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Measure B: We asked, you answered

Submitted by on 1, March 1, 2010 – 6:00 am5 Comments

In the wake of Measure B’s February 2 defeat at the polls and widespread speculation about the reasons for its defeat, we here at The Island decided to ask people what they didn’t like about SunCal’s Alameda Point redevelopment initiative. A hundred and eighteen of you answered our (totally non-scientific) poll, and here’s what you said:

Fifty-eight percent of you said you didn’t like the business plan that was included in the ballot measure, while 54 percent said you thought the development shouldn’t have been on the ballot to begin with, but should go through traditional city channels. Another 44 percent said you don’t like SunCal, while 40 percent said they didn’t like the land plan SunCal had sketched out for the Point (though one commenter voiced a concern that this description might not be clear enough to potential poll-takers).

Twenty-three percent said they had other reasons for voting against Measure B. (The numbers exceed 100 percent because people were allowed to check off more than one answer.)

You all engaged in a pretty lively discussion about why you said no to Measure B – and what you think we ought to do next. I think dlm summarized concerns you expressed about the measure here:

1) SunCal and Shaw were obviously out to rip off the city — the language and terms of the initiative were clearly intended to mislead the public, and were grossly overreaching as well.

2) SunCal and Shaw weren’t looking for a “partnership” with the city — they were looking to push aside the locals and take over the site. SunCal’s very precarious financial condition makes it a high risk, and makes its real motives very questionable.

3) The project was obviously too large for the island, if it were built as shown. The traffic in particular would be a disaster.

4) The site is very vulnerable to sea level rise and earthquake damage and is not at all a suitable place for a large development. It is not remotely a “sustainable” site.

Meanwhile Jon Spangler, who has been a proponent of the plan and the ballot measure, said that he shared the misgivings that many expressed about the measure but that he thought they could be remedied. Spangler said:

I voted yes on Measure B, despite misgivings about the development agreement and the lack of “normal” city review process that the initiative contained. I like Peter Calthorpe’s plan and found that I liked (and could trust) SunCal personnel to be truthful and to have integrity, despite the emotional claims to the contrary.

I supported B because I saw the opportunity to remedy the problems with the (development agreement’s) financials and the approvals processes via the (disposition and development agreement) and other subsequent contractual steps. Clearly, most of my fellow voters disagreed with my assessment, but I want to make it clear that supporters of Measure B and SunCal did, indeed, see the same problems with the initiative as opponents did. We just chose a different way to solve the problem, i.e., not throwing out the proverbial baby with the bath water.

Scott said the SunCal bashing was “well deserved,” but he and a number of other readers said that now that the election’s over, we need to talk about how we might solve the paradox that is the Point. Richard Bangert said:

The (Alameda Point Community Partners/Preliminary Development Concept) deal turned out to be infeasible. The SunCal/Measure B deal turned out to be unacceptable. It looks like in order to arrive at something that is both feasible and acceptable we will have to entertain new options.

(On a side note, Bangert mentioned the city’s pending acceptance of federal funds to explore some of the transit options proponents of SunCal’s plans have talked about.)

Readers offered a variety of responses regarding what they’d like to see happen next. Karen Bey said she likes SunCal’s plan for the most part and that she wants to see a urban project built at the Point, which she said “has great views and is across the (B)ay from some of the most expensive real estate in the country.” And Kevin said he’s not against houses and parks, but he wants more than one company to have a shot at developing a third of the Island.

Dennis Green said he thinks the Point should be modeled after the Presidio in San Francisco, “with as much open space parkland as possible, and some light industry/high tech to support it.” Green said he thinks the development wouldn’t necessarily have to be done by one developer, but could be done in concert with the Navy.

Bill said “we need is to get over our fear of ‘out of town suits’ and get some new businesses on Alameda Point. The only way we can maintain an affordable lifestyle here in Alameda is to build our tax base,” he wrote.

“I don’t know about you, but I’d rather AUSD and the City get their tax dollars from gross receipts taxes than my paycheck,” Bill said.

So what happens next? The city has issued a notice to SunCal saying they’re in default of the exclusive negotiating agreement they hold to ink a development deal for the Point, and as of late last week, SunCal had not yet corrected the default and the city hadn’t rescinded the notice. Barring the notice being rescinded, the deadline for SunCal to correct the default by submitting a Measure A-compliant plan is March 22.

Meanwhile, members of the City Council have indicated they may seek a different plan for the Point than what SunCal laid out. Mayor Beverly Johnson told The Island earlier this month that she doesn’t think a non-Measure A compliant plan will work at the Point, while Vice Mayor Doug deHaan and Councilman Frank Matarrese said they’d like to see a bigger focus on commercial development there.

Councilwoman Marie Gilmore said she thinks any new development may need to have less housing than SunCal asked for but more than Measure A allows.

We’ll keep you posted on all the developments as they happened, so as we always say … stay tuned.

5 Comments »

  • Jon Spangler says:

    Alameda has been wrestling with how (or perhaps whether?) to redevelop Alameda Point for well over a decade, and we may be running out of time and cooperation from the Navy to be able to control our own destiny at AP as much as most of us–opponents and proponents of Measure B–want to. We need to find ways to come (back) together and discuss what we want and can agree to at the former base.

    I believe that Marie Gilmore may be right, but would rather start with SunCal’s excellent blueprint by Peter Calthorpe than any other previously suggested model.

    Transportation (and traffic congestion in particular) is often mentioned as the “big problem” with development at the point. But here is a critical fact to consider: our transportation habits have changed drastically–and mostly for the better–over the past 20 – 25 years. And transportation patterns will probably keep changing in coming decades–towards greater transit use, more cycling and walking, and more carpooling as well as other “greener” options.

    Our transportation and vehicle use patterns will also be very different from 2009’s (AKA the city’s transportation study) by the time build-out is completed in 15-25 years, due to the constraints of global warming and fuel economics. so I am suer that traffic congestion will not be as bad as it has been forecast to be by last year’s study.

    Let’s hope that sound planning principles and accurate information will be the basis of any renewed conversations we have about the future of Alameda Point.

  • Barbara Thomas says:

    I think the best way to get us “to come (back) together and discuss what we want and can agree to at the former base” would start with a big bonfire with all SUNCAL’s, & Peter Calthorpe’s plans tossed in. The ENA will end (if not terminated due to breach) at about the same time as the traditional 4th of July celebration. We can start by tasting wine from Rosenblums and Rockwall with everyone bringing a dish to share. We can all watch the fire, then the fireworks and contemplate what it will be like to take 25 minutes to get through the tube to 80 before deciding if we want to do anything at all at the base. Maybe we will decide to leave it for our children or grandchildren to decide if we really need anything out there after all. Because more than 85% of the voters said that what was planned out there after years of this City Council’s and Suncal’s efforts just wasn’t worth it.

  • techies says:

    About Suncal’s current financial status, read this small mention of a problem:
    http://www.cfo.com/article.cfm/14476814/c_14477052

    Would you want to do business with someone who has questionable finances?
    Would you want to do business with someone who writes the contract in their favor
    while leaving you more liable if things go bad?

    Given:
    1. Suncal’s revised plan wasn’t changed to the required parameters of measure A.
    2. No site survey report of environmental and traffic reports prior to planning.
    3. 85% of the voters had already voted No based on the given information prior to the vote.

    The future point should have a little of everything that suites the needs of the majority of the citizens of Alameda. Making it just a park doesn’t cut it.

    Lets move on.

  • Dave Kirwin says:

    The problem with the proposed development at the Point is that we are an island. For the type of change in transportation habits mentioned above to occur, Alameda needs the kind of employers on the island that can provide jobs that can support Alameda homeowners, not retail jobs unless homes are real cheap. (they are not)

    The shear volume of homes that was proposed was not going to make the homes cheap enough without the right type of employers.

    The whole intent and focus on the fed’s push for base reuse was designed to provide industry and employment to replace the jobs being lost by base closure. Alameda consistently went in a different direction allowing development plans to focus on home building which neighborhood protectionists surmised would create a traffic nightmare, putting heavy traffic on all of Alameda’s neighborhood roads and clog the tunnel and bridges.
    Seems we need to provide the employers before new homes.

  • ct says:

    Ms Thomas,

    According to the poll results listed above, 40 percent of the 85 percent of those who voted against Measure B did not like the land plan.

    “techies”,

    The only reference to SunCal in the link you provided is “When the fortunes of SunCal Cos. began to head south … .” Most, if not all, real estate developers experienced a downturn during the financial upheaval of the past couple of years, so to single out SunCal and portray their financial troubles as “questionable finances” is probably inaccurate and definitely unfair.

    The City Council should have sought a Measure A exemption for development at Alameda Point; instead, they sat back and let SunCal handle the issue, “[acting] surprised when the for-profit developer larded a development agreement onto the ballot that would basically cover their own butts, at a potentially steep cost to the city,” says Michele Ellson in her forthright editorial “What’s the Point?”. If the civil servants in City Hall had done their jobs, much of this public hand-wringing could have been avoided.

    Mr Kirwin,

    Given the business-unfriendly atmosphere that hangs over the island (especially for businesses profitable enough to “provide jobs that can support Alameda homeowners”), it looks like hope for a revitalized Alameda Point has been extinguished.

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