Have you driven the main thoroughfares of Alameda lately: Park and Webster streets, Island Drive, Buena Vista, Lincoln and Central avenues? Have you driven through the tubes or crossed the bridges any time around the morning or evening commute?
Recently, thanks to a non-fatal accident in the tube, it took my wife 90 minutes to get from the Webster Tube (which the accident closed) to Marina Village via Interstate 880, the Embarcadero and the Park Street Bridge — a distance of less than five miles.
Does any of this make you wonder about what’s coming: worst-case, a Napa-like 6.1 event that destroys the island’s infrastructure; best case, already approved and planned development that leads to more congestion and gridlock. And if you think you’re safe because you don’t live on one of the main thoroughfares or near the tubes or bridges, think again. If the main thoroughfares are jammed, drivers will be looking for alternate routes, and those routes are your quiet neighborhood streets. Given what is coming, none of us (except maybe the developers) will emerge unscathed.
Mayor Marie Gilmore and the City Council have planned (construction has already begun on some) 1,100-plus housing units to be built between the Posey and Webster tubes and the Park Street Bridge, all of them along Buena Vista and Clement avenues. Another 1,425 housing units are planned for Alameda Point (all using the tubes for ingress and egress) with the first 800 units to begin construction as soon as possible.
Given that each unit averages two cars, that’s 5,000-plus vehicles added to Alameda’s roadways, entering and exiting through the tubes or over the Park Street Bridge. That doesn’t include the 8,000 to 10,000 additional cars to be added by new housing construction on the Oakland side at Brooklyn Basin and Jack London Square — all of it backing up in Chinatown, Broadway, Jackson Street, Fifth 23rd and 29th avenues, as well as Interstate 880. That’s 13,000 cars — 15,000 more when all of the building is done!
These changes are already in the works. Additionally, Gilmore and the City Council have approved another 1,540 “housing opportunity sites,” which would add 3,000 more cars into the mix. These units have not yet been contracted out, though given the values and priorities of the current “leadership” of Alameda there can be no doubt about the outcome: more development and more congestion and a worsening of the quality of our lives.
What makes these plans and approvals even more dubious is that the mayor and City Council justify them by saying they are “required.” According to the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) and its “Regional Housing Needs Allocation” report, Alameda only needs to add 1,723 new housing units through 2022. In other words, Alameda Point (1,425 units) and Alameda Landing (284 units) alone fulfill Alameda’s housing obligations through the year 2022. Nothing more is “required.” That’s the good news.
The better news is it is election time, the only time that “leaders” listen.
Recently more than 6,000 Alamedans signed a petition opposing the sale of Crown Beach area properties to a private developer for housing. Gilmore and the City Council, against all of its greediest and short-sighted desires, demurred and voted — as the petitions demanded — to maintain the area as open space and to stop its active pursuit of the sale. Why? Because two of the sale’s most vocal and active supporters — Gilmore and Chen — are up for re-election and they don’t want those 6,000 people voting against them. Gilmore and the City Council voted to stop the sale of land at Crown Beach, hoping to remove that item from the election agenda. I’m writing this letter in the hope of keeping it on.
Remember, the mayor and City Council tried to give away the Chuck Corica Golf Course. They are still dickering with Ron Cowan over the Harbor Bay Club. These are the same people who ignored the public vote and City Charter regarding multiple family housing and Measure WW regarding the use of Crown Beach and public land. Gilmore and the City Council seem to have not met a construction project they haven’t gleefully embraced, regardless of its impact on the existing community and the concomitant reduction of the quality of life. Elect them and expect — and we’ll get — more of the same.
Luckily, though, we have choices.
Frank Matarrese, former councilman, has written several public letters arguing for fewer housing units and more light industry, adding jobs and reducing congestion. He’s also argued for more open space and more public input in land-use decisions before those decisions are made… It’s true, he has a spotty history
and he originally supported the 5,000 housing SunCal plan. However, he seems to have re-thought those issues and he has been publicly counseling less housing and slower growth. He has also publicly recognized transportation and congestion — this is an island after all — as matters to be addressed before development takes place, not after. Ask him where he stands on these issues today, and if his positions haven’t changed, vote for him.
Trish Herrera Spencer, current school board member, is running for mayor. She worked to get signatures on the Crown Beach petition. We know how she feels about Crown Beach. We also know she is not pleased with the secret, back-door, land swap deal recently made by the Alameda Unified School District. She was the only member of the school board to vote “no” on the new $176 million school bond. If she has the same concern and caution about lack of public input in general, and she believes traffic issues must be addressed before development takes place, vote for her.
Jim Oddie is a staff person for Rob Bonta, which is not good news, as Bonta, too, never seemed to see a construction and housing project he didn’t love. Bonta is one of those who voted to override the City Charter and rezone single family properties into multi-story, multi-family complexes before he was elected to the state legislature and got out of town.
Still, Oddie is not necessarily Bonta, and perhaps he is his own man with his own thoughts; though it’s impossible to tell. His campaign website skillfully manages to say nothing. Ask him about public input and land use and transportation plans and gridlock at the many community meetings he will attend, and see what he publicly says — and writes. If his answers are correct, vote for him.
Gilmore seems incapable of doing anything other than opening the new Walgreens. Chen has past legal problems and a reputation for easy-going, do-nothing, going along with the crowd.
Remember, three votes change everything. It’s a working majority of the City Council.
If you don’t like the direction Alameda is racing toward, vote the incumbents out. They are counting on low voter turnout, despair, fatigue and short memories. Fool them before they fool us.
“Anyone but the incumbents” should be the mantra for the 2014 election for City Council and Mayor. Say it: “Anyone but the incumbents.” It feels as good as it sounds, and the city you save is your own.
Mark Greenside is an Alameda resident and retired professor of political science, history, and English.