Blogging Bayport Alameda

May 10, 2021

Splitting the baby

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:00 am

It was a bit of a cliff hanger on Thursday night about whether the HAB would do the right thing and take a decisive vote to move the Wellness Center project forward. The chair driving the meeting on Thursday night was very reluctant to take any action to move the project forward attempting to shield himself using the Alameda Architecture Preservation Society’s determination that Alameda, as usual, need not follow rules that exist in the world that is not Alameda. That it can make up its own super special designation as to what is historic even though the federal and state governments have already decided that there’s not enough integrity left for these agencies to declare the site historic for a branch of the US Military. Because rules of what is historic differs in the boundaries on Alameda than it does for everywhere else. Because we’re THAT special.

Anyway after much public comment including the chair attempting to kick this responsibility to the City Council in a wholly Alameda leadership sort of way which always seems to start with a desire to punt on hard issues. He had to be reminded at one point that — while public comment is nice for advisory purposes — the mandate of the HAB is clear. There is a standard for review which staff outlined at the very start: does the HAB consider the site to be a historic monument and does it meet the criteria in the municipal code?

After much handwriting and declarations about how “hard” the decision was going to be on the the HAB took two votes. The first was to delist the property from the historic study list. This failed in a 2 – 3 vote. The folks who didn’t vote to delist was Chair Saxby, and members Wit and Jones.

The second motion was to approve a certificate of approval for demolition and this one the Chair really wanted to push as far away as possible to himself imploring someone, anyone else to make the motion. This motion passed 4 – 1 with the Chair the sole vote against it because the public comment was too powerful, I guess.

I know people may be wondering why the split vote. Well, from what it sounds, the decision of the majority to not delist (well the decisions of members Wit and Jones who were the pivotal votes) was to acknowledge that the site itself has historic value. But the decision to allow demolition to proceed was recognition that the buildings have little integrity left per the expert opinion from Page and Turnbull.

APC has already indicated that they will be adding interpretive signs to recognize the history of the site, but — as one Alamedan has already pointed out — hopefully they’ll go beyond just the history of the Merchant Marines but talk about the fraught history that happened on those ground including the occupation by Native American in the 1970s to protest the discrimination within the Bureau of Indian Affairs which was one of the government agencies which occupied the Alameda Federal Center.

Of course this decision will be appealed or called for review by Councilmembers Trish Spencer and Tony Daysog. They should probably stop being so predictably in the bag for folks who are trying to block essential services for truly the most vulnerable people in our community.


  1. It was very disappointing to see how spineless the chair, Thomas Saxby, behaved that night. How he hid behind the tortured explanation by the AAPS that historic could be whatever we want it to be was quite something and a black eye for AAPS. I wonder if he was one of the appointments made by Trish or Tony.

    Comment by Have Some Backbone — May 10, 2021 @ 8:15 am

    • as I recall he was appointed by Trish. Marie Gilmore appointed me to the HAB specifically to counter the control AAPS had over this board. I would suggest that this Mayor make appointments to this board that would reflect the make up of Alameda in a more broad way than what we have now which is the AAPS (HAB).

      Comment by John P. — May 10, 2021 @ 9:28 am

      • Thanks, that confirms it. I’m waiting for the meeting video to get published to get the exact quotes, but the comments that Chris Buckley (of AAPS) made were quite jaw-dropping. It was tantamount to – Alameda does not need to follow the objective historical standards of state or federal, that the individuals of Alameda could decide whatever they want to be considered historic, even if it’s not justifiable by the experts. The chair, Thomas Saxby, then made sure to speak first to kept repeating these AAPS talking points and cast the first vote, to try and lure the rest of the board. It was shocking to see such naked coordination between AAPS and the chair of HAB that subverted the mission of HAB to push the very subjective viewpoints of a few town NIMBYs, one of whom said something like it is the “gut of Alamedans” to decide what should be historic. Thankfully, before the rest of the votes could be taken, the staff stepped in to explain what is the role of the HAB, to remind board members to be objective and to follow established guidelines.

        Comment by Have Some Backbone — May 10, 2021 @ 10:36 am

  2. I’m mortified, honestly, that the board and the AAPS are allied with the Friends of Crab Cove in opposition to care for the most vulnerable. Historic preservation is worthy and important, but to use it as a tool against medically fragile seniors? Obscene. The HAB failed and AAPS is woefully out of step.

    Comment by Gaylon — May 10, 2021 @ 12:39 pm

  3. two board members terms are up in June, perhaps its time to broaden the views of this board. they are both at-large seats so anyone can apply.

    Comment by John P. — May 10, 2021 @ 1:39 pm

  4. We were very happy with the process and the outcome of Thursday’s vote, and the seriousness with which the Committee members took their job, but as others have noted, we were also were greatly disappointed that AAPS went so far out of their way to side with anti- homeless forces who were not shy about attempting to subvert the HAB process for the sole purpose of delaying the project. AAPS lost some integrity by trying to further the opposition goals by claiming that the City could through out normal practice of utilizing broadly recognized criteria for determining historic integrity, and make up their own. It is worth noting that the majority of AAPS Board Members were donors and/or volunteered for the anti wellness center ballot initiative.

    Comment by Doug Biggs — May 10, 2021 @ 7:02 pm

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