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Filmmakers Screen “Five Years in the West End of Alameda”

Roughly 75 people, including members of the Chipman School Cougars drum band assembled in building F at Alameda College at 4pm on March 1st to watch a new documentary “Civic Unity: Five Years in the West End of Alameda.” The filmmakers, Gary Weimberg and Catherine Ryan were originally hired to make a film about a program put together by a group of local residents, funded by a $300,000 grant from the San Francisco Foundation, under the Koshland Civic Unity Program.

Weimberg and Ryan soon found themselves in the middle of the Harbor Island Apartments evictions in 2004, when several hundred residents, many of them Section 8 tenants, were forced out of their apartments so that the Florida-based owner, The Fifteen Group, could make renovations throughout the complex. The Alameda Unified School District lost roughly half of the students who had lived at Harbor Island Apartments, as the families moved away and took their children out of Alameda schools. The complex, now known as Summerhouse Apartments, no longer rents to Section 8 tenants, and a demographic study produced for the school district in 2007 estimates that of over 500 AUSD students in Harbor Island Apartments before the evictions, we can expect no more than 100 AUSD students living in Summerhouse.

The Summerhouse Apartments have a long and tortured history in Alameda – in 1989 the Guyton-Henderson lawsuit against the City of Alameda was precipitated by the sale of this complex, which was comprised entirely of Section 8 tenants, and then known as “Bridgeport” or “Buena Vista” Apartments. Upon the sale, the units were converted to market rate apartments.

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