Measure A: Then and Now

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If you’ve lived here for any length of time, it is possible that you would have encountered the phrase “Measure A”. This was conceived in the 1970s when many of the Victorians that dot the island were in danger of being subjected to the wrecking ball to make way for (rather dodgy looking, if I may editorialize) apartment complexes. An unchecked growth of these new apartments could have potentially resulted in overcrowding and eventually, the loss of one of Alameda’s distinguishing traits: the painted Victorian ladies! Measure A banned the demolition of these historic buildings and replacing them with large multiple unit buildings. A subsequent amendment (in the 1990s) mandated a minimum lot size of 2,000 sq ft. Measure A has been largely successful in achieving its goals: there has been no new multi-family construction (with the exception of low income housing) on the island since the act was enacted.

That was then … fast forward to the present:

With the closure of the Navy base in 1997 (followed by many years of protracted negotiations), the city will soon acquire 1700 acres of the erstwhile Naval base. This property (now known as Alameda Point) is to be integrated into the rest of the city in the due course of time. This has reignited the debate over Measure A and if Alameda Point should be exempt from being compliant with the aforementioned zoning requirements.

Supporters of Measure A argue against the exemption on the grounds that a high-density mixed use development will lead to gridlock and overcrowding. This is a valid argument, given the current state of affairs (ingress/egress from the island for vehicular traffic is via 4 bridges and 2 tunnels; 2 ferry terminals provide service to Oakland/San Francisco).

While Alameda Point is about the future of Alameda, the above train of thought is anything but! It is tempting to oppose any new development in Alameda on the grounds of “preserving the island culture”; but such thinking also smacks of a defeatist NIMBY attitude. Measure A was the right thing to at the time, but it is increasingly looking elitist and rather exclusionary in nature. The minimum lot size requirement of 2,000 sq ft (in one of the most expensive real estate markets in the country) only serves to exclude a sizeable segment of the population from being able to own a piece of the American dream.

Some additional points:

  • Alameda Point is expected to be integrated by 2020. Given this time frame, it is not unreasonable to suppose that the city will explore (and implement) transportation strategies to ease the (anticipated) resulting congestion.
  • A study commissioned in November 2005 entails a transit oriented vision for Alameda Point and suggests transit alternatives. It is only reasonable to expect that these alternatives will be fully explored and implemented, as feasbile.
  • Architectural guidelines can be enforced to ensure Alameda Point is in harmony with the rest of the island.

Alameda needs a vibrant community to thrive and prosper into the future. Making houses affordable to a larger segment of the population would be a good starting point in building such a community.

Disclaimer: I neither work for nor am I compensated by any developer.

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5 Responses to “Measure A: Then and Now”

  1. laurendo Says:

    Neat! I never saw the Nov 2005 transit plan for Alameda Point, but it sounds really interesting. Too bad the some of the old rail tracks in Alameda have been destroyed because there could be a real potential for a light rail (or similar sort of rail) through Alameda to the Fuitvale Bart station. That would really move Alameda foward into a future of less reliance on cars.

  2. keepmeasurea Says:

    How do multi-million dollar condos by the bay enable all americans to have a “piece of the american dream???”

  3. Anthony Says:

    Transit won’t be enough. Most of the people who live on Alameda Point will be working off-island, and most of them will end up taking the Tube to get to the freeway.

    What’s really needed is another bridge, from Alameda Point to somewhere around the so-called Broadway/Alameda exit off 880.

  4. keepmeasurea Says:

    Oh, no Anthony. They’re all going to take the bus.

    Dave.

  5. NIMBY Says:

    May I suggest a different take on the much-maligned NIMBY? If you don’t want it in your back yard, there’s probably a good reason I don’t want it in mine either–nuclear waste, to take a dramatic example. If enough people are NIMBYs when it comes to nuclear waste that would force whoever’s producing it to run out of disposal sites, and to hopefully stop making it. So long live and more power to the NIMBYs–they are the ones paying attention!

    Close to home, if you are not willing to live in a condo on a superfund site such as Alameda Point, then don’t be so charitable to insist that “affordable” housing be built there. Become a NIABY (not in anybody’s back yard)! The condos proposed for Alameda Point will go on top of contaminated lands, where single family homes (a developer preferred option) are not allowed. On certain land, it’s either condos or nothing, and condos are a great opportunity to appease the affordable advocates while maximizing profit! I feel very nimby-ish about this kind of treatment. Show me the plan for affordable housing on CLEAN land—I may buy it.

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