Blogging Bayport Alameda

November 19, 2009

Alameda: open-ish for business

Filed under: Alameda, Business, City Council — Tags: — Lauren Do @ 6:23 am

At the City Council meeting the other night, the Park Street Smoke Shop/Convenience Store/tschotske shop was “called for review” by Councilmember Frank Matarrese.   To quickly recap, this is a shop that wanted to open up on Park Street, but the North of Lincoln side.   They received approval from the Planning Board for a use permit with a whole host of conditions attached to it, but as with any business trying to do business in Alameda, nothing is ever that simple.

So, full disclosure, I don’t watch the City Council meetings live.   I generally watch them the day after, playing in the background.  But on Tuesday night, I did turn on the television for a bit and tuned in and this was the agenda item that I started watching.   But then, I decided to watch a Tivoed recording of the Mentalist instead.   But after I finished the Mentalist, it’s about 45 minutes long once you fast forward through the commercials, I turned back on the City Council meeting and was dumbfounded to see that the Council was STILL talking about the store.

All in all, the City Council expended almost a good hour talking about one store in Alameda.   I mean, come on!   And then, without a hint of irony when the agenda item comes up to talk about Councilmember Marie  Gilmore’s referral about the Boys and Girls Club and moving forward to agendize the discussion minus the legal report from the East Bay Recreation and Parks Department, Frank Matarrese laments the fact that the EBRPD can’t commit to a timeline to submitting said legal report and wonders aloud about what is taking them so long.


The City Council spends hours discussing minutiae and then wonders what is taking other public agencies so long to get documents prepared.

In the end the City Council voted 4 to 1 (Frank Matarrese being the one)  to let the store open.   The argument against was that Frank Matarrese didn’t want to have to expend City money to have to monitor the store to make sure they aren’t selling more tobacco products then they have said they are going to sell.

Look, I’ve said it before, I am not a fan of the cigarette, but if this is the only store that wants the space we can’t hold out for a boutique selling handmade all natural baby sweaters knit by blind monks in Tibet or something to decide that they HAVE to open in Alameda.    This was the argument that Councilmember Marie Gilmore was making, sans snarky comment about handknit sweaters, the “market” will decide what stores are necessary in Alameda.   If folks don’t need whatever this store is selling and the owner doesn’t turn a profit then they will go away, but we can’t turn away a legitimate business in hopes that something “better” will come along.   She used the example of the South of Lincoln Park Street example of the investment that was made in that building that now houses Books Inc and other stores.   Once the investments were made and the area becomes desirable, the stores that may not be “ideal” are eventually priced out — rent wise — making way for stores that are deemed to be desirable.

Really though, Alameda needs to shake this reputation of being hostile to business and personally, incidents like this do not help any.   If City leaders want to start regulating the types of store that can exist then they need to create a moratorium on certain types of businesses.   That way businesses will know ahead of time to just not even bother with Alameda.   But as it stands, a lot of businesses have to waste a lot of time and money because of the back and forth games that get played in order to open shop.



  1. So, if you use tivo, you must be sans Comcast. Direct disk? What about broadband?

    Comment by Jack Richard — November 19, 2009 @ 8:33 am

  2. Hi Jack:

    Actually you can use Tivo with Comcast, which is what I have, you just have to get a CableCARD through Comcast to stick in your Tivo to get the channels.

    Comment by Lauren Do — November 19, 2009 @ 8:39 am

  3. Thanks, didn’t know that.

    Comment by Jack Richard — November 19, 2009 @ 8:51 am

  4. so sad that the city council hampers free enterprise in alameda. no wonder businesses don’t open here.

    Comment by E — November 19, 2009 @ 11:31 am

  5. Businesses don’t open here?

    Park St. – Churchward Pub, a couple of frozen yogurt shops, the gift shop that took over for Happy Trails, a new Indian restaurant (soon

    Webster St. – Wescafe, Everett and Jones BBQ, Neldham’s bakery (announced new location per Lauren)

    Semifreddi’s just relocated here.

    I’d say that’s not bad in this economy. There is alot that Alameda can, and should, do to make itself more attractive to business, but I think some folks need to lighten up.

    Comment by david burton — November 19, 2009 @ 12:15 pm

  6. The point Frank Matarrese made was a good point — and that is the City has invested alot of money in the Downtown, and we should protect our investment. Areas like Solana Ave, College Ave, Piedmont Ave, etc. didn’t happen by accident. There is a strong citizen group that is concerned about what type of businesses go into those shopping districts. With the onslaught of discount stores coming into Alameda — the main streets (Park and Webster Street)are the one area where we can look to see more upscale shops.

    The main reason for the scrutiny was the type of products that were being proposed for sale – drug paraphernalia and 99 cents items were some of the concerns being raised.

    We’re experiencing a renaissance on our main streets and I think the scrutiny is a good idea.

    Comment by Karen Bey — November 19, 2009 @ 1:05 pm

  7. RE new businesses: Pagano’s is set to open a second store at South Shore, and Orchard Supply has nixed their plans for a store in Alameda.

    Comment by Susan — November 20, 2009 @ 8:28 am

  8. Alright, PAGANO’S! Good on YOU!

    Comment by Jayne Smythe — November 20, 2009 @ 10:04 am

  9. It’s heartwarming to see one of our local businesses not only surviving this economic downturn, but expanding and thriving as well.

    Pagano’s is Alameda through and through. I hope they’re around forever!

    Comment by Jen — November 20, 2009 @ 9:12 pm

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