2014 Year in Review

Representatives from Friends of Crown Beach prepare to turn in 6,347 signatures at Alameda City Hall.

January

Friends of Crown Beach (FOCB) fired the first salvo in the fight to stop Tim Lewis Communities (TLC) from building homes at Crown Beach. FOCB hosted a meeting on Jan. 15 to kick off the campaign to add a proposed measure to the November ballot to make Neptune Point open space. In 2011, the General Services Administration hosted an auction and Roseville, Calif.-based developer TLC purchased the property for $3.085 million.

When TLC unveiled plans to build homes on the site, FOCB sprang into action. The East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) also threatened to sue the city when the city rezoned the property to multi-family residential in 2012.

Alameda’s political landscape shaped up when school board trustee Mike McMahon announced he would run for another term. Councilman Stewart Chen also announced his intention to run in November. Termed-out Councilwoman Lena Tam said that she would run for a seat on the BART board of directors.

Alameda lost its Poet Laureate when Mary Rudge passed away on Jan. 19.

The Alameda Police Department raised some eyebrows when Chief Paul Rolleri announced the department’s intention to add license-plate readers to its arsenal.

February

The media spotlight was cast on Councilman Stewart Chen when it was learned that he had failed to inform the community about a plea deal he took in 1993. Chen was involved in an insurance fraud scheme. He pled "guilty" to a lesser offense instead of facing a long list of fraud charges in court.

The Alameda Fire Department christened the fire boat Deanna Johe. The department called the boat the final component of its marine operations program. The need for such a boat was sorely evident on Memorial Day 2011 when Raymond Zack drowned as firefighters and police stood on the shore and watched.

"Land swap" found its way into the headlines again as the city and the Alameda Unified School District negotiated trading parcels of land on the Island City. In question were the old Island High School site on Everett Street and a 20-acre site on Alameda Point near the USS Hornet. Part of the "swap" included money from the city that would pay for pool repairs at Alameda and Encinal high schools.

March

The city announced that it would look for a firm to build a long-desired Shore Line Drive bikeway. The city hoped to offer a safer route and bay views to cyclists who traverse the 1.8-mile stretch of the Island from Westline Drive to Broadway. The city paid about $500,000 toward the $971,800 project, with most of the rest of the tab covered by a federal grant.

The city and the school district unveiled more details of its land swap, announcing that they had sealed the deals for the land-cash swaps behind closed doors. The deal stirred up an imbroglio in a teapot when the public learned the swap include worthless submerged tidelands that the school district had received years earlier from the city in exchange for the Mastick School property on Santa Clara Avenue.

In a separate real-estate brouhaha the federal government announced plans to sue the state of California to reclaim ownership of MacKay Avenue, the street that Roseville home builder Tim Lewis Communities needs to rekindle its Neptune Pointe home building plans. Lewis was in the process of purchasing federal property along McKay when the announcement came.

St. Joseph Notre Dame High School’s Pilots basketball team won the state championship. This marked the fifth time in the school’s history, that the men’s basketball team won the state championship. The Pilots made short work of Southern California’s Renaissance Academy of La Canada 57-32 at the Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento to take the championship.

April

The Rockefeller Foundation announced that it had dropped Alameda from its list of 33 resilient cities. The announcement surprised some city-hall watchers and Alameda political pundits so much so that folks thought it was an April Fools’ Day joke.

Reporter Rick Cohen covered Alameda’s loss in his lead story in the Non Profit Quarterly, a publication widely read and highly respected by professionals in the nonprofit sector. "Whatever (a resilient city) might be, in the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities program, it no longer includes Alameda, California," Cohen stated. He speculated that the foundation based its decision on a disagreement over the concept and power of Alameda’s chief resilience officer likely instigated the Rockefeller reversal. The city would not comment on the reason.

The Alameda Health Care District (AHCD) board of directors met to discuss how they would conduct the transition of power to Alameda County’s health provider Alameda Health System (AHS). Alameda Hospital and AHS announced in 2013 that the two sides agreed in principle to an affiliation that would place Alameda Hospital in the AHS network of hospitals and wellness centers with AHS taking financial responsibility for the day-to-day operations at Alameda Hospital.

Representatives from developer Tim Lewis Communities hosted a special tour of the Del Monte Warehouse. They laid out their plans to convert the 11.5-acre site into 414 housing units and as much as 25,000 square feet of commercial space.

May

Jonathan De Los Reyes won the 87th Annual Alameda Commuters Tournament. De Los Reyes finished the tournament 11 strokes ahead of Matt Williams and Jason Anthony, who both placed second. This marked the biggest margin of victory in the contest’s 87-year history.

Friends of Crown Beach (FOCB) announced that its members collected enough signatures to get the Crab Cove zoning measure placed on the November ballot. They filed the petition at city hall with 6,734 signatures, a number far above the 4,370 needed to place the measure before the voters. FOCB was leading the effort to expand and enhance Crown Beach at Crab Cove, and dubbed the petition the Crab Cove Open Space Expansion Initiative.

The Alameda Unified School District board of trustees announced plans to place a $180 million bond measure on the November ballot. If voters approved the measure, which they did in November, the board said it would spend the money on critical fixes like new boilers and safety upgrades. Board members agreed that Historic Alameda High School should be renovated and reopened. In addition to restoring the campus to student use, the building could also once again house the district office.

The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) announced freeway construction projects on Interstate-880 just north of the Park Street Bridge would begin affecting the flow of traffic on the bridge. The contractors planned to replace two existing freeway overcrossings at 23rd Avenue along with the overcrossing at 29th Avenue. These overcrossings funnel traffic into and out of the maze of streets just across the Park Street Bridge.

June

The Planning Board stopped short of recommending the city enact rent controls. Board members voted 4-3 to ask the City Council to consider setting up a task force to study whether people are being displaced by rising rents. Board members recommended that the task force examine the causes and impacts of rent increases, what existing city policies are doing to address any impacts and what else the city could or should be doing. Alameda has a rent board that mediates disputes, but its recommendations are not binding on landlords or renters.

Perfect weather greeted those who visited Robert Crown Memorial State Beach to see plots of sand evolve into showpieces at the annual Alameda Sand Castle and Sand Sculpture Contest. A large crowd observed 410 contestants from the Bay Area and beyond develop their creations from natural items found on the beach the morning of the contest. Materials used included: shells, seaweed, driftwood and, of course, sand.

Alameda Unified School District Superintendent Kirsten Vital left Alameda to take the reins of the Capistrano Unified School District (CUSD). Vital took charge of a much larger district in her new job. CUSD encompasses 195 square miles and serves 53,000 students who attend 55 schools in seven cities.

See part two next week.