Miracle on Santa Clara Avenue
Ah, there are precious few things that this writer truly enjoys in life. A dinner with friends. A perfectly brewed cup of coffee. A crisp fall day. And a City Council meeting that ends before the clock winds into the double digits, then back into the single digits again.
Yes, it’s true: The council chamber, which almost every other Tuesday are home to stirred-up citizens and drawn-out deliberations, was quiet at ten to 10, the first time in the 20 months The Island has been watching City Hall that this has occurred (or at least, the first time I remember it happening). The laptop battery? Still juiced. My tea? Still reasonably warm.
The reason? The council had to delay its discussion of whether to give the Boys and Girls Club of Alameda $2 million of its Measure WW park bond allocation to help the club build its new facility. They are waiting for a letter from their bond counsel saying the club is eligible for the money, perhaps for as long as a month, Interim City Manager Ann Marie Gallant said.
“(T)he City Council cannot amend its (project) list without such verification,” the staff report recommending the club get the money but be required to pay half of it back said.
So most of the crowd stampeded out of the room and the slippers went back into the bag.
One thing the council did talk about Tuesday night was a survey the city’s Economic Development Commission conducted to further its efforts to keep businesses in town.
Their findings, in a nutshell: Local business owners think the city has too many fees and regulatory hurdles to help businesses, and were often unaware of some of the programs available to them, even though the vast majority of the business owners surveyed live here in town and a majority have been in business for more than a decade.
They are fans of their business associations and local police. They think knowing people and being known are assets. And they feel the city is clean, safe and well-maintained.
They want the city to be more user-friendly for businesses, with fewer fees and easier access to information online. And they want the city to do more to attract people to local businesses, like increasing signage to business districts and sponsoring more events.
The commission’s 19 recommendations included better customer service and more consistent code enforcement in the Planning and Building Department, a more comprehensive city website and research into other cities’ fees.
(Separately, the City Clerk’s office sent out a press release Tuesday saying they have added a number of documents to the city’s website, including City Council, Alameda Reuse and Redevelopment Authority and Community Improvement Commission minutes from 2000, and packets from 2004; City Council and CIC resolutions from July 2009 to present and all ARRA resolutions; City Council policies from 1995 to present; and campaign disclosure statements from July 2009 to present.)
The effort was led by former City Council candidate Justin Harrison. He said the work was undertaken as a response to the crappy economy. Harrison said a second report, on attracting businesses, is also on the way.
Mayor Beverly Johnson said the merger of the former Development Services Department and Planning and Building could help the city make the requested changes.
The council unanimously okayed the report and recommendations.