportive housing units and meet certain criteria be allowed by right in zones where multi-family and mixed uses are permitted, including in nonresidential zones permitting multi-family uses. To be eligible for by-right, ministerial approval, 100% of the units in a project must be affordable to lower income households, and at least 25% of the units (or 12 units, whichever is greater) must be dedicated to supportive housing.


The existing AMC definitions (AMC section 30-2) of these two uses are provided below, and mirror the definitions in state law:


Supportive housing means housing with no limit on length of stay, that is occupied by the target population and that is linked to onsite or offsite services that assist the supportive housing resident in retaining the housing, improving his or her health status, and maximizing his or her ability to live and, when possible, work in the community.

Transitional housing and transitional housing development mean rental housing operated under program requirements that call for the termination of assistance and recirculation of the assisted unit to another eligible program recipient at some predetermined future point in time, which shall be no less than six months.

The AMC currently permits supportive and transitional housing in the R-1 through R-6 districts and sites with the MF Overlay District. 

In the C-1 and C-2 Distrits, the AMC currently conditionally permits “any dwelling use permitted in the R Districts”, but neither district specifies whether supportive and transitional housing is considered a “dwelling use”.    The CC District allows “dwelling units” but it does not permit supportive and transitional housing. 

Staff Recommendation on Supportive and Transitional Housing: Staff recommends:

                     Explicitly naming and listing supportive and transitional housing as permitted uses in the C-1, C-2 and CC districts, as well as the North Park Street subdistricts that allow residential uses, subject to any limitations on ground-floor residential uses that apply in these districts. 


Residential Care/Assisted Living.   “Residential care” refers to housing that includes assistance with the tasks of daily living. The care is primarily nonmedical, which distinguishes it from skilled nursing and long-term care facilities. Residential care encompasses a range of facilities, including assisted living for seniors.


Health and Safety Code Section 1568.0831 states that a residential care facility serving six or fewer persons is considered a residential use of property and must be allowed by right wherever a family dwelling of the same type is permitted. State law does not prescribe local zoning for residential care serving seven or more residents.


Currently, AMC section 30-2 includes two overlapping definitions: 

Community care facility shall mean any facility, place or building which is maintained and operated to provide nonmedical residential care, including but not limited to family day care homes and residential care facilities.

Residential care facility shall mean a community care facility which provides care on a twenty-four (24) hour basis.

Currently, the AMC has no definition of “assisted living” for seniors.

Currently, residential care facilities for six or fewer people are permitted by right in the R-1 through R-6 districts, as required by Health and Safety Code Section 1568.0831.   All other types of “community care facilities” are conditionally permitted in the R-1 through R-4 districts. 

Currently, the C-1, C-2, and CC districts do not allow community or residential care facilities.

Staff Recommendation on Residential Care/Assisted Living:  Staff Recommends:

                     Deleting the definition of “community care facility”.

                     Improving the definition of residential care to reflect definitions in state law and include subclassifications for small, large, and senior residential care, as follows:

Residential care facility (per Health and Safety Code Section 1502(a)(1)) shall mean a community care facility licensed by the State of California to which provides care on a twenty-four (24) hour basis living accommodations and 24-hour care for persons requiring personal services, supervision, protection, or assistance with daily tasks. Amenities may include shared living quarters, with or without a private bathroom or kitchen facilities. This classification includes both for-profit and not-for-profit institutions but excludes Supportive Housing and Transitional Housing. Subclassifications include:

1.                     Residential Care, Small. A facility that is licensed by the State of California to provide care for six or fewer persons 18 years or older.

2.                     Residential Care, Large. A facility that is licensed by the State of California to provide care for more than six persons 18 years or older.

3.                     Residential Care, Senior (Assisted Living). A housing arrangement chosen voluntarily by the resident or by the resident’s guardian, conservator or other responsible person; where residents are 60 years of age or older; and where varying levels of care and supervision are provided as agreed to at the time of admission or as determined necessary at subsequent times of reappraisal. This classification includes continuing care retirement communities and life care communities licensed for residential care by the State of California.

                     Permitting Residential Care, Large and Residential Care, Senior in the R-6, C-1, C-2, CC districts, NP-MU, NP-R, and MF Overlay District.

                     Conditionally permitting Residential Care, Large and Residential Care, Senior in R-1 through R-5 districts, and North Park Street sub district NP-W.

Low Barrier Navigation Centers.  Low Barrier Navigation Center means a housing-first, low-barrier, service-enriched shelter focused on moving people into permanent housing that provides temporary living facilities while case managers connect individuals experiencing homelessness to income, public benefits, health services, shelter, and housing.  (Gov. Code, § 65660(a).) “Low barrier” means best practices to reduce barriers to entry.  To be defined as a “Low Barrier Navigation Center,” the facility must:

                     Be “Housing First” and have lowered barriers to entry such as allowing partners, allowing pets, providing places to store possessions, and creating privacy (with partitions around beds, private rooms, etc.);

                     Offer services to connect residents to permanent housing through a services plan that identifies staffing; and

                     Be connected to coordinated entry and client information systems.

Government Code Sections 65660 - 65668 require that low-barrier navigation centers be permitted by right in areas zoned for mixed-use, as well as in nonresidential zones that permit multi-family uses. Government Code 65662 states, “A Low Barrier Navigation Center development is a use by right in areas zoned for mixed use and nonresidential zones permitting multi-family uses, if it meets the requirements of this article.”

Currently, the AMC does not have a definition of, or regulations for, low barrier navigation centers nor does the AMC comply with the Government Code requirements to permit these facilities in mixed use zones and residential zones that permit multifamily uses. 

Staff Recommendation on Low Barrier Navigation Centers:  Staff recommends:

                     Adding a definition of Low Barrier Navigation Center to AMC section 30-2 to read as follows: 

Low Barrier Navigation Center. A housing first, low-barrier, service-enriched shelter focused on moving people into permanent housing that provides temporary living facilities while case managers connect individuals experiencing homelessness to income, public benefits, health services, shelter, and housing consistent with Government Code Section 65660 et seq.

                     Permitting low-barrier navigation centers by right as required by state Law in “areas zoned for mixed use and nonresidential zones permitting multi-family uses,” which would be the R-6 district (which is zoned for mixed use, i.e., a residential zone that allows commercial uses) and the C-1, C-2, CC, and North Park Street subdistricts NP-G and NP-MU (nonresidential zones permitting multi-family uses). 


                     Though not required to comply with state law, staff also recommends conditionally permitting Low Barrier Navigation Centers in the R-4 and R-5 districts.  These two districts permit some commercial uses with a conditional use permit and could be regarded as “mixed use” zones under state law. 


Warming Centers.  Warming centers provide temporary overnight shelter during inclement weather or other temporary situations.  Warming centers are typically provided in a place of worship, government building or similar institutional settings.  Several California cities, including San Jose, have created special definitions and explicit allowances for seasonal shelters that are accessory to another land use.  State law does not specifically address emergency shelters that are temporary and accessory to other uses.


The AMC does not address warming centers.  To date, staff has been treating warming centers as accessory uses to a permitted use.  Accessory uses to a permitted use are permitted by right, unless specifically prohibited.  For example, a place of worship is permitted in residential zones.  The place of worship may have an accessory office or storage area, even though office uses and warehouses are not permitted in the residential district. 

Staff Recommendation on Warming Centers:  Staff recommends amending the AMC to make the following clarifications: 

                     Adding a definition for “warming center”:

Warming Center. An emergency shelter that is accessory to a primary use and is operated on an intermittent or seasonal basis.

                     Permitting warming centers by right if they are accessory to a primary permitted land use.



Reviewing and commenting on the residential use definitions and regulations is not a project under Public Resources Code section 21065 or CEQA Guidelines section 15378.



Updating the use definitions and regulations to allow a greater variety of housing types would support the region’s Sustainable Communities Strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  



That the Planning Board review and comment on the draft table of land use regulations for residential uses in all of the zoning districts (Exhibit 1) and draft amendments to the residential use definitions in Section 30-2, Definitions (Exhibit 3).

Reviewed by,

Andrew Thomas, Planning, Building and Transportation Director


Prepared by,

Heather Coleman, Planning Consultant

Allen Tai, City Planner

Henry Dong, Planner III

David Sablan, Planner II

Brian McGuire, Planner I



1.                     Residential Uses - Proposed Regulations

2.                     Zoning Map

3.                     Proposed Amendments to Section 30-2, Definitions