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Leo Alvelias


Former Mayor of Union City

For a person who was schooled in Spanish and could not speak a word of English when he arrived in the United States in l943 with his family, Leo Alvelais made it to the top. He became a City Councilman and Mayor of Union City.

In addition to his busy schedule as a city official, Mr. Alvelais has been involved in all phases of community and civic affairs.

Mr. Alvelais was born on January 31, 1918, in Chihuahua, Mexico. In order to provide better educational opportunities for his children, he left his native country and moved to California in the early l940's accompanied by his wife Emilia and their small children, Leo Jr., Luis Raul and Emilia Esther.

In Oakland in 1943, Mr. Alvelais became involved in the war effort, working in various shipyards in the East Bay. Two more children were born in California; they were Michael, in l946, and Roberto,s in l959.

His community involvement were numerous; he is a Member of the Board of Directors of the Southern Alameda County Economic Opportunity Agency, which administers the antipoverty program in the area comprised of Union City, Fremont, Newark, San Leandro, Hayward, Pleasanton, Livermore and certain unincorporated territory of Southern Alameda County; he is a member of the Board of Directors of the Legal Assistance Center, which provides legal counsel to low-income persons who otherwise could not afford such service; he was President of the Latin American Club of Union City; Treasurer of Central Social Mexicano of Union City; Public Relations Officer of the Union City Taxpayers League, Member of the Commission Honorifica Mexicana of Union City; Member of the Union City Chapter of the Mexican-American Political Association-MAPA-delegate Member of the California State Central Committee, Member of Advisory Committee on Mexican Affairs to the State Department of Employment; and Member of the Union City Improvement Association.

During his term as Mayor, his office took several major steps. Among them were: a model cities application submitted to the Federal government which was an ambitious and comprehensive step toward planning and implementing solutions for many of the problems facing Union City; a "Stamp Out Unemployment Crusade" in Union City, which has developed into an intensive employment drive in cooperation with the National Alliance of Businessman, State Department of Employment, Economic Opportunity Agency, and others. As such, Union City received national publicity as the first city in the Nation to formally endorse and cooperate in a new way with NAB in their program to place unemployed persons in private industry.

He also launched a Mexican plaza project for the Decoto area to be funded by the Federal Government to provide a recreational and cultural gathering place to enhance the Mexican heritage of Union City and also appeared before the Board of Supervisors to ask for a commitment for the improvement of the Alvarado area on flood control and drainage improvements, the establishment of special assessment districts in Alvarado to provide curb, gutter, sidewalk, street and other improvements.

Mr. Alvelais traveled to Washington, D.C. and appeared before the Congressional Appropriations Committee to secure funds for the Flood Control project, and before the Army Corp. of Engineers to secure their commitment to move up their schedule and give Union City top priority. The work that subsequently was done to build the flood control channel opened up the Alvarado area for development. And this is what Alvarado is today.

Mr. Alvelais has also been active in BARTD (now called BART) affairs including support of recent sales tax measure necessary for financing BARTD completion, execution of the Union City BARTD station agreement and development of the central business district which will adjoin the BARTD line and station in Union City.

Vitally concerned with the needs of the people, Mr. Alvelais was instrumental in the city's entry into the Section 243 leased housing program whereby Union City became the first city in Alameda County to join with the Alameda County Housing Authority to improve and provide local housing under which privately-owned dwellings will be leased to occupants with low incomes who otherwise could not afford such housing. He was also instrumental in spearheading a sound and acceptable recomposition of the governmental portion of the Board of Directors of the Southern Alameda County Economic Opportunity Agency.

Mr. Alvelais worked for a living too. In addition to his extensive activities as a city official, community leader and member of civic organizations, he had a full time job as the head of the Printing Department of Fruitvale Canning Co. in Oakland.

For a person who could not speak English, Mayor Leo Alvelais made it to the top. He was able to communicate well in English, was able to lead the people of Union City to the betterment of their lives and was able to accomplish all of these dreams.

Leo Alvelais will be remembered in the Union City history as one of the city mayors who had accomplished a lot for the city.

Note: Interviewed in June 199

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