In a bind, Hayward tables long-standing plan for city to boot Bunker Hill tenants from homes

HAYWARD CITY COUNCIL
For a Hayward City Council that has voiced strong support over the past few months for helping stave off its burgeoning affordable housing crisis, the optics of evicting up to 40 families from their homes put city officials in a political bind Tuesday night. Instead, the council voted, 5-2, to postpone for one month a plan that paves the way for a future housing development at one of the last vestiges of a long-ago proposed highway extension.

The city was slated to set the stage for finding a developer to purchase the parcels in the Bunker Hill areas of Hayward just below Cal State East Bay. Last December, the city sent tenants of the remaining 38 rental units and 7 commercial properties notice of impending 90-day evictions, effective May 1. The city also postponed Tuesday night a vote on a payment relocation schedule that includes incentives for tenants to leave their homes within 30 days. Tenants who move out earlier will receive an additional payment topping $4,500; within 60 days, $3,000, and within 90 days, $2,000, according to a staff report.

The city’s action, however, is long in the making. As far back as the 1960s, the state intended to build the Route 238 Bypass Freeway through Hayward’s Mission Boulevard. But the proposal was blocked by local activists and languished before the state gave up on the plan. (The Hayward Loop is, in part, a result of the defunct freeway proposal). CalTrans ultimately sold a clutch of parcels to the city in 2009 that includes the parcels under consideration at Tuesday’s meeting.

In 2009, and thereafter, the city declared the properties, sitting on ramshackle infrastructure and narrow streets, would be better packaged for sale and re-developed. A vast majority of the tenants agreed to a previous relocation stipends, over time, worth in total between $20,000 and $40,000, said Hayward City Manager Kelly McAdoo. Around 40 units remain occupied, but up to five remaining tenants moved in after the 2009 settlement agreement and have received no payments.

The city hopes to inspect the large number of blighted homes in the area for environmental concerns, such as asbestos, before beginning demolition, said McAdoo. “We are ready to start this process,” she told the council.

Although the eviction notices were not a surprise to the tenants, the timing could not be worse for them and city officials as the affordable housing crisis appears to be gripping Hayward residents in ways their neighbors in cities to the north and south have faced in recent years.

“How many people are we going to sacrifice in the name of housing if the city is displacing people from their homes? I expect the city to adequately compensate people so they can stay here,” said Hayward resident Alicia Lawrence.

A number of Bunker Hill residents asked for more time before moving out, stating comparably-priced single-family dwellings do not exist in Hayward and other East Bay cities. Resident Kirk DeYoung said he’s lived in his home for 22 years. The city once offered to buy the home. The offer, however, wasn’t feasible, he added, after the city added $125,000 in future street upgrades without guaranteeing the improvements for 20 years.

“I don’t want to move out. It seems for you to give us the boot, it seems kind of cruel,” said DeYoung. The city will make money on any deal with a developer, he added, but “this is same gentrification that going on throughout California and every slightly urban area and we’re victims of it, too. Maybe see it through our eyes.”

Referencing a city staff report that suggests selling off parcels in a piecemeal fashion would be unattractive to potential developers, one speaker rebuked the council. “This essentially means you’re putting the interests of potential developers ahead of the interests of your community members. Who else is being a bad actor in our community? I would say, you guys.”

Hayward Councilmember Sara Lamnin quickly motioned to table the discussion for one month in order for the city and tenants to find a consensus for moving forward.

“I was very worried about timeline of noticing and the allocation of funds. I don’t feel like it was adequate and equitable,” said Councilmember Elisa Marquez. “We all know about our housing crisis.”

The council voted to postpone the vote, 5-2, with Mayor Barbara Halliday and Councilmember Mark Salinas opposing, despite previous comments in support of the motion.

“They knew this day would come,” Halliday said of the evictions. “We’ll see what we can do to make it a little more palatable.” But she added skepticism for whether the extra month will change the city’s plan for the area. “I don’t know what a month is going to do. This going to end at some time.”

She added the city will move forward with its current plans or sell the properties back to CalTrans. The comment received applause in the chambers. Halliday was incredulous. “Do you want that? For years I heard complaints from this neighborhood about the awful job CalTrans was doing. The terrible landlord that they were and how awful it was.” None of the current tenants, she added, would be living there now under the previous arrangement, which was a freeway.

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