The first weekend they went to a pizza parlor and found “a family crowd, something we didn’t realize we didn’t have in the city,” Ms. Amarasiriwardena said. “I felt we were home.”
The couple’s enthusiasm has now led to a chain migration: Mr. Amarasiriwardena coaxed two high school friends from his hometown of Amherst, Mass., to settle in Alameda.
After Jason Hill, a Washington D.C., health care lobbyist, took a job with the California-based managed health care consortium Kaiser Permanente, he and his wife, Ann Rhodes, a community organizer, looked for a friendly community with a short commute, good schools for their young daughters, and diversity.
Guided by a relocation specialist, Mr. Hill spent a day looking for a town to call home. He considered Oakland, Berkeley and Point Richmond before he saw Alameda. It seemed family-friendly and felt like a quaint small town. “It met a lot of our criteria,” he said.
It wasn’t perfect. The family was coming from a neighborhood in Washington that was about 80 percent African-American. Mr. Hill, 47, is African-American, and Ms. Rhodes, 40, is white. And while Alameda prides itself on its diversity, Mr. Hill observed that, compared with their previous experience, there weren’t many black residents. The town is 50 percent white, 31 percent Asian, 11 percent Latino and 6 percent African-American, according to U.S. census figures.