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On Point: Bonanza!

Submitted by on 1, April 14, 2010 – 5:00 am2 Comments

If you’re a SunCal/Alameda Point junkie (like me), this latest rush to release information about the project is a real bonanza. Both the city and SunCal have said they want an open, transparent process for negotiating a deal to develop the Point, and over the course of the last month or so, each has steadily upped the ante in the disclosure sweepstakes.

The City Council voted in February to ask SunCal to sunshine negotiations and release once confidential documents, and SunCal came back a month later with a pledge to do just that. A week or so later, SunCal set up a blog with some bare-bones accounts of negotiating sessions with the city and a website with a growing trove of documents, both public and formerly confidential.

“We have been in the process of posting previously confidential documents that have been used in the planning process and added several more today. We hope to have all documents up this week,” SunCal spokesman Joe Aguirre said in response to questions from The Island regarding disclosures. He said everything but the D.E. Shaw financing agreement and the company’s underwriting model is now public (though the information used to create the underwriting model, he said, is on the website).

Last week, city officials asked SunCal to let them know what they could release, and what would remain confidential (Faye responded with an e-mail on Tuesday). In a letter to SunCal’s chief operating officer, Frank Faye, Interim City Manager Ann Marie Gallant also asked SunCal to:

(I)mmediately disclose all documentation identifying its lobbying and third-party consultant expenses. This disclosure, which is of great interest to the community, should include identification of any and all persons, business entities or community non-profits that have received payments or other compensation, including ” in-kind services” from SunCal and its financial partner, D.E. Shaw, and any of its affiliates, including the amounts received by each in connection with Measure B or any other aspect of SunCal’s efforts to develop Alameda Point. To the extent that any of these payments constitute consideration for third-party consultant work performed, the City requests that SunCal disclose copies of the relevant contract, specifying the scope of work performed.

City officials confirmed back in January that they had a list of people and organizations that had received consulting fees from SunCal, but they declined to release it when The Island requested it because, they said, SunCal had deemed it confidential information.

But SunCal said the list is public, and they gave The Island a list laying out local organizations and others who received payments as part of the company’s “community outreach” on Measure B, along with a broad initiative cost breakdown, payments to the city and predevelopment costs. (The list, which doesn’t include specific payment amounts, is below.)

The formerly confidential documents SunCal has released have some interesting little revelations in them regarding the finances of the project. For instance, a just-added document laying out cash flow assumptions for a Measure A-compliant plan (before any potential addition of any density bonus units) shows the developer generating less profits than originally envisioned under their negotiating agreement with the city (the Point would cost about $1.3 billion to build, and generate $1.55 billion in net sales proceeds). But it also lays out an expectation of more tax increment revenue than originally anticipated ($212.5 million versus the city’s ceiling of $184 million) and public benefit costs that, at $252.9 million, would be less than the city estimated but would exceed the $200 million cap on what SunCal would have to generate to pay for them.

It’s delightful, it’s delovely, it’s DNAPL: The University at Florida and Purdue University have obtained a Department of Defense grant to study methods of cleaning up dense non-aqueous phase liquids – a class of contaminants that includes solvents, for one – out at Alameda Point. The work was set to begin this month at a cleanup site southeast of the Atlantic Avenue entrance and continue through September.

The project is one of many efforts undertaken at the Point and at other Navy bases around the Bay Area to try to figure out how to more cheaply and effectively clean up such contaminants in groundwater, which is apparently a huge problem for the federal government. Here’s what they’re doing:

This project will develop source-strength functions, using existing historical site data supplemented with limited flux- and core-based sampling, for site management purposes. Based on “a priori” characterization of the source zone architecture, researchers also will extend the ability to predict DNAPL source depletion through dissolution to the field-scale. Additionally, this project will characterize near-source plume response to source-mass depletion to provide the understanding needed to predict long-term plume responses and to link characterization of the nearsource, short-term responses to likely long-term behavior of the dissolved plume. The knowledge gained from the field site data and experiments will be synthesized to provide guidance on the recommended level of source zone characterization needed to adequately predict source-strength functions and plume response.

If you can translate, feel free to leave a comment below. Please.

Incidentally, the Navy is working out a date to offer a public presentation on all its cleanup efforts at the Point. They’ve set a tentative date of May 6 out at the Mastick Senior Center, but Derek Robinson, the Navy’s point person for the Point, said that could change. Stay tuned for the final details.


  • Richard Bangert says:

    “If you can translate, feel free to leave a comment below. Please.”

    The short answer on the DNAPL contamination project you report on is that cleanup administrators are not certain about the effectiveness of current treatment. For example, has the remediation effort actually remediated the contaminant, or has it just displaced it or pushed it somewhere else. They know that what they are doing works in regard to DNAPL, but not how well it works.

    If I understand the project correctly, the end product will be better monitoring of remediation work, which in turn will inform them as to whether they should “juice up” the operation.

    If you run out of reading material, there is always this report on the subject :) http://www.serdp.org/Research/upload/DNAPLWorkshopReport.pdf

  • Diane says:

    Thanks Michele for your keeping us informed and for your clear analyses.

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