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Project of the Week


Planning Jean Sweeney Open Space

In 2002, two years after the city won the right to purchase the defunct Alameda Belt Line (ABL) property at its 1924 price, Jean Sweeney collected signatures and got an initiative placed on the ballot that led to the protection of the 23 acres that once housed the ABL's railroad yard. Sweeney, who died in 2011, had spent years digging through historical documents. Her research allowed the city to purchase the old ABL property at the 1920s price.

Now, 11 years after Sweeney gathered those signatures, the city is inviting Alameda residents to offer their input into how it should use the land the it has dubbed "The Jean Sweeney Open Space Park."

The Alameda Citizens Task Force will host a discussion about the history of the ABL Sweeney's efforts to preserve the land for the city. This meeting will take place 7 p.m., next Wednesday, Jan. 16, at the Alameda Hospital, 2070 Clinton Ave.

Next month the Alameda Recreation & Parks Department (ARPD) will host a pair of meetings to gather input on how use the park.

ARPD will host the first meeting from 10 a.m. to noon, Saturday, Feb. 9, at the Albert H. DeWitt Officers Club, 641 West Red Line Ave. The second meeting will be held from 7 to 9 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 13, in the City Council chambers at city hall, 2263 Santa Clara Ave.

"We have the opportunity to help create a wonderful open space park for our city by attending these community meetings and helping plan the park," Dorothy Freeman states in an article on page 6.

Sweeney's victory has its roots in a mayor's dream almost 100 years ago. The ABL Railroad started with Mayor Frank Otis's vision. Otis realized that a good transportation system was essential to the survival of the city's northern waterfront.

When Otis learned that no railroad company would step up to build the line, he turned to city staff for a solution. The city council discussed the idea of floating a bond measure until City Manager Charles E. Hewes and City Attorney Judge A. F. St. Sure assured the council that they had an easier, more voterfriendly solution. The city could use $28,005 from the Alameda Bureau of Electricity.

The city hired A.J. Grier who, in one month, built a 1.2-mile-long rail line from Broadway and Pearl Street to Grand Street along Clement Avenue and christened the Alameda Municipal Railroad.

Some seven years later on Jan. 12, 1925, the ABL was incorporated to take over the municipal railroad; it acquired the property on Feb. 17, 1926. The Western Pacific Railroad and the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway jointly owned the ABL. Later mergers led to Union Pacific Railroad ownership.

The ABL last operated in 1998. The Union Pacific then operated over the line through trackage rights to serve one remaining shipper until late 2001.

When the city sold to the ABL, the parties agreed in writing that the city could buy back the ABL property for the price the ABL paid in 1924 so long as the City gave one year's notice.

On Nov. 2, 1999, the city announced it intended to repurchase the line. The railroad balked and on May 11, 2000, brought a complaint, which the city challenged in court. The city told the court that it intended to turn the former railyard into a public park. On July 9, 2000, the city won the court battle, thanks to the 1924 contract provision.

Now Alamedans have a chance to help remember the woman whose efforts led to the acquisition of the space. "We invite everyone to become involved," said Jean's husband, Jim Sweeney.

To join the email list, send a request to SweeneyOpenSpacePark@gmail.comThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or mail your request to Jim Sweeney, 212 Santa Clara Ave. Alameda, CA 94501.



0 #1 Jane Jackson 2013-02-09 05:10
Alameda has had an active Community Garden since the
1980's. We have 38 plots and a very long wait list, some of
the applicants have been waiting for a plot for 5yrs. They
deserve a break.

Allocating a portion of the Beltline for a vegetable, fruit and
flower garden would enhance the landscape,and accomm-
odate the underserved gardeners on our waitllist, some of
them are Master Gardener students.

I hope the City ,and the Alameda Recreation and Park
Department will find this suggestion inspirational, and keep
it close to the top of the input list.

Jane Jackson

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