Measure Z was placed on the ballot by a supermajority of the Alameda City Council in order for voters to decide whether to repeal Alameda Charter Article 26. Article 26 is historically referred to as Measure A and was originally passed in 1973 by a citywide vote. A yes vote on Measure Z would repeal Article 26 in its entirety.
Article 26 was implemented in 1973 with an explicit appeal to stop the construction of “multiple dwelling units.” As modified by 1991’s Measure A, it limits housing density to one home per 2,000 square feet. This has the effect of severely curtailing the City Council’s ability to approve energy-efficient and transit-friendly projects that meet state-mandated affordable housing requirements.
No! Alameda’s Alameda Historic Preservation Ordinance, passed in 1980, is the law that protects homes and buildings of historic significance, including many of our beautiful Victorians. Article 26 does not even include the words “historic,” “architecture,” “demolition,” or “preservation.”
Since 1990, the region has created two jobs for every one home, putting intense pressure on our existing housing stock. To help our city do its part in solving the housing crisis, we need to repeal Article 26 to allow for mixed-use development near major transit corridors and to meet our affordable housing goals.
Yes! The transportation sector is the single biggest source of greenhouse emissions, contributing 40% of emissions in California. Car-centered suburban sprawl and long commute times are a major factor. It’s best for the environment if people live near where they work and if they are able to maintain a lifestyle where the primary modes of transportation are walking, biking, and/or public transit. By repealing Article 26, we can build new, more affordable housing, located in parts of Alameda that have good transit. Housing can also be located near safe configurations for pedestrians and bicyclists and major commercial corridors. By prohibiting multi-family housing, Article 26 forces the development of the kinds of homes that contribute most to climate change. The City of Alameda Climate Action and Resiliency Plan (CARP), published in 2019, specifically identifies multi-family housing near transit as the key strategy necessary to reduce vehicle miles traveled (VMT).
The CEQA process already includes extensive study of traffic impacts for any new dense development. As new businesses emerge in Alameda, many employees have no choice but to commute into Alameda, contributing to significant rush hour traffic. Article 26 actually limits the ability of the City Council to approve housing near transit or near where people actually work.
Indeed, since 1973, the year Article 26 was passed, no new mixed-use buildings with ground floor commercial space have been constructed on the transit-rich Park Street or Webster Street corridors, despite the General Plan supporting this type of development. This is a wasted opportunity for our city to construct affordable housing in locations that make it possible to have a lifestyle that is less dependent on cars.
No, Article 26 doesn’t address height limits. All new projects will be required to go through an extensive review process. The city’s General Plan identifies locations where denser infill is desired, but not high rises.
Yes! Article 26 severely restricts the availability of housing that Alameda families can afford, leading to housing denial and displacement. Middle and lower income people have a very hard time finding housing in Alameda. This unfortunately includes the children of long-term residents, seniors, and families looking to establish roots.
Yes! Article 26 enshrines redlining, exclusion, and discrimination into law. It’s a stain on our city’s character and reputation.
In 2020, there has been a reawakening of the importance of racial justice and inclusion. The uncomfortable truth is we live in a city that has imposed racialized zoning laws, dating back to the 1920s. With redlining and other forms of discrimination denying Black families access to many Alameda neighborhoods and the capacity to finance businesses in our community, a widening generational wealth gap was exacerbated and persists to this day. Repealing Article 26 is a critical step we can take to begin repairing the damage caused by this legacy. Measure Z will demonstrate that when we say “Everyone Belongs Here,” we mean it.
What will replace Article 26 in protecting Alameda from construction of housing that is “inappropriate” for Alameda?
A lot has changed since 1973, and our city and state have implemented a number of reforms focused on quality of life, historic preservation, and environmental stewardship. These include the Alameda Historic Preservation Ordinance, Alameda Design Review Ordinance, and California Environmental Quality Act, as well as oversight from the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission. Extensive public review consistent with our city’s General Plan will still be required for notable new construction.
How has the City Council approved affordable housing projects in the past if Article 26 precludes their construction?
State law preempts elements of Article 26 that would block new affordable housing construction in certain circumstances. It does this through a “density bonus” and waiver that the city is obligated to accept. To qualify, the property must be at least 10,000 square feet in size. This prevents new construction of smaller, mixed-used development with affordable housing that would complement the scale of residential neighborhoods. Additional laws also support increased density in limited circumstances.
Specifically, 90% of the parcels in Alameda zoned for non-single family residential use in the R-2, R-3, R-4, R-5 and R-6 zoning districts and 75% of the mixed-use zoned parcels on Park Street and Webster Street are ineligible for density bonuses and waivers which would allow construction of three or more units. Only 2% of the land in Alameda is currently zoned to permit multi-family housing by right. This causes a lot of affordable housing to go unbuilt, denying families, young people, and seniors the dream of a life in our community.
If developers already use the density bonus and the City can only designate certain sites for multi-family, why do we need to repeal Article 26? If repealed, how will this change?
The city has been able to utilize the density bonus and requirements from the state because of certain pre-existing sites where larger developments could occur in keeping with state law. Even at this time, it put pressure on the city to look for commercial sites that could be zoned for mixed-use. This included the Crab Cove site that was required for state certification and resulted in a ballot initiative to change the zoning. A lawsuit with the developer was avoided when they decided not to pursue the project. In 2022, Alameda will receive a new housing allotment that is expected to be 2.3 times bigger than the last. As the state requires housing sites to be situated throughout the city, not passing Measure Z will increase the pressure on the city to rely on sites like Harbor Bay Landing, Marina Village, South Shore, etc. because reliance on the density bonus requires multi-acre sites.
As always, it's important to remember that Article 26 does not limit the amount of housing, as minimums are governed by the State. It limits the types of housing, forcing sprawling development where it needn't occur. It also severely restricts affordable "grandparent units" on existing plots. The state's mandated density bonus doesn't invalidate Article 26, but by severely restricting where the city can meet housing needs, it does make smarter housing design with more affordable housing less practical and less transit-accessible.
We’re a group of Alamedans who believe that Article 26 fundamentally conflicts with our values as an inclusive and welcoming city. We believe that Alameda is a great place to live, equity matters, climate change is real, housing affordability is central in the fight for racial justice, and being a good neighbor means standing up for people hurt by decades-old laws that are holding us back. You can find our growing list of supporters here, and we hope you’ll add your name to the list.
If Article 26 is repealed, the City Council will need to decide where the higher density multiple residential development should be allowed within Alameda. This is a public process requiring public hearings, and any changes to the Zoning Ordinance density standards and height limits by the City Council must be consistent with the General Plan. The General Plan identifies Alameda Point, Northern Waterfront, Park Street Commercial District, and Webster Street Commercial District as appropriate locations for transit oriented, multi-family, mixed-use development.