E-Mail Forum
Affordable Housing
May 11, 2001

I have received a number of complaints about what people consider to be unconscionable rental escalations in Marina Bay. Several renters in the Iron Triangle have appeared at the last few City Council meetings to protest rent increases. One of the Ahwahnee Principles (TOM BUTT E-FORUM, April 7, 2001, and http://www.lgc.org/community_design/index.html), adopted by the City Council on April 10, 2001) is:

“A community should contain a diversity of housing types to enable citizens from a wide range of economic levels and age groups to live within its boundaries.” 

I would like to inform you about a panel discussion on affordable housing sponsored by several West County Groups on May 22, 2001.  The event, titled “Housing Choices for Livable Communities” will feature Supervisor John Gioia and Assemblymember Dion Aroner to provide perspective; Letitia Moore as moderator; and panelists Tom Jones of the California Futures Network,  Rachel Peterson of Urban Ecology, and Maria Benjamin of East Bay Housing Organizations.

The sponsoring organizations are El Cerrito Democratic Club, West Contra Costa Group of the Sierra Club, and Sustainable El Cerrito. We all need to learn more about the issue and what tools and programs might help make affordable housing more available.

Following is an article by Brad Caftel on this event and short descriptions of the speakers’ organizations.


Aroner and Gioia To Speak On Local Housing Issues
By Brad Caftel

Currently, El Cerrito, Richmond, and other West County communities are considering mixed housing and commercial developments, including the Del Norte BART Station site.  Whether these developments include affordable housing is a timely issue for public discussion.

The shortage of affordable housing affects all of us.  Our firefighters, police officers, nurses, teachers, seniors, the workers in retail stores, and many young adults who went to school and grew up here, cannot afford to live in or near the community.  Our roads are congested with people forced to live far from their employment.  Our businesses would benefit from more customers to purchase basic goods and services.  Miles from here, open space and farmland are being developed for housing, with harmful consequences to the environment and everyone’s quality of life.

Prohibiting or discouraging new housing in the hope that fewer people will move here is not a solution.  Our population will continue to grow.  More people will crowd into the available housing units.  Urban sprawl will continue to devour the available land.

No community is immune from this problem, nor can one community solve it alone.  The problem is regional and requires regional planning.  However, each community has a significant role to play, and should do what it can.  In our community, we can encourage and support mixed income housing combined with commercial retail and offices to be located near major 

transit centers.  As a community, we should be willing to discuss new ideas and approaches used in nearby cities.  Some of these ideas include: targeted workforce housing for those who serve the community such as teachers; encouraging in-law units; and requiring both housing and commercial developers to share the cost of making housing units affordable.

The El Cerrito Democratic Club recently passed a resolution urging the City Council to actively promote affordable housing development.  The West Contra Costa Group of the Sierra Club adopted smart growth principles that call for more affordable housing.  Sustainable El Cerrito has long promoted smart growth including infill and affordable housing.  These three organizations are jointly sponsoring Housing Choices for Livable Communities, a workshop on Tuesday May 22 from 7:30 - 9:30 pm, at the Northminster Presbyterian Church, 545 Ashbury, El Cerrito.  Come early to see the exhibits and displays.

Supervisor John Gioia and Assemblymember Dion Aroner will be joined by moderator Letitia Moore and panelists Tom Jones of the California Futures Network, Rachel Peterson of Urban Ecology, and Maria Benjamin of East Bay Housing Organizations.  They will focus on the affordable housing needs facing West Contra Costa, current efforts and the available political and financial tools, and what we can do to make a difference.  Please attend and invite others.


The California Futures Network is a statewide coalition created to educate and organize at the state, regional and local levels to achieve land use policies that are fiscally, socially and environmentally sound. The Sierra Club California is a member of this coalition.

Urban Ecology is an Oakland-based organization that works with many organizations to envision, design, and plan cities to support a natural environment, a multicultural and thriving community, and an innovative and vigorous local economy. They published the award-winning “Blueprint for a Sustainable Bay Area.”

East Bay Housing Organizations is a coalition of housing advocates, community groups, nonprofit housing developers, homeowners, tenants and homeless people organized to promote the preservation and development of affordable housing in West Contra Costa and Alameda Counties.. EBHO works to expand the range of housing choices available to low- and moderate-income households and to the homeless.