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On Point: War of the words

Submitted by on 1, November 19, 2009 – 6:00 am13 Comments

Into the great, screaming yawp that is my overstuffed news hole this week (Or maybe that’s just me screaming?) comes a letter to SunCal from Interim City Manager Ann Marie Gallant, essentially rebutting SunCal’s rebuttal to a city report that lays out the potential impacts of the developer’s ballot initiative for Alameda Point (that’d be Measure A, chuckle, chuckle).

In short: Ping. Pong. Ping. Pong.

My big takeaways from the letter were these: One, that the city is not convinced that issues that it sees in the initiative can actually be fixed, despite SunCal’s assurances that it is willing to fix them. The concerns in question include a $200 million cap on the amount of money the developer must contribute toward public benefits (the city thinks the actual cost could be upwards of $375 million) and developer exemptions from potentially millions of dollars in fees the city would typically charge.

“(T)he mechanism for resolving differences between the voter approved Initiative and the (city’s redevelopment bodies) is unclear,” Gallant’s letter says.

Second, Gallant’s letter takes sort of a sideways run at explaining what could happen if the initiative fails and SunCal exits the picture: The city would work directly with the Navy to develop a Plan B that could entail offering long-term leases on the base.

“Depending on mutual agreement by the Navy and the City on property disposition, the City will consider feasible scenarios, including entering into long-term leases of existing buildings … Long-term lease revenues, as you are aware, can be leveraged to generate capital improvement dollars for major infrastructure repairs, if necessary,” the letter says.

Last month, SunCal’s Pat Keliher offered a point-by-point rebuttal of the city’s initiative report, in a letter that claimed that city’s report-writers had ignored loads of information that backed up all their claims. (The city retorted that the information is confidential and they couldn’t disclose it.)

Using my fancy new WordPress plugin for PDF documents (thanks for the tip, MM!) I’ve put both letters in the viewer below for your perusal.

In the meantime, two quick final notes: The council and city staff said Tuesday night that they are trying desperately to get the county to change the ballot order for SunCal’s initiative so it’s not Measure A … folks who have been fighting to get Oak Knoll cleaned up may get some good news today  … and did anybody else out there get a robo-survey on the initiative on Tuesday night? Seven questions, two minutes, outta D.C.?

13 Comments »

  • Andy Currid says:

    I got the robocall. Curiously enough, it didn't ask me which way I was going to vote – just the usual party affiliation, age, sex, income level, etc., how much did I know about the ballot measure and how likely was I to vote in the February special election.

  • RM says:

    Thank you, Ann Marie Gallant.

  • Mark Irons says:

    we also got the survey call and the survey got my information because I answered. Days earlier I got a live interview of same questions, plus more questions about which way I would vote and exactly how I lean. It was for a focus group paying $70 for a couple hours, but they had only one spot left and too many people with similar answers. One answer was are you on a a City board? and I assumed that would eliminate me, but the interviewed claimed that was not the issue. I assume this information has to be processed before we see any new campaign material. It will be interesting to see what shows up.

  • William Smith says:

    Michelle,

    Tried to access the letter from Anne Marie Gallant – but I don't have "permission to access that document."

    Bill

  • RM says:

    Please go to http://www.AlamedaPointInfo.com for up to the minute news and reports about the initiative. No secret codes to get in there.

    Everyone is invited to read factual info about Alameda Point, the initiative, and the election.

  • William Smith says:

    Michelle,

    On my home computer could view the Gallant letter in the viewer. Will check to see if I can view it on my work computer tomorrow.

    Thanks for attaching the compressed version!

    Bill

  • Dave Kirwin says:

    I have to admit to a growing degree of 'SunCal Burnout" While I would never vote for MA exemption without knowing what the plan includes, neither would I ever vote for this SunCal plan.

    While it is a relief to know that now the majority of City Council also is opposed to the ballot measure, it is unfathomable that members elected to that extremely important position had blindly supported the Measure without understanding it. It is as if all across our advanced society, at every level people are content with laziness, or their inept ability to research, or lack of desire to understand before taking a position.

    .

    It is amazing that the same people that may deride DMV workers or CAL Trans workers they think aren't doing enough, will give a pass to white collar or people in authoritative positions who should be equally or more accountable. This is just one example.

  • ct says:

    If the SunCal option is spurned, Gallant's Plan B is for Alameda Point to generate "long-term lease revenues" that "can be leveraged to generate capital improvement dollars for major infrastructure repairs, if ever necessary." Leverage lease revenues? "If ever necessary"? This is an uninspired and disappointing alternative. Seems the interim city manager doesn't mind having the Point remain toxic, underutilized, and abandoned.

  • Dave Kirwin says:

    CT

    Are you kidding? It is the NAVY not SUN CAL doing the toxic waste cleanup!

    You are an example of the type of person who fell victim to the SunCal propaganda hype without an actual understanding of what is going on. Do you know what cleanup SunCal was limited to? They were going to remove lead paint and maybe some asbestos material (i.e. – the buildings they want to remove) It is the NAVY who is obligated to complete the toxic waste clean up regardless of what happens regarding SunCal.

    It was our city's developer Dept that would not allow long term leases, there for no one wanted to invest in capital improvements for the structures that are all being used. When a base was closed in Washington decades ago, they leased some buildings to a film company solely for the capital improvements. The company built everything they needed and "Sleepless in Seattle" was the first film shot there. Then the city had a film stage / sound stage they leased at market rate and which employed 100's of workers.

    While the city lease revenue collected at the point is over $12 Million per year; had long term leases at the low rates been used for the first 5 or 10 years, those buildings might be gaining the city two or three times as much lease revenue by now.

    Keeping the leases and the value of the land as a city asset is the best idea. Giving it away to any company, especially to one with a track record like Sun Cal’s is way beyond unimaginative – it would be an irrevocable financial blunder, which could lead the city to bankruptcy while underutilized, undeveloped land sits idle and beyond the City's control thru the 2030's.

  • Barbara Thomas says:

    The Point is being cleaned up, it is being utilized and has never been abandoned. SUNCAL is preaching a short term vision- GOTTA HAVE IT NOW– so that the details or lack thereof will be overlooked by the voters.

    I agree with Dave Kirwin and am distressed that our $50 a meeting, elected officials jumped on the bandwagon without looking at the horses' teeth that were to pull the wagon for the next 25 plus years. I commend them only for having the insight to hire Ms. Gallant. Which will perhaps make up for their previous mistakes. But we get what we pay for. It is Ms. Gallant's job to look at the fine print. And she is doing a very good and courageous job- backing down several council members and making them jump ship. Not an easy task without getting fired.

    Leases are the first step to generate a revenue stream upon which bonds or other financing can be based. With that money the infrastructure can be addressed as needed. Give her a chance. Give the City staff the chance to see what we can do with the base ourselves. The Navy had the base since the 1940's. There is no rush to develop it tomorrow. Remember if it is a mistake, it will be with us forever – or until we die and leave it to our children. I say anyone that can accomplish what Ms. Gallant has done in the short time she has been here is truly a miracle worker. She has proven her ability to get results. Something that SUNCAL cannot do.

  • ct says:

    Mr Kirwin,

    The U.S. Navy's cleanup at Alameda Point does not include eliminating toxins so that people may safely reside there. A developer that is granted permission to build homes at the Point would be responsible for that level of cleanup. Since it is still uncertain if SunCal will be allowed to implement its plans for the Point, then of course they would hold off on such a cleanup until they have an approval from the city's voters, until they obtain an agreement with city government, and until they actually purchase Alameda Point from the Navy.

    The potential long-term lease revenue numbers you provided would not be sufficient to repair and maintain the Point's aging infrastructure and to carry out an improvement plan that includes all of Alameda Point. So, as I said before, it looks like Ann Marie Gallant's Plan B is to keep the Point the way it is: toxic, underutilized, and abandoned. While parts of the Point are rented out, other areas will continue to be vandalized, other asbestos-lined buildings may be torched, and perhaps the dead body of another poor unfortunate soul will turn up.

    • Hey ct,

      Thanks for your comment. I would say, though, that the cleanup issue is a shade more nuanced than that.

      While the Navy is technically not required to clean the base up to a residential standard, my understanding is that they are working to clean up to that standard on much of the base, and that they have been pressed to do so by the host of regulatory agencies that are overseeing their cleanup efforts.

      There is some cleanup that SunCal would be required to do to in order to make one portion of the base suitable for residential development, and if memory serves I think that's an area just off of Seaplane Lagoon. But my understanding is that much of the cleanup they'd do would be lead paint and asbestos abatement in existing buildings they would fix up for reuse.

      Based on all the reporting I've done to date (and there's a whoooole lot more to be done on this), the issues that have been raised in regards to development of the base have been the slow speed of the cleanup process (there had been some discussion about SunCal coming in to help expedite some of this) and that we still don't seem to have a full grasp of what all is out there (witness the Navy's recent discovery of radioactive rocks ringing Seaplane Lagoon, which they appear to have discovered through sheer happenstance).

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