ALAMEDA -- The creation of a master plan for Alameda Point, a land-swap deal with the school district and the creation of two new city parks were the among achievements that City Manager John Russo highlighted March 7 during a "state of the city" talk before the Alameda Chamber of Commerce.
Recent renovations at the Chuck Corica Golf Complex and the plan to build 52 senior-housing units along the Oakland-Alameda Estuary were also touched on during the talk before business and community leaders at Rock Wall winery at Alameda Point.
Russo's speech followed Mayor Marie Gilmore giving her own "state of the city" speech Feb. 18, just days after the city emerged triumphant in a wrongful termination lawsuit filed by former interim City Manager Ann Marie Gallant -- a case that Russo also highlighted.
The decision to fight Gallant's suit, Russo said, was to send a message that city officials were not "pushovers," especially since opting to settle what the city considered a groundless claim would mean spending taxpayer's money.
"Don't sue us," Russo said was the city's ongoing position. "We are not settling."
The creation of a master plan and an environmental impact report for the former Alameda Naval Air Station, which closed in April 1997, has received broad community support, Russo said. That public support, he said, underscored how Alameda residents can be civil to one another when faced with challenges.
"As long as we do that, there's really nothing we can't do," Russo said.
The land-swap agreement with the Alameda Unified School District that Russo highlighted will pay for upgrades of the swim center at Encinal High School and will set aside 20 acres at Alameda Point for the district, which in turn will make available the former Island High School campus for affordable housing.
The deal will allow both city and school district officials to wrap up long-standing issues, Russo said. During his talk, Russo noted that the opening day's sales of the Target store at the Alameda Landing shopping center near the College of Alameda surpassed those of the chain's combined Marin and San Francisco stores, which opened the same day.
He also said city officials were moving forward with building an Emergency Operations Center on Grand Street, as well as with building Estuary Park, an eight-acre, lighted all-weather sports field.
The park will feature a baseball field specially designed for young people with mental or physical disabilities, Russo said, an announcement that drew applause from the audience.
Russo pointed out that nearly 300 people recently showed up to help clean graffiti and carry out other work at the 22 acres of former railroad property set to become the Jean Sweeney Open Space Park -- which is bordered by Constitution Way, Atlantic Avenue and Sherman Street -- and that a draft master plan for the park was created pro bono by Planning Board member and architect Kristoffer Koster.
It showed that residents are committed to the city, Russo said.
Other achievements that the city manager addressed included the creation of a two-year budget cycle, which he said frees up time for employees and gives them a greater sense of security, and upcoming plans to beef up city support for the arts.
Reach Peter Hegarty at 510-748-1654 or follow him on Twitter.com/Peter_Hegarty.