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Planning board greenlights density ordinance

Submitted by on 1, March 24, 2009 – 6:47 amNo Comment

The planning board gave its assent to an ordinance that would allow developers to build more homes on their land if their development plans include certain amounts of affordable housing. The board also voted to push forward a proposal to lower the amount of affordable housing developers must build in the city’s redevelopment areas.

The so-called density bonus ordinance, which is now headed to the city council for approval, would also allow developers to ask for exceptions to planning requirements including height limits, required setbacks – and Measure A-invoked rules that prohibit attached dwelling units – if they can prove the exceptions are needed to make the project pencil out.

For example, a developer who wants to build 100 homes could get the okay for an additional 20 market-rate homes if they agree to build one additional home for a very-low income family (around $43,000 for a family of four). The ordinance would also apply to condominium conversions.

State officials okayed Alameda’s housing plan six years ago on the condition that the city adopt a density bonus ordinance, which is required by state law, by 2004. Well, that never happened.

The city does have an ordinance that requires developers to make 15 percent of the homes in their projects affordable to people who have a range of below-average incomes. In redevelopment areas like the former Naval Air Station, the figure is 25 percent, a number city staff said wuould automatically trigger the bonus rules. And they want that number lowered to 15 percent.

They said that developers have had a tough time conforming to the requirements without help from the city.

An ambivalent planning board voted 4-1 to move the recommendation forward to the city council, after some other city commissions have the chance to weigh in on its impacts. Board member Art Autorino cast the lone dissenting vote, saying he thought the change would give the city denser developments with less affordable housing in them. (Board members Andrew Cunningham and Margaret McNamara were absent.)

Christopher Buckley of the Alameda Architectural Preservation Society said he is concerned about the impact the proposal could have on the character of Alameda’s neighborhoods, and Diane Lichtenstein of Housing Opportunities Make Economic Sense, a local group, said she’s concerned about the impacts the exceptions to height, setback and other requirements could “damage livability” on the Island.

The proposals could go to the council by the end of April or early May.

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