The major stories we published during the first half of 2022.
It’s almost New Year’s Eve, which means it’s time to review some of the most important stories that we covered in the Alameda Post in 2022. The major themes of the year’s stories have changed little from last year—the effects of COVID-19 on our community, growth, development, transportation, and crime. But this year, people got out of their houses after quarantining for COVID and many community institutions and events returned. 2022 also featured important local elections and other comings and goings from City Hall, new parks and public art, and the passage of the Housing Element and Active Transportation Plan which will shape Alameda’s future. Here is a digest of what we featured during the six months of 2022; we will publish the second part on Monday.
December 2021 through January 2022
Our first public post came a few weeks before the start of 2022. We launched on December 13 with an article about two new public artworks—the Calimar sculpture near the WETA building and the Webster Gateway mural by Dave Young Kim—a preview of the wealth of public art to be introduced in the year to come. We celebrated the retirement of Dolores Jeanpierre from Ole’s Waffle Shop. Alameda’s first Black waitress, she had worked at the beloved coffee shop since 1978 and was the subject of a documentary. Meanwhile, COVID rates were on the rise, necessitating the Alameda County Public Health Department to again require masking for workplaces, public transit, and most other settings.
StopWaste.org provided information about SB 1383, the organics and recycling law that took effect on January 1, with stronger requirements to keep food and compostable materials out of landfills. Dennis Evanosky reported on the new Diversity plan proposed by City Council. The plan is to be developed for $250,000 by Seed Collaborative, who also worked with the City of Dublin. The report will be presented at a Council meeting in March of 2023. And hopes were again stoked for a new pedestrian and bike bridge across the Estuary, with the City’s announcement that they were developing a Project Initiation Document to source funding the potential drawbridge.
In February, we published our first Alameda history article by Dennis Evanosky, who offered a brief timeline of the Ohlone people, who were the first inhabitants of the area before Luis Maria Peralta was granted a large swath of land that now comprises the East Bay. The month also marked the debut of our popular series of history walking tours, with a stroll around the location of the original town of Alameda, followed by tours of the other two original towns of Woodstock and Encinal.
With a 3-2 vote, City Council took first steps toward approving 14 Automated License Plate Readers (ALPRs) that were proposed to be installed at seven different entrances to and exits from Alameda. Police Chief Nishant Joshi promised that the ALPRs would not be used to discriminate against any residents or communities.
Two big projects got the go-ahead in the month of February. The City applied for a Homekey grant from the state of California to develop the “Bottle Parcel” on the 2300 block of Fifth Street into a complex called Dignity Village, which would provide services to the unhoused. The City also selected Tim Lewis Communities to build 589 apartments and townhomes on the site of the former Encinal Terminals.
We began serializing Dave LeMoine’s memoirs. Across 23 installments, he shared his chronicles of life growing up on Bay Farm Island in the 1940s and 50s and becoming a firefighter with the Alameda Fire Department. We also reported on Dr. Cindy Acker’s groundbreaking play, Words That Made the Difference: Brown vs. the Board of Education. Originally staged in honor of Black History Month, the play went on a successful tour around the country later in the year.
March saw the departure of City Manager Eric Leavitt, who took the CM job in the city of Fullerton, California, after just under three years with Alameda. City Council voted to lift the moratorium on rent increases brought on by the COVID pandemic, which took effect May 1, and Alameda Municipal Power decided to restart electricity shut-offs for non-payment, after having stopped the practice during COVID restrictions.
The Planning Board unanimously approved construction of a senior convalescent living facility on McKay Avenue, to be operated by the Alameda Point Collaborative. The project attracted a lot more attention as the year progressed. As well, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers awarded a contract to expand the wetlands at Alameda Point to offset the impacts of the Department of Veterans Affairs columbarium cemetery to be constructed.
Residents living by the intersection of Fifth Street and Taylor Avenue protested speeding cars endangering children walking to school in the morning, and their efforts were rewarded later in the year with a revamp of the dangerous intersection. And a fire severely damaged a home on Clinton Avenue on a Sunday morning, displacing three generations of the same family.
ALPRs came back to City Council, where the Alameda Police Department (APD) presented their policy for data retention and sharing, with an increased cost of more than 2 times what was previously proposed. Council accepted the policy with a 5-0 vote. APD remained in the news as the Alameda County District Attorney’s office declared in a 38-page report that the officers involved in the April 2021 death of Mario Gonzalez Arenales were “not criminally liable.”
Formed in December 2021, partially in response to the death of Mr. Gonzalez, the Community Assessment, Response, and Engagement (CARE) Team Program responds to mental health emergencies, shifting responsibilities away from APD. Alameda Fire Chief Nick Luby, in his presentation to City Council, reported on nearly 100 requests for service in the first five months. Council voted to continue the pilot program through the end of June 2023.
City Council authorized the construction of Dignity Village on the Fifth Street “Bottle Parcel,” after receiving a Homekey grant for more than $12.25M, plus another $2.35M from Alameda County for the construction. They also held public hearings to approve two Community Facility Districts (CFDs) to levy special taxes to finance the improvements needed for the massive Alameda Marina redevelopment.
While City Council voted to appoint Assistant City Manager Gerry Beaudin as Interim City Manager to replace Eric Leavitt, Pleasanton’s City Council was voting to approve him as their new City Manager. Beaudin had previously worked for the City of Pleasanton and only spent twenty days as Alameda’s Interim City Manager before leaving for the new job.
Alameda’s newest park, then called “Waterfront Park,” alongside Seaplane Lagoon at Alameda Point, was introduced and celebrated with dynamic dance and music performances and interactive displays presented by the City, Rhythmix Cultural Works, and the West End Arts District.
We profiled the Alameda Food Bank’s Island Community Market, where those who need food assistance can shop throughout the store at their leisure, just as they would in any other grocery store. And, we introduced our weekly podcast, the Alameda PostCast, hosted by Scott Piehler, bringing a weekly digest of Alameda’s news to smart speakers and podcast players every Friday morning.
The month started with an editorial about Barnhill Marina residents’ displeasure with the new owners and what they felt were extreme rent hikes. In response, City Council voted to extend the rent control ordinance to cover residents of the primarily floating-home marina. But Council voted against a $95M infrastructure bond measure that would have addressed issues such as traffic safety, climate change, sea-level rise, disaster preparedness, building repair, and investments in streets, as well as a 4% cannabis tax. At the same meeting, Council voted 4-1 to explore adding a measure to the November ballot to increase the Transient Occupancy Tax.
Dirk Brazil, who served as City Manager of Davis, California, until 2017, was approved as Alameda’s Interim City Manager and started on May 23. Assembly Bill 1276, a law prohibiting single-use food ware accessories and condiments unless specifically requested, required the City to authorize an agency to enforce the law. On May 17, Council voted to comply, and the law took effect June 1, with fines of $25 per day for violations and an annual cap of $300.
Annual reports prepared by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Susan Euing showed changes in the populations of terns at Alameda Point. Least Tern populations are declining, while those of the Caspian Tern and the Elegant Tern have grown since their arrival to the area.
Performances of Island City Waterways: Uprooted were so moving and popular that we published two different recaps of the roving art event. Staged by Rhythmix Cultural Works, eight public performances in one weekend featured 35 actors, dancers, and musicians telling the story of Alameda Point over six acts at a variety of locations around the former Naval Air Station.
Finally, kicking off our year-long commitment to voter education about Alameda’s elections, we published a Voter’s Guide for the June primary election.
In June, we visited the Afghan Refugee donation center at Alameda Point. Run by the United Afghan Association, the warehouse provides supplies for recently arrived Afghan refugees around Alameda County.
Masking was once again required in most indoor settings after infections rose again. The mandate from the Alameda County Health Care Services Agency exempted K-12 schools through the end of the 2021-22 school year.
We provided comprehensive coverage of the June Primary election results, which decided the races for the November ballot. The results of Measure B, authorizing Alameda Unified School District to issue up to $298 million in bonds for upgrades and retrofits, were not finalized until July.
The McKay Avenue Facility drew more and more attention, as it was debated at a Housing Element workshop and at a public workshop held by the Planning Board. Controversy surrounded an application filed after the project’s approval to the State Historic Resources Commission to place the property on their list of historically designated buildings to preserve.
City Council voted to proceed with the Grand Street resurfacing project, a plan to resurface and restructure a 0.7-mile segment of Grand Street between Shore Line Drive and Encinal Avenue to improve safety, mobility, and pavement condition. The Mayor and Vice Mayor’s amendments were included. A part of the Clement Street extension, located behind the former Del Monte building, opened. When completed, Clement Street will run unobstructed between Broadway and Atlantic Avenue.
The Sand Castle & Sculpture contest on Crown Beach returned after two years for a perfect sunny day. And many Alamedans joined people across the country in expressing their frustrations about the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, including a protest on the steps of City Hall.
We will cover the major stories of July through December in Part 2, to be published Monday, January 2, 2023.