As I write my first President’s Message from my little house on the plot on Mission Boulevard that was originally a piece of what was “Meek Orchards Tract” purchased by my grandfather in the 1930s from the Bank of Haywards, I reflect on the many changes that have occurred over the years.
Even though my parents lived in the City of Hayward off of Winton, I stayed with my grandmother frequently and she would take me to Cherryland Park to play occasionally. In the decades that followed, “progress” began to take its toll on our community and was particularly evident on the thoroughfare running in front of grandma’s house.
What began as the El Camino Real then the unpaved road for horses and buggies traveling from Niles to Oakland, became East 14th Street, then Mission Blvd and finally SR-185. It reminded me of a line in a John Mellencamp song where the interstate runs through the man’s front yard. Cherryland was no longer a destination but a blur as cars whizzed by. The failure of the Ashland and Cherryland business district specific plan created in the 1990’s didn’t help. Chain stores such as Long’s and Lucky left Creekside. After my grandma died in the 80s, my parents eventually down-sized and moved into the house, and put up lattice on the windows as well as an extra gate to keep prostitution activities out of our driveway. My colleagues on the CCA Board tell me that in the interior of the community, as the original owners passed away, single-family dwellings were torn down and replaced with tenements, spurring the creation of the “Cherryland Homeowner’s Association”.
When I took over the house in 2009, I ended up being the beneficiary of low-income assistance from the now-defunct Alameda County Redevelopment Agency to upgrade my home as well as a grant to paint it. I opted to not put the lattice back on the windows, because I had began to see things improve; instead of prostitutes walking in front of the house, I was seeing moms with strollers, and I said “I am not going to live like this, not going to hide in my own house”, and subsequently received a postcard in the mail requesting public input for the Update of the Business District Specific Plan. I showed up a meeting and began my journey in service to my community.
Since then, I have seen some wonderful things: the halfway house across the street becoming a haircut place, Meekland Avenue getting repaved, community gardens, the street sweepers coming by every now and again, Eden night live, and developers interested in blighted lots at our major intersection. I anticipate even more wonderful things.
When I spoke recently at a forum for potential retailers at Kitchen 1014 in Ashland, one of the attendees commented to me that my love for my community was evident. I hope that it is evident to Cherryland as well.