San Leandro Goes For Broke In Washington

By Steven Tavares

San Leandro’s portion of the $32
million East Bay Greenway
project is $11 million.

There may not be any earmarks to speak of in Washington, but that doesn’t mean a city can’t dream.

In years past, the San Leandro City Council narrowed its wish list for federal funding to just a few areas. In the absence of funding, the council decided Monday night to target seemingly every possible avenue and see what sticks.

Members of the council will travel to Washington this week to meet with lawmaker along with the city’s lobbyist, Len Simon. Many of the potential projects contain request barely attainable during better economic times, including $11 million for San Leandro’s portion of the East Bay Greenway project proposed to run beneath the elevated BART tracks through four local jurisdictions. Included is requests for $3 million for improvements to medians and sidewalks running along East 14th Street and public safety building expansion. Other programs include $1.5 million for an extension of the BayTrail from Marina Boulevard to Fairway Drive and $500,000 for the purchase of compatible radios able to link to other public safety departments in neighboring counties.

The list of project is fairly mundane in contrast to other years when partial funding for work on the Davis Street/880 interchange and Senior Community Center was secured. “We need to think bigger for the future,” said San Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy. “This is fine for 2011, but we need to think ahead for 2012.”

Several councilmembers voiced support for lobbying for every single item, including an additional third round of grants from the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS). No funding exists for the grant, but City Manager Stephen Hollister, nevertheless, urged the council to pursue it after discussions with San Leandro Police Chief Sandra Spagnoli. During her tenure in Benicia, Spagnoli was noted for her Safe Schools Program with that city’s continuation school. San Leandro was infamously denied funding in the first round of COPS funding two years ago when the feds deemed the city’s level of crime to be too low. Late last year, though, San Leandro obtained $2.5 million to hire/retain five police officers in the second round of funding.

Vice Mayor Ursula Reed also added dredging for the San Leandro Marina to the list of targeted projects. The issue has been a perennial problem for the city to secure full funding to clear sands and silt from the marina harbor basin. Much of the effort by local governments is to link its needs with other areas of concern in addition to focusing on regional projects. Reed wondered if the city could couple the need for dredging with public safety by arguing the possibility of an aircraft crashing in the bay near the Marina presumably on the way to the nearby Oakland Airport could trigger such a want.

GOOD NEWS FOR AFFORDABLE HOUSING The council approved Monday night a $50,000 loan to affordable housing provider Eden Housing to purchase the Las Palmas Apartments on Tropic Court near the Greenhouse Marketplace shopping center. The loan will help create an additional five units set aside for “very low-income” households. The 50-unit complex will eventually contain 16 units restricted to very low-income families and 34 for “low-income households. Funding for the 55-year loan set at 3 percent will come from the redevelopment agency’s set aside fund.

The two-story building was once beset with crime nearly 10 years ago, according to Redevelopment Director Luke Sims, before city along with the previous operator was able to rehabilitate the property. In 2009, the city turned to Eden Housing to operate Las Palmas leading to Monday’s approval of a loan agreement with the city.