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Council may want less dense Point

Submitted by on 1, February 11, 2010 – 5:50 am14 Comments

apSome 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.

14 Comments »

  • Richard Bangert says:

    Regarding the discussion in the article about more focus on commercial at Alameda Point, here is some news from the Sacramento area from seven days ago that should be reason for encouragement. It's true that they have good highway access, but businesses with major truck shipping needs aren't the only ones that might be interested in Alameda Point, especially if they knew their building wasn't subject to being torn down in two years.

    "McClellan still drawing tenants in downturn"
    http://www.sacbee.com/small_business/story/250897

    Excerpt from the article:

    "Giannotti said industrial firms are enticed by McClellan's space, low lease fees, freeway access and lack of encroachment from traffic and retail."

  • Barbara Thomas says:

    Housing at Alameda Point will never "pencil out financially". Historically, regardless of location residential development always sucks up more dollars than it generates. So if Alameda Point is not going to be a burden on the existing tax payers, enough commercial and light industrial needs to be allowed and rented, leased, etc., to pay for the continued costs of however many residences are built.

    SUNCAL has blown the chances of any developer to come in and seek an exemption from Measure A. No one will be as ignorant as SUNCAL in view of SUNCAL's massive failure at the polls. So the housing will have to make do with density bonuses for low income mandated by state law.

    If GILMORE and TAM "fear deteriorating conditions" why is the Council demanding that the Navy replace the sewer lines in building 400? The instrument shop undoubtedly generated the radium waste with the glow in the dark dials of clocks, air speed indicators and such. Thousands of persons worked in that building for decades, without harmful effects. So if homes are not going to go there, does the sewer actually have to be replaced or is that optional? It seems if companies can get insurance coverage for employees and the State of California OKs it, it could be OK to reuse that building for commercial.

    Rather than be in a rush to get something developed we should do it right, after market analysis for commercial and demographic projections and resultant traffic flows generated tells Alamedans what will work out.

  • Richard Bangert says:

    Barbara Thomas asks:

    "why is the Council demanding that the Navy replace the sewer lines in building 400?" and "does the sewer actually have to be replaced or is that optional?"

    I think it has to be replaced at some point in time because it still remains connected to the new sewer system that was just replaced all around that area. If anything goes through that line, it will contaminate everything downstream. It's not the occupants of the building who would be at risk.

    The Navy is balking at cutting the slab because they fear that once the slab is cut the building will be prone to "spread" and will never have the structural integrity that was designed into the structure.

  • Barbara Thomas says:

    So we may lose Building 400? Ah well, so it goes. I would think that it could be structurally reinforced if cost effective. Much like the earthquake retrofitting that goes on outside of buildings now. Building 400 has those massive hangar doors and huge freight elevators, and used to have clean room environments on both the 2nd and 3rd floors. Hate to think there is no way to reuse that building.

  • Michael Krueger says:

    There are acres of vacant industrial land available in Oakland, Emeryville, Berkeley, and many other nearby cities, all with direct freeway and rail access. Why would we expect success from an industrial park built on land that has neither? Furthermore, why would we want to transform such a beautiful location into an industrial park?

    Don't get me wrong; I think light industry has a place at Alameda Point, but I don't understand the push for an industrial or business park instead of a real neighborhood with a wide mix of uses and enough density to make walking, bicycling, and public transportation viable. That doesn't mean Manhattan densities, either…it just means replicating the density and mix of uses found in central Alameda instead of building yet another a low-density business park like the one on Bay Farm Island.

  • Joshua says:

    Why do people want the military base to be developed as commercial and industrial? Do you really want even 'light' industrial parks, office buildings and commercial? What a waste of a beautiful scenic piece of property. Plus, there inst even enough residents to support the commercial districts we have now. Same with the existing office space which has a high vacancy rate at the moment.

    I think density limits within the confines of measure A are fine. I would like to see nice neighborhoods developed with parks and open space. Some commercial and office is fine, but playing a much lesser role. I really hope this doesn't turn into one big office, industry park which wont benefit anyone but the workers that are employed there- most probably not being residents. I would also support via higher taxes to just simply turn it onto one big open space and park. But I doubt the majority of the people living here would.

    Leaving it as it is now is not an option. While its kind of a novelty at the moment, you cant deny the fact that there are many abandoned, decrepit, deteriorating buildings that are not benefiting anyone but the homeless. It's only going to get worse and bring on more crime.

    Lastly, is there any chance the Navy can come in and dictate their own plans for this property or does the City get final approval? I would hate to think of what we could end up with if they have carte blanche on development rights.

  • William Smith says:

    Joshua,

    Right now, the City and the Navy have agreed that the City is the first buyer in line for the former Naval Air Station. The Navy might run out of patience for the City to line up financing, especially after it completes the cleanup of subsurface soils. If so, it could sell the property to anyone.

    As soon as the property passes into non-federal hands, though, the property would become subject to the City's zoning laws so the City would have some control over what was built there.

    I suppose it is theoretically possible that the Navy would retain title to the property and develop it for commercial uses that would not be subject to any City control – that would be emulating the Chinese military way! Probably not very likely, though. The most likely scenario would be if the military decided it needed to build housing their for military personnel in the Bay area. Not many military personnel left in the Bay Area – the Coast Guard station IN ALAMEDA may be the biggest military (in time of war when the Coast Guard comes under the control of the DoD anyway)base left. Anyone know for sure?

    Bill

  • Karen Bey says:

    Mike,

    I agree with you. We already have Industrial land uses at both Marina Village and Harbor Bay Business Park. We need diversification. Alamda Point is an Urban project and should be planned as such. It's got great views and its a prime location — across the bay from some of the most expensive real estate in the country.

  • Jack B. says:

    We are also right across the bay from one of the most visited cities in the world. Why not make Alameda Point a destination (by boat)? Tourists LOVE to get on boats.

  • Richard Bangert says:

    Karen,

    We need diversification, as you say. We also need to re-prioritize the order of development, in my opinion. Housing at Alameda Point will always find a buyer because of Alameda's reputation and because of the uniqueness of the location. Waiting on housing will likely mean we start with a higher base tax rate. And besides, we'll probably be waiting to construct housing anyway as we wait for the cleanup to be completed. The words "Superfund site" is not the kind of phrase that generates multiple offers on houses.

    Why not instead focus on business opportunities before they pass us by, as the economy eventually rebounds and businesses look to expand or to start up? Alameda Point does not have to be appealing to every single type of business in order to be successful. And we don't need to abandon all housing – just begin first by building/adaptively reusing land and buildings that are already being considered for commercial or would be suitable.

    There are companies like the tour bus servicing business in that giant building near the Control Tower that need a building like that. Yes, there is cheaper space in Tracy, but this is a case in which Alameda Point is obviously worth it to them to locate here. There must be a good reason why they did not locate at Harbor Bay. And I don't think there is adequate space at Marina Village for that type of business.

    The number of businesses willing to locate at Alameda Point fell dramatically about five years ago when it was assumed that APCP would soon begin their development. Leases went short term, and many businesses left, and it undoubtedly had a dampening effect on attracting new businesses.

  • Karen Bey says:

    And Jack we also should include a couple of hotels like Treasure Island — all which of course would increase property values for the whole Island. But we certainly won't get high end hotels by developing Alamead Point as an Industrial Park!

    Richard, I believe we should definately take advantage of longer term leases and adaptive re-use of some of the buildings so we can capture some of these companies who want to re-locate to Alameda. We missed out on Cliff Bar — I still can't get over this one! But commercial overall is down. Remember the Catellus project has stalled because of the commercial market. Housing will come back before commercial.

  • dlm says:

    Alameda Point is like an old house with a wonderful paint job and a rotten foundation. Maybe the view is great, but that really doesn't make much difference. It may be possible to build earthquake resistant buildings but I'm not aware of anything that can protect the underground utilities. That’s what I see when I look at all the new condos in Oakland as well — however nice and new it is above ground, it's all connected to the same infrastructure underground, whatever condition that may be in.

    What stops people from seeing that reality? We all know what the Hayward Fault is.

    Most of the site is less than five feet above sea level — I never understood why SunCal or anyone else would blithely announce that they could somehow fix that. I don't see anything "sustainable" about building on fill at sea level.

    Why is there so much denial? Like asking why people here resist development — well, because it's an island with severe traffic constraints, as if that needed explaining. I think SunCal's campaign lost precisely because they tried to play games with issues that couldn't be papered over. It's time to change tactics.

  • Former Island Reside says:

    I like the verteran's administration plan to build a hospital

    VA's proposal to build the clinic at Alameda Point

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