When an Alameda County judge this month ruled that Pleasanton must loosen its development rules to allow large amounts of new housing for all income levels, he sent a message that could ricochet around
The ruling by Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch found the prosperous city of 68,000 at fault for a voter-approved cap on the number of housing units allowed within its borders. Roesch based his decision on a California law that requires cities to make land available to accommodate their share of regional housing needs - and that is a standard that most municipalities don't meet.
If the Alameda decision stands, and if other cities face legal challenges, the result could reshape the landscape of California suburbs and small cities - conceivably forcing them to reconsider height limits or increasing the density in their downtowns.
"The next few weeks, everyone is going to take a look at this and see what it might mean," said Cathy Cresswell, the deputy director for housing policy development at
Cresswell was referring to the Regional Housing Needs Allocation, a formula used since 1980 but, like many state edicts, often ignored.
The idea is simple: Likely growth is determined regionally, with housing needs tied to job creation. Regional planners then break up this amount among cities and unincorporated county areas so housing is located near jobs.
Local governments then must demonstrate that they can allow such growth to occur.
The decision by Roesch faults Pleasanton for capping its number of housing units at 29,000. There are currently more than 27,000, yet the city's general plan clears the way for an additional 45,000 jobs by 2025.
But if the cap on units is unusually blunt, Pleasanton's resistance to housing is typical of the region.
Falling short of goal
According to a study of housing production between 1999 and 2006 conducted by the Association of Bay Area Governments, just 24 of 102 cities in the region produced more housing than requested by
In terms of housing for lower-income residents - a need also addressed in the formula - the results were even more lopsided: Of the 61,000 moderate-income units that ABAG hoped for in this period, 17,697 were built in the Bay Area.
While Pleasanton attorneys have yet to comment on the ruling, plaintiffs are open about the larger message they seek to send.
"The bottom line is, it's the law" that local government must respond to state edicts, said Wynn Hausser of Public Advocates, which argued the Pleasanton suit on behalf of Urban Habitat Program, a social equity advocacy group. The suit was joined last year by state Attorney General Jerry Brown.
"Everybody has to share in the region's growth, the positives and negatives," Hausser said. "The law doesn't say everything has to be urban, but we're going beyond a point where communities can be enclaves."
Concentrate the growth
One way to accommodate growth in suburbia is to allow slightly taller apartment buildings and condominiums in the center of town, to concentrate it near BART or bus stops, and loosen zoning so that single-family neighborhoods can sprout cottages and "in-law" units.
This sort of strategy has been touted for the past decade by advocates of what is called "
"There certainly has been a demand for those sorts of ideas," said Paul Fassinger, the research director for ABAG. "The trouble has been getting (local governments) to understand that this might be a good idea for them, not just for somebody else."
If Roesch's ruling is upheld - and is applied elsewhere - those governments might have less wiggle room in the years to come.
Judge Strikes Down Pleasanton Housing Cap
A judge has rulled a 1996 voter approved cap on the number of housing units in Pleasanton is unconstitutional, which may lead to more affordable housing. Thuy Vu reports.
California State Treasurer Bill Lockyer was responsible for awarding the grants, which will be distributed to developers within 60 days.
Prison Strike Update: Prevented From Delivering Care, Healthcare Workers Locked-Out of Alameda County Jails Hold Candlelight Vigil
OAKLAND, CA – Nurses, physician’s assistants, dental assistants and others who provide medical care at Alameda County’s two correctional facilities held a candlelight vigil outside the Glenn Dyer Detention Facility after being prevented from returning to work by their employer, Prison Health Services, following a one-day unfair labor practices strike.
Like many Bay Area residents who rely on public transit to get out around, Redwood City resident Trevor Irwin feels helpless when fares rise and service levels drop.
Irwin, who pays $750 monthly for rent and bills, has cut his grocery budget to $40 a week to cope with a 25-cent SamTrans bus fare hike in February 2009, while preparing for another one coming this February.
Today marks a huge victory for transit riders, workers and tax payers. The Federal Transportation Administration (FTA) has informed BART and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) that the agencies have put at risk $70 million in stimulus funding currently allocated to the controversial Oakland Airport Connector (OAC) project. The action, the first of its kind in the nation, comes as a result of a complaint filed last Fall by nonprofit law firm Public Advocates Inc. on behalf of Urban Habitat, TransForm and Genesis, charging BART with failing to comply with federal civil rights obligations.
This decision forces the hand of the MTC to either cancel the project or to go double or nothing and bet $70 million on the chance that BART can prove that the project will not unduly impact low-income people and people of color. While it remains to be seen how MTC will react to this situation, it nonetheless a huge win for transit riders. Even if the project moves forward, our work over the past year, and the FTA’s ruling has sent a strong message that the days of steamrolling mega projects over communities of color are waning.
The Pleasanton City Council has finalized its decision two weeks ago to rezone 32 acres of commercial properties in the Hacienda Business Park for high-density residential use and at the same time established a task force to help shape the needs of any residential expansion before actual development plans are proposed.
Charisse Domingo, 35-year-old associate director of Youth United for Community Action (YUCA) in East Palo Alto, California has worked with the organization since she was 21. The youth-based non-profit operates out of a one-story house on a residential street in this tiny (2.6 sq. mile) Silicon Valley city of about 30,000 people, 94 percent of whom are people of color. This community of mostly small single-family homes has recently been (literally) overshadowed by new multi-story condominium buildings and big-box retail giants. The location of Romic Environmental Technologies—a hazardous materials recycling firm—in East Palo Alto was in stark contrast to the Facebook and Hewlett Packard campuses of neighboring upscale Palo Alto. It was a sobering reminder of the city’s 19 percent poverty rate. But residents of East Palo Alto organized to shut down the plant and to fight gentrification. In 2007, the Department of Toxic Substances Control ordered Romic to cease handling hazardous wastes.
By Jason Sweeney
SAN LEANDRO — Economic activity has slowed around the country, but that doesn't mean big things aren't in the works in San Leandro.
"We're in an interesting situation in that there is a recession, but there are still a lot of projects going on in San Leandro," said Cynthia Battenberg, city business development manager. "There's actually a lot of exciting development going on."