Amblin' Alameda: New day dawning
Amblin' Alameda: New day dawning
We had friends visit us last week. They came on Wednesday and left Saturday afternoon. In between we indulged in our favorite pastimes of talking, eating, riding around to restaurants and coming home to hang out and talk and visit some more. This couple visits us often - three or four times a year - so they are aware of big changes when they occur. This visit, some of the changes are so palpable that they excited comment.
"That's new," (they said of the Walgreens on Park Street). "Boy, they got that Target done lickety split. What's going in next to it?" (In-N-Out Burger, Safeway, assorted retail.)
Wherever one drives around Alameda now - especially around Alameda Point - the signs of change are everywhere. It is as if we're living in the last lull before the developmental storm. Elsewhere in this publication, Michele Ellson has detailed lists of upcoming developments and their status. What seems obvious is that the future includes a more tightly packed city with more housing of various kinds and more business ventures. The Point may take 20 years to fully build out, but the old Del Monte warehouse building, the area around Target and the property at the foot of Oak Street should all be done within five.
Our guests asked about controlling rents, limiting development, trying to hold on to the small town feel of Alameda, but we all conceded that the elephant in the room (San Francisco) has too much weight to be avoided. Prices in San Francisco have been elevated to stratospheric heights and driven demand to neighboring towns. Oakland will likely undergo a renaissance of development, and Alameda - the quiet, leafy, family-oriented island in the bay - looks better and better to San Franciscans forced out by escalating costs.
When two high-earners cannot afford a co-op in San Francisco, they turn to less expensive places to look for lodging. As high as our costs in Alameda are, they look like bargains in comparison. This is the type of pressure that is irresistible. Protesters like to blame it on the greed of developers, but it is more like a scramble to fill demand. When people line up to offer more than the asking price for a home, the question of greed becomes irrelevant.
It seems that the entire Bay Area is poised on the brink of emergence as the globe's center of innovation. It is building a portfolio of companies and jobs that post high sales, very high profits and extremely high wages and perks for its workers. The influx of well-paid young techies is driving the real estate boom, and the rest of us are going to have to adjust whether we like it or not.
Alameda is moving into the eye of this developing storm. We need to accept reality and manage the growth in ways that retain as much of the old atmosphere as possible. It will be helpful in the coming years of construction to maintain our good spirits, keep our tempers in check, and work to make sure that change is good or bad for all equally and not privatize the gains and socialize the costs.
Any bets on how far down Constitution Avenue the backup of cars waiting to go through the Posey Tube will be in, say, five years down the road? Past Lincoln, I bet.