A plan that would give Hayward residents first preference for all types of rental housing and home ownership that include partnerships with the city will be studied by city staff. The Hayward City Council approved the referral Tuesday that only begins the discussion, even though there had been questions in the past over its legality.

The proposal by Councilmember Aisha Wahab is intended to limit displacement of long-time residents in Hayward, an issue that has become more prevalent in the city’s discourse over the past two years, and was a main campaign platform for the first-term councilmember.

“The concept is about policy. My main goal is to see where we can potentially have the conversation to provide more housing opportunities to younger folks who are trying to move out of their parents’ home, or residents that are being displaced, or renters who are trying to own some property,” Wahad said Tuesday night.

The proposal, primarily the home ownership aspect, was supported Tuesday night by a representative of Bay East Association of Realtors, a group that has often opposed Wahab’s previous solutions for housing in Hayward.

Although not included in the specific referral, Wahab told the East Bay Citizen last week that one of the largest potential areas that could be affected by the proposal is the up to nine CalTrans parcels that dot Mission and Foothill Boulevards. The properties were once slated to be part of the long-proposed Route 238 bypass freeway. Hayward will soon release Request for Proposals to develop the parcels for housing.

Although the council was unanimous in its vote to move the referral forward, there were numerous questions raised, in addition, to clear growing pains for some councilmembers who are still adjusting to new council rules for members offering referrals.

Councilmembers Al Mendall and Mark Salínas raised concerns whether the proposal could stymie the RFP process and slow down each potential project. “I want to caution the council on hanging all these things on it like a Christmas tree,” said Salínas.

“I think it’s a great thing,” Salínas said of the referral’s aims, “but my point here is we must be mindful in what are we doing through this process.”

Hayward already gives preference to city residents for affordable housing units, but Halliday, who was supportive of the city studying Wahab’s referral, added, “We have talked about this many times on many projects we’ve seen over the years and sometimes we’ve very been frustrated by being told that it is against the law,” said Halliday.

Earlier Halliday attempted to do her best to control the council discussion Tuesday night that often veered into the specifics and merits of the bare-bones proposal, problems the council’s new rules for issuing referrals had hoped to avoid.

At one point, Councilmember Francisco Zermeño urged for the referral to include a preference for public safety employees living outside the city an opportunity to live in Hayward.  “That’s not what this referral is about,” City Manager Kelly McAdoo told Zermeño, adding the proposal’s specific intent was to benefit existing Hayward residents, not those living in another city.

Similar to other East Bay cities, the issuance of a referral, essentially a councilmember offering the beginnings of new city legislation, only seeks majority support for the germ of the idea. And if approved, to decide whether the proposal should be studied by staff and brought back for further review, or for instance, deliberated at a lower-level council committee.