The Year in Review
A look at 2018 through the pages of the Alameda Sun
Part Two: July to December
Celebrating the Fourth
In usual grand fashion the city kicked off the second half of 2018 with its famous Fourth of July parade. Mayor Trish Spencer honored four pillars of the Alameda community, naming them the parade’s Grand Marshals: Mas Takano, Pauline Kelley, Duane Watson and Gordon Ma.
Helping fight California’s fires
The Alameda Fire Department (AFD) sent a water tender to Mariposa County to fight the Ferguson Fire that had already engulfed more than 12,000 acres. Alameda Water Tender 2 left Alameda to assist with the fire in Mariposa County near Yosemite National Park.
This call to service marked Water Tender 2’s first-ever, out-of-county trip. Alameda’s firefighters joined 1,486 of their colleagues in the fight to extinguish the flames. Cal Fire declared the Ferguson Fire 100 percent contained on Aug. 19, after the blaze had consumed some 96,901 acres. Crewmembers from Alameda Municipal Power lent their expertise restoring power at the Carr Fire in Shasta County.
Thirty-four years of fun
The weekend of July 27 and 28 drew people from near and far to Downtown Alameda for live music, food, rides and other fun. Classic Alameda maintained traditions like dancing to local cover bands and other talent; enjoying a “giant brat;” or browsing an extensive selection of local arts and crafts for sale. The Alameda Fire Department pancake breakfast also drew hungry families to Fire Station No. 1 to raise funds for the Elisa Ann Ruch Foundation. This marked the Faire’s 34th year.
Sea Scouts rescue kayaker
Members of the Sea Scouts, Alameda Council rescued a missing distressed kayaker in San Francisco Bay near Pittsburg on July 20. The Sea Scouts, a branch of the Boy Scouts of America, were going on a scouting cruise on their Sea Scout Ship No. 9 Sea Fox from Hunter’s Point in San Francisco to Pittsburg in the early morning hours of Friday, July 20.
The Sea Scouts made contact with the missing kayaker around 2:30 a.m. The kayaker said that he capsized around sunset the previous night and was submerged in the 60-degree water for at least six hours. The Sea Scouts radioed the Coast Guard that they had recovered the victim. The Coast Guard dispatched a small boat to their location. The Coast Guard arrived around 3 a.m. and took the kayaker to a local hospital for further treatment.
A taste of things to come
On Aug. 4, the city offered the first public tours of Jean Sweeney Park. Alamedans gathered at the park’s entrance on Sherman Street to explore how the construction was progressing. The 22-acre park is located on the former Alameda Beltline Railroad property that the city secured at its original purchase price due to the advocacy efforts of local resident, Jean Sweeney.
The park’s master plan includes playgrounds, picnic areas, a community garden, an urban orchard and demonstration gardens. Visitors can also enjoy the bicycle and walking trails and pedestrian-only hiking trails.
National Night Out
Members of the Alameda police and fire departments joined the fun across the city at the Aug. 7 National Night Out.
Police officers made the rounds with McGruff the Crime Dog and a crew from Alameda Fire Department surprised neighbors with one of their trucks. The kids met the public-safety officers at the event, which featured a potluck dinners, live music and ham-radio demonstrations.
Neighbors took advantage of the opportunity to spread information about earthquake and disaster preparedness.
Swimmer sets record
On Sept. 9, local swimmer Craig Coombs, 57, completed a swim around the Main Island in 7 hours and 13 minutes, shaving some 25 minutes off the previous record of 7 hours, 38 minutes and 39.5 seconds set in 1951. Coombs began his swim at 3:15 a.m. and faced some choppy waters around 4 a.m.
Otherwise, he had little difficulty completing the 15.75-mile course around the Island. In the final moments of his swim, spectators on Crown Beach saw what was thought to be a harbor seal in the water near Coombs. Then, as he found his footing in the shallows, a flock of pelicans flew over him, as if in celebration.
A number of friends and fans greeted Coombs at the shoreline when he finished his swim. “That was hard,” he told them. The swim was regulated and monitored by the Marathon Swimming Federation. See the official record of Coombs’ swim at track.rs/Alameda_Craig_Coombs.
Whose parks are these?
In September, the city facilitated a walk so residents could view the six public access pathways along Fernside Boulevard and Eastshore Drive to assess what recreational uses are possible there. Three of these “pocket parks” were originally part of C. C. Adams and Mark T. Cole’s 1912 Waterside Terrace. The developers provided access to the water for all residents with three small semicircular parks east of Fernside Boulevard.
The city approved the subdivision map with these parks — one near High Street, a second just across Fernside Boulevard from Monte Vista and a third across Fernside from Fairview.
Over time as homeowners encroached on the parks, the circular spaces have all disappeared — leaving those who should be able to enjoy the parks scarcely room to even turn around. Some argue that, over time, homeowners have taken over these parks as their own private property. City staff provided information about the feasible options for these park and scheduled meeting to discuss their future use.
City celebrated parks, bicycling
A total of 516 bicycle riders of all ages participated in Bike for the Parks, which took cyclists all over the Island City while also raising funds to maintain local parks. The event featured a Team Challenge Contest. The winners, the Alameda Dragon Flyers, had 15 members in costumes. The group received a plaque from the Friends of the Parks.
Bike for the Parks raised $23,500 for the Alameda Friends of the Parks Foundation, a nonprofit organization.” Alameda Poet Laureate Gene Kahane joined the ride and wrote a poem, describing his experience. “We rode like demons, Our gears shed sparks, Around the Island, For Alameda’s parks,” Kahane’s verses began.
Say ‘no’ to Kavanaugh
Activists, concerned constituents and community leaders gathered at City Hall on Oct. 3, to send senators Kamala Harris and Dianne Feinstein a clear message: Vote “no” on Supreme Court Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh. The activists cited that his “hostility toward women and lack of credibility make him unfit to serve a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court.”
About 75 local residents, men and women equally, came out to City Hall to share their own stories of sexual violence and to speak out against the confirmation of Kavanaugh. Alameda resident Rosemary Jordan spoke about why men need to come forward, support the movement and believe women and the survivors of sexual assault and violence.
Kavanaugh was sworn in as the 114th Justice of the Supreme Court on Oct. 6.
DA absolves Keimach
The Alameda County District Attorney’s (DA) office absolved former City Manager Jill Keimach of any wrongdoing after secretly recording a meeting that involved her, Vice Mayor Malia Vella and Councilmember Jim Oddie.
The exoneration came after a six-month investigation by Alameda County DA Nancy E. O’Malley’s office where city officials including Oddie, Vella, Alameda fire union president Jeff DelBono and City Attorney Janet Kern were interviewed.
The DA wrote in an eight-page report released Oct. 19, that “while Ms. Keimach did record a private conversation there is insufficient evidence to prove a criminal violation of California state law beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Teachers, school district deadlocked
The 550-member Alameda Education Association (AEA), the union that represents the city’s public school teachers, announced in October that its negotiators have reached an impasse in contract talks with the Alameda Unified School District (AUSD). The union turned to the Public Employee Relations Board (PERB) to step in and moderate.
According to the union, after 12 months of bargaining, AUSD has “never budged on its monetary offer, and even refused to settle dental benefits and class-size limits for special-education classes, saying the money for those had to come out of the teachers’ pay raises.”
“The district and the union have been negotiating since April 2017. Last spring, the school district and teachers ratified a retroactive raise of one-half of 1 percent and a one-time payment of 1 percent for the 2017-18 school year,” AUSD stated in a press release.
Voters head to the polls
Poll workers Thomas Zenner and Dylan Aubrejan volunteered to help voters cast their ballots at an Alameda polling place. Zenner and Aubrejan just missed the deadline for registering to vote as they are both not quite 18. Instead the high school seniors chose to get involved working at the polls in what is being described as the most contentious midterm election in history.
Local election results were difficult to discern throughout the month of November because the massive turnout slowed down the vote count. The Registrar of Voters later announced that his office wouldn’t make the final count available until Dec. 6.
Hard to breathe
The Camp Fire in Butte County started Nov. 8 and impacts were felt in Alameda almost immediately. Air quality quickly reached unsafe for sensitive groups. Smoke from the Camp Fire, the most destructive and deadliest in California history, continued to worsen Bay Area air quality to hazardous levels. Residents were advised to stay indoors, keep windows and doors closed and close fireplace dampers.
When outside, residents were encouraged to avoid exertion and wear properly fitted N95 respirator masks. Through a generous donation from Euge Lee of Western Gravel & Roofing Supply, the city was able to provide masks to 4,760 residents at seven locations across the Island. However the city ran out of this supply in a matter of hours. Poet laureate Gene Kahane described the ordeal as, “A memorial service in respiration, One community, Shared air, Breathing grief.”
Votes have been tallied
On Dec. 6 the Alameda County Registrar of Voters certified the results of the Nov. 6 election. The City of Alameda’s voter turnout rate for this election was 73.65 percent, with 73.5 percent of that number voting by mail and 26.5 percent voting on Election Day. The results confirmed Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft as Alameda’s new mayor. By virtue of his first-place win in the race for City Council, John Knox White became Vice-Mayor with Tony Daysog filling the second Council seat. Jim Oddie won the seat that Ezzy Ashcraft vacated when she won the mayoralty.
Measure F passed, allowing the city to add 0.5 percent to the sales tax. Measure K, the landlords’ attempt to enshrine Ordinance 3148 in the City Charter, failed.
A day earlier, the Alameda Unified School District announced the result of another election: stakeholders at Haight Elementary School voted to rename their school “Love.”
Hotel given nod
At its Dec. 10 meeting, the Planning Board unanimously gave the go-ahead to Marriott to build its Residence Inn at Harbor Bay on a 5.5-acre site just to the south of the Harbor Bay Ferry Terminal. The board made the vote before a packed house of residents who voiced both approval and disapproval of the project. Residents who oppose the plan have the option of appealing the decision to the City Council. After the meeting some said they planned to do just that.
In its resolution to approve the project the Planning Board called the development “an effective use of the site.” The resolution points out that, in addition to a new hotel and restaurant, Marriott’s plan includes open spaces, as well as pedestrian-, bicycle- and transit-friendly facilities.
On the other hand, one opponent pointed out that the hotel “would drastically alter the coastline and skyline and is simply too tall for this residential neighborhood.” The critic called the project “grotesquely out of proportion with the neighborhood in terms of scale, size and aesthetics.”