Mr. Russo, Tear Down That Fence!

IMG_1048It’s time to unite east and west Alameda!

After two decades of environmental cleanup and planning, most of Alameda Point now belongs to the city.  On June 4, the Navy finally gave the city 1,400 acres—the first and largest of four land transfers.  Let’s remove some of the visual cues that say “abandoned military base.”

For starters, let’s forgo the typical ribbon-cutting ceremony.  Instead, let the dignitaries, Navy reps, staff, and residents jointly push over a section of the unwelcoming barrier.  After all, it’s the one part of the community reuse plan—“seamless integration”—we can implement on Day One.  It’s also a photo opportunity that would resonate in the region.

Next, let’s continue removing more fences.

IMG_1017Currently, as we drive toward the Alameda/Oakland ferry terminal and around to the “Main Gate,” there’s a chain link fence topped with barbed wire surrounding the perimeter of Alameda Point.  Another one sits to the south along the Pacific Street entrance.  Once inside the Point, chain link fencing is everywhere and anywhere, even around empty clean lots.

The beautiful park next to the “Main Gate,” for example, has a fence all around it for no apparent purpose.  Other areas, like the abandoned two-story housing structures, have no fence.

The fencing is an obstacle course of sorts; almost every section of land is reachable, but people have to maneuver their way around.

The rationale for keeping most of the fencing is over.  The property is ours.  We don’t need to prevent movement in and out of the area, as was the case when it was an active base.  The fences only add to the unsightliness and “KEEP OUT!” message.

The parcels still in Navy hands undergoing cleanup and buildings with obvious public safety hazards would be an exception.  But image is everything as we transition to making Alameda Point an extension of our community.

street should extend into Main

Street that turns at fence as it approaches Main Street. Bayport in background.

I can’t wait for the streets to go through where the fences now stand and when we no longer use the term “entrance.”  Let’s follow the advice of our last consultant and add some signage to give the area a sense of place.  We can’t do that with the off-putting fences.

We all look forward to starting a new chapter in our city’s history.  Tearing down fencing will certainly send the kind of message we want.  A hopeful new start!  East, meet west.  West, meet east.  How do you do!

Originally published in Alameda Sun.

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