When Erik Miller moved to Alameda’s Wedge neighborhood from San Francisco a decade ago, it was largely populated by “blue collarish” renters who had little interest in local politics. But over the years, things have changed.
Now, Miller says, the Wedge – which is bordered by Park Street, Tilden Way and Clement Street – is being settled by young hipsters from the big cities who have had kids and are buying their first homes here. And they are becoming increasingly politically active on the Island.
Miller, an inventor who builds guitar effects pedals and repairs musical equipment, has established a track record of involvement in local political issues, getting involved in an early effort to revitalize the city’s economy and speaking to the city council about development plans for Bridgeside Center.
Dozens of his neighbors joined him this past summer, when Grand Marina builder Warmington Homes notified them of a plan to build nearly three-dozen homes for very-low income residents on the old Island High site.
“When people saw that project, there was this huge sense of shock and outrage,” said Melanie Wartenberg, who has become a visible presence on local issues. Wartenberg and her family moved here from Oakland in September 2006, drawn in part by the neighborhood’s proximity to Alameda’s downtown. (It’s also one of the Island’s oldest neighborhoods.)
She said neighbors got a flyer advertising a presentation on the proposal and were stunned by what they heard, which sounded to them like a fait accompli. So Wartenberg and her neighbors, with the aid of a local activist, got organized, turning out in droves to speak out against the proposed project.
The project – which was discussed with neighbors – died before being formally proposed to the city. The block party the neighborhood threw to celebrate drew Vice Mayor Doug deHaan, Councilmember Frank Matarrese and Robb Ratto, executive director of the Park Street Business Association.
With revitalization plans afoot for the northern part of Park Street (the Island’s now-defunct auto row), Wartenberg said she expects her neighbors to have a lot more to talk about over the next 10 years. Ratto said he expects to be hearing more from Wedge neighbors.
“I think that we can work together on future projects, and I hope that we do,” Ratto said.
Wedge residents came out to speak to the city council on March 3 for the preservation of a home on Buena Vista Avenue that was to be torn down for parking for a proposed retail project on Park Street. The council voted against them on that one, but they say they’ve learned valuable lessons for moving forward. (Wartenberg said she’s sorry the house is set to be demolished, but that she’s looking forward to seeing what the retail project will entail; Ratto said efforts are still being made to get the house moved intact.)
“As things develop, you’ll probably be hearing more from us,” Miller said.