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On Point: A little bit of this, a little bit of that

Submitted by on 1, September 24, 2009 – 6:00 amOne Comment
Photo by Rin Kelly

Folks, it has been a crazy couple of weeks on the Alameda Point front. SunCal submitted their ballot signatures, our local Chamber of Commerce submitted their opinion on SunCal’s initiative. An advisory committee made up of of local folks who favor SunCal’s plan was born, and a slew of folks who hate the plan wasted no time in roundly attacking them. And then a local housing advocate opted to spring a “rebranding” contest for the initiative on the unsuspecting owners of three local websites, including this one. (All in good fun, folks. All in good fun.)

Yes, I too am getting sick of Alameda Point, and the months of endless bickering it will bring. (Pace yourselves, folks. The election is miles away.) So while I’m praying for an earthquake that sinks the Point deep into the Bay, let’s get on with today’s installment, eh?

First up: Sounds like a Congressional effort to make it easier for communities like ours to get their mitts on former military bases, gratis, has hit a bit of a snag in the form of President Barack Obama.

Once upon a time, the federal government typically gave its decommissioned military bases back to the communities they sat in, free of charge. But now, that no-cost conveyance process is available only at the discretion of the Secretary of Defense, and according to California Rep. Sam Farr, it hasn’t been used in years.

Farr put a bill forward in May that aimed to return to the practice of handing land back to communities, from their current practice of setting a sale price for the land, and the bill was added to the House’s omnibus defense spending bill. But President Obama said he opposes the provision.

From The Hill:

Responding on behalf of Obama to letters from several senators who support the House legislation, Dorothy Robyn, the deputy undersecretary of Defense for installations and environment, said the clause would create “potential windfalls for certain communities with high-value property and for private-sector developers working with those communities.”

The city and SunCal have made efforts to renegotiate the city’s deal with the Navy for Alameda Point, which sets a price of $108.5 million for the land. SunCal’s offer of $50 million for the land was shot down by the Navy in April, and other efforts to change the price of the land or the mechanism by which the Navy gets paid have so far failed.

SunCal’s reps said in June that the cost of the land was one of the reasons the company opted to delay its initiative, which had earlier been expected to be placed on the November 2009 ballot.

In other SunCal news: Thanks to a reader who forwarded this blog post from the Wall Street Journal that offers the latest in the long-running battle between SunCal and its onetime financial backer, Lehman Brothers, over control of properties SunCal had been slated to develop.

Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. has asked a federal bankruptcy judge handling the case to okay a bankruptcy-exit plan that allows them to bid on the properties, the post says. For its part, SunCal wants to sell off some of the properties to their current financial partner, D.E. Shaw, for up to $200 million, and SunCal CEO Bruce Elieff and his wife are offering to personally guarantee payment of $230 million in bond debt.

According to Curbed Los Angeles, the judge appears to be siding with SunCal on this one. A final ruling is due on October 15.

And last but not least: Oak Knoll. Dedicated SunCal watchers probably already know this, but an Oakland homeowners association that represents folks who live by the former Naval hospital have filed two claims worth $115 million against Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. in federal bankruptcy court.

SunCal had started demolition work on the site, but stopped last fall when Lehman, its financial backer on the project, went belly up. (If you fell asleep while reading the earlier part of this post, I’ll remind you that the developer’s backer on at least the pre-development part of this project is D.E. Shaw.)

The Sequoyah Hills/Oak Knoll Neighborhood Association, which represents 400 homeowners, wants Lehman to cough up the cash to finish demolishing more than 90 derelict buildings on the old naval hospital site. They’re concerned the torn-up, asbestos-laden buildings plus dried-out trees equal one big, fat toxic tinderbox waiting to happen.

The City of Oakland has filed separate claims against Lehman Brothers Holdings and Lehman Commercial Paper asking for $6.7 million, the amount they estimate it will cost to clean the property up. The city issued an order to abate the hazards on the property in June.

“We’re appalled that Lehman, through its negligence, has created a trash dump and major fire hazard in the middle of Oakland,” said Alex Katz, spokesman for Oakland City Attorney John Russo, who filed the claims. “This is about Wall Street greed putting the safety and lives of real people in real American cities at risk, and we’re not going to allow Lehman to continue its negligence and ignore its legal responsibility, as well as its moral responsibility.”

If you’re looking for more on this, KTVU put together a nice rundown a few days ago.

One Comment »

  • dl morrison says:

    Here’s the Renewed Hope report, which APInfo posted. I have the press release below also.


    Here’s the press release:

    Today Renewed Hope issued “Doubtful Promises: A Report to the Alameda Community on the SunCal/Shaw Hedge Fund Initiative” one day after the initiative’s sponsors submitted signatures hoping to qualify the measure for a 2010 election.

    The group’s analysis finds SunCal’s vision of an environmentally sustainable community is missing from the developer-sponsored Alameda Revitalization Initiative.

    “Doubtful Promises” explains why Alamedans cannot rely on the Alameda Point Revitalization Initiative to deliver the goods promised by developer SunCal during numerous public presentations it has made to them over the last two years.

    According to the 23-page document, the initiative’s content carefully avoids setting any timetables or requirements for any of the projects for Alameda Point development while establishing new rules for governing development that favors the developer and hamstrings the public.

    “We don’t think the initiative is going to give us what we have been promised by SunCal,” said Laura Thomas, president of Renewed Hope. “There are too many loopholes in the initiative’s language, nothing compels the developers to build what they showed us in their presentations. They can go back on their promises if it suits them and ignore the desires of the citizenry.”

    The problems with the initiative’s language cited in the analysis include:

    The developer will be able to decide the size, mix of uses, open space plan, public facilities, transit options and their timing, overall and within each zoning district. The initiative also removes, with few exceptions, the authority of the planning board and council, to modify or reject permits and it prohibits their review or appeal of permit approvals.

    The initiative also fails to guarantee delivery of specific public benefits or improvements, including those it boasts about, and it would divert scarce city and redevelopment resources from the rest of Alameda.

    The developer would have the right to sell off Alameda Point piece by piece with the entitlements granted under the initiative to any other developers it selects, regardless of their qualifications or intentions.

    An EIR analyzing the environmental impacts of the initiative would not be completed until after the initiative is passed. The ability of an EIR prepared after approval to consider alternatives and serious mitigations would be greatly compromised by the delay.

    Alamedans would no longer have any control or be able to correct any problems without approval of the developers for 30 years.

    “A healthy agreement between the city and developer must be negotiated to balance the benefit the developer receives with those that the city receives,” said Renewed Hope member Ross Ojeda of Alameda.

    “The initiative would guarantee the developer with long-term, extremely valuable entitlements without providing certainty that Alamedans would receive any benefits whatsoever.”

    Renewed Hope Housing Advocates began in 1999 to promote the redevelopment policies for the Naval Air Station that would include housing for families priced out of the market.

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