Development, Traffic Highlight Stark Contrasts in Alameda’s Mayor’s Race

Alameda school board member Trish Spencer,
Mayor Marie Gilmore.

ALAMEDA | MAYOR | Housing is a hot-button issue in many Bay Area communities. In Alameda, the traditionally insular island city, has a different variation on the topic—not only is the specter of rising home and rent prices becoming more apparent, the promise of Alameda Point–with more development and more traffic is highlighting distinct differences between the two candidates running for mayor.

In fact, you would be hard-pressed to find another race this fall offering a more contrasting platform than those between the campaigns of Mayor Marie Gilmore and Alameda school board member Trish Spencer. Gilmore is for developing Alameda Point, the large parcel that once housed the Alameda Naval Air Base a generation ago. Last year, the Navy transferred the deed to the land to the city at no-cost. Spencer wants to stanch development in general on the island because of growing traffic concerns in Alameda. Parks and recreation would better benefit all Alamedans, she said Sept. 18, at a candidates forum.

“We know we’ve got beautiful property there,” said Spencer, of Alameda Point. “We know there is housing developers that want to come here and build, build, build. We know that. Is that best for Alamedans? No. Many of us do not want that.” Spencer said the city should not focus on adding retailer who often offered low-wages to employees, but higher paid businesses in burgeoning green tech industries.

“You can’t run a city on a wish. You have to have plan for people to discuss,” countered Gilmore, who was elected in 2010. She agrees traffic is, indeed, a nagging problem in Alameda. “It’s not just an Alameda problem unfortunately,” she added. City studies show trip times through the Webster Tube connecting Alameda and Oakland have decreased since Navy’s departure, she said. “Then, why are we stuck in traffic?” asked Gilmore. “Because it’s a regional issue.” Instead, expanded bus services and the growth of the island’s ferry system is part of the plan to alleviate traffic, said Gilmore before reiterating, “Slowing development down is not a solution, it’s not a plan.”

Spencer later scoffed that more buses will fix the problem. More development will only add to the problem, she said. “That is why I’m running. We have housing development that is occurring way faster than any real solutions to address the transportation issue,” said Spencer. It should have been address before developments were entitled, she continued. “You can’t do this backwards. You can’t put the cart in front of the horse and then hand it to us citizens and say, ‘Now, you solve it.’ No. That’s backwards and we all know that.”

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