Home » Editorials

Measure B: Yes or no?

Submitted by on 1, January 21, 2010 – 6:00 am12 Comments

apAlameda voters are in the midst of making a big decision about the future of Alameda Point, and by extension, our entire Island. (No pressure.) Measure B, which is before absentee ballot holders now and which will hit the polls on February 2, would exempt Alameda Point from development-limiting Measure A, put a land plan in place for the Point and grant a development agreement with the city to whoever ends up developing the Point if this passes.

So should you vote for it or not? We’ve asked proponents and opponents of the measure to answer that question in 500 of their own words or less, and here are their responses. The Yes on B folks won the coin flip, so they’ll go first.

Meanwhile, you can read the entire text of the measure and all the ballot arguments here (link to the full text at the bottom of the page), and if you missed the local League of Women Voters’ recent forum debating the pros and cons of Measure B, the folks at Alameda Currents have posted a video on their brand-new website (and they’ve promised more videos to come).

Yes on B:

The time is now to transform the former Navy base into a thriving new neighborhood in Alameda. And with Measure B we have the plan to do that.

The Base was decommissioned in 1993 and closed in 1996. Since that time, hundreds of Alamedans through hundreds of meetings have provided input into what they’d like to see at the former Base. The result of this input is a community vision, embodied in community principles that are now part of the Alameda General Plan. These principles include: waterfront access for all Alamedans; de-emphasis of the automobile and a walkable, transit-oriented community; seamless integration with the character and tradition of historic Alameda; a mixed-use community; job creation; and a sustainable, green development.

The Revitalize Alameda Point is built upon these principles. The plan will provide waterfront parks and trails; new retail and restaurants; a state-of-the art sports complex for youth, students and adults; a library; civic spaces; and new schools. It will do this with a mixed-use, compact design that encourages walking and biking, local shopping and a vibrant street life.

And jobs! Just the almost $700 million in infrastructure work alone will create thousands of jobs for the area, and once the project is developed, there will be many more jobs in industry, retail and commercial fields, all of which are part of the plan.

But a plan is just a vision unless it is buildable and economically viable, something no other plan created or proposed for Alameda Point has ever been.

In-depth, expert analysis of such things as geotechnical issues (e.g. unstable soil, flood plains, rising sea tides), toxic cleanup, and historical preservation went into the design of this plan to ensure that it is indeed buildable.

And the project is financially viable. By law, the Revitalize Alameda Point project must be fiscally neutral. In addition, the project will create essential revenue for our City and our schools. Right now, the City spends over $14 million a year on maintenance and security at the former Base, while it takes in less than $12 million in lease revenue. This is a steady drain on city coffers that will only increase as the area continues to deteriorate. The Revitalize Alameda Point plan will stop the drainage on our meager city funds and will generate revenue through property, transfer and sales taxes. Parcel taxes, which we currently do not collect from the Point since the Navy owns the land, will aid our struggling schools.

In any development project, the entity that owns the land has the control. Right now that is the Navy. But if this plan is approved, the land is conveyed to the City. The City will have absolute control of the release of the land for development. It will be up to the City to be sure that before any land is released to any developer that the plans are in the best interest of the community. In addition, the City holds the cards for what developer(s) the land is released to – the plan names no developer.

The Revitalize Alameda Point plan is a community-developed plan that will provide access and amenities for all Alamedans, will stop the drain on City resources, and will provide jobs for citizens and revenue for the City.

The time is now to move forward with implementing this plan.

Alamedans for Alameda Point Revitalization

Doug Siden
Doug Biggs
Josh Cohen
Barbara Kahn
Diane Lichtenstein
Ron Matthews, President
Kathy Moehring
Honora Murphy
Helen Sause
Brad Shook
Jon Spangler
Kevin Gorham
Chris Seiwald

No on B:

The big changes for Alameda implied by Measure B make it worth a close read. If you have not had the opportunity to review it in depth, we summarize major issues below:

Measure B gives control of Alameda Point to a developer with 27 bankrupt projects already. In the past, SunCal has blamed shaky investment partners for project failure, but in their Albuquerque project – now facing foreclosure – their partner is D.E. Shaw, the same as for Measure B.

Every promise in the Plan is contradicted by this language in Measure B:

-Section 2.9 says nothing in the Development Agreement is intended to create obligations to develop Alameda Point at all.

-Section 7.4.2 says no party to the agreement can be held liable for damages for any defaults under the agreement.

Measure B defers key components until after passage of Measure B trumps Alameda’s negotiating power. SunCal says “trust us” to negotiate later, but hasn’t agreed with our school board yet to build any schools, which would not be required by law under Measure B. Alameda could wind up with no new schools and over 4,800 new households! Alameda’s city attorney says that if Measure B passes, the developer would “control whether and when it would seek (amendments) and it should not be assumed that any developer would voluntarily relinquish … benefits gained from a voter-approved Initiative.”

The developer would get 25 years of control over Alameda Point:

-To sell parcels off at any time, to anyone, for any price.

-To defer development until the timing suits them, but with Alamedans responsible for hazards resulting from neglected property.

Measure B says the developer will “make a good faith effort” to maintain fiscal neutrality. Alameda’s own Election Report concludes that the proposed project won’t make Alameda more money than it’ll cost us.

Measure B includes public benefits “not to exceed” $200 million, contingent on tax subsidies from new Alameda Point property owners. That amount, if raised, would have to cover all of these promised benefits: sports complex, parks, public art, library, improved fire station, Bay Trail extension, improvements to the Seaplane Lagoon and a new ferry terminal. Traffic mitigation all over the Island (not specified or negotiated with transit agencies yet) is also included. Alameda’s city manager calculated that the promised benefits listed would cost nearly double the $200 million maximum figure in Measure B. And that’s in today’s dollars.

It’s been 12 years since closure of Alameda Naval Air Station, and proponents of Measure B make the cynical and specious argument that if Measure B is defeated, we may wait 12 years longer to resolve the Alameda Point situation. We say the process of decision-making thus far has taught city officials and concerned citizens much about partnerships, deals and projects that can and cannot work here. Therefore, don’t let anyone tell you it’s Measure B or nothing. Join us, and on February 2, Vote NO on B!

Mary Fetherolf
Dave Howard
Arthur Lipow
Rosemary McNally
Dave Needle
Gretchen Lipow


  • Scott says:

    It has been 13 years since the Navy left Alameda Point. The Suncal plan is the best plan, if there were a better one it would have already been giving to the people of Alameda in the previous years since the Navy left. So people need to realize that the Suncal plan may not be the best but it is all we have got. Doing nothing is no longer an option. 10 years from now when our kids are playing on world class sports facilities, eating at restaurants staring at the san francisco skyline, going for bike rides and walks staring out at the bay, picking us up at the new ferry terminal we will look back on voting yes on B as one of the best things we could have done for them and the bay area. I can not wait for ground to be broken on the point this summer. Doing nothing is no longer an option.

  • Jill Staten says:

    It is absolutely an option to wait until there is a plan on the table that does not create significant financial risks and obligations for the citizens of Alameda while removing all possibility of financial rewards for many years. Vote no on B.

  • Kate Quick says:

    Thanks for posting this information. While the League of Women Voters has taken no position on Measure B, we have been gathering and posting as much information on the pros and cons of it as we can, as well as holding our very well attended forum. Readers can access the video of the forum, as well as the written answers to nine questions we posed of both proponents and opponents by going to our website at http://www.alameda.ca.lwvnet.org Election information is available for all elections and includes looking up your ballot and polling place at http://www.smartvoter.org, our award winning web site for voter education.

  • Charlie Howell says:

    Measure B guarantees nothing except that “the developer” will have complete control of 1/3 of the Island for 25 years, will be exempt from all City building codes and regulations,and an estimated $51 million in development fees.

    The yes on B folks say that the “City” will have absolute control of the release of the land and will do the right thing if B passes. Well, if they believe the “City” will do the right thing then, why do they not believe the “City” is doing the right thing NOW ? The “City” i.e. The Mayor, the Vice Mayor, a majority of the City Council, the City Manager, the City Treasurer & Auditor, the Chamber of Commerce, the Superintendent of Schools, the Alameda Architectural Preservation Society, the County Labor Council, the County Democratic Party, and 98% percent of all the people I know who live on the Island, just to name a few, think that measure B is BAD and are voting NO. Would You hire a Lawyer, plumber, Dentist or Mechanic with a record like SunCals, I wouldn’t. Also heard a tease on the morning news that the Obama Administration is putting forth new regulations for large investment banks and Hedge Funds…. like D.E. Shaw!

  • Betty says:

    The Navy has not left the base. The Navy is still cleaning up the base and will remain owners until this job is completed. The land is toxic.
    In 10 years nothing is going to be done to the base. If B pases SunCal will be owners of the property for 25 years. Do you honestly think they will develop this property in this economy? Who is going to buy the houses and rent the retail spaces? SunCal is a developer, they are here to make money. They are not trying to take over most of Alameda to provide bike paths to our citizens. They can sell the land to anyone they want too. And anyway it will probably take a few years to settle the law suits which Oakland will be filing since we are not following the proceedures listed in the agreement with the building of Baypoint.
    Take a drive through marina village..isn’t there enough unoccupied buildings? Do you think 200 million dollars will cover all SunCal’s promises? Do you think it’s responsible to move the ferry terminal to the most toxic area of the base with no promises of it every being cleaned. The ferry’s engines will cause constant erosion of toxic mud.
    All I can say to Scott…my no vote will cancel out your yes vote. Yea!

  • Scott says:

    Betty maybe if you gave some alternatives to the Suncal plan people might support your views. All you tell us is how negative life will be after Measure B passes. Try giving us some of your views what should be done to the point.

  • Betty says:

    I would like to see parks, bike paths, walking paths and dog runs at the point. I would like to see the antique fair continue and a place for our farmers market.
    I would like to see some measure A housing so the city could receive income from property taxes. I would like to see buildings restored and business established. I have been reading alot about WWII and it is amazing how this country came together, fought and won the war. I also remember the Viet Nam War. I think these building should be keep so all of us remember…1,000 WWII vets are passing away each day. I think the situation our country is in today we need to remember. As long as it’s safe I hope there are soccer fields, tennis courts etc. I think the point could be a wonderful place, I just don’t trust SunCal, I don’t think Alameda needs to look like Emeryville, Foster City etc. I don’t think we need more Targets, Costcos Home Depots etc. I would like to support farmers in our area instead of Safeway, Raleys, Luckys etc. I would like to be able to purchase goods to help people who live in our area.
    I would like the point to become a plesant place to visit to enjoy the bay, watch the birds and take a walk. Why do we need to make it into what we don’t need?

  • ct says:

    Antigrowth, antidevelopment individuals have their reasons to oppose any development plan proposed for Alameda Point, but a number of those reasons being disseminated are inaccurate.

    For example, Mr Howell, if Measure B passed, to say that SunCal “will have complete control” of the Point is disingenuous; the developer would be granted land-use entitlements but not ownership rights, as any land transfers at the Point would require the approval of the Alameda Reuse and Redevelopment Authority. To say that SunCal would “be exempt from all City building codes and regulations” is to be grossly misinformed; where is this stipulation made in the Measure B literature? To say that the City would lose “an estimated $51 million in development fees” is misleading; this is one among many other items in the SunCal plan that the developer and the City would negotiate in the Disposition and Development Agreement.

    If someone is antigrowth and antidevelopment, they have a right to voice their opinion and vote no on B. But if someone else would like to see the Point’s potential realized, they deserve to hear the straight facts — not half-truths — about Measure B.

  • Tom says:

    The YES argument advocates for a vision of development, believes the City will have absolute control (notwithstanding contrary DA language in Measure B) over any/all developers, and submits this public initiative is the last, best hope for Alameda and the Point. No other option exists and failure to act now would have tragic consequences. Optimistic and foreboding.

    The NO argument counters the YES through reference to particular Measure text, or the absence thereof, regarding project control, costs and fiscal neutrality, actual development, and public benefits. It questions the wisdom and practicality of dealing with SunCal/DE Shaw for their well-documented business track record. The costs associated with Measure B would be too great. Pragmatic.

    I believe YES and NO folks agree and support a grand vision for the Point, that must be developed in a manner which benefits Alameda and its citizens. There is consensus regarding fiscal neutrality – if a developer build the Point, the General Fund shouldn’t be adversely impacted in the long term – though difference in whether or not Measure B can/will accomplish it. Unfortunately, that’s as close at the ‘sides’ will likely come on this issue.

    I’m a NO voter, a position I’ve taken after much consideration of the arguments. I support the Grand Vision and look forward to Point development, but Measure B is not path to that promised land. It’s a developer-centric deal with nothing to ensure development occurs, no matter who the developer(s) may be. The potential long-term fiscal risk to the City from the DA in the Initiative is too great for me to support.

    I’m a proponent of prudent Measure A amendment to allow higher residential densities. However, the Initiative expressly authorizes five-story residential structures and 70 units/acre. Parking mitigation for many of these buildings will likely be incorporated within the footprint of the building (i.e., grade-level, under building parking). Such ‘soft story’ development in a high hazard liquefaction zone is imprudent.

    There’s been a lot of debate about how enforceable a DDA would be with Measure B’s DA in place as law. This week’s CA Supreme Court ruling on medical marijuana gave us a peek into how such disputes are being litigated. The Court ruled the State can not set limits to a public initiative not allowed in the statute. With MM, law allows local governments to set limits, but not the State.

    As it relates to Measure B,authorizations in the DA will be critical; to my knowledge there are few, if any. I could see a dispute over a ‘limiting’ DDA element (likely called for by the City) and potential for litigation. In the end, supported by MM decision, the DA in law would trump the disputed DDA contract element. This is why NO proponents have called to question the absence of development detail in the Initiative DA and their concern that the DDA may not carry the weight YES advocates believe.

    However you vote, please do so intelligently. Passion is important, but it is not a good reason to cast a particular vote.

  • Charlie says:

    Contrary to the assumption by ct, I am genuinely interested in, and concerned about what happens at Alameda point. I am not antigrowth or antidevelopment, What I am is pro sensible and sustainable growth, and I don’t believe B or even SunCal is our last, best, Hope.

    I personally have not read every word of the 280+ page measure B initiative and would not understand most of it if I had. If memory serves the Mayor stated that it took her 3 readings to fully understand the measure and I believe she is also a lawyer. What I have done is rely on those I trust and who have knowledge and understanding of that which I don’t, to inform me about matters, like a Dentist, Plumber, or a Lawyer.

    Am I being misled by the phone call I just received from City Auditor Kevin Kearney speaking also for City Treasurer Kevin Kennedy stating that if B passes “over $50 million in City fees would be waived and the City would have to PAY the developer $11 million a year” ? If these two financial experts are not correct in their assessment of measure B and denouncement of same we’re screwed, either way, thumbs-up or thumbs-down on B, because they are part of our City’s team that will do the negotiating with whatever “developer” there will be to deal with about the future of the Point and in fact all of the Island.

    Pat Keliher has even mentioned on several occasions, that B is a very unusual and “back door” way to proceed in a situation like this and SunCal has never attempted to start a project this way before.

  • ct says:

    Some are citing incorrect figures (some unwittingly, some intentionally) to support their arguments against Measure B, basing their information on flawed data provided by the City. Unfortunately, this misinformation is muddying the waters in the debate on development at Alameda Point. It is also unfortunate that certain members of our local government are either antigrowth and antidevelopment or totally incompetent in matters of business and governance.

    Please refer to the link below for a clear and detailed refutation of some of the numbers being wrongly referenced:


Leave a comment!

Add your comment below, or trackback from your own site. You can also subscribe to these comments via RSS.

Be nice. Keep it clean. Stay on topic. No spam.

You can use these tags:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

This is a Gravatar-enabled weblog. To get your own globally-recognized-avatar, please register at Gravatar.