Oakland Commission Set to Make Zoning Recommendation, Splits on Condo Conversion

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Tuesday September 11, 2007

The Blue Ribbon Commission established by Oakland City Council last year to report on Oakland housing issues is recommending that council adopt an inclusionary housing ordinance targeted to households with incomes at or below 100 percent of area median income. 

But commission members were unable to agree on its second major charge, amending Oakland’s condominium conversion ordinance, and are presenting two minority reports on that issue for council to consider. 

The findings are part of a 105-page report issued by the Blue Ribbon Commission and scheduled to be heard by City Council’s Community and Economic Development Committee today (Tuesday) at the committee’s 4 p.m. meeting at Oakland City Hall. 

The 17-member Commission—composed of representatives of city councilmembers and current Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums and former Mayor Jerry Brown with appointees by the city attorney and city administrator as well—was formed last October during a contentious council debate over adoption of an inclusionary zoning ordinance. Consideration of changes to the city’s existing condominium conversion ordinance was added to the commission’s responsibilities two months later. 

The commission met several times during the year to hash out its conclusions and the final report, including one meeting in each of the city’s seven council districts. 

In its report, available on the city’s website, the commission is recommending Oakland adopt inclusionary zoning set-asides for new ownership housing developments of 20 units or more, with an initial five percent inclusionary set-aside if the units are developed on-site, 10 percent if off-site, growing to 15 and 20 percent, respectively, three years after the ordinance is passed. 

In addition, the commission is recommending that Oakland’s Redevelopment Agency double its contribution to the city’s Low and Moderate Income Housing Fund, 25 percent to 50 percent, within five years, that the fund target households at or below 60 percent of area median income with a preference for those households at or below 30 percent, that the City Council sponsor and support a $200 million bond measure to assist both rental and ownership housing, and that real estate transfer tax revenues generated from the first sale of newly constructed housing be used to support affordable housing in Oakland. 

But saying that, “after exhaustive discussion,” members of the commission were “not able to arrive at a consensus recommendation” on condominium conversions. The viewpoints represented in the two minority reports—one that condominium conversions enhance low and moderate income home ownership and should therefore be encouraged, the second that condominium conversions put available housing out of reach of low and moderate residents and should therefore be discouraged—reflect the deep divisions on the council that caused the council to put the issue in the commission’s hands last December.