Judge: Land policies biased against poor - March 8, 1989

Judge: Land policies biased against poor

By C. J. Clemmons (The Tribune)
March 8, 1989

ALAMEDA – Sections of Alameda’s land-use policies are illegal because they discriminate against the city’s low-income residents, an Alameda County Superior Court judge has ruled.

Alameda has 120 days to adopt a revised housing element to the city’s general plan and rescind a policy that puts a ceiling on low-income housing development under a ruling Friday by Judge Michael Ballachey.

The housing element details plans to provide housing for people at all economic levels in the community.

Until city officials follow the judge’s orders, future development in Alameda has been restricted. No zoning changes, variances or subdivision map approvals will be allowed.

However, a 631-home development at Harbor Bay Isle, the Barbor Bay Business Park and Marina Village development are exempted from the moratorium.

The ruling was a response to a suit filed in January by housing commissioner Clayton Guyton and tenant activist Modessa Henderson, residents of the formerly subsidized Bridgeport Apartments that converted from low-income to market-rate rents in September 1987.

Guyton and Henderson maintain that city officials have not fulfilled their obligation to provide housing for low-income residents.

“This is a big victory because providing affordable housing is part of my campaign platform,” said Guyton, who is seeking to become the first black person elected to the City Council in Tuesday’s municipal election. “This proves there is validity to what I’ve been saying.”

Henderson said the lawsuit was necessary because “unless something is done, pretty soon I won’t be able to live here.”

Ballachery revoked the portion of the city’s Combined Land Use Plan that states “the number of publically supported low-and-moderate cost housing units in the city should not exceed the same percentage of total housing stock as that supplied by other East Bay cities.”

Guyton and Henderson are represented by attorney Michael Rawson of the Legal Aid Society of Alameda County, who said the city’s housing element was long overdue for an update, since the one in use was adopted in 1980.

Rawson credited his clients with “finally putting the city on the road toward developing a housing policy that does not exclude some citizens.”

Mayor Chuck Corica – who has long contended that Alameda has a fair amount of low-income housing – said yesterday a consultant has been hired to revise the housing element to meet state standards.

“We’re making an attempt to comply,” he said. “We’ll have to find a way to rehabilitate existing structures and possibly add housing units to commercial areas.”
Corica estimated that 60 percent of Alameda housing is multifamily units and 40 percent is single-family homes.

Residents applying for subdivision maps or variances during the 120-day moratorium period can appeal to the court on a case-by-case basis.

Guyton and Henderson’s suit also challenged Measure A, a city law that prohibits the construction of residential buildings with more than two units.

Rawson said the court will rule on Measure A this summer.

Source: Clemmons, C. J., “Judge: Land policies biased against poor.” Oakland Tribune 08 March, 1989, daily ed.: B1.

Alameda growth laws blocking low-income housing, suit says - January 6, 1989

Alameda growth laws blocking low-income housing, suit says

By C.J. Clemmons (The Tribune)
January 6, 1989

ALAMEDA – A city housing commissioner and another resident have sued the city alleging that city laws prevent the development of affordable housing and discriminate against low-income and minority residents.

Commissioner Clayton Guyton and Modessa Henderson, residents of the formerly subsidized Bridgeport Apartments, filed suit Tuesday in Alameda County Superiour Court.

They allege that Measure A, which since 1973 has prohibited construction of multifamily housing, the housing element of the general plan, and the land-use plan, discriminate against low-income and minority residents.

The 615-unit Bridgeport Apartments, formerly the Buena Vista Apartments, converted to market rates in September 1987. Guyton and Henderson want to replace them with new subsidized apartments.

The city has said Measure A prohibits construction of residential buildings of more than two units. Guyton and Henderson contend the city’s interpretation is incorrect because a section of the measure allows for replacement of lost subsidized housing.

“By filing the suit, Guyton and Henderson hope to eliminate all city policies that severly limit the ability of the city to fulfill its obligation to provide housing for low-income families,” said attorney Michael Rawson of the Legal Aid Society of Alameda County, who is representing the pair.

“They also hope to educate and go at least part of the way toward changing the attitudes of some city residents who would see Alameda as the exclusive province of middle- and upper-income homeowners,” Rawson said.

Of about 29,000 rental units in Alameda, 1,319 are either low-rent or subsidized.
Named as defendants in the lawsuit are mayor Chuck Corica and Council members Barbara Thomas, Anthony “Lil” Arnerich, Joseph Camicia and Hadi Monsef.

Corica, who in 1987 went to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in Washington D.C. to obtain Section 8 certificates for the neediest households in the complex, has insisted the city is doing all it can.

Corica could not be reached for comment yesterday.

The Bridgeport Apartments – one of the largest low-income apartment communities in the Eastbay – is also one of the first in the nation whose owners have paid off their government-insured loan, freeing the property from federal regulations that have kept rents low.

The 3 percent, 40-year loan was paid off in 1986 by The Gersten Co. of Beverly Hills, a move that caused rents to rise dramatically.

For example, the first rent increase in January 1988 raised the rent for a two-bedroom apartment from $271 to $450.

The complaint says the city has approved construction of more than 3,200 single-family houses, but since 1980, there has been a steady loss of multiplefamily housing.

Source: Clemmons, C.J., “Alameda growth laws blocking low-income housing, suit says.” Oakland Tribune, 06 January, 1989, morning ed.: B1.