Brown's vote may break tie on zoning
Mayor's usual position on controversial plan bodes ill for commission
By Heather MacDonald, STAFF WRITER
Article Last Updated:10/31/2006 08:23:06 AM PST
OAKLAND — With two months left in office, Mayor Jerry Brown is expected to cast a decisive vote tonight on a controversial plan to require developers to set aside at least 15 percent of their projects for low-income residents.
Both supporters and critics of the inclusionary zoning proposal — and many are on both sides — believe the plan has the power to shape the future of Oakland, for good or for ill.
Two weeks ago, the council deadlocked on a proposal by Councilmember Desley Brooks (Eastmont-Seminary) to form a blue-ribbon commission to study the issue. Although Brooks favors inclusionary zoning, she said she could not support the proposal before the council because it does nothing to address the needs of extremely low-income residents.
Councilmembers Jane Brunner (NorthOakland) and Jean Quan (Montclair-Laurel), authors of the inclusionary zoning proposal, acknowledge its imperfections but contend the threat of Proposition 90, which would curtail the council's power to impose it, should spur the council to act.
If the mayor supports Brooks' call for a commission to study the issue, Quan and Brunner's proposal will fail, and any chance the council has to get new regulations on the books before Election Day pass.
The mayor long has opposed inclusionary zoning measures, saying they do nothing to increase affordable housing available while multiplying the costs of development.
Brown, running for state attorney general, has not said
what he plans to do. During the past two weeks, city officials said the mayor has peppered them with questions about the measure's impact, spending several hours during a recent weekend studying the issue.
At a news conference last week, Mayor-elect Ron Dellums said he, like Brooks, could not support the specific proposal before the council, saying it did not do enough to help the poorest Oaklanders.
However, Dellums acknowledged it might be prudent to put the measure on the books before Prop. 90 could tie the city's hands.
"That's a no-brainer," Dellums said.
However, Dellums vowed to "aggressively" revise the measure once he takes office Jan. 8. The task force he has charged with examining the issue will make a recommendation.
As proposed, the law would apply to developments of 20 or more apartments or homes, and require that 15 percent of the rental units be affordable for households earning 60 percent of the area's median income, or about $50,000 for a family of four.
The measure also requires 15 percent of for-sale homes to be affordable for households earning the area's median income, or about
$84,000 for a family of four.
Supporters laud the inclusionary zoning measure as a solution to Oakland's housing crunch, which they said is forcing working-class residents from the city and undermining Oakland's ethnic and economic diversity.
Critics warn it will shut the door on development in Oakland at a time when the housing market in the Bay Area is starting to slow after several boom years.
There have only been a handful of tie council votes since the mayor's powers were increased by "strong mayor" ballot measures.
In 2002, the council split over whether to ask voters to allow the mayor to appoint three members of the Oakland school board. Brown voted to put the measure to voters, and it passed, although the mayor later acknowledged it was not very successful.
Earlier this year, with the council split, Brown picked a San Francisco restaurateur to run a new eatery at the refurbished Lake Merritt Boathouse, passing over local favorite Everett & Jones and launching a storm of criticism.
Only once has Brown exercised his limited veto power. In 2001, he blocked an ordinance that would have lowered the city's utility user's tax for six months to help residents cope with skyrocketing gas and electric bills.
The council chose not to challenge Brown's veto, which they could have overridden with five votes, a simple majority.
Since his election in June, Dellums has called for the mayor's veto powers to be expanded, and said he would back an initiative to change the City Charter. Others have suggested the mayor should have the ability to put measures directly on the ballot.
"It's a hybrid form of government," Dellums said, adding the line between the legislative and executive branches should be clear.
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