2015: A Year to Remember

File photos. In April, Harbor Bay Landing cut several trees down over the opposition of several residents, including Mayor Spencer (pictured at left) but halted the removal until the city could review the scope of the project.

2015: A Year to Remember

Part One of Two


Alameda Fire Department and the city’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) joined forces to find an at-risk missing teenager at Alameda Point as 2014 came to a close. The CERT team’s efforts served to underscore the importance of community assistance in local emergencies and times of need.

A windstorm brutalized the urban forest on New Year’s Day, with five police reports of trees and branches fallen on cars, and more than 30 trees felled at the Chuck Corica Golf Course. Years of drought have affected local trees, and more were lost later in winter.

Civil rights icon Ruby Bridges came to town to speak to students and families at a fundraising concert Jan. 24 at Kofman Auditorium; the event sought to raise money for the fifth grade classes at Ruby Bridges Elementary School, for students to attend a three-day outdoor camp in the Santa Cruz mountains.  

Mystery goo covered local shorebirds at Crown Beach, with affected birds as far as San Leandro Marina and along the Hayward shoreline. International Bird Rescue said that more than 360 birds were affected and at least 38 had died. The mystery goo was never fully identified and no culprit named.

Pagano’s Hardware, a longtime tenant of Lincoln Avenue, announced plans to move to Central Avenue’s Neptune Plaza shopping center. The Oakland Raiders honored local students at a ceremony on the gridiron, and the Island City earned a “B” from the American Lung Association for its smoke-free and tobacco-control policies.


Tim Lewis Communities (TLC) announced it was giving $2 million to the city to help develop Jean Sweeney Open Space Park. The money came from an agreement TLC made with the city in return for TLC’s inability to provide the required amount of open space at its nearby Del Monte warehouse project.

Philip Hu was selected to fill the seat on the Board of Education vacated by Mayor Trish Spencer when she took office. Hu was among 23 applicants for the seat; he will serve out Spencer’s two-year term.

Sean McPhetridge, interim superintendent of Alameda Unified School District (AUSD), was named superintendent on his birthday Feb. 10. McPhetridge replaced Kirstin Vital, who left to run the Capistrano School District. The new superintendent has experience in teaching and administration and is credited with having saved Alameda Science and Technology Institute (ASTI) from closure.

City Manager John Russo announced his resignation with a plan to move to the city of Riverside, Calif. He joined former Alameda Municipal Power head Girish Balachandran, who also moved to Riverside to run the public utility there.


AUSD planned to tackle school security concerns after a series of break-ins and confrontations rattled teachers, students and administrators at Bay Farm and Edison elementary schools. Edison families planned to discuss installing a perimeter fence and security gate; vandalism at Bay Farm included graffiti, broken windows and students’ work destroyed.

The new bike path along Shore Line Drive was officially opened and dedicated in March. Mayor Spencer was on hand to cut the ribbon. The new design met with both praise and criticism, and a learning curve that involved cars driving or parking in the bike path.

Assistant City Manager Liz Warmerdam was tapped to fill Russo’s spot as interim city manager. Warmerdam, an Army veteran, came with an impressive background in city management, development and finance.


The Alameda Fire Department paid more than $1 million in overtime in 2014, a fact that came to light in a budget analysis by the Alameda Sun in spring. The department also spent almost $200,000 on acting pay, which pays for an employee to temporarily hold a higher paid position when the department is short-staffed due to active service out in the field. 

A Hercules man, Charles Kimbrough, was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison for the Alameda murder of an Oakland marijuana grower in 2011. The murder took place at the Summer House apartment complex; Kimbrough was convicted of the murder in August 2014.

Alameda native and Alameda High School alum James Hahn just missed the cut at the 2015 Masters Tournament in Augusta, Ga., in April. Hahn posted a solid one-over-par 73 in the first round of his first major tournament, putting him on course to make the projected cut after the second round. However, he received a one-stroke penalty in the second round, which cost him the cut.

East Bay Municipal Utilities District (EBMUD) declared a Stage 4 drought alert and urged residents to cut back on water use. City departments have been working to meet reductions with less watering, fewer vehicle washings, and leak repairs.

Shady eviction practices have affected tenants, including, ironically, David Perry, the president of Alameda’s Rent Review Advisory Committee. Local landlords’ use of the 60-day eviction notice is on the rise.


The city declared part of Alameda Point a no-public-access zone at the shoreline of the Seaplane Lagoon; some residents, including Vice Mayor Frank Matarrese, were forced to vacate the premises by Alameda Point security. Officials said that illegal dumping has been an issue at the former Navy base.

High school senior Taylor Griffith of St. Joseph Notre Dame received a congressional arts award from Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Oakland). Lee visited SJND to present the award. Griffiths’ artwork will hang in the corridor between the Canon House Office Building and the U.S. Capitol for a year.

A police standoff on Park Avenue led to evacuations of nearby houses for safety. A distraught man had taken prescription drugs and barricaded himself in his vehicle in the common driveway of several homes. He was later taken to a hospital for 72-hour observation.

City Council approved the construction of a replacement firehouse and emergency operations center for a half-acre empty lot at Buena Vista near Grand. The center will be used by police and fire in the event of a major disaster. The center, currently under construction, is slated to cost $8 million.


Alameda City Council considered the issue of body cameras for police officers at a meeting in June. APD Chief asked for $424,752 from the city, with plans for state grant money and unspent funds from the yearly budget to pay for the cameras. The funds would pay for 80 AXON Flex cameras as well as servers for storage and management of the videos.

AUSD teachers and administrators came to a tentative agreement on a 4 percent raise for the next school year, with additional other increases including dental and other benefits. The teachers’ union called the agreement a “banner moment,” as the first time in more than a decade that the two sides had reached agreement before the current contract expired.

The city council approved the Alameda Point Site A plan unanimously at the June 16 meeting. The plan opens up 878 acres for development, to include a new ferry terminal, 1425 housing units, 5.5 million square feet of commercial space and more than 300 acres of open space.

A visit to Alameda by the sister city delegation from Dumaguete, Philippines, caused concern in the Pacific island city, as factions in government debated whether or not the visit was official or not. Alameda has a sister city relationship with Dumaguete and Mayor Trish Spencer reciprocated with a visit to the Philippine city later in the year.

To be continued; Part Two next week will round up July through December, 2015.

the first city-wide student spelling bee in a long time took place in February with 60 kids competing. Five students gained passage to the county spelling bee; Otis School’s Hazel Purins won the honor of Alameda’s top speller.
On March 5, The US Coast Guard Cutter Waesche returned from 79 days at sea in the Pacific to an enthusiastic crowd of friends and family at Coast Guard Island.
A visit to Alameda by the sister city delegation from Dumaguete, Philippines, in June caused concern in the Pacific island city, as factions in government debated whether or not the visit was official.
A June drug raid in Hayward nabbed Alameda resident Tony Hoang as well as some 13,000 marijuana plants in a warehouse. The street value of the drug was about $15 million. Hoang and two others were charged with felony marijuana cultivation and sales.