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On Point: Pro-Point development group enters fray

Submitted by on 1, September 18, 2009 – 5:50 am33 Comments

A few months ago, I reported that a group of local folks had assembled into a committee to oppose developer SunCal’s proposed plan for Alameda Point. Well, this week, SunCal’s reps announced the creation of a new group of local folks who are in favor of their development plans.

The group is called Alamedans for Alameda Point Revitalization, and they’re endorsing SunCal’s proposed ballot initiative, which details the developer’s plans for the Point.

“Alamedans for Alameda Point Revitalization (AAPR) was formed to ensure that the voices of those who want a positive, realistic and financially healthy plan for Alameda Point are heard,” Doug Siden, a member of the East Bay Regional Parks board who is listed as the chair of the group, is quoted as saying in the press release.

The advisory committee includes Alameda Point Collaborative Executive Director Doug Biggs, Bladium owner Brad Shook, Encinal High School athletic director Kevin Gorham, Perforce Software owner Chris Seiwald and Kathy Moehring, executive director of the West Alameda Business Association. (Another member is Jon Spangler, a local writer and bicycle enthusiast who was this week forced to deny false rumors published by a local activist and blogger claiming he was a paid hand for SunCal.)

The release says the developer plans to put their plan on the ballot soon. Signatures are due by September 28.

In the meantime, you can read what they have to say here (and opponents, here).


  • Irene says:

    I don’t understand who the “advisory committee” is advising.

  • Scott says:

    Finally a voice of reason in a time of complaints and no solutions. Finally a group we can really get involved with and rally behind.

  • Irene says:

    Hi Scott, You seem to be more informed on this group than me. Do you know who the “advisory committee” is advising?

  • AD says:

    Finally a group that steers clear of all facts, which would otherwise sink its ship. Yep, not a single fact addressed on their site.

  • Doug Biggs says:

    Hi Irene,
    As a member of the committee, I would say my role is to bring the perspective of citizens who support the plan to share with fellow residents, and to inform and advocate with decision makers.

  • SpankyM says:

    Scott, are you serious or sarcastic? Finally a development company we can “rally behind” to bleed our city dry? Please do explain more what you mean and why you support a developer that has no other motivation than to take from us every dollar they can.

  • RM says:

    At the bottom of the ad for this “Newly Formed Citizen Group” in the Sun, you’ll need your magnifying glass to read the very fine print.

    You’ll see the ad was “Paid for by Revitalize Alamdeda Point-a committee with major funding by Cal Land Venture LLC & Affiliated Entities, through SCC Alameda Point LLC, a company under contract with the city of Alameda to Master Plan Alameda Point. 1851 West Midway, Alameda, CA 94510

    The way I read the ad: the advisory committee is advising SunCal/DE Shaw on how to get the voters to vote “yes” on their intitiative and all that it entails. I believe SunCal and DE Shaw paid for the ad.

    Throughout the 283+ pages in the initiative/plans/maps/etc…Alameda Point is referred to as Alameda West. Maybe they also intend to get a new zip code out there, and the 94510 is just more advance planning.

  • Miriam says:

    Some of the folks in this group may be playing their cards right. SunCal could end up owning a quarter of the town. It is called sucking up to the new boss. Alameda could become a company town and those that don’t climb on board now, could end up getting run over later.

  • jon Spangler says:

    Irene and all,

    I have several reasons for suggesting and joining this advisory committee to do what Doug Biggs mentioned above:

    1) Peter Calthorpe’s designs and plans for redeveloping Alameda Point are as sustainable and “green” as any I have seen put forward since 1997, and they seem more achievable, too.

    2) The City of Alameda is losing money hand over fist with the former naval base sitting relatively idle while its substandard infrastructure falls apart. No other plan, past or present, has the financial resources and the planning expertise behind it to meet this problem better than Suncal does. (Remember that Alameda Point Community partners withdrew as the master developer when they realized that they could not make any money developing Alameda Point under Measure A/Charter Section 26 limitations.)

    3) Previous plans for Alameda Point–especially the Measure-A-compliant ones–would create far more traffic per Alameda Point resident than Peter Calthorpe’s Suncal plan with its island-average density.

    4) The City of Alameda does not have the estimated $700 million needed to rebuild the entire infrastructure of Alameda Point, but the existing military-spec infrastructure is inadequate and failing. Higher taxes, anyone? Commercial redevelopment is the only way to get the infrastructure brought up to current standards without a huge burden being placed on Alameda’s taxpayers.

    5) The City of Alameda needs the help of experienced developers like Pat Keliher of Suncal to pry the former base out of the hands of the US Navy before the Navy decides to sell it off to future developers with no relationship at all with the City or any interest in working within City of Alameda guidelines. (Suncal is committed to its relationship with the City, even if that relationship has been strained at times.)

    6) I believe that Suncal made some mistakes early on in its attempts to market its plans to our community. I wanted to improve this developer’s(and this designer’s) chances of making their plans clear to the community, despite the deliberate misinformation often cited by Suncal’s opponents.

    7) I am not inclined by nature to support development. I opposed the expansion of South Shore Center and I opposed the rush to build the cineplex and parking structure because the two structures are too massive for their respective sites. But it is clear to me that Alameda must move forward with a major redevelopment at Alameda Point
    for many reasons, and too much time has been wasted already.

    8) Suncal and its partners are well-equipped to meet the many complex challenges posed by this site. Among them are: toxic contamination, wildlife preservation, failing infrastructure, historic preservation, rising sea levels, and our island geography. We need the resources of an experienced and capable developer like Suncal with its many partners,
    especially the creative powers of designer Peter Calthorpe.

    The development and redevelopment process is long and amazingly complicated. But rest assured, if Suncal’s initiative is submitted and passes at the ballot next year, several additional approvals (EIR and mitigations, design review, Disposition & Development Agreement, etc., before the Planning Board and/or City Council) will be required before anything is built at Alameda Point.

    I have participated in many previous development approval processes to safeguard the City’s health and welfare. I am participating in Suncal’s advisory committee to make sure that their revitalization proposal is always in the community’s best interests.

  • LM says:

    The name of this group got me thinking — instead of Alamedans for Alameda Point, why not Alamedans for Alameda?

    Didn’t the recession come about largely because of investment firms and real estate developers? In fact, the Lehman Bros. bankruptcy was the tipping point, and Lehman failed largely because of its investments in real estate — via SunCal. SunCal and Lehman,of course, are now in Bankruptcy Court battling it out over 30-odd failed deals, and meanwhile, we here in dinky little Alameda are supposed to rush into a deal w/SunCal and the hedge fund backing it.

    Why? What’s in for us? Alameda is fine the way it is. SunCal and Shaw must see big bucks in this somewhere, or they wouldn’t be pouring in the money to push this initiative, but what’s the big payoff for us? The supposed risk of maintaining the base is more than offset by the risk of entering into this blind agreement, with no definite terms and no guarantees.

    Maybe SunCal is in a rush to get into this deal, but I don’t see why we should be.

  • William Smith says:

    Readers of The Island,

    Renewed Hope, an Alameda Housing Advocacy Group, is seeking to rebrand the Alameda Point Revitalization Initiative. To do so, we are reaching out to the community and sponsoring a rebranding contest. The winning name will appear in a forthcoming press release from Renewed Hope on the ?????? Initiative.

    Note to entrants: Renewed Hope already has a strong candidate for rebranding the ???? Initiative. Our own candidate for the prize is the

    SunCal/Shaw Hedge Initiative.

    All Renewed Hope decisions on the winner will be hedged and not subject to negotiation with any other party. Decisions may, however, be put up for a blogosphere community vote soley at the discretion of Renewed Hope.

    To enter, post your winning entry on one of three community blogs, Don Roberts Alameda Daily News, Lauren Doh’s Blogging Bayport Alameda, or Michelle Ellson’s The Island.

    William Smith
    Vice President,
    Renewed Hope Housing Advocates

  • AD says:

    Dear Jon,

    SunCal has left a huge mess practically everywhere they’ve tried to develop. The latest is at Oak Knoll. It was on the news for God’s sake —everything that could be carried of , was, and the rest left to rot. It’s not Lehmann’s fault, it’s SunCal’s. Go to http://www.alamedapointinfo.com and look at their other projects—a disaster all around. What experience are you talking about?? Experience with putting chainlink fences around abandoned construction sites?

    You said earlier DE Shaw has been fully vetted by the City. By whom? When? When you make a claim like this, you must be able to prove it. For all I know, almost everything to do with DE Shaw/SunCal relationship is secret. If you know differently, put the information out so we too can be as assured as you are.

    Finally, as an advisor, how exactly are you going to make sure the proposal is “in the community’s best interest”? Is SunCal going to change the inititive if you advise them that it’s not? The signatures have been collected—it either is, or it isn’t. (People seem to think it isn’t.) Your last paragraph makes no sense whatsoever to me, but feel free to explain.

  • Barbara Thomas says:

    Anybody who designs outdoor volleyball, tennis and other wind sensitive sports facilities in the wind tunnel created by the estuary channel, needs to get out in the real world before “planning” something as longlasting as the Point may be. Who wants another Candlestick?

    Those who are eager to support SUNCAL due to the Regional Sports Complex sales pitch need to understand this violates existing case law. Making a limited area (such as the Point) pay for “regional” benefits has been found by the California Supreme Court to be an impermissible end run around Proposition 13. Also if this incarnation of SUNCAL goes bellyup, the City of Alameda can be required to build these promised regional benefits long after SUNCAL has slunk off into the darkness. An additional oversight is that (or was it intetntional?) SUNCAL’s Initiative does not adhere to the Settlement agreement between the Cities of Alameda and Oakland. If the Initiative passes, Alameda can anticipate 25 years of litigation, bankruptcy and a plethora of hindsight while SUNCAL sits back collecting the rent from the existing Point properties and D.E. SHAW continues on to bigger and more profitable “hedges”.

  • RM says:

    There’s absolutely no humor in this deal by SunCal/DE Shaw.

    Do not minimize what they would like to do to Alameda.

    Spangler, now an official advisor to SunCal/DE Shaw, should be willing to answer questions about his statements.

    So–again, who from the city “fully vetted” DE Shaw? Which elected officials? Which city employees? Who did they deal with at DE Shaw?

    For background, please refer to Spangler’s post on Sept.4 and mine on Sept.10.

  • Richard Bangert says:

    Unfortunately, the advisory group concept is about nine months too late. SunCal should have gotten advice from city officials and the community before they filed this initiative. Instead of craft a draft, we now have spin to win.

  • William Smith says:


    As (I presume you are, too) opponents of the SunCal/Shaw Hedge Initiative, we need to use every constructive, informative, and entertaining device we can to broadly communicate our concerns with the Initiative.

    With communication in mind, which of the two titles below better communicates your concern?

    1. Alameda Point Revitalization Initiative (the official title)
    2. Alameda Point SunCal/Shaw Hedge Initiative

    Which title do you think SunCal/Shaw would prefer?

    I know which title better communicates my concern – the Hedge title. I hope that one of our creative citizens can come up with an even more catchy and communicative title. I propose that opponents work together to rebrand the initiative and see the most catchiest, communicative title adopted by all media and citizens,especially the print, radio and TV media.

    As major media are generally prodevelopment, whatever the cost to local governments (even failed developments [at least in the short term] bring more readers and more advertisers), I’m not optimistic that major Bay Area news organizations will adopt the title, but there are occasionally surprises. SunCal’s PR firms did an admirable job of getting reasonably favorable coverage in the SF Chronicle over the last two months.

    Many of you know that I, too, am generally prodevelopment for compact and mixed uses. I do pay attention to the cost to local governments, though, and the downsides of this Initiative to local finances are too great and the risks that promised compact and mixed uses, including 25% inclusionary affordable housing, will not be delivered are too high.

    We opponents can always use the most informative title among ourselves on the blogs and in letters to the editor and the alternative media, especially Rin Kelly and the East Bay Express. Rin in the Express and Michele Ellson have provided the only real in depth critical analysis of the Initiative by the media, may understand and adopt our title. Lauren Do, who admirably makes no bones about her bias for the Initiative, is confident enough of her position that she occasionally acknowledges its shortcomings.

    So the humorous announcement of the contest is deadly serious. I’ve often found that if I relax and have a little fun, especially with serious topics, I make new connections and achieve new insights.

    I hope I’ve not only allayed your concerns about the use of humor in this campaign, but that you will also join the contest and work your own top concerns with the Initiative into a title or titles to share with our community.

    Appreciate your comment – such candid and informative comments are the best way for all of us to keep on course.


  • Richard Bangert says:

    I don’t have a new name for the initiative, but I do have a slogan: KEEP ALAMEDA OFF THE SUNCAL PROBLEM MAP.
    Alameda Point Info

  • Art A says:

    To the folks on the advisory group of this new organization, could you please disclose if you are receiving a payment by suncal and/or it’s related companies? Please include if the organization you apparently represent been has promised facilities, land and/or other benefits.

    Does anybody else know the answer to this?

    Does each and every one of those advisory group members live in Alameda, thus making them “Alamedans” as the group name states?

    My point is, that if these advisory group members or the groups they represent are receiving unique benefits not shared by most Alamedans (or, if one or more don’t even live here), then that should be known.

  • AD says:


  • William Smith says:

    Update on Rebranding Contest

    Good to see the entries for the rebranding contest starting to roll in! Happy to see Richard Bangert expand the contest to include campaign slogans as well.

    A response to Art A’s query may generate new ideas for rebranding the initiative and for campaign slogans.

    Here’s what I know about the connections of the Advisory Committee for those members listed on the side of the letter I and most other Alameda residents received last week. Unsurprisingly, most, but not all, represent organizations that stand to benefit from the Initiative. The ties of many of them are evident from their affiliations listed on the letterhead.

    The benefits I am aware of that they seek for their organizations are appropriate, and would benefit the larger Alameda Community as well. I am unaware of any financial benefits that two members, Helen Sause and Jon Spangler, whom I know well and have been working with for decades to realize the community vision of a vibrant and active Alameda Point, stand to gain.

    I personally know and have great respect for at least half of the people on the Advisory Committee. Although I may differ with the Advisory Committee on how to achieve the Community Vision described by the Initiative, I have every intention to work with them to implement that vision regardless of the fate of the Initiative. My difference is that I believe we are more likely to realize our shared vision with a more limited Initiative than the one proposed by SunCal that they support.

  • And I might add that Jon Spangler has actually specifically said he is not being paid by SunCal. While I think it’s good to talk about who gains and who loses in any situation like this, accusing someone of being an out-of-towner, being on the take etc because they don’t share your point of view is pretty thin. I expect better. And on that note, expect me to start riding herd a little harder on these comments from here on out, particularly comments that are unsigned and lack a proper, working e-mail address.

  • Miriam says:

    I received a letter from this group yesterday. I found it very misleading. Does someone have an electronic copy available? First of all, it claims to come from a group of people who have worked to improve the library, schools, healthcare and parks — as if those who oppose the SunCal plan haven’t done the same. Then it goes on to say that the voters will decide on the plan even though the plan and initiative were developed by SunCal and placed on the ballot by their paid staff. This is very misleading. It says that the voters will have the final say on whether the plan makes sense. That simply isn’t true. We get to vote yes or no on SunCal’s plan — with much prompting and much money spent by SunCal to say yes. We didn’t get to decide what went on the ballot and what is going on the ballot was written by developers and special interests, even though SunCal claims in its mailing that the measure has nothing to do with developers and special interests.

    This is a very misleading letter that plays all sorts of mind games. We’ve entered the campaign spin cycle and we’re all about to be put through the wringer.

  • AD says:

    As pointed out above by RM, both the ad and the mailer of that “advisory group” are paid by SunCal. Thus, this group cannot be advising SunCal from the community’s standpoint, as Jon Spangler claims. So who are they advising on what?

  • LM says:

    Michele: I appreciate your efforts to maintain a civil discussion here, but I think it’s legitimate to consider — objectively — whether some proponents might benefit financially from this project. I also have to note that the proponents have an extreme advantage over the opponents, with SunCal backing the campaign to the tune of $500,000 and counting, and with various renowned PR firms on their payroll. We’ll never level the playing field here, but I think the opponents deserve a little slack. Nobody opposing this project has anything to gain financially.

    (Also, note to all: be sure to copy your comment before you enter thecaptcha code — then if you get an error message, you can paste the comment back in and try again.)

  • AD says:

    Miriam, good points. There is a copy of the letter on http://www.alamedapointinfo.com

  • Doug Biggs says:

    LM, ART A and others, It really is possible to like an idea because you think it is good. I’m not getting money from SunCal or any organization associated with them, My title was included (and clearly noted) for identification purposes only. I have owned a house in the west end of Alameda for 20 years.

  • ct says:

    It’s heartening when people feel so strongly about the future of the Point that they are compelled to participate in an ongoing dialogue about the issue. It’s disheartening when some make untrue statements in an effort to sway public opinion. It doesn’t matter if it’s those who support David or Goliath, *whoever* conveys such untruths completely undermines their credibility as a reliable source of information.

  • Scott says:

    The City of Alameda is losing money hand over fist with the former naval base sitting relatively idle while its substandard infrastructure falls apart. No other plan, past or present, has the financial resources and the planning expertise behind it to meet this problem better than Suncal does. (Remember that Alameda Point Community partners withdrew as the master developer when they realized that they could not make any money developing Alameda Point under Measure A/Charter Section 26 limitations.

    Alameda is not fine the way it is.

  • AD says:

    CT, please cite the untrue statements. Otherwise, it looks like you are leveling untrue accusations at people posting here, and I’m not sure that meets this blog’s standards.


  • Jon Spangler says:


    D.E. Shaw’s partnership with SunCal to develop Alameda Point has, indeed, been fully vetted by City staff and City-paid financial consultants. The City Council ratified the change in financial partners–which SunCal initiated–on October 7. 2008. You can check the public record yourself if you wish.

    Pat Keliher and others working with SunCal listen carefully to our advice and counsel, and their proposals would probably be better received on their merits in Alameda had an advisory group like ours existed from the start.

    Like the members of the advisory committee, SunCal and its partners want very much for this revitalization effort to succeed and benefit the entire City of Alameda. (A failure to achieve SunCal’s goals, including generating revenue for the City of Alameda, would not exactly be great for the developer, would it? Put yourself in their shoes for a moment and imagine how you would want a major redevelopment project to turn out, and what outcomes would be in your own best long-term business interests.)

    I hope that Bill Smith is serious about wanting to work with SunCal and the advisory group. (Many of us are, indeed, his friends.) It is cooperation and working towards the common good that propels most of us on the advisory committee to participate as we do with SunCal. We all want to make the proposed revitalization of Alameda Point into a vibrant reality for all of Alameda and the region.

  • AD says:

    Jon, are you absolutely sure?

    “The Developer is proposing to transfer ownership of SCC Alameda Point LLC to a new entity called Cal Land Venture, LLC (Cal Land). Cal Land is a joint venture of D.Shaw Real Estate Portfolios 20, LLC (D. E. Shaw) and WM Development Group, LLC, a wholly owned affiliate of SunCal (SunCal). Cal Land wil be the sole owner of SCC Alameda Point LLC. The new ownership structure is based on an Amended and Restated Limited Liability Company Agreement (Operating Agreement) between D. Shaw and SunCal. The Operating Agreement was provided to Alameda under separate cover and will be discussed in a special closed session on October 7 , 2008. SunCal
    has identified this document as confidential and not a public record. Pursuant to the ENA, the Developer is obligated to bear all costs associated with a dispute that the document is a public record.”

    Full memo at http://alamedapointinfo.com/documents/memo-city-manager-city-council-regarding-de-shaw-october-7-2008-second-amendment-exclusive

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