As Housing Crisis Rages, Hayward City Council Prioritizes Large Estates

Plus, Alameda could push back against grand jury, and Swalwell reportedly saw the writing on the wall.

A 37-acre parcel of hillside land near Cal State East Bay in Hayward, long ago envisioned by CalTrans as part of a freeway extension, moved closer to development last week, but not without concerns the future neighborhood will cater to the rich at a time when housing displacement is becoming rampant all across the East Bay.

The Hayward City Council approved a master development plan that envisions up to 74 two-story, single-family homes each nestled on an expansive 10,000 square feet of land, according to a request for proposals issued by the city to prospective developers. The future homes, likely to easily exceed $1 million a piece with their vast estates and sweeping views of the bay, may also be interspersed with eight affordable housing units, possibly in the form of granny flats, according to city staff.

Critics of the proposal said it squanders a large swath of land suitable for much-needed housing density and is ignoring the housing crisis in the city in order to build a development at the base of the Hayward Hills that will cater solely to the wealthy.

The property, also known as Parcel 5, roughly runs from Carlos Bee Boulevard to Harder Road. The parcel is situated almost perpendicular to Mission Boulevard, adjacent to the university campus.

It is one of 10 acquired by the city from CalTrans, and the first to come before the City Council for discussion as a potential development. Each parcel is scattered along the 238 Freeway corridor, and is owned by the city of Hayward. Yet Bunker Hill may challenge potential developers. The parcel was in a state of disrepair under CalTrans. An estimated $6 million in new roads, sidewalks and electrical work is required by the developer. In addition, the city wants a prospective developer to carve out 10.5 acres of open space and add 3,000 linear feet to the Hayward Foothill Trail, all paid for by developer. The open space would later be maintained by the Hayward Area Recreation District, city staff said. The selection of a preferred developer for the project is expected to come before the city council in December, Deputy City Manager Jennifer Ott said.

The master development plan, which was approved 6-1 on July 9, followed a concerted effort by the city to gather public input on the project. City staff said there was a clear consensus from Bunker Hill neighbors for maintaining the “rural character” of the area. Public outreach also elicited strong concerns over increased traffic in the neighborhood and issues with congestion at proposed exit points from Bunker Hill. A number of Hayward councilmember acquiesced with the views of neighbors.

Councilmember Francisco Zermeño said building condominiums and town homes at the site is not what neighbors desire. “I think there would have been a revolution, for example, if we would have come in with something like that,” Zermeño said.

Councilmember Al Mendall said that every other project recently approved by the city council is more dense that what preceded it in the area. Developers want to build town homes, he said, “but there is a balance that needs to be struck” for preserving the character of the existing neighborhood.

That sentiment was not unanimous. Councilmember Aisha Wahab blasted the proposal, calling it inappropriate and a missed opportunity for the city to combat growing displacement among Hayward residents. Her comments are not surprising. Housing instability and rising rents in Hayward have been Wahab’s signature issues, beginning with her successful city council campaign last year.

Wahab called the proposed average lot size of 10,000 sq. ft. “excessive, especially in a time when we have a housing crisis and a shortage of housing.”

Despite city staff’s reluctance to provide an estimated price for one the homes proposed at Bunker Hill, Wahab said they will likely be in excess of $1 million. “It’s on a hill and it has a huge lot. So, let’s not fool ourselves, we are making homes for very wealthy individuals.”

Alameda Council Could Push Back on Grand Jury Report

Last month an Alameda County grand jury concluded that two Alameda councilmembers violated the city charter by exerting undue influence on the city manager’s decision to hire a new fire chief. The civil grand jury also faulted the city for allowing the councilmembers to edit the independent report on their alleged actions prior to its release to the public.

Next week, the Alameda City Council will begin the process of officially responding to the four findings and four recommendations laid out in the report, as required by law. And when it comes to the grand jury’s most explosive finding, that Councilmembers Jim Oddie and Malia Vella violated the city charter by attempting to get the former city manager to choose a fire chief favored by the firefighters’ union, both proposed city responses dispute the grand jury’s finding on Vella.

A staff report prepared by City Manager Eric Levitt and City Attorney Yibin Shen in advance of Tuesday night’s meeting offers two possible responses for councilmembers to choose. One gives the council the option to agree with the finding, but with a caveat when it comes to Vella. “While the City of Alameda agrees with this finding, it is important to point out that the City’s independent investigator concluded that one Council Member, not two, violated the City Charter,” the report said. An independent investigation by attorney Michael Jenkins found that Oddie violated the charter provision on council interference after he sent a letter supporting the union’s candidate for fire chief. But the independent report did not find that Vella violated the charter.

Another option for the council is to “partially disagree” with the grand jury’s charter violation finding. This possible response also disagrees that Vella violated the charter.

The grand jury also slammed the City Council for allowing Oddie and Vella to participate in closed-session discussions that involved editing the independent investigator’s final report. The city argued at the time that Keimach’s complaint letter asserting council interference never specifically mentioned which elected officials had allegedly exerted improper influence on her and, therefore, did not require any councilmembers to be recused.

Oddie and Vella are not expected to participate in the grand jury agenda item next Tuesday night.

‘Run At Your Own Risk’: Swalwell Told Candidates Eyeing His Seat

Eric Swalwell’s campaign for president was initially based on a straight-forward premise: I’m serious about winning the Democratic nomination, so much so that I will not seek re-election to a safe seat in Congress. “Burn the boats,” Swalwell told the San Francisco Chronicle. “I don’t have a life insurance policy.”

But over the next three months of Swalwell’s short-lived presidential run, he often hedged from that position. In June, referring to the filing deadline for his seat in the March 2020 primary, he told The Washington Post, “I don’t have to make a decision until December.”

And according to an anonymous source who was briefed on an exchange between the Swalwell campaign and one potential candidate, even before he announced his presidential campaign, Swalwell’s surrogates were telling potential candidates for his seat in the 15th Congressional District to “run at their own risk.”

Swalwell abruptly pulled the plug on his presidential campaign on July 8.

In Other News …

More than a year ago, President Trump urged Attorney General Jeff Sessions to charge Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf with obstruction of justice when she alerted undocumented immigrants of impending ICE raids. The Los Angeles Times noted the irony that Trump himself did so last Friday. … Oakland councilmembers approved the sale of a parking garage owned by the city at 2100 Telegraph Avenue that is slated to become Kaiser Permanente’s new headquarters, Bay City News reported. … The council also voted to close a segment of street behind Home Depot in Fruitvale after the store complained that a nearby homeless encampment had made employees feel unsafe. …

The state launched an investigation into a malfunction at Richmond’s Chevron refinery that triggered an evacuation of maintenance employees, KQED reported. … BART plans to eventually add bike straps to all its trains, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. … A blockbuster report from The Wall Street Journal documented that PG&E had long known that its transmission lines were old and outdated. … The State Legislature approved a bill that only allows police to use deadly force “when necessary in defense of human life.” Gov. Gavin Newsom has said he will sign the measure. … Premiums for Covered California, otherwise known as Obamacare, will drop an average of 0.80 percent, the Times reported. … The Assembly approved Legislation that would require a presidential or gubernatorial candidate to provide five-years worth of tax returns in order to be included on a ballot in California. … Sen. Kamala Harris received $11.8 million in contributions during the past three months and has $13.2 million in cash on hand, fifth-highest in the Democratic presidential field. …

With settlement of a civil lawsuit between the National Park Service and former concessionaires at Yosemite, historic names such as the Ahwahnee Hotel, Curry Village, the Wawona Hotel, and the Badger Pass Ski Area will return to the park.


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