Community-Wide Briefing and Dialogue re Housing in Albany

The Diverse Housing Working Group invites all Albany residents to participate in a conversation about future policies for housing in our City.  This community-wide briefing will take place on Tuesday, January 28 at St. Albans Church, 1501 Washington Avenue in Albany. The evening will begin with refreshments at 7:15, followed by educational sessions on the Housing Element and the State’s feedback to the City’s submission of the 2007 – 2014 Housing Element.  This is an opportunity to learn, to voice your opinion on this topic that is so critical to the future of Albany, and to explore future opportunities for shaping the City’s policy.

The agenda will be:

7:15 meet, greet, munch, study charts and graphs relating to the HE on walls

7:30 agenda review, meeting agreements review

7:45 overview, chapter (3 or 4 or 5) breakout, plenary Chap 6

8:15 public comment

8:45 summary, survey, future

9 close

Over the past several months you may have heard the City of Albany is updating its General Plan, including the Housing Element.  You may have wondered what does this mean?  And perhaps more importantly, why should I care?

The Housing Element and General Plan will affect YOU.  They set policy that future Councils will implement, and future School Boards will accommodate.  It isn’t cheap or easy to change these plans after this update stage.  With the mandatory Environmental Impact Report, the General Plan will cost the City about $500,000. This is the time to learn, discuss, and contribute in an informed way to the future of your community. 

Every city in California must have a General Plan. This is the local government’s long-term blueprint for development and must be approved by the State.  The mandatory elements to be included are land use, transportation, housing, open space, conservation, safety, and noise. The plan has a time horizon of about 20 years, giving the city an opportunity to think long-term about what it wishes to preserve and what it wishes to change. Once a General Plan is adopted, it is used by the City Council, local commissions, and City Staff as they make day to day decisions about the community’s future. http://albany2035.org

The Housing Element stands on its own as a separate report, submitted to the State Department of Housing and Community Development. It is updated more frequently, ensuring it is compliant with State housing laws.  Albany is currently working to receive a compliance determination on the Draft Housing Element that covers the period 2007- 2014.  The City has been sued over its lack of an approved Housing Element. That Element will be updated in 2014 to cover the period 2014 -2022.

Unlike other sections of the General Plan, the Housing Element must meet very prescriptive requirements which demonstrate the City is capable of accommodating its fair share of the region’s housing needs. The Regional Housing Allocation for Albany 2007 – 2014 is a total of 276 newly constructed units, with allocations for very low income to above moderate income groups. 

The Diverse Housing Working Group (DHWG) is a community-based advocacy group created to ensure comprehensive implementation of the Housing Element. DHWG includes a City of Albany Community Development Department staff member, representatives from several faith based groups, the business community, and a broad spectrum of community groups, and interested individuals. DHWG is committed to the increase of diverse housing resources in Albany through dialogue and education on all aspects of housing policies in the City.

Recognizing that a strong community includes people from all walks of life and income levels, members of DHWG endeavor to engage and educate the community about housing issues, shape Albany’s housing policy, and facilitate development of housing for all income levels. To help reach this objective, we are hosting this community briefing on January 28.

The members of DHWG hope to see you on January 28 to further the discussion on Albany’s Housing Element.

Alan Riffer, Albany Chamber of Commerce

Alexa Hauser, Transition Albany

Allen Cain, Solano Ave Association

Amber Whitson, Citizens of the Albany Waterfront

Andrew Franklin, Solano Community Church

Brian Johns, Albany Housing Advocates

Caryl O’Keefe, Community Member

Jeff Bond, City of Albany Community Development Director

Catherine Sutton, Transition Albany

Julie Wakelee – Lynch, St. Alban’s Episcopal Church

Kevin Omi, Sycamore Congregational Church, UCC

Peggy McQuaid, Community Member

Rania Ramadan, UC Village

Robert Lieber, Temple Beth El

Todd McComb, Church on the Corner










This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

tr January 22, 2014 at 06:07 PM
"have u now, or have u ever been a member of dhwg?" . . . nothing but praises to anyone who volunteers their time.
Rochelle Nason January 22, 2014 at 06:09 PM
What troubles me, Brian, is that the City of Albany is apparently planning to spend public funds to lobby its own City Council to adopt certain policies, and that could deny other perspectives a fair hearing. Take the issue of zoning Solano Avenue for homeless shelter construction 'as of right' (so neighbors of a proposed shelter can't stop it). Looking at the membership and stated objectives of the DHWG, I would assume this could be one of their policy-advocacy objectives. Maybe this is a good idea, and in any case they have every right to advocate for (or against) it, or for or against any other housing policy. BUT the City of Albany should not be paying Jeff Bond to advocate for either side of ANY issue before those who might have a different perspective have had an opportunity to participate in an unbiased public process to develop the policy. It just isn't fair to use tax dollars this way.
dorthy manser January 22, 2014 at 06:14 PM
I'm fine with it, Brian, and the group certainly does seem diverse. Like I said, nothing wrong with dialog.
Brian Parsley January 22, 2014 at 06:23 PM
So you would agree then having elected or appointed officials in an advocacy group like Citizens for East Shore State Parks is not a good idea right? ADVISORY BOARD ELECTED OFFICIALS Hon. Marge Atkinson Hon. Tom Bates, Vice President Hon. Whitney Dotson
dorthy manser January 22, 2014 at 06:29 PM
It does seem a bit strange to have members of the government appointed (?) by the government to lobby the government...
Rochelle Nason January 22, 2014 at 07:06 PM
Brian, there are crucial differences between elected or appointed policy makers, and the career public employees who implement or enforce the policies. The former are chosen, in large part, for their policy perspectives, and are expected to advance them. On the other hand, the latter are expected to carry out their duties in as unbiased a manner as they can. Not that they are not allowed to have and share their own opinions on policy issues. But when they take the next step and become policy advocates, they are moving into the policy-making arena. This poses an inherent risk of partiality, or at least the appearance of paritality, in implementation or enforcement - which undermines faith in public institutions. That's why a policymaker like Marge Atkinson can be an adviser to CESP, but it would NOT be appropriate for a staff member like Jeff Bond to do the same (much less to become a voting member of its leadership). Think about how you would feel if he did that . . . then, think about how you would feel if he was being PAID by the City of Albany for helping advance the views of CESP before the City Council. Do you see why I think there is a potential problem here?
Brian Parsley January 22, 2014 at 07:24 PM
First how do you know he is being paid by the City of Albany for helping advance the views of any group before the City Council. How do you know he is not there, as Caryl said to help them get things right? What is so scary about a group of concerned citizens coming together, in a public forum, to try and address questions about and have input in future housing needs of Albany. This should be empowering for you as you have said you want to assist the homeless. But now you seem more interested in attacking those with whom you disagree. We, as a community, need to engage in constructive dialogue about how help the campers who want housing in Albany to achieve that goal as well as addressing the future housing needs of our City. And yes I have a problem with Marge advocating for CESP as she IS paid by the City of Albany.
Rochelle Nason January 22, 2014 at 07:52 PM
Brian Parsley, to respond to your questions/comments: 1. Both Peggy McQuaid and Caryl O'Keefe seem to think Jeff Bond is doing this on work time. Peggy says he is a "member" of the DHWG like herself, Catherine Sutton, Amber Whitson, etc., while Caryl suggests he is just being made available by the City to provide information. I don't know which is right; if Caryl is right, then Peggy should not be representing him as a "member". 2. I did not use the word "scary" so please don't attribute that to me. I find nothing nothing "scary" about the DHWG. I do think it is troubling if Jeff Bond is becoming a policy advocate, particularly if he is doing it as part of his City employment, for the reasons I explained. 3. I am not attacking anyone, I am not even disagreeing with anyone's policy positions, I am criticizing a process that I find troubling (NOT "scary"). 4. Marge Atkinson does not advocate for CESP, nor is she a voting member of its leadership, she serves as an advisor, which is perfectly proper for the reasons I explained.
Brian Parsley January 22, 2014 at 08:00 PM
Have you now or have you ever been a member of DHWG?!
Margaret Tong January 22, 2014 at 09:15 PM
The last time I was at an event at St. Albans Church, it was held upstairs. Is this where the meeting will be held? Is there an elevator to get up?
Peggy McQuaid January 22, 2014 at 09:17 PM
Yes, Margaret there is an elevator located just inside the front door
Margaret Tong January 22, 2014 at 09:59 PM
we'll try to be there!
DiverseHousingWorkingGroup January 23, 2014 at 05:59 PM
DHWG has created a PATCH user account for its posts. Consistent with Peggy's blog above, DHWG's policy shaping goal is inclusion, in Albany's Housing Elements, of commitments that are most likely to lead to fulfillment of Albany's share of the regional housing allocation. That is most probable when the specifics in the Housing Element reflect informed ideas and input from the community to Council. Council sets policy, after listening to the public. Public input works best when the public is well informed, understands the tradeoffs, and has thought thru concerns and issues. To that end DHWG really hopes that many will come to the Jan 28 forum, and participate in person.
CESP January 23, 2014 at 09:10 PM
Brian, No CESP was not invited to join the coalition. so not sure how diverse it is. Also, Advisory Board members do not set policy or vote on CESP matters.
Rochelle Nason January 23, 2014 at 11:50 PM
It is very interesting that Amber Whitson - who has filed a lawsuit to block the construction of a senior living facility in Albany, as well as a grocery store - would be invited to participate in this supposedly "pro-housing" group, while local advocates for parkland conservation would not. DiverseHousingWorkingGroup, can you please explain how your "members" were selected? Also - are your group decisions taken by a majority of voting members, or do they require unanimity, or is there some other procedure? It would be helpful to understand who, exactly, you are speaking for when you post under that name - are you speaking for the majority of your members, or all of them?
christopher papazoglow January 24, 2014 at 12:20 AM
Right,"local advocates for parkland conservation",that is, specificly EASTSHORE PARKS, bear such relevance and have so much stake invested in the issue of HOUSING in Albany. I find it "interesting" that you look for so much to be "concerned" sbout, Rochelle.
Brian Parsley January 24, 2014 at 12:43 AM
I don't think it's that interesting Rochelle, in fact it's not that different than CESP vice president Norman Laforce and CESP board member Jeff Inglis suing East Bay Regional Park District over the Albany Beach Restoration plan. I agree it would be helpful to know who is speaking when using the DHWG posts and in that spirit maybe you could tell us who is speaking when using the CESP post.
DiverseHousingWorkingGroup January 24, 2014 at 01:26 AM
Actually, CESP was invited, in an email dated Oct 17, 2013 that went to many organizations that participated in a City-sponsored meeting of local groups January 2013. Specifically, the invitation went to CESP's Exec Director pjones@eastshorepark.org. No one from CESP attended DHWG's initial meeting Nov 7. DHWG would welcome a CESP representative Tuesday Jan 28 at 7:15pm at St Alban's, 1501 Washington St.
Robin Onaka January 24, 2014 at 02:00 AM
I find it interesting that people representing such different viewpoints on the topics at hand have joined together to work on them. I also took the invitation to mean anyone and everyone in Albany could attend, so the CESP, its members, etc. would be included if they wished to participate. From what's being written here, it seems that there was some kind of dispute between the CESP and EBRPD. Is this still ongoing or was it settled? I was at the council meeting this past Tuesday and saw that a good number of the residents who spoke at that meeting also post here quite often. I plan on being at the January 28 meeting and look forward to the discussions and lively exchanges that are sure to ensue;)
Amber Whitson January 24, 2014 at 03:42 AM
Hey "CESP", did you open a new Patch account, to use the name "CESP", instead? Or, did you change the name on the Citizens for East Shore Parks Patch account to "CESP"?
thorn January 24, 2014 at 03:58 AM
nice. That's what you're concerned about Amber? how about telling us what your intentions for the....... OH WOW.. i think we missed something obvious- DIVERSE housing... it IS ok for a person who is suing the City to prevent it from building senior housing AND low income housing AND actually wants to live outside forever= DIVERSE housing, not just "housing" .. so good luck going in there and advocating that we let you camp on the Bulb forever Amber.. Bulb tents would certainly fall under "diverse housing"
Rochelle Nason January 24, 2014 at 11:23 AM
Robin and everyone, although it was before I joined the CESP board, I understand that CESP supported the Albany Beach Restoration Plan of EBRPD (and indeed worked hard for the passage of the bond measure that will fund it). However, two members of the CESP board also serve on the board of a different organization called SPRAWLDEF, which feels the plan is inconsistent with the general plan for the park as a whole, and that its environmental documentation was inadequate. So SPRAWDEF, not CESP, has sued EBRPD to block the implementation of the plan. Personally, I would have joined the CESP board if the organization had challenged the plan. In sum: CESP has a diverse board, on which each members represents him or herself (NOT other organizations to which they belong), that holds regular meetings open to the public and establishes its positions by majority votes of its board members. How DHWG works I have no idea. If it really recruits its members only through broadcaset e-mails, then I have to retract my criticism of the composition of the membership, since that would account for how Amber Whitson would be accepted as a 'pro-housing' advocate. I don't know who is posting as CESP (I would assume it is Patricia Jones, the executive director), nor do I know who is posting as DHWG (if it has any paid employees who are accountable tothe organization as a whole, as Patricia Jones is to the CESP Board, it would be helpful to know). I think it would contribute to this dialogue if they would both identify themselves.
Rochelle Nason January 24, 2014 at 01:21 PM
Ach, my post should have read: I would NOT have joined the CESP board if the organization had challenged the plan (at least until the lawsuit had been resolved), because I strongly support the work the EBRPD plans to do at the Albany Beach, even if I don't agree with every detail.
CESP January 24, 2014 at 06:53 PM
Yes, I (Patricia, ED of CESP) wrote under CESP name. And, yes CESP has supported EBRPD's restoration plan (in spite of its lack of dealing with off-leash dogs on the beach) because we support the greater good of the plan. We spoke/wrote in favor at public hearings and at EBRPD's board meetings. Bulb campers and some off-leash dog advocates generally spoke against the plan because they want things to stay the way they are.
Brian Parsley January 24, 2014 at 07:14 PM
Thank you Patricia, I know off leash dogs is a very contentious issue, even within your organization. I really hope CESP will accept the Diverse Housing Working Groups Oct 17 invitation to take part in the conversation about the future of housing in Albany. I've found that the more ideas and voices you have, especially those divergent of your own, the better off the outcome will be.
Rochelle Nason January 24, 2014 at 09:09 PM
DiverseHousingWorkingGroup, would you please identify yourself, as Patricia has done? And explain how your organization works? I had an uncomfortable experience with Transition Albany. I attended one of its meetings because I was invited by a member to come talk about why I thought it was important for the City of Albany to stop allowing people to move into encampments on the Bulb, and to start getting the established campers going on their transitions into shelter. However, when I started to speak and it became evident that I was not supportive of the right to live in such encampments, I was asked not to speak further. So I would like to know in advance how this group is set up and how it will work. Also: while it really will be nice if this group is going to offer an open forum for discussing these issues before it refines the specific policies it will advocate, why isn't the City of Albany doing any outreach to the community as a whole? Citizens obviously should not have to go through a private policy advocacy group, even one seriously committed to facilitating dialogue, in order to make themselves heard on such an important issue.
Brian Parker January 25, 2014 at 12:04 AM
Rochelle is to nice to say this but I will. The "Diverse Housing Working Group" is being organized by Catherine Sutton who just happens to be the very same person who kept Rochelle from speaking at the "Transition Albany" meeting she describes above. She had been invited to provide the other side of the story on the Bulb issue. So because Rochelle was stricken from the agenda some pretty crazy stuff was represented as truth. Attendees were told that no one could be removed from the Bulb until the city builds 350 units of low income housing. And then all of the squatters will need to be given a free unit in said housing without the need to ever pay rent. No of course that's not the way it really is but that's what Catherine presented to her followers as reality at the meeting. And blocked anyone from contradicting this stuff. I was at the meeting and saw Catherine run the meeting in this high handed way. Not the way to have a neutral place where citizens can dialogue about important issues.
DiverseHousingWorkingGroup January 25, 2014 at 12:52 AM
DHWG chose to set up a PATCH account for the group to avoid ambiguity about representation, and to allow focus on DHWG, not individuals. DHWG is genuinely interested in public comment and will offer a public forum, after review of Housing Element chapters, on Jan 28. Time is always a challenge and we will use a timekeeper to try to allow more time for discussion. Also DHWG welcomes feedback about the forums, and will make adjustments to future events based on feedback. It’s important to emphasize that there are many outreach efforts the City is undertaking for the Housing Element. Most are accessible from the City’s website. Last night the Planning and Zoning Committee held a public meeting to review updates to the Element. The City sends email blasts about meetings to all who have requested them. There’s a new City website http://albany2035.org/ with information about the General Plan, which includes the Housing Element. On Feb 12 P&Z will again discuss the Housing Element and send a recommendation to Council. Council will hold another public meeting March 3. Anyone at any time may email P&Z or Council with thoughts about the Housing Element. City meetings are shown live on cable channel 33, and streaming on www.albanyca.org .
Robin Onaka January 25, 2014 at 01:20 AM
It's my hope that everyone who attends this meeting will do so with an open mind and everyone who wishes to speak will be allowed to do so without being cut off because their beliefs don't match the hosting group's. I also would like confirmation as to who is the leader of this group and whether the decisions are made by consensus or by a majority vote.
DiverseHousingWorkingGroup January 27, 2014 at 02:56 AM
Thank you Robin, DHWG has the same hopes for this meeting and will set meeting agreements so all can speak. Those in the hosting group hold many viewpoints so we are used to, and expect, a range of views. DHWG has no leader; its planning committee uses consensus and checks back periodically with the entire DHWG. Planners include Alexa Hauser, Catherine Sutton, Peggy McQuaid, Caryl O'Keefe, Jeff Bond, Rania Ramadan, Julie Wakelee-Lynch, Amber Whitson. Please note that the blog above has been updated with a rough agenda for Tuesday night.


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