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UPDATED On Point: The case of the disappearing park

Submitted by on 1, July 31, 2009 – 6:00 am5 Comments

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.


  • Scott says:

    Let's bring back the plan for a golf course along with a open space for a park. There is so much room where the old runways are that you can have both a park for people to enjoy the water and city views and a golf course that would bring in revenue for the city.

  • Barbara Thomas says:

    Water related commerce? Doesn't that cover what was done at Ballena Bay? Maybe we need to pull a Jean Sweeney and have a citizen's initiative to rezone the entire Alameda Point as Open Space. Let's put that on the ballot along with SUNCAL's proposal and see which gets the most votes to become law.

  • Helen Sause says:


    The BRAG (Base Advisory Group) had a notion that an Asilomar type conference facility should be built at the tip of the Point and then that grew to seeking a hotel in that location and lusting after a St. Andrews type golf course. The City assumed responsibility for those developments and around 2000 pursued them to the point where it was proven there wasn’t a viable market for either use. Is there some indication that the market has become more favorable? Also is there some evidence that Sun/Cal agreed to develop in the Northwest Territories?

    What Sun/Cal has been asked to plan include in their Plan is 50 + acres of playing fields, and 140 + acres of open space which will include parks and trails and open space.these requests have grown out of many community meetings and smaller meeting with individual groups. Their proposal spells out these uses out in detail and seem to be desired by numerous Alamdeans. I say “Bravo Sun/Cal” – both for listening to what the community said it wanted and for finding a way to make it possible to include these amenities in the Plan in a way the ensures they will be built and maintained over time. That's always a challenge – creating large areas of open space and not devising a funding strategy to maintain them. h


  • Irene says:

    Helen's question, "[I]s there some evidence that SunCal agreed to develop in the Northwest Territories?" is understandable.

    The fact that the city included the Northwest Territories in the developer's footprint in 2006 went under the radar. Then for two years SunCal did not discuss the Territories or ask for any input on this area at any of the community meetings. The exclusive negotiating agreement requires that SunCal provide a fully descriptive program of uses with conceptual designs along with an infrastructure and business plan. The only thing that has ended up in the initiative for the Northwest Territories is a strikeout of the park.

    My hunch is that many more activists, elected officials, and voters do not know that SunCal will have exclusive leasing and development rights for a 225-acre blank map at the Territories, which also eliminates the specific park goal in the reuse plan.

  • Joe Aguirre says:

    Regarding Michele Ellson’s The Island of Alameda story, “On Point: The Case of the Disappearing Park,” posted on July 31, we believe it is important to note some key points that should provide a better understanding about this topic:

    * Parks in the Northwest Territories remain possible in the SunCal plan; in fact, the proposed specific plan in the initiative zones the Northwest Territories as AAP-PT (Public Trust) and all open space/conservation uses are permitted by right, including neighborhood/community parks, active recreation, courts and playing fields, and botanical/demonstration gardens.

    * The Alameda Point plan provides 145 acres of parklands and open space in the PDC area alone. The initiative has also built in the flexibility to create more parks in the Northwest Territories should this area be found suitable for such uses.

    * It is too early at this stage to plan specific uses in the Northwest Territories because there are still many unanswered issues about the land, including what is in the Navy’s former landfill and other matters such as soil stability, flooding and the State-controlled Tidelands Trust. This area requires more analysis and testing before detailed planning can be done.

    * The Request for Qualifications issued by the City in 2006 did not require the selected developer to construct an 11-acre park in the Northwest Territories.

    * Regarding the comments about text strikeouts: within the initiative and the proposed plans for Alameda Point, it was necessary to amend several references to previous plans in City land-use documents because these plans no longer apply. In such amendments, it is common to strike out text that is no longer current.

    * Previous plans were developed several years ago by other parties and never became a reality because they were not feasible. This was long before SunCal was chosen as master developer. Our current plans for Alameda Point were shaped through two years of city and community input in over 20 public meetings

    Our proposed plans are contained in the initiative documents and can be reviewed at http://alamedapointcommunity.com/new-neighborhood/. Ultimately, it will be up to the voters of Alameda to decide the future of Alameda Point. We have created what we believe is a viable, sustainable plan for Alameda and we are confident it will succeed where previous plans have failed.


    Joe Aguirre

    Public Affairs

    SunCal Companies

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