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Mayor Ashcraft Gives 2024 State of the City Address

Following a warm welcome from State Assembly Member Mia Bonta, Mayor Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft took the podium to give her 2024 State of the City address on February 29 at Penumbra Community Center on Bay Farm Island. Ashcraft spoke about Alameda’s current focuses and recent accomplishments.

Alameda Post - Alameda Mayor Ashcraft stands onstage behind a podium. The podium and the back wall say Penumbra
Alameda Mayor Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft delivers her State of the City address at Penumbra, Thursday, February 29, 2024. Photo Maurice Ramirez.

The theme for 2024, she said, is “moving forward with intention because the  decisions we make today have profound impacts on the future.” She shared that the City Council-approved strategic plan is based on five strategic priorities to guide City leaders through the year.

Enhancing community safety and services

“Enhancing community safety and services was identified as a strategic priority because we must keep our residents, our visitors, and our businesses safe,” Mayor Ashcraft said. “To that end, the City Council approved the Alameda Police Department’s use of salary savings from unfilled vacancies to offer $75,000 hiring incentive bonuses for lateral hires, academy graduates, and entry level police officers.”



To date, 14 officers have been hired, more than 70% of whom are women and/or people of color. Additionally, several of these new hires speak a variety of second and third languages. Police Chief Nishant Joshi reports that APD’s patrol unit will be fully staffed by this summer and the entire department will be fully staffed by early 2025.

License plate readers contributed to the identification and arrest of individuals who were part of an organized crime enterprise—people who were stealing catalytic converters—and those thefts have now declined significantly,” Ashcraft also said in the APD update. She noted, however, that according to Chief Joshi, other types of crime, particularly auto theft, are on the rise.

“But make no mistake, APD is focused on addressing those crimes and it’s just a matter of time until we will be cutting those numbers down as well,” Ashcraft said.

Alameda Post - a group of people in business attire and uniform take a selfie
Adrien Abuyen of the Kos-Read Group takes a selfie with John Lipp, CEO of FAAS, Alameda Fire Chief Nick Luby, former Chamber Board Chair Kelly Lux, and Sam Kevy from Assemblymember Mia Bonta’s office. Photo Maurice Ramirez.

House all Alamedans and end homelessness

“The city council also recognizes the need for all residents to have housing security, as reflected by our strategic priority to house all Alamedans and end homelessness,” the mayor stated. “There is a significant shortage of supportive housing for unsheltered individuals and families throughout the Bay Area. There is also a need for more mental health clinicians to work with unhoused people with behavioral health and substance abuse issues in Alameda.”

Ashcraft noted that she and her team are addressing these needs through Dignity Village, a supportive transitional housing complex that provides case management and housing navigation services, and Village of Love, a homeless services provider that manages emergency supportive housing and safe parking.

Another approach taken to address homelessness and promote housing stability in Alameda is the Guaranteed Basic Income Pilot Program, Rise Up Alameda, which launched in late 2023 and gives 150 randomly selected low-income residents $1,000 a month for the next two years.

“We are the state of California,” said Mayor Ashcraft. “We are the fourth largest economy in the world. There is no excuse. There is no reason, no rational reason, that people are sleeping unsheltered.”

Alameda Post - a collage of people at the 2024 State of the City Address
Assemblymember Mia Bonta and Mayor Ashcraft; City Manager Jennifer Ott; Alameda Chamber and Economic Alliance CEO/President Madlen Saddik and Board Chair Joann Guitarte; Communications & Legislative Affairs Officer Sarah Henry. Photos Maurice Ramirez.

Building resilience to climate change and water level rise

“We can’t ignore the existential threat of climate change, especially sea level rise, which led to this strategic priority as building resilience to climate change and water level rise,” said the mayor. One of the most significant challenges Alameda faces is sea level rise, said Ashcraft. Sea level rise, which also exacerbates groundwater rise and liquefaction, is projected to be 9 to 12 inches by 2050 and up to four feet by the year 2100. The Oakland Alameda Adaptation Committee (OAAC) has been coordinating since 2021 to address these challenges.

“This coalition of shoreline communities and stakeholders is co-creating a coordinated, inclusive, and future-looking action plan and subregional organizational structure to accelerate sea level rise adaptation,” said Mayor Ashcraft. “The committee was formed because adapting to sea level rise requires a holistic effort that crosses jurisdictional boundaries, and it requires collaboration among agencies and communities and awareness that what we do as a community to address our own shoreline vulnerabilities can potentially impact adjacent communities.”

The City, on behalf of OAAC, has brought in $3.37 million in grant funding for projects benefiting Alameda and Oakland. Additionally, the City and OAAC are applying for a $55 million building resilient infrastructure and communities grant from FEMA to advance the Bay Farm Island Adaptation Project, which develops a long-term adaptation plan for all of Bay Farm Island.

Alameda Post - a room full of people sitting down at tables listening to the mayor speak
A packed house of Alameda’s community leaders and businesspeople listen to Mayor Ashcraft deliver her State of the City address at Penumbra on Thursday, February 29, 2024. Photo Maurice Ramirez.

Invest in transportation infrastructure and economic opportunities

“Alameda is investing in transportation infrastructure to help people mode shift from single occupancy, fossil-fuel-powered vehicles to walking, biking and using public transit,” Mayor Ashcraft said of the fourth strategic priority for 2024.

Included in this investment are the free estuary water shuttle pilot program, the addition of vital bicycle infrastructure on some of Alameda’s busiest streets, including Central Avenue and Grand Street, and plans for a bicycle/pedestrian bridge across the estuary on the West End.

Fiscal update and goals

The final strategic priority discussed by the mayor was the priority to “practice fiscally responsive, equitable, and inclusive governance under the capable leadership of Finance Director Margaret O’Brien and her team.” The City has received a Triple-A credit rating as well as numerous awards for budget presentations, financial reporting, accurate analysis, and enhanced transparency. Director O’Brien reports that the economic outlook for the City is stable with most revenue sources remaining steady.

“Due to five years of phenomenal growth, the City has been able to not only maintain 25% reserves, but it also has an additional $32 million in residual fund balance to help smooth out any unexpected economic needs,” the mayor said.

Alameda Post - a host and panel onstage at the 2024 State of the City Address
City Manager Jennifer Ott interviews a panel of City Department leaders comprised of Police Chief Nishant Joshi, Base Reuse and Economic Development Department (BREDD) director Abby Thorne-Lyman, and Housing and Human Services Manager Lisa Fitts. Photo Maurice Ramirez.

Trivia and a panel of city speakers

Following Mayor Ashcraft’s address, City Manager Jennifer Ott took the microphone to introduce a panel that took questions from herself and the audience. Panel speakers included Police Chief Joshi, Base Reuse and Economic Development Director Abby Thorne-Lyman, and Housing and Human Services Manager Lisa Fitts. Between each speaker, the City’s Communications & Legislative Affairs Officer, Sarah Henry, conducted rounds of trivia with the audience that featured Alameda-inspired questions such as, “How many miles of bike lanes are there in the city?” (The answer is 57.)

Joshi spoke about the efforts APD is taking to address crime as well as the challenges the unit faces. The police chief noted that there’s been a significant decrease in police force, especially in California, as well as legislative constraints that can make their job challenging. “The good news is that Alameda continues to remain one of the safest cities in the region, not just the county, but in the region,” Joshi said. He also noted that the driver of crime in Alameda is currently theft—property crime. “The chance of being a victim of a violent crime is extremely low here in Alameda,” he noted.

After another round of trivia, Thorne-Lyman discussed how Alameda is supporting businesses and furthering economic development at Alameda Point and throughout the city. “My goal for this year is to figure out how we can really unlock housing development at Alameda Point,” she said. Specifically, she would like to draw in more maritime and blue tech industries to the area.

Finally, Fitts shared about the proactive programs and efforts the City is implementing to meet the goal of ending homelessness in Alameda. She discussed the safe parking program, which is operated by Village of Love. Most unhoused individuals in Alameda live in their cars, which makes this program especially valuable. “It’s a place where people can park their cars overnight, have access to bathrooms. We have showers and a washer and dryer service once a week,” she said.

Fitts also noted the development of encampment guidelines to address health and safety issues. “People may sleep in public spaces,” she said. “We cannot remove people from there. We cannot tow cars when people are living in their cars. So our encampment guidelines are really intended to help define expectations for compliance with our City laws and also help us be in compliance with federal, state, and local laws.”

The housing and human services manager also spoke about the Supper and Support effort, which is a once-a-month opportunity in which her team and the library staff host a meal and invite service providers to speak on a topic. With over 100 people in attendance, last month’s topic was “food insecurity.” January’s topic was “affordable housing.” March’s topic is “people services for people who are experiencing homelessness.”

After the announcement of the top trivia players, the evening was concluded.

Kelsey Goeres is a contributing writer for the Alameda Post. Contact her via [email protected]. Her writing is collected at AlamedaPost.com/Kelsey-Goeres.

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