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.