Alameda settles suit to add low-cost homes - April 30, 1990

“Alameda settles suit to add low-cost homes”

By Janet Joson (The Tribune)
April 30, 1990

ALAMEDA – Fearing the courts could overturn its low-density law, the city council has settled litigation with two residents who claimed the measure discriminates against poor people.

Measure A, approved by voters in 1973, prohibits construction of homes larger than a duplex. But the city has agreed to an interpretation of the measure which allows the Alameda Housing Authority to replace lost low-cost homes built with federal funds, said City Attorney Carole Korade.

The Housing Authority can now provide up to 325 low-income apartments by building new units or acquiring existing ones.

Clayton Guyton and Modessa Henderson filed their lawsuit on behalf of the Buena Vista Community Association in January 1989 after the city refused to provide low-cost housing when the 615-unit Buena Vista Apartments converted from subsidized to market-rate rents.

“I’m glad it’s over,” said Henderson, a single mother who’s lived at the complex (now called the Bridgeport Apartments) for 13 years. “It’s been three years of personal sacrifice.”

“We’re not bitter. We’re not disgruntled,” added Guyton, a transportation dispatcher at the Presidio in San Francisco. “We’re very pleased with the results of this lawsuit.”

The city council agreed to the interpretation Tuesday. None of the council members would reveal the closed-session vote, but Vice Mayor Lil Arnerich and Council members Lil Arnerich and Bill Withrow said in separate interviews that approving the settlement was the best way to save Measure A from further tampering.

“All of us want to preserve Measure A,” Arnerich said. “If this had continued through the courts…the courts would have probably struck it down in some manner.”

But Mayor Chuck Corica, who was elected to the city council on a Measure A platform, disagreed.

“How do they know we would have lost in court? If we did, we could have appealed,” he said.

Council member Barbara Thomas could not be reached for comment. The settlement requires the city to provide money for additional affordable housing using redevelopment and federal Community Development Block Grant funds and new commercial development fees. The city also will have to pay the Legal Aid Society of Alameda County, which represented Guyton and Henderson in the lawsuit, $95,000 in attorneys fees and other costs.

Legal Aid attorney Michael Rawson said his clients were instrumental in rallying other low-income tenants together and using state and local laws to challenge the city’s housing and land-use policies.

“This wasn’t handed to us on a silver platter,” Guyton said. “Nobody did more for us than we did ourselves. “He and Henderson said Friday at a press conference that they will help other tenant activists fight for low-income housing.

Tomorrow the council will vote on a resolution reaffirming its support of the law and discuss the merits of rezoning the city’s residential areas to better preserve Measure A.

Source: Joson, Janet, "Alameda settles suit to add low-cost homes." Oakland Tribune. 30 April, 1990.