NIMBYs!

I can’t wait for the elections to be over. I miss writing about the City Council. Anyway, quickly, here are some highlights of what you’ll be missing if you don’t tune into KTOP tonight:

  • Zoning Update: minor edits (PDF!) to the zoning code, none of which interest me all that much, but one of which got some people all worked up. Under the current zoning, to build a three unit project in an R-36 or R-40 zone, you need a Major Conditional Use Permit. Ridiculous! Staff proposed amending the code so that the need for a Major Conditional Use Permit would be triggered at 4 units instead of 3, claiming “This increased threshold better reflects the intent of these zones.”

    R-40, FYI, is the “garden apartment residential zone,” an according to the chapter (Can’t link directly, but it’s 17.22.010) “is intended to create, preserve, and enhance areas containing a mixture of single or two family dwellings and garden apartments in spacious settings for urban living.” The R-36 zone (17.20.010) “is intended to foster the development of small lots that are less than four thousand square feet in size and/or less than forty five feet in width in desirable settings for urban living.”

    When the changes went before CED, the committee changed this aspect of the plan at the request of anti-development activists so that we will continue requiring a Major Conditional Use Permit for 3 unit buildings in these zones. Final passage of the ordinance is tonight.

  • Development appeal. A Council meeting just never feels complete without one of these. The proposal is to build a 115 unit building of affordable senior housing on the corner of MacArthur and High Street. This fight has been dragging on forever. The project has been significantly altered in response to community objection, from an original plan for a 70 foot building with no retail to 60 foot (at the highest point) building with retail space.

    Under the General Plan, the site is designated Neighborhood Center Mixed Use, which would permit 156 units, so the project is actually well below maximum density under the General Plan. The old zoning, which we’re in the process of replacing, would have allowed 91 units, although the Planning Code has a provision allowing a 75% greater number of units with a CUP in the case of senior housing, so the existing zoning for this lot would actually be 159 units.

    Anyway, the Planning Commission approved the project in February, and CRADL (Commercial & Retail Attraction for the Laurel) has, naturally, appealed the decision.

    Why? Well, because (PDF!) “the location is horrible, the economic fallout for the citizens of Oakland is significant and morally the project comes very close to nothing more than a land scam with negative impacts for the prospective elderly residents.” They complain that because the building is for affordable housing, it will deprive the City of necessary property tax revenues and that it would be better for the City to have this lot remain vacant. Also because of “traffic, noise, and air quality.” The Council will deny the appeal, although it’s possible they’ll request modifications to the project.

  • Other stuff of note that I don’t have time to write about right now, but hopefully next week: $50,000 (PDF!) to establish a Food Policy Council for Oakland and $658,455 (PDF!) to have the Cty Attorney’s office prosecute misdemeanors.

And of course, I seem to be maintaining my perfect record of broken blogging promises, and am unlikely to be able to post about the D1 School Board or Downtown Lake Merritt Forum today. Tomorrow, tomorrow! Also, I have a bunch of comments I need to respond to, and I’ll do that tomorrow, too. Also, in case you’re not a regular reader of Oakbook, I wrote a profile of Patrick McCullough over there yesterday people may want to check out.

6 thoughts on “NIMBYs!

  1. oakie

    $50,000 to establish a Food Policy Council? Jeesh, what a waste of money. Haven’t they read Michael Pollen? Here’s a policy: “Eat Food, Not Too Much, Mostly Plants.” The end. Just saved the taxpayers of Oakland $50,000. If you need to read the details of that food policy, ‘get his book for $20.

  2. JAMMI Journalist

    How in your mind do 3-unit buildings fit well into an R-40 zone that is intended for “single or two family dwellings and garden apartments in spacious settings for urban living?” In the 1940′s and 1950′s, the Metropolitan Oakland Area Plan marketed Oakland nationwide as an “industrial garden”, where contented workers could live in modest bungalows with beautiful backyard gardens, enjoying our supurb weather. In the R-40 zone I live in, that era is gone as speculators and short-sighted property owners have built (legally or not) in-law apartments and second units. These developments replace gardens with cheaply constructed units or driveways, reduce available parking while increasing demand, and have made “garden apartments in spacious settings” the exception, rather than the rule. More triplexes will only replace single-family dwellings, decrease the proportion of owner-occupied properties compared to rentals, reward speculators and impact our quality of life.

  3. Chris Kidd

    So we SHOULDN’T amend a code to represent reality? We should just leave our zoning code back in 1950′s utopia? If that’s what the R-40 zone was supposed to represent, I’m amazed that not only that neighborhood still uses it, but also that this terribly outdated zone is still in use.

    Instead of condemning everyone who’s putting in in-laws or clamoring for higher density as harmful speculators, why don’t we instead look at what this is saying about our city and region. There is demand and need for more density in centrally located urban regions like Oakland. This demand will only increase as transportation becomes more and more expensive. So in response to this, you’re saying that we should close our eyes, stop up our ears and demand no changes to a zoning code that you already admit has become hopelessly outdated and barely reflects the current makeup of the neighborhood? If you’re worried about parking and open space for a neighborhood, the way to address those issues isn’t to cling to useless zoning, but work towards a newer appropriate zoning that admits and recognizes current conditions and seeks to find solutions that match up with them. You could have the best neighborhood layout in the world on paper, but if it doesn’t make sense with the current urban climate you’ll end up with worse than bad.

  4. Max Allstadt

    JAMMI -

    The single family home is the absolute least ecological dwelling type. Cities change. They grow. And while we’re at it, 1950s urban planing is some of the most atrocious thought ever to blight the urban landscape. Here are some of the things we can thank 50′s and 60′s urban planners for:

    They built highways through poor neighborhoods using eminent domain to tear down peoples homes.

    They evicted most of the non-white homeowners from the Fillmore, engaged in racist redlining that kept black people’s home values down.

    Planned exclusively for the automobile and to the detriment of pedestrians – bridges built in NYC for instance, after the 40s, have no pedestrian paths.

    Created neighborhoods with no pedestrian accessible services, stores, restaurants, etc.

    Promised every family a castle in the form of a detached single family subdivision. It worked, and the social interaction promoted by denser living was destroyed.

    The cheaply built triplexes you lament are built to higher earthquake standards than everything around them, with building codes that guarantee light and air to the occupants, without asbestos, with double glazed windows, and with more humans per acre, more people sharing resources and more people who know their neighbors due to proximity. What, exactly is the problem?