Amblin' Alameda: New streets

Amblin' Alameda: New streets

Morton Chalfy

After walking and driving the streets of Alameda for the past five-plus years, I began to think that I know this town pretty well. Intellectually I knew that was an overstatement, but emotionally, the feeling that Alameda was filling the place in me where "hometown" resides was very strong.

To my delight, I discovered how many streets of Alameda I hadn't yet been down or along this past Sunday.

Sweetie's granddaughter had arranged a sleepover with one of her middle school classmates and, as granddaughter was spending Sunday afternoon with us, it fell on us to deliver her to her friend's house. We arrived in what was not only a brand-new (to us) street but, in fact, a new neighborhood.

To my sweetie's surprise and pleasure, the streets were filled with early-20th century Craftsman homes, much like the one we live in. The houses were cheek by jowl in the Alameda way and went on for several blocks along parallel streets.

Craftsman houses are charming, well built, efficient for the business of living and proclaim thrift and modesty in their design. At current Alameda prices one might question "modesty" as a description, but charmingly modest they are.

It occurred to me while we slowly and admiringly drove along the streets that while sweetie noted subtle differences and particularly good treatments, that in their day these were the "ugly developments that will ruin the neighborhood" sort of construction. Their current counterparts are two-story "McMansions" set even closer together and packed into enclaves which threaten to become the dominant architecture of whole swaths of the city. One can almost hear the thunder of newspaper editorials and letters to the editor decrying the loss of the old Alameda to the ranks of those who will occupy these abominations, much like we hear today in response to the current fashions of development.

But time has wrought its magic, and the neighborhoods of Craftsman houses are now among the most charming and livable in the city. The size and configuration of the homes make it easy to express and experience neighborliness. Front porches, sidewalks, (let me repeat that sidewalks increase neighborliness), small front yards and proximity to one's next door neighbors conspire to lend an air of hominess to the scene. The trees on the street are mature and lend their grace to the atmosphere; the tidy plantings in the front yards, alike yet remarkably different artistic uses of flowering plants and bushes; and the creative touches of statuary and pottery make it seem like a quintessential Alameda street.

When I looked at the street map of Alameda after this expedition I could readily see whole blocks of streets I haven't actually visited yet, and that excited me. I've resolved that before an entirely new city springs up on Alameda Point, I will make a real effort to visit the parts of the existing city I haven't experienced yet. After our discovery on Sunday, I'm looking forward to the exploration. Serendipity, though, is still the best discoverer.