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Council takes up density bonus ordinance

Submitted by on 1, September 15, 2009 – 5:50 am3 Comments

Tonight, the City Council will take up a long-awaited density bonus ordinance that would grant developers the right to build more on the properties they’re developing in exchange for affordable housing and offer breaks from the city’s building requirements – including the density-limiting Measure A.

The ordinance being considered would grant developers the right to build additional market-rate housing units if they build a certain number of units affordable to people across a range of low-income levels. The more affordable units a developer builds, the more additional market-rate units they get. The maximum bonus is 35 percent more than what the city would ordinarily allow a developer to build.

For example, if a developer wanted to build 100 homes and 11 of them were to be built for very low-income residents, the developer would get to build 35 additional market-rate units on the property.

Senior housing projects would also qualify for the bonus, as would condominium conversions with affordable housing and projects that include childcare facilities, and to projects where a developer donates an acre or more of land to the city for affordable housing to be built.

Developers could also ask for and receive up to three breaks from the city’s building rules, including rules governing setbacks, height limitations, open space or other rules that “physically preclude” the development from happening. They could also get a break on parking requirements, which could be added as a fourth incentive to build affordable housing.

Developers could also get a pass on Measure A if they can show that they need to build attached dwelling units in order to make the project feasible. The ordinance as written also allows for mixed-use projects in the city’s Park Street and Webster Street business districts.

City staff is recommending the council approve an ordinance that allows developers to include the affordable housing the city’s inclusionary housing rules already require them to build as part of their density bonus applications.

And they are recommending that the city lower affordable housing development requirements in all their redevelopment areas – except Alameda Point, which is covered by a lawsuit settlement agreement – from 25 percent to 15 percent, because the 25 percent level would automatically trigger the density bonus rules.

The state authored the density bonus law in order to stimulate the construction of affordable and senior housing and child care facilities. The city has an inclusionary housing ordinance to build affordable housing, but its lack of a density bonus ordinance has stalled the state’s acceptance of the housing element of the city’s general plan, which would otherwise have come in 2004. The council had been expected to take up this ordinance in April or May.

In addition to the ordinance, the council will also be asked at its meeting tonight to accept the findings of a business retention survey conducted by members of the Economic Development Commission (more on that to come) and will also get some new information around the Alameda Boys & Girls Club’s request for $2 million in park bond funds to help them start construction of a new facility (looks like they’re getting a presentation from the East Bay Regional Park District).

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