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September 3, 2008 > New police substation planned for Union City's Alvarado district

New police substation planned for Union City's Alvarado district

By Simon Wong

A public hearing was held at the Union City Council Meeting on August 26 to adopt a resolution approving development at the Alvarado Plaza Shopping Center for construction of a detached 2,500 sq. ft. building. The City of Union City Police Department (UCPD) will use the latter as a sub-station. Centro De Servicios, which provides referrals for social services, will also have an office in the building.

The new facility will occupy a "pad site" in the parking lot approximately 100 feet from the existing retail building within the shopping center and 80 feet from Alvarado Boulevard. It will be constructed and owned by Duckett-Wilson Development Company, current owner of the commercial site. Provision of public facilities in this area is consistent with the City's General Plan.

UCPD recognizes the International Market Place (aka Four Corners) as a high-crime area. The new building will replace the temporary sub-station in the Contempo district and raise the profile of the police in the area to deter criminal activity.

"We definitely need a police sub-station. We have Greenhaven, Regent's Way and Contempo and this location for a sub-station is ideal. Crime has gone on long enough in this area. We're isolated. A lot of the time, response times to calls from this area are too long. By the time police officers arrive, burglars have already entered and left people's homes. Everybody knows this. They are in the bushes, behind the school fence or the railway track. Our police officers are not there for us and we really, really need them. I would love to see a sub-station there. I'm all for it!" enthused a resident of Greenhaven Apartments in support of the proposed development.

"We should be aware that the San Francisco Police Department wants to close sub-stations, not open them, to save money on bricks-and-mortar and release policemen from desk work to allow them to be in their cars, on foot, bicycle or scooter in the area. There's no guarantee that Measure UU will pass. I don't know if the money for this building is coming out of the police budget. If Measure UU fails, that will spell more trouble.

"Finally, I recently passed a sub-station in another county that resembled a fortress - solid walls, solid door, no windows - with no indication that the police were present. I suppose if I needed the police, I could always pound on the door. If I were a crook, I would not pay much attention to the sub-station. I'd pay a lot more attention to a cruiser driving around which would also be much cheaper for the City," cautioned a community member.

According to Union City Police Chief, Greg Stewart, "Although it is being called a sub-station, in reality it is a storefront for the officers stationed there. There will be desks and staff will spend most of their time there. We have partnered with Centro De Servicios for a number of years in the Decoto area and we are going to partner with them also in the Alvarado area and provide a clerical office. We [the Police] shall have a presence there and the doors will be open during daylight hours and maybe into night hours. In addition, the facility can be used as a venue, rather than a base, for programs but this office will be able to provide referrals so that Centro De Servicios can bring the services from the Decoto side and possibly, at some point, start offering services on the Alvarado side too."

Aesthetically, the sub-station's exterior will be in keeping with the existing retail center which was refurbished recently. The same design, materials and colors will be used though there will be some minor changes to ensure the safety of the building's occupants. The design will comply with California State Disabled Access Regulations.

Thirty-five parking spaces will be lost at the shopping center to accommodate the new structure. This will not create any problems given that the Alvarado Plaza Shopping Center is much larger than surrounding malls and, therefore, has a good parking ratio (low demand for parking per square foot of retail floor space). 416 spaces will remain.

The Planning Commission has imposed a number of conditions to which the owner has agreed. They include the following:

First, incorporation of "Green Building" standards should be considered, where possible.

Second, payment of an Art in Public Places in-lieu contribution towards the acquisition and placement of public art in Union City, as per the City's Municipal Code, following the Public Art Board's review of the proposed development. The decision is due, in part, to the lack of available space to display public art at the site because of existing structures.

Third, installation of bicycle parking shortly before occupancy of the building. The Economic and Community Development Department will review and approve its design and location.

Fourth, execution of the lease between the City and owner before building permits are issued.

The City will lease the facility from Duckett-Wilson Development Company. The City's Redevelopment Agency has budgeted $3 million to pay the monthly rent for the 2,500 sq. ft. building. The terms and conditions of the long-term, commercial lease are currently under negotiation. At this stage, the lease might last for ten years though it is highly likely that the term might be longer once details have been agreed.

Construction plans should be complete in three months' time. A review of the plans will last for a month. Construction is expected to begin in early 2009 and finish by Summer/Fall 2009.

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