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On Point: About that park …

Submitted by on 1, September 4, 2009 – 6:00 am14 Comments

A while back, I wrote a piece about a park that had been planned for the northwestern tip of Alameda Point but was absent from SunCal’s development plans. A SunCal rep said that one of the reasons they hadn’t made plans for the site was that the Navy was still working out contamination issues there.

Thursday night, the Navy showed members of the Restoration Advisory Board – the citizen group overseeing their cleanup efforts – what they hope will be their final plan for cleaning up the piece of the Point where the park was to sit. Good news for park lovers: They plan to clean up the site for recreational use. Bad news for park lovers: The Navy’s cleanup plan could put a crimp in what was envisioned for the site.

The Navy’s plan would cap a contaminated runway area on the shore with four feet of dirt. Board members said that area is where the Bay Trail would go, and they questioned the wisdom of having people walking there. And don’t even think about catching a sunrise or lounging on the beaches, because they’ll be covered with chunks of protective concrete riprap.

The Navy hopes to have its final Record of Decision for the old landfill site – or IR Site 1 – by September 17. If I can find a copy to link to, I’ll get it up here.

14 Comments »

  • Irene says:

    "The Navy’s cleanup plan could put a crimp in what was envisioned for the site."

    I'm wondering what "crimp" you are referring to? And what recreational use will it be good for, if not for a park? Were RAB members implying that this acreage is not going to be good for any human use?

    • I think what they were saying is that under their planned cleanup scenario, folks probably won't be hanging out on the beach and that they will need to put together a pretty detailed set of conditions in order for people to be walking on the big soil cap they'll be placing where the Bay Trail was supposed to be. They envision a recreational use there. But it sounds like there will be some limits.

  • Scott says:

    Is the plan still for the golf course to be next to the park. Golf course would be a great use of the area.

  • Richard Bangert says:

    Until someone from East Bay Regional Park District says what those restrictions might be, we stand behind our video about Alameda Point Park and the great potential there which can be seen by searching the YouTube website – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qru5FlAmK04

    The video has a conceptual drawing from when a golf course was planned. The beach in that drawing is not on the landfill and does not need to be covered up, nor would it be that hard to engineer access to that beach. Even if the beach were to be covered up, it was never the main event for the park anyway. As I understand it, the beach is only a beach during low tide.

    As for walking on the Bay Trail on top of the soil cap, the only limits I can imagine are common sense. Yes, there will be a four-foot high rip-rap retaining wall along the water. A person would risk injury if they tried climbing down to the water. But other than that, there is nothing about an engineered soil cap at Alameda Point that would necessitate any more limitations than there are on the trail around Harbor Bay, or Crown Point near Ballena Isle.

    If you stop the Alameda Point Park video as it pans the shoreline of Middle Harbor Park right across the estuary, you will see what Point Park will probably look like along the estuary after the ground is built up. There are no caution signs on that trail. You can run and ride a bike, and the park district ranger can drive their light-duty maintenance vehicle on it.

    Let's see what the experts at the park district have to say about the park and Bay Trail possibilities before we start questioning "the wisdom of having people walking there" as Michele has reported about RAB comments. No one questioned the wisdom of having golfers playing golf on holes #6 and 16 on top of a soil cap out at the northwest tip. They did, however, question the wisdom of hikers walking on a portion of the Bay Trail that meandered between several fairways.

  • Steve says:

    How can anyone believe anything an organization says when that devloper:

    – Wants to bypass normal local government process with a draconian charter ammendment so that it can do whatever it wants, whenever it wants to.

    – Has a history of bankrupting projects across America.

    – Has the right to transfer it's option to develop the property to another entity without the city's approval of that new entity.

    – Hires paid out-of-town canvassers to push mislead voters into signing.

    – Has a ridiculously long 25 years to develop the property at all.

  • Jon Spangler says:

    Steve's comments are inaccurate: the redevelopment project at Alameda Point will still have to go through several steps required by state law and local ordinance:

    1) Environmental review, including a complete Environmental Impact Report (EIR) with mitigations. This will be processed through all the usual advisory bodies, including at least the Transportation Commission and the Planning Board, before it is considered by the City Council. (BTW, any mitigations assessed to the developer under the EIR are over and above the $200 million already provided for "public benefit" projects in the initiative.)

    2) A complete design review process under the Planning Board regarding building types, transportation access, architectural styles and designs, etc. The results of the design review process can be appealed to the City Council, as has happened before on many other large development projects.

    3) In addition to the Development Agreement in the initiative that has been circulated, there will also be a subsequent Disposition & Development Agreement covering financial and other details of the redevelopment that are not yet negotiated between the City and the developer. (Like the EIR and Design Review processes, this is simply standard operating procedure for any large development project, and Suncal's proposal would not be exempt from any of these three processes.)

    SunCal partnered with Lehman Brothers to finance many of its projects, and when Lehman Brothers went under, so did the financing for SunCal's projects that Lehman Brothers had underwritten. Since D.E. Shaw, an entirely different and unrelated financial institution, is oartnering with SunCal (whose behaviors had nothing to do with the failure of Lehman Brothers) and Shaw has been fully vetted by the City of Alameda, there should be no problems as there had been with Lehman.

    There are other inaccuracies in his post, but my fingers are too tired to continue…

  • AD says:

    Shaw has been fully vetted by the City of Alameda???

    That has got to be about the craziest statement I've heard lately…

  • William Smith says:

    Irene Dieter and Ricard Bangert have done a marvelous service to the community by reigniting community support for a park at Alameda Point. The views from that location on the extreme northwest corner of the Island are spectacular.

    With the golf course no longer going in, let's get behind the idea of a larger park there with a greater variety of uses. Here's some ideas for additional uses at this windy vista point: wetlands boardwalk to complement Crab Crove, fields for kites, and ….

    Regarding the wetlands boardwalk, although the Navy plans to put a soil cap on the area originally proposed for the park, a larger area could extend into the restored and new wetlands the Navy plans to create a little further east as mitigation.

    Other ideas for this windy vista point?

  • Art A says:

    Jon,

    You give excuses for SunCal's bankruptcies. You evidently believe a huge charter ammendment doesn't change oversight (so why have a charter ammendment?). You ignore SC's shady petition gathering methods. You trust that future agreements will be better than current ones. You ignore it's right to transfer and ridiculous length of time to develop cause of your poor fingers being tired.

    If it's all so normal, then I guess SunCal doesn't really need a 600 page charter ammendment, right? I mean, every developer has to change the city charter in 600 pages of ways just to build, right?

    Give me a break! I can't imagine why you are so trusting of an entity that has demonstrated so little reason to trust it. And once you are wrong about that rosy future, what recourse will Alamedans stuck in traffic, indebted to the eyeballs, with a city government sued to kingdom come by future Point residents complaining that every illness is due to partially mitigated toxic waste. What then? Will a responsible and concerned SunCal emerge? You are kidding yourself and others.

    William, a huge park without houses would be best… no toxic waste lawsuits, traffic jams, massive debt, etc. And at least with that use there is something positive and beautiful in it for current Alameda residents.

    Myself and many Alamedans look forward to walking the precincts to talk to our neighbors and defeat this grasping, out-of-town, corporate rip-off. In fact, we're already having those discussions.

  • DL Morrison says:

    I agree w/ Art A above, save that the Initiative is ~300 pages, not 600, and just as incomprehensible either way.

    As for Jon's comments: I used to think that misstatements about the Initiative were deliberate, but now I think it's just a lack of having read it — which worries me, incidentally. I suspect as well that many of our civic leaders haven't read it either, yet they're staunchly in favor of it.

    The City's excellent "executive summary" (ES) of the Initiative is a big help as well.

    1) On the need for environmental review (ES, p. 12): Yes, a CEQA review is required, but the City Council can vote to ignore the results, a tactic which I'm told is commonly used. (a "Statement of Overriding Consideration"). Plus, the CC has to follow the "intent" of the voters as spelled out in the Initiative, which totally favors SunCal's plan.

    2) On the Design Review process, please see the posting below.

    3) On the Development Agreement: It's not "standard operating procedure" to have a development agreement adopted by vote, with no negotiations in advance. The Asst. City Manager said in an interview that this puts the city at a disadvantage when discussions begin on the DDA, because it will be in the "shadow" of the DA.

    AS for SunCal, Lehman Bros. and Shaw: Lehman owns 20% of DE Shaw, and Shaw itself does not release information on its financial standing. SunCal hasn't done so either, and it won't until after the vote, so we're going into this blind. That's not a good idea.

  • DL Morrison says:

    2) REPOSTING — On the Design Review process (ES, p. 12): I think I'll just copy the text from the Executive Summary, with a couple of highlights:

    "Alameda Point Pattern Book. The Initiative requires that the developer prepare a set of design guidelines, known as the “Pattern Book” for Alameda Point. The Pattern Book must include guidelines for all future buildings, parks, parking lots, streetscapes, energy and water resource conservation and sustainable architecture, site planning, and construction at Alameda Point.

    —-The Pattern Book must govern design review for Alameda Point and replaces the City’s standard design review process.—

    The Pattern Book must be consistent with the Specific Plan, included as part of the Initiative. The Planning Board must hold at least two hearings on the Pattern Book and adopt, adopt with changes, or deny the Pattern Book within 120 days after submittal to the City by the project developer. The action by the Planning Board to approve or deny the Pattern Book is appealable to the City Council. Upon adoption of the Pattern Book, the design of all buildings, parks and parking lots must be reviewed for consistency with the Pattern Book.

    –The review for design consistency is a ministerial action delegated to staff by the Initiative. Staff’s ministerial approval of a design review application is not appealable.—

    If staff finds the design to be inconsistent with the Pattern Book, the applicant shall be subject to the Conformance Determination process described in Chapter 9 of the Specific Plan, which is appealable."

  • RM says:

    Jon–

    You wrote that DE Shaw has been "fully vetted by the City of Alameda."

    Please tell me who in the city "vetted" them.

    If elected officials, which ones?

    If "staff" employees, which ones?

    With whom did they deal at DE Shaw?

    Thanks very much.

  • Barbara Thomas says:

    What about the secret agreement, by which SUNCAL has already transferred its interest? Was it the secret closed session of Council of October 7, 2008? I forget the date because none of the public was allowed in. SUNCAL already has "transmuted" the entity which will "develop" the Point in a manner that frees it up for 25 years, holds it harmless from all expenses, and forces the City to pay for all regional uses when SUNCAL's new entity follows suit and goes belly up. SUNCAL is just a black cloud on the horizon waiting to suck up tax dollars for its profit, while leaving all the remaining tax payers to cough up to make good on their promises.

    EIR? You've got to be kidding. 288 pages of obfuscation. Why? For profit. And at whose expense? Traffic – residents, taxes – residents, taking City employees away from useful tasks – residents.

    Alameda should quit paying its employees to work for SUNCAL and pay them to figure out how, when and what to develop for the future of the residents of this island. If SUNCAL is spending all this dough to force feed us their profit making scenarios, how much money is there to be made? Why can't Alamedans just do it ourselves? For ourselves? For our children? Entities like SUNCAL are sterile. They don't have children and they don't care about the communities that they create and leave behind. If they finish them.

    Alamedans have come forward with a lot of great ideas for the Point. Let it be what we want it to be. Not SUNCAL's vision of dollar signs.

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