Save Our Working Waterfront

I prefer jobs over cookie cutter condos! Who’s with me?

The Alameda Sun Jan. 21 front-page story “Marina Paves Way for Re-Do” and some recent commentaries and build-baby-build letters do not detail the true extent of what Bill Poland and his Marin County development team plan to do at Alameda Marina. 

The reality is they will give the boot to most or all of the business tenants, then tear down all of the buildings to make way for a development more akin to Mission Bay in San Francisco. (It’s already happening; I hear that longtime tenants are not having their leases renewed, one boat tenant was evicted just for speaking out, and the harbormaster was fired.

Since when is it in the best interest of most residents of Alameda to eliminate about 250 well-paying jobs, many for people who actually live on the Island? Let’s see, 250 jobs multiplied by a low guesstimate of $25,000 a year works out to $6 million worth of payroll.

This massive development of our working waterfront is not a done deal. Any approval is probably one or two years down the road. It hinges on several factors. (I’m not an expert but this is what I’ve heard.)

  • The rezoning from Light Industrial to Mixed Use, voted on by the last city council. The rich outsider developer wants it very heavy on the residential, with up to five-story multi-unit buildings. The new City Council could zone it back, or limit the residential to areas that will not tear down affordable old workplaces. Big boring cookie-cutter housing is already planned or built at several nearby sites. The zoning can be changed back by our new council, which I’ve heard is less gung-ho to develop every square inch of our lovely island.
  • The city shouldn’t really zone as residential, areas that are “tidelands” or basically marshy areas that can flood, especially as the sea level rises. Despite some map decreeing the Tidelands as only right next to the current bay, historically marshlands began at Clement Street. Let’s expand that Tidelands zone that can’t be controlled by the developer. How wise is it to keep building costly new developments that will need to be protected from flooding during king tides? Let’s keep the current marine-dependent businesses (boatyard with affordable public hoist, Svendsen’s, sailmakers, high-tech submarine company, and boaters big and small) next to the bay as well as other small companies like contractors and attorneys that help pay for upkeep.
  • It is untrue that we are “required” to build all these housing on this exact spot. When the current plans were made, they didn’t count all the housing that is going to be built at Alameda Point. Now, putting housing smack on top of jobs and boats is no longer “needed” at this site. Anyway the agreement says they can raze it and redevelop or improve it. Let’s improve without razing what’s there. 

Part of the pro-development strategy is to denigrate the Marina as ugly, shut off from the public, and run down, with only “goose droppings” for decoration. Fact is that it has up to seven gates that anyone can walk or drive into during the day and enjoy the sights of our work/play waterfront.

Improvements have already been made and more are feasible. Maybe paint some murals on the “ugly” Clement Street “wall,” plant some trees, spruce it up. If affordable buildings full of jobs are ugly to you, they aren’t to me, nor are the sailboats that are such an iconic part of our fair city. I heard that the vice mayor will ask our City Council for a referral to discuss the mixed-use rezoning.

Please write to the following fine public servants for information and to make your concerns known. Paper letters cannot be deleted and they become part of the public record: Mayor Trish Herrera Spencer; Vice Mayor Frank Matarrese and Councilmembers Tony Daysog, Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft andJim Oddie. Be sure to a copy to the City Clerk’s office. Address for all: 2263 Santa Clara Ave. Alameda, CA 94501.