Council may want less dense Point
Some City Council members interviewed in the wake of Measure B’s loss at the polls on February 2 are saying they want a development at Alameda Point that has far fewer homes that developer SunCal was asking voters to approve.
“I don’t think a non-Measure A (compliant) plan works out there,” Mayor Beverly Johnson told The Island during an interview last week.
Johnson, Vice Mayor Doug deHaan and Councilman and mayoral candidate Frank Matarrese said they want to see less housing on the base than the 4,841 homes SunCal envisioned, and deHaan and Matarrese said they want a bigger focus on commercial uses and jobs on the former Naval base. DeHaan said development efforts should start with the already-approved preliminary development concept for the Point, which features 1,735 homes.
Councilwoman and mayoral candidate Marie Gilmore said she thinks housing development at the Point may need to be more than Measure A allows in order for a development to pencil out financially. Still, she said that what gets built may be less than SunCal requested.
Every member of the council told The Island they’re committed to moving forward on redeveloping the Point, though differences regarding the path forward do exist.
Matarrese, who has been visiting other shuttered military bases with deHaan and Johnson for inspiration, said he thinks now is a good time to plan because the money that would fuel redevelopment efforts isn’t available. And he has championed a proposal to offer long-term leases at the Point, in order to build a solid commercial base there.
Tam and Gilmore, however, said the city may need to move sooner on developing the base rather than later. They said they fear deteriorating conditions at the base could impact the city financially and that those conditions are stalling badly needed economic activity there. Long-term leases could be tough to maintain since the Navy can move businesses from their buildings if they need to conduct cleanup activities there, Tam said. And Gilmore said she’s concerned the Navy could slow its cleanup efforts if it doesn’t think the city is ready to get to work there.
Tam and Gilmore said they think Alameda voters want the council to take the reins on redevelopment, while Johnson said she thinks people want a chance to have their say on the Point plans.
And council members mentioned some different features they’d like to see on the base. DeHaan, for one, wants to see better reuse of historic buildings than SunCal planned, including multi-unit housing in the existing Bachelor Officer’s Quarters and Bachelor Enlisted Quarters. Matarrese said he’d like to see wetlands put in place to buffer against rising waters – and a development plan that includes jobs for organized labor. (He said he’d be talking about the path ahead at Alameda Point at a town hall meeting, at 7 p.m. Thursday, February 18 at Hawthorn Suites.)
Most of the council was interviewed prior to the city’s announcement Friday that it had issued SunCal a notice of default because the development plan it submitted on January 14 – the same plan that was on the ballot – is not Measure A compliant. Prior to the notice’s issuance, council members said they would continue to negotiate with SunCal to develop the base as required by their exclusive negotiating agreement.
“I don’t think the community, at this point, is ready to listen to another entity outside of Alameda,” Gilmore said.
SunCal has 30 days to fix the problems outlined in the default notice, though the company’s Pat Keliher wrote the City Council over the weekend asking them to withdraw it.
Interim City Manager Ann Marie Gallant, who The Island contacted Monday for comment on Keliher’s letter, said she never liked SunCal’s development plan and that she would prefer to see more commercial development and less residential development at the Point.