The viewer is left to decide where graffiti ends and art begins in the following images. Regardless of opinion, one thing is clear: There are people looking for an opportunity to artistically express themselves. And Alameda Point has plenty of abandoned interior and exterior walls to accommodate them.
Newly available funds from the 2014 Measure I school bond, as well as the expected growth in student enrollment, prompted Alameda Unified School District (AUSD) to submit a request to the Navy in April to acquire the vacant Island High School and Woodstock Child Development Center parcel on Singleton Avenue on the city’s West End. The Navy responded favorably.
The school district previously leased the 5.9-acre parcel from the Navy at no cost. AUSD was slated to receive the two sites from the Navy under a previous application for a Public Benefit Acquisition. However, AUSD vacated the sites in 2010 and 2011 and withdrew their application due to the estimated hundreds of thousands of dollars required for upgrades to the sewer and water lines.
The school district has been resorting to creative desk shuffling in recent years to cope with a shortage of adequate space and lack of funds. One example given by School Superintendent Sean McPhetridge in the application to the Navy states, “One school has gone so far as to relocate a classroom computer lab into a former student toilet room to accommodate the growth of enrollment.”
Currently, the Woodstock Child Development Center and Island High School jointly operate on the site of the former Longfellow Elementary School. The acquisition of the property will allow the district to relocate those two programs back to Singleton Avenue where they previously operated.
In the application, Superintendent McPhetridge describes a veritable ripple effect of efficiencies that would ensue as a result of the acquisition. It would “open the former Longfellow Elementary School site and allow the transfer of other programs from other elementary schools currently in operation, and in turn, it would open classroom space at many existing elementary schools,” stated McPhetridge. “The transfer of programs from existing elementary schools to the former Longfellow Elementary School site would provide for the growth of students at their neighborhood schools.”
A 2014 demographic study projects that the school district will add approximately 1,000 students over the next 10 years, the majority of them on the west side of Alameda. Redeveloped Alameda Point and Alameda Landing are projected to produce approximately 600 students.
“The District has not committed to a full modernization of the buildings at this time, but is planning on committing the funds necessary to open both campuses and provide safe and updated facilities,” stated McPhetridge in the application.
The property transfer process for public benefit conveyances involves sending the parcel from the Navy via another federal agency, in this case, the Department of Education. “The U.S. Dept. of Education approved this transfer and is now waiting to get the title from the Navy,” said Susan E. Davis, Senior Manager of Community Affairs at AUSD. “Once that happens, the Department of Education will give the title to us.”
“We’re hoping that the campus will be open sometime in the 2017-18 school year,” said Davis. “Designing, getting state approval, and doing the construction on school buildings can take some time.”
The Singleton Avenue school sites are located next to the Coast Guard housing to the south. Across the street and to the north of the school parcel is the vacant North Housing site, which is still owned by the Navy and zoned for a new residential neighborhood.
Patrons seated themselves under a canopy between rows of crops at Alameda Point Collaborative’s farm for its fifth annual “Urban Farm Table” fundraising luncheon on Sunday, May 17. A guitar and stringed bass duo provided musical ambience for the arriving guests from within a nearby thicket of blossoming passion fruit vines. Bees went about their business from teeming beehives clinging to the branches of a fruit tree in the farm orchard. It was an earthy affair.
The Collaborative provides supportive housing for homeless individuals, children and youth services, and job training programs, such as selling their farm produce through a subscription service, operating a commercial kitchen, and raising and selling plants at the Ploughshares Nursery.
Nationally known author and sustainable food activist Bryant Terry gave the keynote address. He wove together personal memories of food and culture from the days before the phrase “slow food movement” was coined. Terry characterized APC’s local farm program as a radical idea in an era of corporate agribusiness that harms the environment and shortchanges consumers’ health.
Terry praised the Collaborative’s Farm2Market subscription produce program as a model that should be emulated throughout the country. “There are many urban neighborhoods where it’s easier to find a gun than a fresh apple,” he said. Terry is the author of the critically-acclaimed “Vegan Soul Kitchen: Fresh, Healthy, and Creative African-American Cuisine.”
Terry wrapped up his engaging talk about food and culture by preparing a simple veggie dish over a gas burner. While he was chopping and stirring, he offered a tip for anyone expecting dinner guests. He said no matter what you’re serving, throw some olive oil and garlic into a hot skillet before the guests arrive to get that aroma into the air. “They’ll compliment you every time, even if all you are serving is dessert.”
A cadre of snappily dressed servers delivered a two-course meal. The tricolored beet salad with pistachios, spring greens and radishes was topped with a roasted apricot and Point Reyes bleu cheese vinaigrette and accompanied by a slice of Rosemary focaccia.
The gourmet menu was created and supervised by Jeff Rosen, executive chef at Oakland’s Blue Heron Catering. All of the produce was grown at APC’s farm. Joe Pucci Seafood provided the local salmon. The featured beverages came from Rock Wall Wine Company, St. George Spirits, and Petitpot.
As each pan-roasted salmon entre was assembled, chef Rosen personally inspected each plate and spooned on the Tuscan salsa verde before it was hustled off to the table. The nine vegetarians enjoyed the chef’s fresh pea and green garlic cakes with shaved fennel.
Awards were handed out to volunteers and supporters from the Haas School of Business, Buena Vista United Methodist Church, Bay Farm Elementary School, and Alain Pinel Realtors.
The event was sponsored by Alameda Point Partners, Penumbra, SanMan Productions, VF Outdoor, and Assemblyman Rob Bonta.
New street signs have been installed at Alameda Point, along with iconic winged emblems painted on the sides of hangars. The purpose of the new signs is for helping visitors find their way around and highlighting attractions and key tenants. The signs also create an enhanced sense of place for current and future tenants.
Square Peg Design, a company based out of Oakland, developed the signage program and describes it as “an interim program that addresses the immediate needs of Alameda Point as a bridge to the ultimate reuse of the site as envisioned in the new Alameda Point Zoning District Ordinance.” They state it will “clean up the confusing signage that has grown over the years and replace it with an organized and comprehensible wayfinding program.”
Aviation history up to the time of the Naval Air Station provided inspiration for the designs.
The Alameda Point Wayfinding Signage Program project was commissioned in September of 2014. The contract for fabrication and installation was awarded to Ellis and Ellis Sign Systems of Sacramento at a cost of $360,000. No General Fund money was used for the project.
Outdoor soccer activities thrive in the field outside the Bachelor Enlisted Quarters (BEQ) on Lexington Street at Alameda Point. Unfortunately, potential indoor activities languish for lack of a viable business plan.
Negotiations for converting the BEQ to an international boarding school and a senior assisted living facility ended on January 31, 2015, without a deal. The city council had authorized a six-month exclusive negotiating agreement with developer Alameda United Commercial (AUC) in August of 2014. The developer sought to purchase 20 acres that includes the U-shaped three-building complex, but not the quadrangle lawn area in the middle used by soccer teams.
Despite a favorable staff recommendation to the Planning Board in December to approve the Development Plan for the project, agreement on terms of the deal could not be reached.
The international school (K-12) would have offered boarding for students in junior high and older, commercial offices, an assisted senior living facility, and recreation and dining amenities. The developer proposed landscaping upgrades, 500 bike racks and up to 1,000 parking spaces. “The uses of the site will provide financial support to expand transit services to Alameda Point and the users of the property,” stated city planner Andrew Thomas.
The proposed deal called for the city to receive $7.76 million that would have remained dedicated to Alameda Point. In addition, the developer was going to provide roadway, sidewalk, bike lane and utility infrastructure upgrades to the surrounding four streets totaling $20 million, according to a letter to the city from AUC’s Salvatore Caruso.
The BEQ complex, with a 518,219-square-foot building footprint, is one of the most important contributing sites to the Naval Air Station Historic District. The U.S. Navy constructed the complex in 1940 to provide facilities for the boarding, dining and recreating of enlisted men. The architectural style of the complex is known as “Moderne” and is a unifying design theme of the Historic District.
“The City remains very interested in developing the BEQ and believes firmly that it has the potential to be a flagship development in Alameda Point,” said Jennifer Ott, Chief Operating Officer for Alameda Point. “We will be open to any proposals that come our way in the future.”
Meanwhile, the four soccer fields on the BEQ Quadrangle that are leased to the Alameda Soccer Club are booked solid on weekends by as many as 100 East Bay soccer teams that the club is affiliated with. The soccer club funded the replacement of various lawn sections and general lawn refurbishment last year as part of their lease agreement.
The exteriors of the fortress-like reinforced concrete buildings show few signs of cracking and structural deterioration since 1940. The interiors are a different story.
Metal thieves have trashed the insides to remove copper wire. With the copper cache picked clean, thieves have turned to aluminum, removing a 15-foot-long aluminum handrail from a mess hall staircase. Some night visitors just come to party and leave behind their spray-painted artwork on the walls. Peeling layers of paint the size of a hand towel dangle from the ceiling of the mess hall kitchen.
“I think it is likely that as Site A [a 68-acre proposed residential and commercial development next to the Seaplane Lagoon] hopefully comes to fruition there will be increased attention on the historic properties in Alameda Point and we will receive more interest in the property,” said Ott.
Last year, negotiations between the city and AUC on a separate proposal to construct a hotel and condominium project between the aircraft hangars and the Seaplane Lagoon also ended without a deal.