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On Point: From Point A to B

Submitted by on 1, November 24, 2009 – 6:00 amOne Comment

It’s official: In an effort to avoid rampant voter confusion, our local government types have convinced the folks at the Alameda County Registrar of Voters to call SunCal’s Alameda Point development initiative Measure B.

This being the first ballot measure for 2010, the original plan was to call it Measure A. But city officials and our local electeds feared that this could cause mixups with that other big ballot measure on development already passed by Alameda voters. (Though I must say, I’m mourning the opportunity to crank out some choice headlines.)

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In case you missed it, Mayor Beverly Johnson and City Councilman Frank Matarrese were on a mission this Friday: A fact-finding mission at the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station in Irvine, the first of what Matarrese said could be several trips intended to gather info on how other cities are handling the redevelopment of their shuttered military bases.

The pair said the trips are part of the work of a council subcommittee set up to deal with redevelopment of Alameda Point. They come on the heels of decisions by both to withdraw their earlier support of SunCal’s ballot measure. (Matarrese said he and Vice Mayor Doug deHaan are planning another trip, to the former Hamilton Air Force Base in Novato, in December, and that he’s also looking at Fort Ord in Monterey.)

El Toro holds some intriguing parallels with Alameda Point in terms of its process, which included long-running public disputes over what should happen on the 4,682-acre air station, cleanup disputes with the military, ballot measures to determine its fate (there were four), lawsuits, and costs on the project they hope to complete that run north of $1 billion.

Some had wanted the land to be used as a new airport for Orange County. But ultimately, the Navy auctioned the land to the highest bidder – a consortium led by Miami developer Lennar Corp. that paid $650 million for it – with more than 1,300 acres to be kept by the City of Irvine for a park that is to rival Central Park in New York City. Park costs are estimated at $1.1 billion, and Lennar has chipped in $200 million toward that cost (and a big balloon). The development corporation set up to manage the park has to figure out how to pay the rest of that bill. (Good timeline here.)

Matarrese said he doesn’t think a big park is the right fit for the Point – he thinks some parkland, buffered by a “large commercial job generator” and some housing may be better – but he wouldn’t say whether a city-run development company could be.

“There are elements I’d like to borrow,” he said of the El Toro redevelopment plan. Either way, he said, the city needs to figure out how to get control and ownership of the Point property.

Lauren Do had an interesting take on this Monday too.

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And last but not least, officials with the City of Oakland announced on Thursday that Lehman Brothers agreed to pay $3.7 million to clean up the former Oak Knoll Naval Hospital and to finish demolishing some of the buildings there. A nearby homeowners association and Oakland City Attorney John Russo had filed bankruptcy court claims in an effort to get the derelict property cleaned up. The Oakland Tribune’s Cecily Burt has got the full story right here.

One Comment »

  • Richard Bangert says:

    One way to reduce our risk in redeveloping Alameda Point would be to change the business model from a purely local reuse authority to a partnership with the state. The Joint Powers Authority model has worked at a number of closed military bases in California.

    Outside California, one of the most notable successes with local/state partnership has been at the closed Ft. Devens Army base in Massachusetts. At Ft. Devens their infrastructure was funded by the state. Take a look at the roster of businesses that have located at Devens following base closure in 1996.

    The state may be broke right now, but their bonding authority is not defunct. And they would have a built-in incentive to make something happen because of the eventual tax revenue that would accrue to the state. Wouldn't it be better to have the state backing us up when the talk turns to who is going to build those levees?

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