Year in Review: 2017
Part 2 of 2
Alameda kicked off the second half of 2017 in typical fashion: with the longest parade in the nation. (The annual 4th of July Parade spans 3.3 miles.) This year, more than 170 entries and 2,500 participants marched across town whilemore than 60,000 spectator cheered them along the route. As always, the celebration included floats, marching bands, 150 equestrians (and one zebra), dance troops, bands and classic cars driving dignitaries.
The city formalized its sister city relationship with the South Korean city of Yeongdong, located in a mountainous region of the country. Alameda’s newest sister city has a population of more than 50,000, and is in one of South Korea’s largest wine-producing areas. The relationship offers an opportunity for economic, technological and cultural exchanges.
Local residents have reported craning necks or nearly driving off the road to catch a glimpse of Alameda’s newest landmark public art at Buena Vista Avenue and Entrance Road. Designed to complement the Marina Shores development via Alameda’s Public Art Ordinance requirement, the sculptures bring to life the city’s original inhabitants, the Ohlone Tribe. Auburn-based sculptor Jennifer Johnson created the dancing tribesmen from recycled metal.
A loud explosion startled many West Enders on July 31. Alameda Police Department (APD) dispatch received a report that the crew working on the Cross Alameda Trail at Jean Sweeney Open Space Park discovered an apparent explosive device. APD evacuated the area and cordoned off a 150-foot perimeter around the suspicious device. The Alameda Fire Department reported the incident to the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office Explosive Ordinance Disposal Squad. Members of the squad determined that the device, an old mortar, could be live and detonated it where it lay. It remains unclear how the device ended up at the site that once served as the railroad yard for the Alameda Belt Line.
A packed house attended the World Tournament Baseball opening ceremonies at College of Alameda on Aug. 6. Ten international teams marched onto the field in full uniform to enthusiastic applause. The Alameda team won the skills competition that followed.
Mayor Trish Spencer and Library Director Jane Chisaki appointed Gene Kahane and Cathy Dana the city’s Poets Laureate, the third and fourth in Alameda history. The city’s first Poet Laureate was Mary Rudge, who served from 2002 to 2014. She was followed by Julia Park Tracey, who served from 2014 to 2017. Kahane has taught for more than 30 years, most of that time in Alameda. He is also an actor, drama director and poet. Dana is the president of Alameda Island Poets. She regularly leads workshops at the Home of Truth, facilitates “Storytelling Swap” at Frank Bette Center for the Arts and teaches creative writing at Alameda Community Learning Center.
The City of Alameda closed escrow on the sale of the 50,000-square-foot Building 91 at West Tower Avenue and Pan Am Way on Alameda Point. The transaction marked the city’s first successful sale of property for private development at the Point. Admiral Malting and Almanac Beer Company plan to move into the building. Admiral Malting produces premium malts for craft brewers and distillers.
In the early hours of Aug. 17, a vandal targeted Temple Israel and broke two classroom windows at the synagogue. The miscreant tried unsuccessfully to break through the temple’s front doors. His image was caught on surveillance cameras mounted at the entrance. He remains at large to this day. The vandalism to the temple spurred an outpouring of support from the community.
On Aug. 25 Alameda County Task Force 4 deployed to assist hurricane victims in Texas. Members of the task force, including members of the Alameda Fire Department, drove straight through to San Antonio, Tex., arriving around 6 p.m. Aug. 28. They spent the night at College Station, Tex., and then drove to Fulshear and Simonton, where they began evacuating residents by boat.
At a session preceding its Sept. 5 meeting, the City Council entertained the first reading of an ordinance establishing rules for dispensaries and other cannabis-related businesses. Consultants hired by the city recommended guidelines at the meeting.
Hate and bigotry reared their ugly heads yet again in Alameda on Sept. 6 at Alameda High School. Police officers discovered a portion of a thin black nylon rope fashioned into a noose being used to attach a privacy screen to the fence. Alameda Police Department investigated the rope as a hate crime. Police Department investigated the noose as a hate crime.
On Sept. 8 Alameda Point residents noticed a foul taste in their tap water and called the East Bay Municipal Utilities District (EBMUD). The utility district reported that the water was safe to drink. Complaints poured in and on Sept. 12, EBMUD did another analysis the showed the presence of contaminated water. The source of the contaminated water was a result of a cross-connection between a potable drinking water line and a non-potable irrigation line. After less than a week, EBMUD flushed the system and water quality returned to normal.
Students at Encinal High School announced that they would join protests staged by sports professionals highlighting the inequality people of color confront daily in the United States. As school let out for the day, a large portion of the student body met in front of the school at the flagpole for a rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” As the National Anthem played, the students sat, knelt or raised their fists in solidarity with former San Francisco 49er Colin Kaepernick who started the movement.
The second annual Unity Picnic held that same week brought more than 100 Alamedans of all backgrounds together to proclaim their solidarity. The locals gathered at the shoreline to illustrate their unity by forming the word “unity.”
On Oct. 3, the city announced the appointment of Edmond Rodriguez as the city’s new fire chief. Rodriguez came to Alameda from Salinas where he served as chief. He assumed his duties as Alameda’s new chief on Nov. 13. His appointment came with some controversy. Some alleged tampering with the appointment process by members of the City Council.
The city rolled out dock-less bike sharing by introducing LImeBike to the community on Oct. 5. The program aims to provide more options to get around and will help reduce drive-alone trips in the city.
Kairos Power announced that it was moving its offices from Oakland to West Tower 9, a former hangar and manufacturing building at Alameda Point. Kairos Power LLC is a new nuclear-energy technology and engineering company. The company is working on a fluoride salt-cooled, high-temperature reactor that could safely and affordably deploy.
Alameda Fire Department and Alameda Police Department contributed resources to the battle against the seemingly unstoppable flames that destroyed lives and property in several Northern California counties. Help for the fire victims also came from the social media group Alameda Peeps which filled a rented truck with donations for fire victims and on Oct. 29. Alameda Elks and Eagles also teamed up to host the “Alameda Coming Together Benefit Concert” that raised funds for the cause.
Alameda voters will decide whether to include Ordinance 3148 into the City Charter next November after City Council voted to place the measure in the General Election at the Oct. 17 council meeting. The question remains whether to keep the ordinance as it is (allowing the City Council to change it) or to place it in the City Charter (allowing changes only by Alameda’s voters).
City officials hired a Southern California law firm to investigate whether members of the City Council wrongly interfered with the Alameda fire chief hiring process. City Attorney Janet Kern confirmed the hiring of Jenkins & Hogin, LLP to conduct the investigation. The investigation is underway and the firm has no deadline. Once the investigation is finished a report will be presented to the Council. The investigation stems from an Oct. 2 letter from City Manager Jill Keimach to the City Council. In the letter, Keimach said she felt “intense and unrelenting” political pressure during the hiring process of the new fire chief.
With the Nov. 2018 election a year away, one Alameda landlord urged fellow landlords to start preparing for the City Charter rent ordinance vote. Don Lindsey, co-founder of the property management firm Gallagher & Lindsey, sent a letter to fellow members of Alamedans In Charge, a group of influential Alameda landlords, describing what efforts the group should perform in the lead up to the election.
The Alameda Unified School District (AUSD) released a statement in response to an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) inquiry that expressed concerns that the district might be preventing students at Maya Lin Elementary School from wearing T-shirts or holding signs and stickers with the phrase “Black Lives Matter.” A member of the ACLU wrote to AUSD Superintendent Sean McPhetridge concerned that school officials were violating free speech laws by confiscating “Black Lives Matter” stickers at Maya Lin.
At its Nov. 22 meeting, the City Council laid out the final guidelines for cannabis use and cannabis-owned businesses. The guidelines are contained in a new ordinance that amended the Alameda Municipal Code to include the regulation of cannabis businesses. The Council announced that the city will offer just one cultivation permit and two retail permits. In addition, the city will hand out no more than four manufacturing permits.
On Nov. 24, the United States Postal Service delivered a package to an Alameda police officer’s home on Oleander Avenue. When the officer’s wife opened the package, it exploded in her face. The blast burned her and injured her ears. The package matched the description of one delivered on Oct. 19 to a home in East Palo Alto. The package — disguised to resemble a jewelry box — contained a home-made pipe bomb that exploded when the addressee’s father opened it.
On Dec. 4 an early morning fire on Eagle Avenue claimed the life of an elderly man. When firefighters arrived at the scene, they saw fire coming from the basement and first floor of the single-story home. They learned from bystanders that an elderly man lived at the house and was likely still inside. Some of the 33 firefighters who responded made their way into the home where they discovered the deceased adult male.
Alameda firefighters were dispatched to assist in fighting two Southern California blazes, one near Ventura, the other in the hills northeast of Los Angeles. On Dec. 5, Alameda Fire Department (AFD)deployed Engine 296 to the Creek Fire in the foothills above Sylmar, 25 miles north of Los Angeles to assist with structure protection and search for casualties in destroyed neighborhoods. AFD had already deployed Engine 502 to the Thomas Fire which has since grown to the largest fire in California history at more than 273,000 acres burned.
Federal authorities charged Ross Gordon Laverty with mailing an explosive device with intent to kill. Laverty was arraigned on Dec. 21. Court papers revealed that the 56-year-old Oakland man allegedly mailed bombs to homes in East Palo Alto and Alameda. Laverty was originally only charged with mailing the bomb to the East Palo Alto address. Court papers show that postal inspectors noted striking similarities between the two bombs.