Council majority praises deal - April 26, 1990

Council majority praises deal
But Corica says city should have kept fighting the lawsuit against Measure A

By Karen Matthews (Alameda Times Star)
April 26, 1990

ALAMEDA – Tuesday’s settlement of a lawsuit challenging the city’s density-limiting law, Measure A, was praised Wednesday by the plaintiffs and by three of the five City Council members.

“I’m quite satisfied,” said plaintiff Modessa Henderson, who along with Clayton Guyton, charged that Measure A discriminates against poor people because it makes it difficult to build affordable housing.

“It was a long process, but we didn’t leave any stone unturned,” Henderson said. “Unfortunately, we had to go to court.”

Measure A; which the voters passed in 1973, prohibits new residential development except for single-family houses and duplexes.

[insert photo: Photo of Lil Arnerich & Bill Withrow]

[link to other article]The city may have saved the law by changing it. –back of section

With the settlement, the city has opened up a window in Measure A to allow the Housing Authority to build up to 325 low-cost apartments.

Councilmember Joe Camicia said Wednesday that he believes the city “came out pretty well.”

“It’s a small price to pay, compared to losing Measure A,” Camicia said.

Councilmen Bill Withrow and Lil Arnerich agreed that the settelement represented the best deal the city could have negotiated.

“It’s not an easy decision, but it’s a decision that had to be made,” said Arnerich.

Mayor Chuck Corica disagreed, saying, “I’d rather have fought it in court.”

Councilwoman Barbara Thomas did not return calls to the Times-Star, but she criticized the agreement in an interview on a local cable television program Wednesday.

Although Tuesdays’s vote settles the Guyton-Henderson suit, many questions about the future of the city’s housing policies remain.

Corica said Tuesday that he would like to put another ballot measure before the voters, this one to “down-zone” all the residential zones in the city to relatively restrictive designation of R-2, which he said would preserve the “intent” of the weakened Measure A.

Camicia said he would prefer that the council adopt an ordinance to down-zone the city and ask the voters reaffirm the vote during a regularly scheduled election.

Norton prepares report
City Manager Bill Norton said he will prepare a report for the council at its Tuesday meeting outlining the different approaches “to see if they can select an approach at that time.”

The settlement does not require the city to build 325 low-cost apartments.

Rather, it allows the Housing Authority to build up to that number of units to replace the low-income apartments that were lost when the owner of the Buena Vista Park Apartments, now called he Bridgeport Apartments, converted the complex to market-rate rents.

Housing Authority Executive Director Tom Matthews said it’s unlikely that his agency will develop a single 325-unit complex.

“There isn’t a while lot of land left in town,” Matthews said. “It’ll probably be a lot of little ones.”

While there are no deadlines for developing the affordable housing, the settlement does require the city to apply to the state for a grant under Proposition 84, a 1988 bond issue, to built at least 85 low-income units.

Other provisions of the settlement require the city to commit resources from an expanded redevelopment area, impact fees on new development and federal Community Development Block Grant funds to low-cost housing.

Housing element scrutinized
Also still at issue is the housing element of the city’s general plan, a blue print for development through 1995.

The city submitted a revised housing element to state housing officials in November. On March 1, the Department of Housing and Community Development found the document to be out of compliance with state law, in part because of Measure A.

Nancy Javor, chief of the Division of Housing Policy Development, said Wednesday she is still awaiting an official response from the city to the state’s rejection of the housing element.

Javor said she had not seen Tuesday’s settlement agreement.

The city will be required to pay out $95,000 to the Legal Aid Society of Alameda county for Guyton’s and Henderson’s legal fees and costs.

The city will also have to pay an undisclosed amount to McCutchen, Doyle, Brown & Enersen, the law firm it hired to handle the case.

Before going into closed session Tuesday, council members debated whether they should discuss the settlement in an open meeting.

Only Corica and Thomas favored an open vote on the settlement.

Withrow said Wednesday that to discuss litigation in an open session “would have set a bad precedent.”

Discussion of pending litigation is one of the exceptions to California’s open-meetings law, the Ralph M. Brown Act, which in general requires legislative bodies to conduct their business in public.

Source: Matthews, Karen, “Council majority praises deal.” Alameda Times-Star. 26 April, 1990:1.