UPDATED On Point: The case of the disappearing park
Updated 1:21 p.m. Friday, July 31
When Richard Bangert first realized that the park he had worked to keep in the development plan for Alameda Point had been taken off the map, his wife told him it must be a typo.
Back in 2002, when plans for a golf course and hotel had threatened what was called Alameda Point Park and public access to the northwestern shore of the Point – and its breathtaking views of the Bay – Bangert was among those who worked to ensure things stayed close to what residents envisioned when they created a reuse plan for the base six years earlier.
Back then they prevailed, saving the 11-acre park in the section of the Point known as the Northwest Territories from being halved by luxury links. But now, in master developer SunCal Companies’ proposed ballot initiative, the plan for the Northwest Territories – including the park – was obliterated by strikethroughs.
“We were stunned to see that SunCal had crossed out the park that we had worked so hard to preserve,” Bangert recalled.
The development plan for the 215-acre Northwest Territories was being managed by the city – until 2006, when Alameda Point Community Partners quit as the site’s master developer and the city was forced to look for a new one. The city’s bid for the job included development of the Northwest Territories.
But after two years of work, the developer hasn’t yet decided what it wants to build there, a spokesman said – and they won’t have those decisions made before the company’s development initiative hits the ballot.
“We’ve zoned it. But we haven’t planned any specific uses,” SunCal rep Joe Aguirre said, adding that the developer has been focused on the original development footprint, which didn’t include the site.
Aguirre said SunCal hadn’t heard an 11-acre park was planned for the site, that it wasn’t required by the city and that it has never been in SunCal’s plans, though he said the developer has worked out trails, bike routes and pedestrian routes for the site and would be open to putting a park there. (Bangert’s wife, Irene Dieter, wondered how that’s possible, since SunCal submitted a ballot initiative with text laying out the park plans crossed out.)
In a conversation subsequent to the publication of this story, Aguirre pointed out that SunCal’s development plan for the Point has 145 acres of parks and open space (and reiterated points he made in an earlier interview – that the Northwest Territories, which is public trust land, is zoned for uses that include parks and open space and also that the Navy is still sorting out contamination issues on the land, so the folks at SunCal think it’s too soon to say what will be developed there).
The entire site is public trust land, which limits how it can be developed. The list, according to the folks at Waterfront Action, includes water-related commerce, navigation, fisheries, ecological habitat protection, water-oriented recreation and preservation of land in its natural condition.
Base Reuse Manager Debbie Potter said the park plans were part of a package deal to develop a hotel and golf course at the site, a plan that has been abandoned as not financially feasible; both Bangert and Doug Siden, Alameda’s representative on the East Bay Regional Park District board, said the park was separate from those plans.
Still, Siden and Bill Smith, who was one of the lead advocates for the park, said they’re hopeful SunCal will put it back on the map.
“The park district has been in discussions with the developer and the city. So hopefully, the park would still be there out at the Point,” Siden said.
Bangert said he wants more than the general assurances about parkland he says the ballot measure offers. And he says there’s money available to build the park. The Measure WW park bond contains $6.5 million for Alameda Point, he said, and tens of millions more that cities can apply for to build parks and create open space.
He and Dieter said they’re open to SunCal building something on the site after the community figures out what it wants. But the couple – who have also raised concerns about the way signatures to get the measure on the ballot were collected – think SunCal’s proposal has so many unresolved issues that the developer should withdraw it.
“They should include city hall and the community in the writing of any future initiative,” Bangert said.