ALAMEDA -- The Planning Board has put off approving the design of a proposed Emergency Operations Center on Grand Street so that it can be tweaked, but supported a site plan for the project that also includes a new fire station.
Among the issues that board members raised Monday was the size of the two-story building and its two driveways, the landscaping and whether it would fit with the surrounding residential neighborhood.
The design of the fire station, which would replace Fire Station 3, was not before the board.
The 3,640-square-foot emergency center at 1809 Grand St. would feature a craftsman-inspired design and enough space for up to 50 responders and city leaders to gather after a major diaster.
Among the features of the building, which city officials say would also be used for training, would be a diesel generator so that it could stay open if power was lost during an emergency.
"This is a project that the city has been working on trying to bring to fruition for certainly as long as I've worked here, which is 12 years," City Planner Andrew Thomas said.
He added: "It's going to save lives. It's incredibly important in the event of a major disaster."
But Planning Board member John Knox White, who cast the lone vote against approving the site plan, questioned the proposed center's size and whether the neighborhood was the appropriate location for it.
"This is going to be like a giant walled fortress in the middle of a historic residential neighborhood," White said.
He also questioned why the center was proposed for the center of the Island when most city leaders are based downtown, and how often the current center is used in the basement at the Alameda Police Department.
"Right now, it's pretty much impossible to use the current Emergency Operations Center when we want to train or to do other things that are necessary so that when we have a disaster we are well prepared," fire Chief Mike d'Orazi said.
The new center would be used at least once a month, as well as for community meetings, d'Orazi said. The emergency center is expected to cost up to $2.8 million to build.
The City Council voted in September last year to secure the money by extending and refinancing lease revenue bonds, or Certificates of Participation, that were originally issued in 2002 for seismic and other upgrades at City Hall.
The move came after city voters rejected a ballot measure in June last year that would have raised the local sales tax a half-cent to pay for the project.
The design for the center that went before the board Monday included a roof that peaked at 30 feet in height, as well as an 11-space parking lot. The overall project site, which includes the space for the new station, totals 25,245 square feet. The current Fire Station 3 on Grand Street has been closed for more than a decade because the building is not earthquake safe. Currently, firefighters assigned to the station, which mostly serves the center of the Island, work out of a neighboring former family home that the city rents.