by Rye Druzin
East Palo Alto residents will mark the 30th anniversary of their city's incorporation with a parade and festival at a daylong event hosted by the city Saturday, June 29.
The event will begin at 11 a.m. with a parade from the Costano/49ers Academy at 2695 Fordham St., which will proceed down University Avenue until it reaches Bell Park. The festival in Bell Park, from noon to 4 p.m., will feature music, food, a health and safety fair, and other activities.
A fireworks show at the Cesar Chavez Academy at 2450 Ralmar Ave. will cap the celebration. The gates will open at 7:30 p.m., and the show will begin at dusk.
The festival is a reminder of how far East Palo Alto has come since 1983. That year saw about 3,500 residents of the unincorporated area vote to become the city, winning by a margin of only 15 votes, according to Mayor Ruben Abrica.
Incorporation on July 1, 1983, led to the creation of city government and public services, including the police force. Previously, the County of San Mateo had provided these services.
East Palo Alto's transition was resisted by some political leaders in the area who feared losing power, said longtime resident and activist Frank J. Omowale Satterwhite, president of the nonprofit Leadership Incorporated.
Abrica noted that absentee landlords also mounted major resistance, as they feared that an incorporated city would impose rent controls, which were indeed approved soon after incorporation. Despite this opposition, pro-incorporation voices prevailed.
The city, which currently has 28,000 residents, experienced trouble in the 1990s when it became known as the "murder capital of the U.S." Crime has since decreased, and the police department has more recently tried new methods for discouraging criminal activity, including reaching out to gang leaders with offers of social services.
Abrica said that the last decade has seen marked improvement in the city's economic and social situation. The Four Seasons hotel in the former Whiskey Gulch area and the development of the Ravenswood 101 Shopping Center, which includes Ikea, have brought in much-needed revenue to the city, he said.
Over time, the city's demographics have also changed. Hispanics account for 65 percent of the population, according to the 2010 Census, with blacks totaling about 16 percent, Pacific Islanders 7 percent and whites about 6 percent.
More information about the event is available by emailing Ana Torres at firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 650-853-3152.