‘No’ on Z Protects Our Neighborhoods

‘No’ on Z Protects Our Neighborhoods

I grew up in the Alameda of the 1950s and ’60s. My parents moved here in 1951. I grew up on Taylor Avenue with easy access to Washington Park where neighborhood kids just walked down the steps of the sea wall and enjoyed the bay. Little sharks swam around our feet, we picked up crabs and snails and had jellyfish fights. We climbed the train and participated in the many activities the park offered. I attended school at Mastick, Washington and Encinal.

Growing up I didn’t appreciate the bungalows or the Marcus and Remmel’s high basement Victorians as I do today. The homes near the bay were my favorite. No lagoons, no fill only beautiful views of the bay graced with lovely homes. Most of these homes still exist. We are missing the beautiful Queen Anne built by Joseph Leonard at the end of Union Street.

This was the last home lost before Measure A went into effect. And then there was my favorite on the corner of San Antonio and Bay Street right across the street from 1200 San Antonio Ave. My Mom would always drive by because she knew it was my favorite and then one day we drove by and it was gone. Just gone like so many before and after the loss of this beautiful home.

The Vietnam War was going strong and Alameda needed housing, so homes were torn down and the ugly six-and eight-pack apartment buildings appeared, and our neighborhoods were forever changed. Fortunately, Alameda rose up and put Measure A on the ballot to protect their neighborhoods. Since 1973 a home has not been destroyed except for the little yellow house to make room for seven parking spaces for the Marketplace. Which was an inept decision from the City Council.
When I moved back to Alameda in 2006 the city was dealing with the developer SunCal. Their demands were to make the base housing non-Measure A compliant. SunCal demanded a vote and they lost by 85 percent

Alameda wanted to keep Measure A. In 2012 Mayor Gilmore and City Manager Russo ignored the voter’s voice on the SunCal loss and started the destruction of Measure A. They led the way to change commercial zoning to multi use zoning and that opened the doors to the developers who had been waiting at the gates of Alameda since 1973.

So it is what it is, there are areas in Alameda that are non Measure A compliant which means we will see more of the sardine cans that are being built on the base or homes like Bayport. Besides the issue of building homes on toxic land there will be more cars, more traffic, more changes in our quality of life, the main reason why we chose to live here.

What is more discouraging is the majority of housing built today is for profit and will not be affordable for families making under approximately $160,000 per year. It is unlikely that Alameda will be able to provide the high paying jobs so people can work on the island.

When developer Tim Lewis was promising us water taxis, art galleries and coffee houses I wrote a letter to the City of Alameda. I was published in the Alameda Sun. When I attended a City Council meeting a member of the audience read it into the city’s minutes. The letter I wrote was to let the city that I grew up in know that I was falling out of love with my home town. I ended it with this; nothing has changed:

“I foresee a very sad future for you Alameda. Your personality and uniqueness will soon be gone. This Mayor, City Council and City Manager are selling your soul. They have the mentality like the rest of the country that put the quality of life aside to make room for the almighty dollar.

“Too many cars, traffic on the bridges and in the tubes; ugly dense houses either on toxic land or on your dangerous shores to be inundated by rising waters or liquefied by a major earthquake and more speeding cars on your streets (Central and Lincoln avenues are speedways where’re very few seem to obey the 25 mile-per-hour speed limit anymore) dangerous cross walks, safety issues for evacuations, a complete destruction of our way of life.”

So, what will I do? Will I sell my house that has been in my family for 50 years and move on because it breaks my heart to see what a few people who were elected to follow your laws fail you so miserably or will I decide to stay and ignore what is happening on your shores?

Alameda needs to protect our existing neighborhoods from developers. By rescinding Measure A, it would take just three votes from the City Council to change a neighborhood.

Preserve Alameda. Vote “no” on Measure Z.

Gail Wasserman Howell lives in Alameda.