Historic Preservation Nomination Removed; McKay Avenue Wellness Center Moves Forward

City of Alameda &nbsp The current altered condition of Building 2 where the three wings (2E, 2F, 2G) on the south elevation were demolished.
City of Alameda -- The current altered condition of Building 2 where the three wings (2E, 2F, 2G) on the south elevation were demolished.

Historic Preservation Nomination Removed; McKay Avenue Wellness Center Moves Forward

The McKay Avenue Wellness Center will move forward after the California State Office of Historic Preservation (OHP) declined to include the property that would house the facility on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP).

At the Aug. 5 OHP meeting, State Historic Preservation Officer Julianne Polanco decided to remove the United States Maritime Service Officers’ School NRHP inclusion nomination from the agenda altogether. “I determine that the nomination is adequately documented, however, the property does not appear to meet the national register criteria for evaluation,” said Polanco during her report before hearing the agenda items.

Polanco acknowledged the historic importance of the district and its role in World War II.

“The fact that this training center was specifically designed for already enlisted sailors to ready them for war and the brave service for which they gave to our country is without question,” she said. “These men who faithfully discharged their duties are deserving of commemoration.”

However, Polanco determined the site itself did not meet the standard to be included on the list.

“As this nomination is for a district and not individual buildings, the remaining integrity on an accumulative basis is important,” said Polanco. “I do not believe there remains sufficient integrity for the proposed historic district to convey the significance for which it is being nominated.”

Polanco said she made her decision after conducting a thorough review of the nomination, reading numerous public comments and documentation and visiting the site at 1251 McKay Ave.

The district’s inclusion on the NRHP list would have halted the city’s plan to build a wellness center at the site (“Historic Preservation Application Might Jeopardize Wellness Facility,” June 21). At the June 13 Planning Board meeting, City of Alameda Planning, Building and Transportation Director Andrew Thomas said the site’s placement on this list would “raise questions about the economic feasibility of the [wellness] project.”

The McKay site was put on the nomination agenda by Alameda resident Carmen Reid. In Reid’s draft application, dated March 31, she states the site deserves inclusion in the NRHP under Criteria A for its “association with Maritime, Military, and Education history as a training center for Merchant Marine officers established during the Second World War and continuing through the Korean War.” She also says it meets Criteria C “as an example of Second Bay Tradition architecture as executed by architect Fred J. Early and Joseph Esherick. The period of significance is 1943-1953, and the property is nominated at the local level of significance.”

Reid’s filing placed the nomination on the OHP Aug. 5 meeting agenda. As a result, the City of Alameda and Mayor Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft submitted rebuttals. The city’s report, released last month, said the nomination should not move forward because the district lost its initial integrity for several reasons including the fact that 18 of the 27 original buildings and structures were demolished and replaced with apartments or shopping center.

The mayor made similar points in her letter. One point expressed in her July 18 letter read, “The nomination lacks an adequate boundary description and justification. The description of the proposed historic district boundary is based solely on what buildings remain today, rather than relating back to the former use of the site as a campus.”

Polanco removed Reid’s nomination from the Aug. 5 agenda on July 22 (first reported by Alameda blogger Lauren Do). However, Reid filed an appeal, and the item was back on the agenda. This triggered Polanco’s review.

At the meeting several Alameda residents spoke in favor of putting the nomination back on the agenda including Alameda City Councilmember Trish Herrera Spencer — speakers were allowed to take part in a public comment section at the end of the meeting. “It saddens me that this organization did not consider the application on the merits and continues to not recognize the efforts of the merchant marines,” said Herrera Spencer. “I hope at some point you all will reconsider the application and we’ll have the opportunity to be heard on the merits.”

With the NRHP nomination out of the way, the McKay Avenue Wellness Center can proceed. The campus will provide:
• 100 permanent housing units for Alameda County residents ages 55+
• 50-bed recuperative care for unhoused Alameda County residents to resolve acute conditions, stabilize chronic conditions, and receive hospice care
• A Primary Care Clinic for medical respite patients and senior housing residents
• Resource Center for homelessness prevention and placement for unhoused and at-risk City of Alameda individuals and families

The 100 units of housing would count towards city’s Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA), for which the city is required by the state to develop a plan to build 5,353 units in their 2023-2031 Housing Element.