On Point: The prisoner
The City Council and School Board got what was, for the council at least, a brief summary of the 288 pages of Measure B and a pair of city staff-generated analyses of the measure Tuesday night. I meant to write you a story about it to read Wednesday, I really did. But after nearly five hours of presentations, points, counterpoints, accusations and a heaping serving of political theater, I realized there wasn’t really much new to say.
About 120 people showed up for the presentation, almost all recognizable advocates for or against the measure and perhaps the only people in town who care about the development agreements, CEQA mitigations and transportation demand management plans that were subjects of debate and the occasional sharp exchange between city staff and SunCal’s reps – exchanges that, I couldn’t help thinking, might otherwise have occurred behind closed doors had SunCal not opted to take the unusual step of placing a development agreement with the city on the ballot.
I think we were just rounding the bend on hour four when Perforce Software chief and B booster Christopher Seiwald offered the most quotable moment of the night, when he pleaded with the council to “end this embarrassing parade of ignorance and stupidity.”
It was another 40 minutes or so before he got his wish.
Tuesday night’s borefest was followed today by an announcement from School Board Trustee Mike McMahon that he supports Measure B.
“I believe the overall benefits of choosing to develop Alameda Point using the existing framework presented by SunCal is better than the alternative of another sixteen years of doing nothing but plan to plan,” McMahon wrote in an e-mail to about 900 people Wednesday afternoon. “While there are no guarantees in Measure B, I am confident that AUSD is in a strong position to negotiate a mitigation agreement that will serve Alameda Point and the West End residents.”
SunCal’s representatives went back and forth with board trustees Tuesday regarding the company’s commitment to providing schools for residents of its proposed development. District officials have said they don’t yet have a deal with SunCal about what schools the developer will provide, and they’re concerned the money and land offered in the development agreement on the ballot won’t be what they need. SunCal’s reps said the measure doesn’t address schools and that they are willing to talk with school district representatives – they just haven’t gotten there yet.
Trustees Tracy Jensen and Trish Hererra Spencer have come out against the measure, signing a ballot argument opposing the measure for the February 2 vote.
Before I wrap up for this week, I want to dial it back to this whole business of development agreements, and specifically, whether the development agreement on the ballot can be changed and under what circumstances.
SunCal’s Pat Keliher has told city officials his company is willing to write side agreements to address problems they have raised about the initiative, including a cap on the amount of money the developer will have to spend to pay for parks and other “public benefits” of the project that they fear could be exceeded. And Measure B proponents have said a second Point development agreement that SunCal will negotiate with the city’s redevelopment agency, which is called a disposition and development agreement, can be written to correct problems the city sees in the development agreement. But City Attorney Teresa Highsmith told the council she wasn’t sure if those agreements would “trump” one approved by Alameda voters.
In response to the council’s questions on the matter, Highsmith issue an eight-page memo on December 17 laying out some answers. Her opinion? SunCal could amend the development agreement on the ballot if it is passed by voters, but given the fact that they wrote it this way, she doesn’t think the council should assume they’ll do so. (The measure allows SunCal, but not the city, to amend the development agreement to be decided on by voters; otherwise, changes can be made only through another initiative.) And she said that a new agreement that can be enforced by the city won’t be inked before the February 2 election.
I asked SunCal for any legal opinion they had on this one, but haven’t heard back. If I get anything, I’ll update you.
In the meantime, here’s the memo for your reading enjoyment.