Dissecting 1973 Measure A

Part Two of a series
 

Voters passed Measure A on March 13, 1973. The lame-duck City Council wasted little time in seeing that the city properly brought the city in line. At its March 20 meeting, the Council voted 4-1 to immediately end issuing permits for “multiple dwellings.” 

To demonstrate just how seriously the city took Measure A, City Attorney Fred Cunningham noted that the city would not make any exceptions to the ordinance. This meant that the city would require The Tahoe Apartments owner Frank Reynolds to build just 12 units to replace the 27 units that a Navy jet had destroyed on Feb. 7, 1973. 

Cunningham’s job was to shield the city from lawsuits. No one could sue if the city made no exceptions other than those crisply spelled out in Measure A: “the Alameda Housing Authority replacement of existing low-cost housing units and the proposed senior citizens’ low-cost housing complex.”

As Reynolds wondered what to do, there was talk of scrapping the idea of building just 12 units and building the Church of the Nazarene on the site. The city later gave in, and the 24-unit Sycamore Condominiums stand on the site today.  

On Friday, March 23, the Alameda Times-Star informed its readers that the state of California would soon require its cities to adopt a new layer of investigation. The state would place new construction projects under even more scrutiny with a new tool — an environmental impact report. The following day Measure A disappeared from the newspaper’s front page. 

Alamedans would now see subjects that included the community’s concern about Navy aircraft “overflights,” — after the Feb. 7 tragedy. The Times Star would also voice the community’s concern about Porter School’s students’ displacement after a suspicious fire had incinerated that place of learning. There was even talk of sending the students to a new school that the school district would build on embattled Bay Farm Island. 

On April 2, the California State Assembly certified Measure A by a vote of 70-1. The lone holdout, Mike Cullen (D-Long Beach), expressed a feeling that echoes even today. “I believe that restricting apartment buildings also restricts the choice that Californians have to live wherever they please,” he said. Alameda’s Assemblyman Robert Crown voted to approve the ordinance. This after calling Measure A “destructive and disorderly.” In a sad footnote Crown lost his life seven weeks later. He was struck and killed by a car on May 21, 1973, while on his morning jog in Alameda. Crown Memorial Beach bears his name. 

Three weeks later Measure A reappeared on the Times-Star front page when the new City Council met. The agenda contained an item that went right to the soul of Measure A, demanding an end to the idea of building townhomes on Bay Farm Island that escaped Measure A’s scalpel. 

Next week the Sun will address not only that Measure A confrontation, but others that followed.

 

Contact Dennis Evanosky at editor@alamedasun.com.