Jan 31 2023

OPINION: Finding the Best Moraga Canyon Housing Plan

Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing is New for Housing Elements

A new component of the 6th Cycle Housing Element is compliance with state-mandates of the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) policy.  That policy states that local jurisdictions must “analyze and address significant disparities in housing needs and access to opportunity by proposing housing goals, objectives, and policies that aid in replacing segregated living patterns with truly integrated and balanced living patterns, transforming racially and ethnically concentrated areas of poverty into areas of opportunity, and fostering and maintaining compliance with civil rights and fair housing laws.”

Addressing the AFFH mandates, the City concluded that segregation is not a concern because all Piedmont neighborhoods have equal access to opportunities (the entire town is a “high resource” area).  Regarding poverty, the City claimed that there are no racial and ethnic concentrated areas of poverty in Piedmont, partly due to there not being sufficient numbers of minorities in Piedmont.

Nonetheless, the City does acknowledge that there are racial/ethnic disparities in Piedmont:

“However, according to the United States Census, American Community Survey (ACS), approximately 25.5 percent of the Piedmont population belonged to a racial minority group in 2019…. According to the March 2022 U.C. Merced Urban Policy Lab and ABAG-MTC AFFH Segregation Report, the most isolated racial group (in Piedmont) is White residents. According to the report, “Piedmont’s isolation index of 0.627 for [non-Hispanic] White residents means that the average White resident lives in a neighborhood that is 62.7% White.

In the City of Piedmont, more than 20 percent of residents are cost-burdened, meaning that they pay more than 30 percent of their income for rent or mortgage. Non-White residents are disproportionately impacted by housing cost burden, over-payment, and overcrowding, as well as other burdens…. Latinos experience higher rates of poverty relative to their overall proportion of the City’s population than White residents. Latinos comprise about 4.2 percent of the City’s population, but 7.0 percent of Latinos live below the poverty level, an estimated 33 residents.”  January 12, 2023 memo

And the City acknowledges that these disparities are associated with the western half of Piedmont:

“More non-White residents are located in the western-most census block group of the City Piedmont Census Tracts. The census tract that overlaps this block group also contains the highest amount of lower and moderate-income population at about 11 percent and exhibits the highest amount of over-payment by renters in Piedmont. Further, this western census tract contains the highest level of persons with a disability at about eight percent….. High levels of over-payment by renters in the western census tract and high rates of over-payment by homeowners on both tracts in the City indicates that many residents may be struggling to afford housing costs.”

So given these facts, why is the 6th Cycle Housing Element proposing to put virtually all of the affordable housing in Piedmont’s western-most census block?  The Ace Hardware store and Blair Park literally border with the City of Oakland and are the proposed sites for the high density low and very low-income housing. There are good reasons for increased density on Grand Avenue but by essentially excluding the Civic Center area for affordable housing, the City Administrator and City Council have pushed affordable and denser housing to the western outskirts of Piedmont.  Doing so propagates what segregation and racial/ethnic concentration exist in Piedmont.

City Council can offset this by developing a fair housing plan for Moraga Canyon that integrates the moderate and affordable housing proposed for the canyon onto one site.  Currently 132 units are proposed for Moraga Canyon but there are two basic options – put housing on either side of Moraga Ave (some in Blair Park, some above Coaches) or all on one of side of Moraga Avenue (all at Blair or Coaches).  Co-locating the moderate and affordable housing onto one site would appear to better achieve the “integrated and balanced living patterns” that is the goal of AFFH.

To achieve the AFFH goals, the City needs to seriously consider relocation of the Corporation Yard to Blair Park.  There are safety, transportation, and environmental benefits to relocating the Corporation Yard in addition to the integrated housing.  To date, the City has been reluctant to publicly acknowledge this and housing advocates have dismissed the idea.  Hopefully the consultant will take an objective approach to planning the best housing solution for Moraga Canyon and Piedmont that meets AFFH goals.

Garrett Keating, Former Piedmont City Council Member

Moraga Canyon Plan Consultant 1.17.23

Editors’ Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.

4 Responses to “OPINION: Finding the Best Moraga Canyon Housing Plan”

  1. Low and medium income housing should be located on both sides of Moraga Ave in Moraga Canyon! High concentration of low income housing in one location is never good: each building and each of the building locations should have a mix of medium and low income together. The traffic engineers and developers will need to design safe crossing for pedestrians at the Blair Park and Coaches Field location as well as for the pedestrian crossings Moraga Ave at Mesa Ave and Monte Ave: pedestrians(especially children) are not likely to walk all the way to the traffic signal at Highland Ave in order to cross Moraga Ave.

  2. The Housing Element identifies a large area for the 137 units and if the corporation yard is relocated, high concentration may not be an issue. There are added benefits to locating all housing on the Coaches side of Moraga Avenue. Certainly the access to light and views for the new housing is much better at Coaches than Blair as well as access to recreational facilities. Coaches already has pedestrian access and the traffic crossings to access Blair Park may be safe but will significantly slow traffic and increase GHG emissions.

    Big picture – there are now three elements being proposed for Moraga Canyon – housing, recreation and public works. Now is the time to put the HCD numbers to the side and do some planning for Piedmont. Which two of those three elements are best situated on the Coaches side of Moraga Avenue? Alternatively, should housing really be built around a corporation yard and next to a busy street? How likely is it that all 137 (87 moderate, 60 affordable) units will be needed in the canyon? Many of the 87 moderate units called for in the canyon will be supplied elsewhere in town through future ADU and SB 9 development and expansion of the multi-family zones in Piedmont. Don’t overdevelop the canyon.

    No doubt Blair Park offers a quick solution to developing affordable housing in Piedmont but the city needs to consider more long-term issues regarding development in the canyon.

  3. This proposal requires consideration. Moving the corporation yard to Blair Park will enhance the esthetics of the Coaches Field site and provide more space and therefore more flexibility for the design of a mixed income site, potentially providing space for a small park with picnic benches and swings and slides, a feature that would be much appreciated by young families. Additionally, having the housing on one side of Moraga will promote safety for children walking to school and will enable the city to efficiently allocate resources to improving the walkway. I may be incorrect here, but when I drive by the site, it does not appear that the sidewalk extends to the present entrance to the Coaches Field/Corporation Yard facility. Having a sidewalk will also provide an opportunity for children living in the center of town to walk to Coaches Field for practices and games mitigating traffic issues.

  4. The current Moraga Avenue sidewalk goes all the way to the Coaches Field parking area so pedestrian access from town is available. The City should consider improving the Spring Path trail so residents in that neighborhood have better pedestrian access.

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