In Part I of this three-part series, Patch contributor Leslie Mladinich recalled the Island of her 1970s youth: new homes and construction in progress. In Part II, she talks about life on Bay Farm as Harbor Bay Isle grew.
Though Harbor Bay was still young when I was growing up in the 70s and 80s, it gave Bay Farm a touch of glamor. You might spot a Raiders' football player at church and you could stroll near or play around man-made lagoons.
The Harbor Bay Landing shopping center, with Safeway and CVS (formerly Longs) as anchor tenants, was built in phases from 1976 to 1981. Amelia Earhart School opened in 1979, Bay Farm School, the fire station and ferry in the early 1990s and the business park in 1994, with the Oakland Raiders as one of its first tenants.
With Harbor Bay totaling 920 acres, most of the older development is sandwiched between 600 acres of housing and retail and 320 acres of business park.
It is not easy to read the landscape, but if you look closely you'll see post-World War II bungalows if you drive southeast on Maitland or the 1970s Braddock & Logan townhouse developments if you make a right on Mecartney Drive from Island Drive and look south.
For some families, Harbor Bay glamor was affordable. Dzung and Lannha Vu had a growing family living in 1,200 square-foot Casitas townhouse south of Mecartney when they received a flyer on their door about Harbor Bay. There was to be an auction at a soccer field for 30 yet-to-be-built houses. The four bedroom, 2,500-square foot model they saw didn't have a big backyard, but they liked that the dining and family rooms were separate.
Even when the bid went over $200,000, Vu kept raising his hand. Finally, no one else did.
"It was like "The Jeffersons," jokes Vu. "We were moving on up."
For some townhouse residents, the influx of new affluence was tinged with jealousy.
"We thought, 'Who are these young people who could afford these homes?" one said. "We used to joke and say 'Well, when the big earthquake hits, we'll be okay because we are on land and they are on (sand) fill.'"
Ewart Wetherill, an architect impressed by the natural park-like surroundings in his new neighborhood, served on Harbor Bay's architectural board for three years.
"There were things in those homes like sunken tubs and kitchen islands that everybody wanted," he said.
Vu reports meeting main Island people after Harbor Bay was developed who didn't even know that Bay Farm was a part of the city. And Vu and Wetherill say that even now there is sometimes confusion about whether the area should be called "Bay Farm" or "Harbor Bay."
But with residents living, eating, working, shopping and exercising here, the areas of newer construction have become thoroughly integrated in Alameda's identity.
More about Bay Farm later this week in Part III.