OAKLAND — Mayor Jerry Brown Tuesday night called for a blue-ribbon commission to study whether developers should be required to set aside at least 15 percent of their projects for low income residents, dramatically casting a tie-breaking vote.

Brown's decision, which prompted howls of anger from the audience in the council chambers, ends any chance that supporters of inclusionary zoning will get the measure on the books before voters go to the polls and decide the fate of Proposition 90, which will severely curtail the council's authority to act.

Brown, who is running for state attorney general and has only two months left in office, said the inclusionary zoning measure would do little to help the 30,000 families living below the poverty line in Oakland, while driving developers — and private investment — out of the city.

"It will not make even a small dent," Brown said.

Brown said the measure would create what he called a "lottery" for the 100 affordable homes and apartments he estimated would be built in a single year, if the measure were implemented, while taxing market rate homes.

"There is no Santa Claus," Brown said. "Someone has to pay."

Two weeks ago, the Oakland City Council split right down the middle on a proposal that would have required developments of 20 or more apartments or homes to set aside 15 percent of the rental units for households earning 60 percent of the area's median income, or about $50,000 for a family of four.

In addition, the measure would have required 15 percent of for-sale homes to be affordable for households that earn the area's median income, or about $84,000 for a family of four.


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More than a dozen people urged Brown to support the measure, saying the call for more study was nothing more than a delaying tactic that would duplicate work already done by a coalition of groups that favor inclusionary zoning.

"We are your blue ribbon commission," said Bea Bernstein, a member of Oakland Community Organizations, one of many people who wore blue ribbons to drive their point home.

Before casting his vote, Brown delivered a spirited defense of his economic development policy during his term in office, which encouraged development and private investment — acknowledging that his critics think it has helped push longtime Oakland residents and minorities out of the city.

Brown said the complicated issue of inclusionary zoning merited more study, warning that it could result in a reduction in property values, and a corresponding drop in tax revenue for the city.

Brown acknowledged his long opposition to inclusionary zoning measures, and criticism from several council members that one should have been approved earlier during the housing boom that appears to have cooled.

The mayor suggested city funds would be better spent improving the thousands of run down apartments throughout Oakland.

The blue-ribbon commission, proposed by Councilmember Desley Brooks (Eastmont-Seminary) will be made up of people appointed by Brown, Mayor-Elect Ron Dellums and the City Council as well as City Attorney John Russo and City Administrator Deborah Edgerly.

E-mail Heather MacDonald at hmacdonald@oaklandtribune.com