Measure A 1973 Under a Microscope this Month

Ordinance began to unravel at birth

The City of Alameda faced several Measure A challenges in the first six weeks of the ordinance’s existence. “There shall be no multiple units built in Alameda,” the ordinance read, without defining “multiple units.” The first test came with Braddock and Logan’s three townhome developments planned or underway on Bay Farm Island: Garden Isle, Casitas and Islandia. 

The second impasse originated with the owner of the smaller multiplex units next door to The Tahoe Apartments at Central Avenue and Union Street that the U.S. Navy jet had destroyed in a fiery crash. The owner of the two smaller buildings retained an attorney and told the Alameda Times-Star that she might sue if the city did not allow her to rebuild her units as they stood before the tragedy. 

The third challenge came from the members of the Committee of Concerned Citizens. On April 17, 1973, the city bade farewell to three defeated Councilmembers and welcomed three new members: Vice-Mayor Chuck Corica and Councilmembers Lloyd Hurwitz and George Beckham. The newly minted majority immediately got down to the business of the newly passed Measure A. 

Despite the measure’s narrow “multiple units” wording, Inez Kapellas — whose “Concerned Citizens” help seat Corica, Hurwitz and Beckham — stepped up to the microphone to insist that “multiple units” included townhomes without mentioning the ones Braddock and Logan were building on the Bay Farm Island Uplands south of Mecartney Road. After listening to Kapellas, the new Vice Mayor spoke up. “I would like to go on record as saying that a townhome is a multiple-unit dwelling,” he said according to the Times-Star

Corica was making a motion, which required that the Council follow proper procedure and that required a second and a vote by the full Council. No one spoke up. The other members of the “Concerned Citizens” triumvirate, Hurwitz and Beckham sat taciturn. The motion failed and with it Concerned Citizens’ bid to stop the Bay Farm townhomes. The first chink in the Measure A armor had appeared. 

The lack of support for Corica meant that the Council took City Attorney’s Fred Cunningham seriously. He had told the Council that townhomes are considered single-family dwellings. This remains true even today because townhomes have their own tax- and parcel-identification numbers and, even though they are attached to another townhome, they are owned separately from the ground up. The Council’s move likely prevented developers like Braddock and Logan from suing the city. Cunningham had done his job. 

A lawsuit loomed from another corner, however. Everyone knew that the Navy jet had destroyed The Tahoe Apartments that belonged to Frank Reynolds. However few remember Katherine Ferreira. She owned two multiplex residences at Central Avenue and Union Street, which the Navy jet had also destroyed. She introduced her attorney to the city. Not long afterwards, on May 1, 1973 — again following Cunningham’s advice, the Council did an about face. They voted to allow the rebuilding of townhouses, condominiums and apartment buildings destroyed by fire or any natural disaster. Measure A’s armor was falling apart.