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As Vallejo’s city government pushes to give the Vallejo Police Department a new headquarters on the city’s waterfront, community members have questioned why the controversial police department, known for killing 19 people since 2010 and marking on-duty shootings by bending the tips of their badges, deserves such a prime piece of real estate.
The conflict over the new headquarters echoes past fights as Vallejo’s waterfront has a long history of protest, dating back to work stoppages by Black sailors after the nearby Port Chicago explosion during World War II.
Even as protests against the police killing of Sean Monterrosa swelled in Vallejo in 2020, then-City Manager Greg Nyhoff moved forward with plans to place the police headquarters either at a former office building on the waterfront or the main library blocks away. In the face of community opposition and astronomical cost estimates, the city has steadfastly refused to consider other options.
Guest: Javier Arbona-Homar, assistant professor at the University of California Davis in American studies and design.
[Waterfront weekend intro]
Vallejo’s waterfront along Mare Island Way is a popular destination for family friendly activities… with its wide paved path… grassy areas for gatherings and activities… and plenty of space to cast a line into the water…
But the area also holds a rich history as a space where people have exercised their First Amendment rights.
[2020 protest ambi rise]
That included protests following the police killing of Sean Monterrosa in the summer of 2020… including loud ones with a police helicopter overhead…
Woman: Not one more!
Crowd: Note one more!
That’s also included quieter demonstrations involving the younger relatives of people impacted by police violence…
Kid: Justice for my uncle, Mario Romero [applause]
Even further back… Vallejo’s waterfront was also home to work stoppages by Black sailors in a highly segregated Navy … during World War II.
EBRPD: What happened here, July 17, 1944, is little known to most Americans, and almost forgotten in history. We now look back on this day as an early event in the civil rights movement.
As UC Davis researchers recently noted… Vallejo’s waterfront has been one of many landscapes for Black resistance against police violence.
JAH: Not to mention that it was also the setting for various uprisings and sometimes smaller or sometimes kind of larger so-called riots, where Black sailors found themselves fighting in the streets of Vallejo against white residents and white shore patrol.
It’s also where Vallejo’s historically white police department wants to relocate its headquarters. It’s a move many local residents say the department doesn’t deserve… considering its history of violence…
Colin Eaton: I’ll fuck you up.
…civil rights abuses…
David McLaughlin: Stop fighting and get on the ground.
…and overall costs to local taxpayers.
KPIX: The lawsuits accuse police of racial profiling, excessive force and other misconduct…
I’m Brian Krans. I’m a reporter and producer with the Vallejo Sun. In this episode… we’re going to take a look back at the historical significance of Vallejo’s waterfront… in the struggle for racial and social justice… and how the Vallejo Police Department’s quest for a new waterfront headquarters fits into that history.
Arbona-Homar: There was almost like this, really almost like kind of smacked in the head kind of moment when the police department was trying to acquire this building and sort of situate itself in this very front and center, like privileged geographic location. That smacked us as so obvious in a way like, so symbolically meaningful.
[Waterfront Weekend ambi rise]
Vallejo is one of many cities in the Bay Area fortunate to have sections of its coastline still accessible to the public. On a sunny day in October… Vallejo’s waterfront was center stage for a lively gathering... a celebration of the city and its residents… Vallejo Waterfront Weekend.
[music ambi rise]
Over Saturday and Sunday… there was a car show…
…music from local artists…
H.E.R.: we should take the trip up to the moon…
…and also The Vallejo Police Officers Memorial Run… honoring those who died in the line of duty.
The celebration could be heard from the fallen officers memorial at the top of the front stairs of city hall… separated only by a few hundred yards of spacious parking lots… large green spaces… and a four-lane road with a large median.
[Mare Island Way traffic ambi blend into football ambi]
Waterfront Weekend: ...have a couple of minutes to make sure you head over to the football clinic for the second to fourth grade football site. Thank you.
The waterfront festival also hosted a flag football camp.
Coach: What is the magic word?
Coach: The magic word is “hike.” When I say "hike," you're running straight to me and then you stop. Got it?
Kids: Got it! No other word you go on. Are you ready? Set. Go! I didn't say hike! Go back! Go back!
The camp was also held on the grassy field separating the waterfront from a faceless two-story office building at 400 Mare Island Way… where Vallejo police have begun to move their new headquarters.
Krans: It's an old State Farm building. There's some city public works vehicles behind the fence. Looks like an unmarked police cruiser in the back. It's kind of a brownish gray nondescript office building. Most of the blinds are closed, some pillar-like things in front, basic landscaping…
[flag football ambi]
The public spaces surrounding Vallejo’s waterfront… specifically that along the Mare Island Strait… have played an important part in the city’s history… from people catching their dinner from the shore… to historic protests by people seeking justice.
Arbona-Homar: In Vallejo, we have this history from going back to World War II and the fact that segregated sailors were isolated in barracks right on that waterfront and that was the site of a strike after the Port Chicago explosion, not to mention that was also the setting for various uprisings and sometimes smaller kind of larger so-called riots…
Javier Arbona-Homar is an assistant professor at the University of California Davis in American studies and design. He and Julie Sze… a professor and the founding chair of the American studies program at UC Davis… recently authored a paper that looked directly at how Vallejo’s waterfront served as… among other things… a landscape of resistance against police violence.
JAH:: My work on the Port Chicago explosion near Martinez, California, naturally took me to Vallejo because of the Port Chicago strike that happened after the explosion in 1944.
Sze had been connecting with people in Vallejo over the fight against a potential cement factory on the waterfront… and Arbona-Homar had been working with Vallejo activists and community members when he was doing research for his dissertation more than a decade ago.
JAH: It's as if there was kind of like a perfect sort of storm and that proverbial storm where we had already been tracking a number of things that just sort of seem to come together at the waterfront.
So when they heard the city of Vallejo was looking to buy a prime piece of real estate… for the purpose of giving the city’s police department a new home… everything seemed to click in their heads.
JAH: Like, to us there was almost like this, really almost like kind of smacked in the head kind of moment when the police department was trying to acquire this building and sort of situate itself in this very front and center, like, privileged geographic location. That was like such a that smacked us as so obvious in a way like, so symbolically meaningful. We didn't really have to think very hard about the connections. Those connections were made apparent by that kind of architectural decision. I think that's how we ended sort of putting all those pieces together.
JAH: we had read a lot of literature that problematizes waterfronts as these contested sites, and waterfronts are, in a way, the central sort of stage for labor struggles, strikes…
JAH: waterfronts collect a number of, of causes and struggles, but waterfronts oftentimes, are represented in kind of like, planning literature, and documents and hearings as like kind of neat and tidy places that have like clear sort of urban boundaries, or there, there's a declared type of redevelopment zone. The waterfront is never this kind of like fixed boundary, it's never like a finished thing. It’s always under this kind of historically…
Or as Arbona-Homar and Sze wrote in their recent research paper… which is forthcoming from the Handbook of Urban Space, Architecture and Politics…
QUOTE: “Vallejo’s history is one of racial struggle, class conflict, and capital accumulation intertwined with the long shadow of militarized and oil-soaked places amidst staggering beauty. Vallejo is significant because of both the virulence of anti-Black… state-sanctioned violence — and fierce resistance to that violence.” END QUOTE
[Port Chicago ambi rise]
One historic… but not necessarily well-known… part of Vallejo’s history is its role in desegregating the military after World War II… following the largest trial for mutiny in U-S history.
EBRPD: What happened here, July 17 1944, is little known to most Americans, and almost forgotten in history. We now look back on this day as an early event in the civil rights movement.
That’s Eric Stearns… a ranger with the National Parks Service here in the Bay Area… in a video from last year… detailing the Port Chicago explosions… and resulting protests on the Vallejo waterfront.
EBRPD: 320 men lost their lives and 390 more were injured in a munitions explosion in Port Chicago Naval Magazine during WWII. African American sailors were segregated and the only ones that were loading the ships, they had little or no training. White officers encouraged African American sailors to work at unreasonably fast rates. Three eight-hour shifts 24 hours a day. The officers often placed bets to see whose team could load the fastest, it was only a matter of time before the inevitable happened.
The inevitable… as many sailors feared… were those munitions exploding accidentally at Port Chicago… which is located on the Suisun Bay… just north of Concord. Here’s William Ross… a Port Chicago survivor… relaying to NBC Bay Area in 2019 what he remembers of that day… some 75 years later.
ROSS: My job was loading ships, torpedoes and depth charges. And every kind of ammunition that the Navy is using was very dangerous. You know, that's that's the thing that constantly stayed on your mind. It was a terrible thing, I mean to, you wonder, is this it? Is this it? Is it gonna explode?
There’s one very important thing to know about those taking the most risk in loading munitions onto those warships: Port Chicago had 14-hundred sailors… all of them Black… and all of their officers were white.
[Port Chicago ambi fade up]
Morris Soublet… was one of the first six Black men allowed to fully enlist in the U.S. Navy. He went through boot camp in Illinois… and was deployed to Mare Island. Here he is in a 2009 documentary titled, “The Great Port Chicago Explosion” …explaining how much a warship typically held.
Soublet 2009 documentary [06:45] A ship loaded with ammunition had 60,000 tons — not pounds, tons — of ammunition aboard before it left.
On July 17th, 1944… the SS E. A. Bryan was packed to the gills with munitions… and more than 222 thousand gallons of fuel. That’s when what many feared… eventually happened.
[Explosion noise from 2009 documentary]
The blast’s shockwave registered as a 3-point-4 on the Richter scale in Berkeley… more than 20 miles away.
As National Park Service Ranger Kelli English explains in a video about the fight for civil rights during World War II… people around the Bay Area were jolted awake just after 10 p.m.… confused… and many believing the U-S mainland was under attack.
English: So when the explosion occurred, it was huge. The entire area shook, windows were shattered, as far away as San Francisco. People were shaken out of bed, the town of Port Chicago, which was nearby was heavily damaged. And it produced this massive cloud that extended about 12,000 feet up into the air. This was a massive explosive event that shook and registered the entire area, and no one knew what was happening at first.
The explosion immediately took the lives of 320 sailors and officers. According to the U.S. Army… the 202 Black men killed instantly in the blast accounted for 15 percent of all Black casualties in all of World War II.
But some of the Black sailors who survived would endure yet another injustice… one that still haunts their memories today. Here’s Ranger English again.
English: Everyone who survived was severely traumatized, because they were involved in the cleanup of this area. And so they were remains of some of the deceased that they had to clean up. And it was very traumatic for those who survived. They had what we like to call survivor's guilt. And because many of them lost so many friends, and the white sailors were given sick leave and allowed to take time off to try to recover mentally from this event. But the black sailors, after a very brief period during which they were involved in cleanup, were ordered back to work.
With the nearby town of Port Chicago devastated by the blast… the sailors in charge of cleanup… were moved to the Ryder Street Naval Barracks in nearby Vallejo.
Here’s National Park Ranger Eric Stearns again…
EPRPD STERNS: Many of the young African American sailors decided not to go back to loading. This was in fear for their lives. There was no changes in the practice, no more training that was added on. And so when these guys decided not to go back to work, unfortunately, 50 of them eventually are charged with mutiny.
Three weeks after hundreds of men were killed in an instant… sailors were ordered to do the same work under the same conditions on the shores of Vallejo at the Mare Island ShipYard.
On August 8th, 1944… the USS Sangay was docked in the Mare Island Strait… ready to be loaded with munitions. When given their marching orders… 328 sailors in the ordnance battalion didn’t budge…
JAH: The strike itself did not happen at the base where the explosion happened. Black sailors were then transported back to Vallejo, and were ordered to load bombs at Mare Island.
Eventually… all but 50 Black sailors would be convinced to load the ship with explosives. And those 50 Black sailors… who would be known as the "Port Chicago 50" …would eventually be put on trial… charged with abandoning their posts.
As Virginia Delgado-Martinez… with the East Bay Regional Parks District… explains… the resulting court martial was…
VDM EBRPD [02:12]: …known as the largest trial in Naval history, and brought light to Jim Crow practices, as well as racial biases within the Navy. Thurgood Marshall the chief of education and legal at the N-double-ACP heard about the trial.
Yes… that Thurgood Marshall… who would go on to be the first Black man to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court…
VDM EBRPD: He soon met with civil rights leaders and let out a statement saying that, ‘Not 50 men on trial for mutiny, but the Navy on trial for its vicious policies against Negros.’ Thurgood Marshall held daily press conferences outside the courthouse, he announced that he will appeal the Navy's verdict for the Port Chicago 50. Marshall’s efforts in the mutiny trial, and in his appeal, got the attention of the public, as well as President Truman. And soon enough, the stage was set for desegregation in the Navy and all the branches of the military. It made it official when President Truman signed an executive order in 1948.
To this day… all but one of the convictions for the Port Chicago 50 stand.
In 2019… Congressman Mark DeSaulnier introduced a concurrent resolution to Congress that recognizes the victims of Port Chicago explosion… and would exonerate the rest of the Port Chicago 50.
That same year… a dedication ceremony was held for a memorial in Vallejo to the Port Chicago 50.
Here’s Bob Sampayan… a retired Vallejo police sergeant… and mayor when the site was dedicated.
2019PortChicago Sampayan: This is truly an honor to read a portion of this proclamation… So, in recognition of the 75th anniversary of the World War II work stoppage by the Port Chicago 50. Whereas, the Navy chose to limit opportunities for African American sailors in World War Two as the Armed Services had always done. The Navy segregated sailors living quarters by race, the Navy assigned the dangerous munitions loading operations to segregated African American units, which had been not trained in handling munitions. The Navy had failed to take the basic precautions, such as separating ignition sources and explosives and…
[ambi fade out]
And that historical act of defiance from Black men fearing for their lives after being told what to do by white officers… happened at the base of Ryder Street… on Vallejo’s waterfront…
JAH: So that history already charges the present when there are like, you know, anti police brutality struggles happening and when closer to our present day with like the 2020 protests, for example, they already inherently are drawing on that history. And that's already kind of an expression of the tensions that have been felt there across generations.
[kids march ambi]
Kids day 1: Hi good afternoon. Children, come up here and get your snack… We will be beginning this march here shortly…
On June 27th, 2020… just 25 days after Vallejo Police shot and killed Sean Monterrosa… the city’s youngest activists took to Vallejo’s waterfront… to speak out against police violence.
CHILDRENS6: Hello everyone.
One particular speaker took the mic… and grabbed everyone’s attention.
[03:00]: My name is Malik J and I'm a 10 year old youth activist here in the city of Vallejo.
[03:14]: Today there is something very important, something we need to speak about right here, right now. Vallejo, it's time to make a change. [applause] It's time to erase this systematic racism that's been plaguing our community for years to come. We shouldn't be plagued by poor education or housing and poor criminal injustice.
Woman: C’mon, baby!
[04:09]: We need to get out and vote. We need to vote out these leaders who are also acting as stool pigeons.
Woman: C’mon, baby, say it!
We need to make a brighter, clearer future for our next generation of people. To stand up, will we be peaceful? We need to be who we need to be.
Woman: C’mon, baby, tell ‘em!
And it was this last note: No justice, no peace. No peace. No justice. Thank you.
[kids protest ambi fade under]
By the time kids would be protesting on Vallejo’s waterfront in June 2020… Vallejo city officials had already been moving things along to give Vallejo police such a prominent piece of land on the waterfront.
We reached out to VPD and the city for a tour of their current or future police headquarters… only to be told that everything we needed to know has already been put before city officials in public meetings.
[6/3/2019 Planning Commission]
Vallejo purchased the old State Farm Insurance building at 400 Mare Island Way… for 13-point-5 million dollars in early 2019… with the expressed intent of transforming it into a new police headquarters. On April 23rd of that year… the city council voted to close on the property.
By June 3rd, 2019… the item went before Vallejo’s Planning Commission.
VPC: Item 11 C
Then-City Manager Greg Nyhoff had asked the commission… with only days notice… to consider re-zoning the property at 400 Mare Island Way from business limited/residential to allow a public facility on the site… specifically a QUOTE “proposed police facility.”
One of the things that caught Commissioner Chris Platzer’s attention was how the staff report for the project said the city looked at 57 other potential sites… and none would have worked for a police station.
Platzer: Did I hear you correct that you looked at 57 other sites? Wow. That's a lot of work. And you use the word “optimal” to describe this site. On a scale of one to 10. This came out as a 10. Could you give me an example of a site that came out at like a nine?
City staff couldn’t give Platzer a simple answer. Here’s then-Assistant City Attorney Shannon Eckmeyer.
Eckmeyer: We were requested by the city manager's office to see if there were any existing vacant or public facility uses within the city of Vallejo where the police department could go into right now. And that's where the 57 numbers come from. That includes all government facilities, schools, hospitals, everything that falls under the public facility uses and there aren't any sites that would accommodate this other than 400 Mare Island Way.
Platzer: Because I'm a little slow on the uptake. So 57 other locations were all deemed inappropriate for a police station? Isn't that what you just said?
Eckmeyer: There's 57 currently zoned public facility uses that are already occupied by cemeteries, schools, government facilities; they are already being used as a different type of use. And a lot of those are privately owned.
Platzer: So can you give me one site that’s city-owned, that was considered that could possibly be a location for a police station that's not a cemetery?
Eckmeyer: Well, again, we looked throughout the entire city, what was designated as public facilities. And we have...
Platzer: Just one example of a public facility that could become a police station?
Eckmeyer: Right, in our analysis none of them could be.
Platzer: The question was just one specific example of one such site. And you just told me 57 of them don't qualify. I don't get it.
By then… the city was in the final stages of escrow to buy 400 Mare Island Way. They’d already been in discussion with the library… which is a county, not city entity… about moving into the new building so the police could have the JFK library next to city hall.
Here’s then-planning commissioner Robert Schussel.
Schussel: Mr. Nyhoff, I think what the confusion is. One is, if you just talked about a general use of that property versus the police station, and I think it's the police station where there are going to be some impacts now whether they're significant. I don't know. And I think that's what some of the commissioners are trying to say we weren't given anything. I mean, this is probably a shorter report that I've seen on most projects. And yet it's a big deal, and it's controversial. And I guess the other part I'm trying to clarify is, are you saying there's a reasonable shot that the library might go into that building and that the police station would then go into what is the current library? Is that what the thinking is? Or is it just that building is going to be used for the police station?
Nyhoff]: It is our attempt in presenting this my intent in presenting this to the city council, that this is connected to our civic center of the community right here in City Hall and the library. And that it's best use and we've walked it with we've had architects, engineers take a look at, walked it with the police department to make sure that it would be adequate use for them and what it would cost to do that.
Nyhoff: So I'm not going to say to you whether there's a good or not shot that it might be the library. Some of the council members have asked us to just take a look at it, see if there's some sense to it. And so we've agreed to do that.
But Nyhoff… the controversial city manager … clarified that he didn’t put the matter before the planning commission for the approval of a police station… despite the project description stating quote: “In order to allow the proposed Police facility at 400 Mare Island Way, General Plan and zoning amendments are required.” END QUOTE
Instead… Nyhoff assured the planning commission his request was more of a vague declaration… and the Vallejo city council would hash out the details down the road… regardless of how the commission voted.
Nyhoff: The action you're looking at tonight isn't about the police station at the site. It's about a public use facility, so that we don't have to come back and ask for the library later. It's just as public use, and I'm sure we will go through a very extensive process with the City Council, with the public, once we start moving forward on the project, whichever one it may be. So I wanted to clarify that.
And during that June 2019 planning commission meeting… and other public meetings before and after it… Vallejo residents voiced their concerns about moving police headquarters to the city’s waterfront.
1: I love the waterfront, it's absolutely beautiful. And I think that the use of the land would be much better for some other something more profitable for the city of Vallejo.
2: I agree with many who've spoken that this is not ideal. The last speaker brought up a great point: how much is it going to cost to fix this particular building up? We don't have a definite figure, we have some estimates. Part of the problem is this building will most likely, because we do not have the reports yet, and they were not thoroughly done, as we learned through the city council.
3: And I look at the waterfront and I think that that is some of the most valuable real estate that Vallejo has. I think that we're sitting on a goldmine, if we play this right, and I don't, I just ask you to really consider, from a zoning perspective. And as we think about the future of the development of Vallejo, is that really the best use of that land?
[scanner traffic intro] Officer: Westbound on Redwood…
Nearly a year to the day after that planning commission meeting… a Vallejo police detective… Jarrett Tonn… fired five times from the back of an unmarked police truck at a 22-year-old man from San Francisco named Sean Monterrosa.
VPD: Don’t move!
Tonn: Do not move!
One of Tonn’s bullets would hit Sean in the back of the head… killing him instantly… amid wide-scale looting and protests in response to the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis days prior.
Tonn: You see a gun on him?
Sean Monterrosa would be Vallejo’s 19th police killing since 2010.
That… along with the revelation many officers in the Vallejo police department marked on-duty shootings by bending the tips of their star-shaped badges… created national news. That caused the California Department of Justice to get involved… reviewing the department’s policies… and eventually taking over the criminal investigation into the Monterrosa killing.
Many in the community argued Vallejo police shouldn’t be rewarded for their bad behavior with a new police station on the city’s waterfront.
[400MIW protest ambi]: All right folks. We’re going to get ready to move…
On May 24th, 2021… nearly two years after the Planning Commission meeting… several dozen people gathered outside the black metal gates surrounding 400 Mare Island Way for a protest.
[2:00]: Alright, so we have our people that are gonna block this gate and we're going to just forward to the front. Make some noise. If anyone wants to lead chants you're more than welcome to. I'll take the first one, but let's start gathering and moving, all right?
That day… the Vallejo police department invited reporters to the facility for a press conference… announcing the opening of a new center for victims of domestic abuse.
[3:46]: Say this name: Willie McCoy. Say his name. Angel Ramos
In response to the protest… the department said they were all-out canceling the outdoor ribbon cutting. Instead… they moved it inside… and broadcast it on Facebook. Here’s then-police Chief Shawny Williams — the first Black person to hold the title — speaking at that private event.
MAREISLANDWAYPRESSER: Williams [3:23]: We envision a vibrant and connected community where anyone impacted by violence, abuse or other trauma receives the support, the attention they need to fully recover so that they may reach their highest potential. The Care Center is comprised of professionals and organizations that will support those in crisis…
Despite the supposed good intentions of the center… the day was marred by the department’s deceptions… as KQED’s Raquel Maria Dillon explained.
KQED [00:07]: The Vallejo Police Department is under scrutiny again after holding an opening ceremony for a new center for victims of abuse. Despite concerns about transparency from activists and several city council members, the event was streamed on Facebook Live after the police department's public information officer told the press the event would be postponed.
The KQED report included comment from District 6 Councilmember Tina Arriola… who joined the protesters that afternoon.
KQED [00:30]: They felt that they were using victims as pawns or props for a PR opportunity to draw attention away from the bad handling of other missteps that the police department has handled.
[protest]: Call: No justice.
Response: No peace!
Call: Fuck Vallejo PD! I said, no Justice.
Response: No peace! Fuck Vallejo PD!
Vallejo police have continued moving into the building at 400 Mare Island Way… despite that the city has yet to come up with a plan to fund the necessary improvements. Earlier this year… the city council backed away from asking the state for a 30 million dollar loan to build out the waterfront police headquarters… and instructed city staff to consider other options.
On September 27th, 20-22… the Vallejo City Council addressed a feasibility study… on how much it would cost to turn 400 Mare Island Way into a two-story library… and renovate the John F. Kennedy Library next to City Hall into Vallejo police’s headquarters. The total for both projects… was nearly 90 million dollars.
[9/27 council 00:06] Tonight is really asking council for direction. We’re not making any recommendation to adopt anything tonight. It’s just a recommendation of what they want staff to do additionally going forward.
The presentation began with Assistant City Manager Terrance Davis giving a quick overview of the JFK library as a building… saying it was in even worse shape than the current police headquarters
927 Council: Davis: [01:40]: It was completed in 1970 as the main library for the city, and it continues to operate in that function. It's a fairly large building, not over 90,000 square feet, three stories with an open air kind of center. The existing occupants and tenants include the library, but we also have other city operations currently in the building, which includes the VPD police evidence, which is located in the facility. And then also we have…
Other library occupants include the McCune Collection of rare books and the nonprofit Fighting Back Partnership. But the issue at hand was how much it would cost to fix existing issues with the building… as well as what it would take to build it out as the new police headquarters. To start… the 52-year-old building would need five million dollars worth of improvements just to cover deferred short-term maintenance.
Here’s Bruce Playle… the chief architect on the assessment… with some of the finer details of moving the police into the library… and the library into 400 Mare Island Way.
Playle [15:29]: But we did spend time, as I mentioned, with the Solano County Library staff to figure out its best use. As far as the site goes, it's great. There's a two-story building, there's parking, ample parking, happens to be 242 spaces on this site as well. And access from both arterial roads. This building has about 59,000 square feet, and so it's smaller than the other building. Let's go to the next slide, please.
Part of the plan would include turning the expansive park behind the library… which was recently renamed in honor of Martin Luther King Jr…. into a parking lot for police vehicles.
Marstellar: We. Are. Live.
On July 25th of this year… Vallejo Mayor Robert McConnell was interviewed by David Marstellar Junior on his Ozcat Radio show on 89.5 KZCT FM. McConnell spelled out the issues that remain at hand…
McConnel [55:51]: The State Farm building was purchased at the direction of the city council upon request from the then-City Manager. Now we own it, what are we going to do with it? The police department has moved some departments into that building, but none of the ones that would be responding to a call yet. So they do they have likely detectives and from internal affairs and things like that. Pure office stuff. I'm against having the police officers department at the State Farm building. I'm not enthusiastic about the library building, but it is at least a possibility.
McConnel said that the JFK library was the only other option the city council was willing to entertain.
Meanwhile… Community members have advocated for other options… like the old Walmart building … but the city says it and others weren’t on the market for purchase. Residents have also suggested simply not moving the police headquarters.
Sorce [31:51]: The police station should be where it currently is. It's central, it's near all of the freeways. There's a big parking lot. We did that exercise where we had, you know, the people put dots on a map. I mean, the majority of the dots were on 111 Amador.
Melissa Swift [59:03]: the only option that is received community support is to keep the VPD headquarters where it currently is at 111 Amador and perform the necessary renovations at that location. Additionally, nearly 2,000 community members have signed a petition calling for the sale of 400 Mare Island Way and the police headquarters to remain and be renovated at 111 Amador.
McConnell Ozcat [57:35] There are also people who want to see Amador Street resurrected and changed. And the city has looked at the feedback we get from our finance department is that it would be so astronomically expensive to do that, that we can't afford it. That if we went out for bonding purposes, we couldn't afford the interest, let alone the principal on it. So there isn't any good answer. But to say that none of the people wants that location doesn't reflect reality, because some people, typically downtown people who have their businesses downtown, and currently a majority of the of the city council actually are in favor of that location. So you can't universally say none of us wanted none of us maybe in our immediate groups. But throughout the entirety of the city, there are people who are very interested in that location and wish to pursue it. If it'll all come down to money, let's face it.
Ultimately… at the September 27th meeting… the Vallejo City Council scrapped the idea of renovating the current police headquarters… or building something new there.
Miessner [2:10:15] I would like to see 111 Amador taken off the table. I think we have a good path. We keep going back and forth, more analyses. It's just going to take more time. I think we're, the majority of us are in the same place. So I would like to see the JFK, 400 Mare Island Way switch. Thank you.
McConnell: Councilmember Dew?
Dew: Thank you, Mr. Mayor. I would like to echo the vice mayor and Councilmember Miessner.
McConnell: Councilmember Brown?
Brown: Thank you, Mayor. I too agree with my colleagues and would like to take 111 Amador off the table and focus on doing the swap.
McConnell: Okay, I see nothing further.
For Mayor McConnell… who will term out from public office in two years… it all boils down to the numbers and to him… 400 Mare Island Way would be better suited for city offices than a police department.
McConnell Ozcat: [58:45] And we have limitations on the staff who come to City Hall and the office space available at 555 Santa Clara where in all honesty, they could use some of that space over 400 Mare Island Way. And it was built as an office building. I was on the planning commission when it was approved. It was never intended to be a police officer’s building. We spent over $100,000, in architectural studies so far for that building will will spend even more the library. Oddly enough, I found out that library buildings are already built stronger because they have to support the stacks of the books. And that's one of the requirements of a police officer building is that it'd be one and a half times the strength of a normal building. So the strength in that building should at least already be there. Is it an ideal location? No. Is it better than 400 Mare Island way? In my view it is. Is it the one I would prefer? No. But we have to look we'll work within the reality of who's on the council, what they're willing to do and especially what the money's going to let us do.
[waterfront ambi up]
Historically… and presently… waterfronts are spaces in places like Vallejo that naturally attract people for many reasons… including those who want their voices heard as they speak out against injustice.
[Kids protest]: Black lives matter!
As UC Davis researchers Sze and Arbona-Homar note in their forthcoming research… moving Vallejo police headquarters to the city’s prized waterfront is an exercise in gentrification… making the space feel safe and palatable … to attract more middle class residents.
And that… Arbona-Homar said… is what modern waterfronts look like in several cities in the Bay Area.
JAH: [06:31]: they're kind of like highly charged, because closer to, the present day, because of financialized, gentrification.
But… he said…
JAH [29:25]: It's, it's kind of staggering that Vallejo can, like collect so much. And that are just like such real challenges in one pretty concentrated area of land and can stand for so much. So it's a really incredible kind of textbook of California in the world. And I mean, I wouldn't just encourage people to pay closer attention to like, kind of stop and slow down and learn more from Vallejo. It's sort of like, I think to a lot of people, it's sort of like just to kind of they see some exits off the 80 and never really take them.
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Brian Krans is a reporter in the East Bay who covers public health, from cops to COVID. He has written for the Oaklandside, Healthline, California Healthline and the Appeal.
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