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Submitted by on 1, February 3, 2010 – 6:00 am24 Comments

IMG00091With all precincts counted, the Alameda County Registrar of Voters is reporting that Measure B has suffered a landslide loss. The Alameda Point development initiative lost 11,947 votes to 2,120 votes, or 84.93 percent to 15.07 percent, according to unofficial final results.

“This is an astonishingly wonderful result. For it to be so clear for the voters of Alameda to understand why this was bad,” said Dave Needle of Protect the Point, which fought to defeat the measure.

Needle and others at a packed, post-election party at the Harbor Bay Club said they intend to use what they see is a mandate from voters to continue their fight against SunCal, which has submitted its land plan for the Point directly to the city for its consideration.

“They will continue their hard, high-pressure tactics. And we as citizens have to support our city government in keeping SunCal away from our Island,” Needle said.

SunCal, which placed the measure on the ballot, issued a statement conceding defeat on Monday in which they sought to distance themselves from the disastrous election results and to reinforce the message that they are committed to moving forward on their land plan, which they said had more support. The developer’s plan for the Point includes 4,841 homes, office space, retail, restaurants and more.

“A disappointing election result will not end our work on this effort,” Dave Soyka, SunCal’s vice president for public affairs, was quoted as saying. “We will not abandon this plan and this City, and we hope Alamedans will continue to stand with us as we pursue the vision developed in partnership with the residents and the City over the past three years.”

City leaders who attended the No on B gathering said SunCal had asked them a week before the election to extend the developer’s exclusive agreement to negotiate a deal to develop the former Naval base for another two years. They declined to vote on the request, which would have extended the agreement past its July 20 end date.

They said they will continue to work with the developer, consistent with that agreement. But they also said Tuesday’s vote sent a clear message about what voters want.

“I think it sends a strong message from our community that they’re looking out for the best interests of the community,” Mayor Beverly Johnson said. Johnson had initially supported the measure but switched positions after reading the development agreement it contained. (She had originally supported Catellus to develop the land.)

Vice Mayor Doug deHaan, who voted to select SunCal as the developer for the Point but who has consistently said he’d prefer to see the buildings out there reused for more industrial purposes, said he thinks SunCal hurt its chances at victory by not talking to stakeholders in the Point’s future before putting its measure on the ballot. He said many of those same stakeholders, who had supported the developer’s land plan, ended up turning against the company at the ballot box. And he said he thinks the company could face an uphill battle moving forward.

But City Councilwoman Lena Tam, Measure B’s lone supporter on the council, said in a statement that she thinks the ballot measure’s defeat is “a wakeup call to city leaders to step up to the plate and take responsibility for implementing a plan to revitalize Alameda Point.”

“During the campaign on Measure B, it was clear that the vast majority of people, even outspoken opponents, supported the community developed plan. The City, and not the developer, needs to take the lead and enable the revitalization of Alameda Point to become a reality,” Tam wrote.” We need to respect the voters’ and community’s overwhelming desire to redevelop Alameda Point.”

SunCal worked with the community and city officials for months to craft a development plan that enjoyed the support of many local groups and people active in city affairs. But that support dissipated when the developer submitted a ballot initiative that contained a business agreement that many feared could have serious financial and legal consequences for the city.

The inclusion of the business agreement blindsided city staffers who had worked with SunCal on its development plans, angered community groups that had supported the developer’s land plan and concerned Johnson and Councilman Frank Matarrese enough to get them to switch their positions on the measure from yes to no – ultimately uniting groups of people who are traditionally at each other’s throats.

SunCal has to date reported that it spent $1.26 million on its campaign (disclosure forms were still rolling in Tuesday), while opponents spent about $50,000, according to available disclosures.

The bulk of the vote on the single-issue ballot came early, with 9,776 of the 14,067 ballots being cast absentee. Alameda has about 40,000 registered voters.


  • Barbara Thomas says:

    Once again Tam has missed the point at the Point. I favor getting the land back from the Navy for what the Navy paid the City paid for it, then returning some of the land to wetlands, some to a City owned and operated Marina, other recreational, and reusing the existing buildings with the City getting competitive market revenues from those leases. Infill can be allowed to the extent there are real checks and balances that stop development when intersections deteriorate beyond Level D.

    Capacity to leave and enter Alameda can not be increased in the West end, and only with great difficulty and cost at the East end. What ever goes in, either has to fit with reverse traffic flow, or simply not create so much traffic to make the rest of our lives miserable.

    It seems that the majority of new residents figured out why they moved here in the first place and voted accordingly. It’s a nice place to live. This in spite of the spin placed on development as wonderful by SUNCAL and supporters such as Tam. Keep in mind that residential NEVER pays for the amenities it consumes. Light industrial and commercial correctly marketed may actually give more back to a City than they take.

  • anon says:

    Any research on the largest election defeat for a ballot proposition in Alameda history? Does this come close?

  • Betty says:


    I don't think Oakland is going to go for another exit.

    Chinatown doesn't want any more Alameda traffic.

  • techies says:

    Why would anyone want to do business with Suncal.Read this:

    The Alameda people won!

  • Keith Nealy says:

    Perhaps the real effort should be put on getting stimulus funds to provide another exit from the island on the West End. I’d love to see the point developed responsibly if we can solve this predominant problem.

  • Barbara Thomas says:

    Keith, it can't be done. The Interstate Commerce Clause of the US Constitution prohibits any interference with shipping. Due to the fact that the tubes are too high to allow ships' passage above them, there is a turning basin right in front of them. No tubes can be added and no new bridges can be built high enough to clear the container ships that harbor there. It has been tried and tried again, and most closely came to being when Jerry Brown was governor years ago. Highway 24 was proposed to cross over into Alameda. Too expensive then, much more expensive now. And that assumes consent by Oakland. Which I expect if the crossing were at the tip of the old Navy base, could be workable. But it would cost about the same as 1/2 a new Bay Bridge span due to the height requirements. Probably billions.

  • Richard Bangert says:

    I buy the rationale for no new bridge.

    I am not convinced on the impossibility of a new tube. The turning basin for the container ships is over to the west near the Main Street Ferry Terminal. Look on Google Earth. The Tubes are further east near Scott's Restaurant. There aren't any container ships turning around in the vicinity of the Pasta Pelican and Scott's. By the way, for anyone interested, there is a brass marker in the concrete promenade near the party ships and Pasta Pelican (Mariner Square on the Alameda side) that says the tubes pass directly under this spot.

    I don't see the logistical problem with adding a new tube. If Alameda had pursued this idea after it was agreed on to be studied back in 1996, the new tube quite possibly would now be part of the CalTrans retro work on 880 in exactly the location where tube traffic needs to be routed.

  • David Hart says:

    In addition to the Constitutional issue, the Coast Guard needs quick entry & exit for its cutters, which also precludes a bridge.

  • Barbara Thomas says:

    To what depth do the big container ships draw? The depth at the tubes as I vaguely recall was about 32 to 34 feet and the bigger ships could no longer cross over. So if a tube were to need 25-35 feet in depth (again I don't know) it would seen that a minimum 70 feet would be needed. I expect this would be affected by tides. And since the Port regularly dredges to maintain the shipping channel, how would that be done with a tube laying on the bottom? Could it be done without regular dredging? Can one dredge around the sides of a tube? I suppose so, but who pays? The developer? You and me?

  • ben mcgrath says:

    you, me, everyone. many times over

  • ct says:

    Ms Thomas,

    By saying that "new residents figured out why they moved here," you've identified yourself as an Alamedan who resents newcomers and change. The fact of the matter is we live in a metropolitan area; the population here will increase, as will traffic. Your quest to preserve Alameda in a time capsule is unrealistic.

  • Scott says:

    Excellent point CT. Alameda will always be one of the best communities to live in in the bay area, if not the best. The days of the west end looking like a toxic waste land are numbered though. The days of Webster street looking like skid row are coming to end. For people like myself that remember the 1960's look the south shore center had in the 90's and the way the towne centre look now know that Alameda longs for change and is more than willing to embrace it. Please be ready to embrace the changes and not try to slow down progress anymore than it already has been.

  • Barbara Thomas says:

    Population for the last 65 years haas held pretty steady. Since 1944 it has been about 78,000 give or take 10%. The greatest influx was in the early 1900's and then again 1938-9-40. I missed that. You can tell by the the building permit flow and when homes were built – the entire Woodstock development built without permits because demand was so great.

    Yes we live in a metropolitan area, but one in which the cost of housing generally declines the further one is willing to drive. And new areas are added every year in Dublin, Fremont, etc. Traffic will only degrade to a certain level before businesses, home buyers and others choose to go elsewhere. I have watched that happen several times over the past decades, at both the west, and east ends of town.

    I was born here, and while on the City Council I had to propose a building moratorium to force Harbor Bay Isle Associates to dedicate the land it had promised decades earlier when it got its approvals to build all 5 of its villages. The land where the fire station, Bay Farm Island School and Tillman park are located would not be here today, if the Council had not played hardball. I am not against development, only against developers ripping off the citizens or renigging on their promises.

    I have watched private developer and citizen alike negotiate sweetheart deals with City Officials that suck up the profit off formerly city owned land,only to see the City or school district begging the citizens to impose a parcel tax to accommodate their needs.

    Many of my friends have lived in Berkeley and Oakland, and chose to move here to raise their families. We have flat lands which are excellent for bike riding for smaller ones, we have great parks, libraries and schools. The folks who live here are generally pretty nice down to earth people who care about their community and take an active role in maintaining it and giving back to it in many ways. If that is what you mean by a time capsule, yes, I want to keep it that way. It may not be realistic, but it is dream worth holding on to.

  • dlm says:

    Roadblocks stymie Alameda project

    February 5, 2010 6:12 PM ET

    Blanca Torres

    SunCal’s efforts to redevelop Alameda Point, a 918-acre portion of a former Naval Base, have hit some roadblocks.

    On Feb. 3, residents of the island city voted down a proposal, Measure B, that would have allowed SunCal to override current density limitations to build more housing units.

    Now, the city has issued the Irvine-based developer a notice of default for the site after reviewing an a request from SunCal to entitle the project outside of the city's specific plan guidelines.

    Alameda has an exclusive negotiating agreement with SunCal that is set to expire on July 15. Under the agreement, SunCal has 30 days to resolve the notice of default.

    Alameda officials released a statement saying they remain “confident that numerous options — public, private and non-profit — remain available to the City in developing a physically viable and economically sustainable plan for base development.”

    SunCal has proposed a master development plan that would add up to 4,210 units of housing, 3.425 million square feet of office space, 375,000 square feet of retail, a 55-acre sports complex, 150 acres of public open space and a new ferry station to the former naval base.

    The proposal calls for a variety of multi-family and single-family homes.


  • ct says:

    Ms Thomas,

    By "time capsule," I do mean your wish to keep things the way they are, but it's unfortunate that this seems to include discouraging more outsiders and newcomers from living here.

    While serving on the City Council, did you have firsthand experience in dealing with private developers? You might find the following link to be of interest:


  • Barbara Thomas says:

    People move to Alameda do so for various reasons. At least 85% of existing voters found SUNCAL's project and or way of doing business to be an anathema to the status quo. There were no boxes on the ballot to say, I loved the project, but hated SUNCAL, it was just YES or NO. NO won. By a landslide.

    I can give a blow by blow description of what the City went through with HBIA to get those amenities which were long promised in order to obtain approvals. Even though it promised 2 schools, parks, a fire station, and other amenities, it later changed its position and said that the City had to "buy" the land at its. The school district had no money with which to buy the second school site. Developers always promise whatever it takes to get approvals. Then they renig. It is that simple. Especially when a project lasts 20 years or more. No one is around who remembers.

    As to the Ballena Bay Lease, it was presented as a 99 year lease, with renewals automatic. We tried to terminate based on breaches of conditions, but were not able to meet the legal standard to do so. The Council that had entered into that lease, did so at a time when $100,000 was a lot of money. But as times changed and the dollar was inflated, the $100,000 became diminimous. Interestingly enough at that same time, the Port of Oakland was being run like a business. When it wrote leases, it retained a % of the profit. Something any good business would do now. We could not rewrite the lease, though we wanted to. So we formed a commission of business/real estate persons to bring Alameda up to date.

    Which makes me ask "Why would Alameda sell/give away any of its remaining assests without inserting a profit sharing mechanism?" Why can't we hire a developer who is willing to let Alameda share in the profits? If no developer will do that, then heck, let's just do it ourselves. We have very competent staff, engineers, planners, finance persons, and managers. And any one we lack can surely be made up from our own residents. At least that way, a share of any profits, stays here. I am not trying to discourage newcomers or outsiders, only those that want to make money here, and take it away, leaving Alamedans making do with whatever is left.

  • Barbara Thomas says:

    It would be better to ask that question of the Mayoral candidates than someone who has been out of office for over 15 years. To me Bayport is all SFDs in fee simple absolute.

  • Lauren Do says:

    Hi Michele: I'm not a Mayoral candidate nor a former City Councilmember, but yes, there is a profit sharing agreement on Bayport. It's referenced in this recent report.

    Also in the ENA with SunCal there is clause about a profit participation agreement, but that was to be negotiated in the Disposition and Development Agreement. Michael Krueger references it here.

  • Michael Krueger says:

    There were no boxes on the ballot to say, I loved the project, but hated SUNCAL, it was just YES or NO.


    The defeat of Measure B does not prove that 85% of the voters hate the plan for Alameda Point. It does not even prove that 85% of the voters hate SunCal. All it proves is that 85% of the voters rejected this particular combination of plan, Measure A modification, and development agreement, taken as a whole. This is an indisputable fact. Absent some kind of scientific exit polling, anything else is speculation. That doesn’t mean that we can’t speculate or that speculation isn’t sometimes useful, but we ought to distinguish speculation from fact.

  • Jack B. says:

    Michael, since we can't separate the wood from the screw (or should I say wood from the screwjob) I think it's safe to say that a strong majority of voters says NO to Suncal.

  • Michael Krueger says:

    Well, you're free to think what you like, but the election results don't prove your point. The overwhelming majority of those who voted on February 2, 2010, said "no" to this particular combination of development agreement, city charter modification, and plan. That's what the election proved. Also, it's worth noting that 62% of the voters sat this election out. The results don't tell us anything about what they were thinking.

    I don't doubt that some people voted "no" because they don't like SunCal, and I don't doubt that some of those who didn't vote also don't like SunCal; however, unless you have a poll you can cite, how can you be so sure that these people are the "strong majority"? Anecdotal evidence? Gut feeling?

  • Jack B. says:

    The people who chose to sit out the election don't count. That was their choice.

    Election Results for Measure B

    NO 13,797 – 85.39%

    YES 2,361 – 14.61%

    The simple math above tells us plenty. If the NO votes were 95%, would you still be arguing that the voters don't necessarily not want Suncal around? 100%?

  • Michael Krueger says:

    Look, you don't have to re-post the election results here; I know what they were, as does any Alamedan who hasn't been living under a rock for the past week. And by definition, the people who didn't vote don't count in the context of this particular election…no argument there.

    However, if you're trying to make general statements about how Alameda voters as a whole feel about a given issue, then those who didn't vote in a particular election do matter. More importantly, the text of Measure B did not read, "Do you want SunCal around?" This was a complex ballot measure, not a simple referendum on SunCal. Even if the result had been 100% "no," that's not proof that the voters don't want SunCal around. Similarly, if the result had been 100% "yes," it wouldn't be proof that the voters do want SunCal around.

    I don't object to your argument that the voters don't like SunCal, but I do object to your attempt to give it a phony air of mathematical certainty based on the election results.

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