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City Council Inclusionary Zoning Debate Recap

Last Tuesday featured one of the more exciting City Council meetings we have witnessed. We encourage people who were not able to attend to watch it on KTOP. But here’s a short recap of the action.

Tuesday night’s City Council meeting opened to a full house of visitors waiting to speak either for or against inclusionary zoning (though far fewer than the crowd at the Oak-to-Ninth appeal hearing). But before we got to it, there was some other business to be taken care of. Jane Brunner wasted roughly 30 minutes of everyone’s time trying to clarify details about a zoning change in a few parcels for an item on the consent calendar. It was absolutely inexcusable that Ms. Brunner couldn’t have clarified this information beforehand – this wasn’t a debate about an issue. It was a Councilwoman who hadn’t done her homework disrespecting the hundreds of citizens who turned out for the inclusionary zoning debate by using public meeting time to ask questions she should have asked beforehand.

Once that was over, the Council moved on to the topic of the night. The City Attorney’s office requested that any amendments to the ordinance be dealt with before the public comment portion, so the speakers would have an opportunity to comment on the ordinance that would be adopted. Councilmember Brunner once again raised a stink, forcefully stating that amendments were not acceptable, and that she doesn’t believe the request is from the City Attorney’s office at all, but that the Council President was behind the whole thing. Once she finished her temper tantrum and the call for amendments was made, it turned out that there weren’t any after all.

The public comment section featured a long line of speakers on both sides, though it was heavily slanted in favor of the ordinance. The OCO were a majority of the Pro speakers, and continued to make their ridiculous claims about how “60% of Oaklanders cannot afford to rent here and seven-eights of Oaklanders cannot afford to buy here.” Of course, more than 40% of Oaklanders do own their homes, and one can safely assume that many of the other 60% manage to pay their rent. The speakers, for the most part, spoke to the need of more affordable housing in Oakland, which is something popular among most Oaklanders, though Councilmembers Chang and Brooks have in the past stated their disagreement. Those who oppose inclusionary zoning noted that there is no evidence such a measure increases the affordability of homes, but there is evidence that it does the opposite. Some called the proposed mandate “unfair” and anti-growth. The emphasis many speakers placed on the need for low-income housing, which inclusionary zoning does not even attempt to provide, provoked skeptical facial expressions from key swing vote Desley Brooks.

The public comment lasted about 90 minutes. Speaking to convince the swing council votes to favor her measure, Councilmember Brunner stated that surrounding cities have inclusionary zoning (she did not respond to one speaker’s example of the results of the policy in Berkeley, where it has virtually stopped the construction for for-sale housing, affordable or otherwise, while the average home price has skyrocketed), and insisted that despite the rushed crafting and many flaws of the ordinance, it had to be passed now in its imperfect state because of Proposition 90. She assumed that Proposition 90 will pass, despite poor polling numbers and near-unanimous opposition from the state’s newspapers and high-profile political figures.

Council President Ignacio de la Fuente immediately gave the floor to the swing voters. Councilmember Kernighan, disappointing both her pro-growth supporters and the dectractor who insist she will vote in lockstep with Councilmember De La Fuente, gave a cheerful speech about how inclusionary zoning will hardly make a dent in the need for affordable housing, and how she understands that the proposal is far from perfect, concluding with a rather weak “But let’s try it.” Despite her siding with the inclusionary zoning advocates on this matter, several audience members confusingly cried out “Aimee Allison” as she concluded her speech. Ms. Allison, who claims to strongly support inclusionary zoning, briefly stopped by the council meeting to pass out campaign literature, but did not speak or listen to the comments.

The entire audience (those who hadn’t left after the comment period, that is) silently watched Councilmember Desley Brooks for her deciding vote. She spoke about her deep concerns that the ordinance does not address the needs of the low and very low income residents of Oakland, many of whom she represents. She seemed to have found the emphasis speakers placed on low-income housing to be deceptive. She also asserted that Proposition 90 does not necessarily bar the city from passing an inclusionary zoning policy, since the city could create developer incentives to build on-site affordable housing rather than a rigid mandate (as most non-Bay Area cities do). She offered a substitute motion to create a “blue ribbon” commission, appointed by the Mayor-Elect and the Council, which would study the impact of inclusionary zoning and craft a version of the plan that would address the needs of all Oaklanders. It is shocking that Oakland never studied the effect of the proposed measure, or done even the required Environmental Impact Report, which Jean Quan forcefully stated was unnecessary. Councilmember Reid seconded the motion to appoint a commission.

At this point, there was a lengthy debate about the matter, primarily between Councilmembers Brooks, Brunner, and Quan, with a City Attorney representative as a proxy (Brunner staffer Justin Horner, the author of the proposal, never got a chance to speak). The exchange was quite heated, and at points, nasty enough to draw gasps from audience members. I cannot do it justice here – I recommend watching it on KTOP if you have a chance. Another attendee remarked afterward, “It was disappointing to see our councilmembers behave like children.” I’m sad to admit, I actually thought it was kind of funny. Brooks held her ground, making Quan and Brunner look shrill.

Finally, Council President De La Fuente ended the catfight, and offered his thoughts on the effectiveness of inclusionary zoning. He pointed out that even though all the cities Ms. Brunner named have had inclusionary zoning for various amounts of time, it has done nothing to make housing in those cities more affordable, and that they aren’t even meeting their ABAG requirements (unlike Oakland, whose production of low-income housing has increased 33% over Jerry Brown’s tenure). He then called for a vote on Councilmember Brooks’ substitute motion, which had been seconded by Councilmember Reid.

The vote split 4-4 (Brooks, Chang, De La Fuente, and Reid for it), and a city attorney announced that the Council would have to wait for a tie-breaking vote from the Mayor before any further action. Councilmember Brunner jumped up, enraged, and demanded a vote on her original ordinance. Upon hearing the (obvious) explanation that there could be no vote on the original item until the vote on the substitute item was complete, Ms. Brunner insisted that she did not accept Ms. Brooks’s motion as an appropriate substitute. The city attorney once again informed her that there could be no vote on the same topic until the vote for the substitute motion was completed, and Ms. Brunner demanded again that her motion be voted on. The City Attorney’s representative again explained the impossibility of this to her (if Ms. Brunner had objections to the substitute motion, she should have voiced them before she cast a vote). The stern parliamentarian then offered, somewhat facetiously, to look it up in Robert’s Rules of Order if Ms. Brunner continued to insist that they take back a vote.

The book was brought out, and the entire room sat breathlessly on the edge of their seats waiting for the official word on proper parlimentary procedure. Of course, the original ruling was correct. Jean
Quan, displaying an embarrassingly poor grasp of procedure, requested to substitute the substitute motion with the original ordinance. If she had been paying attention rather than whispering with Jane Brunner in the corner, she would have understood that the issue at hand was that there was an incomplete vote, and no new vote can be taken on the subject until the vote is complete. Quan, realizing that she’d been tricked, cried out, “we can’t say they voted against it if there was no vote!” That’s true.

Mayor Jerry Brown will settle the issue of a the commission at the next Council meeting, on Halloween. I suggest that he dress up as a villainous developer from Scooby Doo.

Posted in breakingnews, california, citycouncil, delafuente, desleybrooks, development, housing, iz, janebrunner, jeanquan, jerrybrown, kernighan, larryreid, nadel, oakland, planningcommission.

7 Responses

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  1. Leighzb says

    Good work! I like it!

  2. Vince says

    Good work! I like it!

  3. dto510 says


Continuing the Discussion

  1. Great Expectations » More lies about inclusionary zoning from the Trib linked to this post on August 15, 2007

    [...] NO, NO!!! This didn’t happen! I was there! The Council never voted on inclusionary zoning. Desley Brooks introduced a substitute [...]

  2. Berkeley: Downzoning for affordable housing? « FutureOakland linked to this post on April 22, 2008

    [...] been for some time asking for an ordinance that allows them to limit development further. Much like Jane Brunner tried to pass a poorly-thought-out IZ ordinance before Prop 90 came to a vote in late 2006, it appears the Berkeley City Council is sufficiently [...]

  3. Patrick McCullough v. Jane Brunner: LWV District 1 Candidate Forum | A Better Oakland linked to this post on May 12, 2008

    [...] wealthy and therefore well-maintained. Although Brunner has managed to mightily piss off both pro-development and anti-development types, and has been absent on rising crime, she ran for re-election unopposed [...]

  4. Major development fight brewing at City Hall tonight « FutureOakland linked to this post on September 16, 2008

    [...] to fear that political groups want to use the Planning Commission to force developers to implement policies they can’t get through the City Council, greatly complicating the already difficult zoning update. Tonight, the City Council will debate an [...]