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.