Do city leaders dream of electric cars?
Early this week, the folks at the Vallejo Times-Herald wrote a story about that city’s efforts to bring electric carmakers Tesla Motors to Mare Island, in the wake of the company’s decision to renew its search for a new home.
Apparently, the makers of the suuuupersexy Tesla Roadster are seeking a $250 million federal loan to build their new car, a luxury sedan, and they’ll have a better shot at the money if they build on a brownfield site like an old military base. The story cited a few, including our Alameda Naval Air Station. And I asked myself:
Could it really happen here?
According to Vice Mayor Doug deHaan, the city is pursuing Tesla as a tenant at Alameda Point. “We’re making overtures. We have made overtures,” deHaan said, adding that he sees Tesla as an “ideal” use at the Point.
Just for the record, I also checked in with council members Frank Matarrese and Marie Gilmore. Matarrese said they’d be a great business to bring to Alameda, adding that for “the ‘green’ implications and the status, drawing them to town in this economy is a huge benefit to the community”; Gilmore said it’s too early to say whether Tesla would be a fit for us but that she’s open to talking with them about it.
The city had pursued Tesla before, but this past fall, the company instead zeroed in on a site in San Jose. Late last month, the San Carlos-based carmaker opted to keep looking, saying it wanted a more cost-effective site for its manufacturing plant. A company spokesperson did not return a call or an e-mail seeking comment.
Apparently, we have done this sort of thing before (though it may not have turned out exactly as planned). Back in 1995, Alameda Point became home to CALSTART, a non-profit consortium that was to bring an electric car manufacturing facility and a small business incubator with 20 to 25 businesses (the project was pushed through by then-Congressman Ron Dellums and announced by President Bill Clinton).
The one carmaker they did bring, the Don Johnson-backed Xebra Motors (he put an electric car on “Nash Bridges” that was painted to match co-star Yasmin Bleeth’s eyes) fizzled, leaving Alameda shy about $12,800 in unpaid rent and utility bills.
DeHaan said there could be a few little hurdles to bringing Tesla here, the biggest being that SunCal’s development plan – should it go through – eliminates the hangar space the carmaker would likely need to produce its vehicles.
I checked in with SunCal spokesman David Soyka, who said it’s too early to make a decision like that and that the developer is always on the lookout for new business opportunities.
“I wouldn’t take anything off the table,” he said.
And here’s a twist: Back in 2007, when the carmaker was planning to build its new assembly plant in New Mexico, SunCal pledged 75 acres to Tesla if it expanded – free of charge.
By the way, local superblogger Lauren Do’s got an open letter to Tesla chair Elon Musk asking him to bring his new facility – and all those jobs – to Alameda. That’s here.