By Steven Tavares.
It could be argued that San Leandro, Oakland’s often overlooked neighbor to the south, is in the midst of prosperity and excitement not seen in generations. At least, San Leandro Mayor Pauline Cutter made the argument last week during her State of the City address before a large standing-room audience.
In fact, sentiment for San Leandro being on the cusp of boom times is growing across the region. It was one of the first East Bay cities to adjust its city resources before the worst of the last recession and conversely the first to replenish its spent treasury at its conclusion. A much-admired downtown fiber optics loop and a growing high-tech manufacturing culture has blossomed since.
The growth has led to large-scale public works projects around the new Kaiser Permanente campus near Marina Boulevard and Davis Street. “We focused on our bones–our infrastructure,” said Cutter, who urged patience as street traffic increases and diversions continue to be common.
San Leandro’s roads have been known as some of the worst in Alameda County for some time. The city will invest $2.6 million in road repairs this year, said Cutter, and million more over the next two years. “Paving these many streets will mean we’ll be going through some growing pains,” she said.
A transit-oriented plan is also being discussed that hopes to breathe new life into the areas around Bayfair Mall and its adjoining BART station. More than 700 new housing units in Downtown San Leandro are in the planning process, she added, along with another 350 new residential units at the San Leandro Marina. Over the next year, the City Council will discuss updating its inclusionary zoning ordinance to ensure 15 percent of all new units are set aside for affordable housing, said Cutter.
Rising rents and evictions that have followed rapid growth in other East Bay cities is quickly becoming an issue in San Leandro. Although the tenor of public discourse over the rent issue is less than its neighbors in Oakland and Alameda, renters in San Leandro, nonetheless, have repeatedly voiced concern over the number of exorbitant rent increases and mass evictions, tenants say, are becoming more common.
Cutter said the city is committed exploring solutions to stabilize the situation. “We remain concerned about tenant protections and unfair displacement of some of our residents,” she said. In addition, a partnership announced last week between non-profits and landlord groups to provide the city’s chronically homeless with 25 units of housing along with social services is one plan. The project called the San Leandro Compact has already placed two people in housing units, said Cutter.
In addition, despite one homicide last year, Cutter said “San Leandro continues to be safe,” citing a five percent overall drop in crime.
Yet, for all the good news coming out of San Leandro, flickers of its distance past have made themselves known in recent weeks. The city’s police department reported earlier in the day that racist graffiti was found Sunday near a children’s playground at the San Leandro Marina.
A similar incident occurred sometime before Mar. 9, this time on an office door belonging to the San Leandro Unified School District. “It’s not okay to have that happen in San Leandro, We don’t tolerate it here.” said Cutter, just before delivering her prepared remarks Monday. “It’s not who we are or who we represent.”