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Alameda Island High Project Debate Continues

Even though the project is dead, back-and-forth continues in the local paper between Warmington Homes and the residents of “Wedgewood,” the Alameda neighborhood immediately surrounding the site of the former Island High School. But the developer’s attempt to slip a 36-unit apartment complex past the residents is not the real story.

As we reported recently, these sorts of games are old hat to developers like Warmington Homes and others working in Alameda. No, the real story here is the collusion between City of Alameda Planning and Redevelopment Services staff and certain Alameda Unified School District board members to try to foist this project on the neighborhood and help Warmington escape their obligations under the City’s Inclusionary Housing Ordinance. Not to mention the arrogance and audacity of all of them for trying to pull it off, and then profess innocence after the fact.

AUSD board member David Forbes spoke at the June 23rd Planning Board meeting in favor of allowing Warmington to transfer affordable units from the Grand Marina project to Island High. At that meeting, the Planning Board unwittingly blessed an affordable housing agreement that would have allowed Warmington to put 36 units on the site.

At the July meeting held at the Alameda Library by Warmington’s architects, AUSD board members Mike McMahon and Alameda City Council Candidate Tracy Lynn Jensen – who currently sits on the school board – were present in the audience. Also helping to orchestrate the meeting was City of Alameda Planning Services Director Andrew Thomas and Planning Staff member Dorene Soto. City of Alameda Redevelopment Services Director Leslie Little was in the audience as well.

After the Community Improvement Commission rightly shot the project down in early August, the AUSD board collectively professed ignorance of the proposed density for the site. Yet somehow they knew in advance of the meetings to attend in June and July pertaining to the project.

As for the City staff, Wedgewood resident Kurt Libby said it best in a recent letter to the local print newspaper: “The Planning Department exists to be the developers’ mouthpiece and represent the developers’ interests under the guise of representing the city.” At the June meeting, Andrew Thomas indicated that he provided, using City resources, the names and addresses of the impacted residents to Warmington’s architects so they could mail meeting notices to them. What more needs to be said?

Both City staff and the AUSD board tried to pull a fast one on Alameda residents and got caught-out doing it. The school board then tried to back-pedal their way out of trouble. Residents should challenge their elected officials on the question of whether or not the City’s Staff and boards and commissions are adequately representing residents’ interests, or if they are at all.

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