I was heartbroken to see the Planning Board approve the monolithic five-story Marriott Residence Inn on the Harbor Bay shoreline at its Dec. 10 meeting.
Why? Because this hotel, as designed, is completely out-of-scale for the site and the neighborhood. Because it doesn’t fit in to its residential surroundings. Because it is a prefabricated, run-of-the-mill building with no distinguishing characteristics — it is not an upscale hotel as presented by the developer. Because I don’t believe the decision to allow this building takes a long view of what’s best for Alameda and Alamedans.
I am not against hotels in Alameda. I understand we need quality hotel space and that hotels bring sorely needed positive tax revenue. I am not even against a hotel on the site. I understand it is a privately-owned piece of property and that its current zoning, however misguided, allows for a hotel.
However, don’t we have a right to expect more from a developer who is building on the one of the last pristine shoreline properties in the Bay Area — that happens to be in our community? Shouldn’t this hotel be a model of waterfront development and not just an example of typical cookie-cutter hotels that could be built anywhere?
And finally, shouldn’t the surrounding neighbors have a say in ensuring that what is built in their neighborhood is an asset and does not have negative impacts on their home values and existing quality of life? After all, they — and we — are going to have to live with what is built long after the developer moves on to the next project.
Over the years, we have made many poor choices along our shoreline because either our vision for what we can be was too low, or we didn’t value our assets enough — everything from putting a windowless mail-processing plant on our beach front — to dumping toxic chemicals into the Bay — an unfortunate mistake made for us by the U.S. Navy.
Alameda is an island. We are defined as a waterfront community. Don’t we have a responsibility to future generations to make the most out of our shoreline, and to hold developers accountable to the highest possible standards? We look to the Planning Board and the City Council to support us in that responsibility.