Planning Puts Response Center Architect on Notice

A fire truck passes the future site of the new Fire Station No. 3 at Buena Vista Avenue and Hibbard Street. The city hopes to build the station at this intersection and an emergency operations center on an adjoining property on Grand Street. Photo by Dennis Evanosky

"This thing is going to look like a giant, walled fortress in the middle of a historic residential neighborhood." — John Knox White Planning Board member


At last Monday’s meeting members of the Planning Board told the city that it needs to make design changes to the two-story, 3,640-square-foot emergency operations center it hopes to build at 1809 Grand St. The city was hoping to begin construction of the center this spring.

Planning Board members and some neighbors are questioning whether the building’s design fits with the residential neighborhood at Grand Street and Buena Vista Avenue.

The city also plans to build a replacement for Fire Station No. 3 on an adjoining lot on Grand Street.

The Planning Board approved the site plan for the center by a 5-1 vote; board member John Knox White cast the lone dissenting vote; board member Mike Henneberry did not attend the meeting.

However, board members sent architect Chris Ford and his company Brown, Reynolds, Watford Architects back to the drawing board, questioning items like the size of the building’s windows and the small number of parking spaces that Ford’s design allows.

Had the Planning Commission members signed off on the plans in their entirety, their approval would have signified that they agreed the project was "compatible and harmonious with the design and use of the surrounding area." And that "the project is designed to provide an attractive building, screen on-site parking areas and complement the landscape design of adjacent properties."

Knox White disagreed, saying that "this thing is going to look like a giant, walled fortress in the middle of a historic residential neighborhood."

The planned structures will upgrade the city’s current emergency operations center and Fire Station No. 3 at 1709 Grand St. The current operations center is in the basement of Alameda Police Department.

Seismic concerns led the city to move firefighters out of the 90-year-old Fire Station No. 3 and into rented quarters next door to the tune of $3,500 a month. The fire station is now only home to Engine 3. Beyond earthquake concerns the city also contends that the station’s bay is too small to hold more modern trucks or engines.

It remains unclear where funding for the emergency operations center and Fire Station No. 3 will come from. The city made pinpointing the funds for these projects in Sacramento part of Don Perata’s assignment when it hired him last month ("City Hires Perata," Dec. 6, 2013).

Contact Dennis Evanosky at