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SunCal to pursue Plan A from Measure B

Submitted by on 1, April 6, 2010 – 5:00 am8 Comments

Representatives from SunCal have told city officials that they intend to negotiate for the right to use a state affordable-housing law to implement the developer’s original plan for Alameda Point – a move that could allow the developer to build its non-Measure A compliant plan without taking it back to voters.

“Alameda staff met with SunCal to continue discussion items from March 25th. SunCal indicated it intends to negotiate a … provision that provides the Master Developer an option to apply for a density bonus that will permit the land uses, units, and density similar to the Calthorpe Plan contained in Measure B,” city staff wrote in an update on SunCal activity for the City Council meeting tonight.

The “Calthorpe Plan” is the Peter Calthorpe-designed development for the Point that included 4,841 housing units, many of them in multifamily buildings. Multifamily buildings, with some very limited exceptions, are prohibited by Measure A.

SunCal’s representatives said they intend to send a letter to the city outlining their intent. The developer’s representatives have intimated that they’d like to use the density bonus to develop the Point, but they have not yet said how they would seek to use it. (They mentioned the meeting in their new running blog, but didn’t lay out those specifics.)

State law allows developers to seek breaks from city building rules like building heights and setbacks in exchange for building affordable housing. Alameda’s just passed density bonus ordinance (it covers the city’s commercial areas; the one regulating residential areas is still in progress) would also give developers the right to apply for a pass on Measure A if they can prove their project wouldn’t pencil out otherwise.

SunCal’s new plan would include 3,712 housing units. Under the density bonus rules, the developer could get permission to build up to 35 percent more housing, depending on how much “affordable” housing they build.

SunCal exercised its legal option to submit its development plan directly to the city about two weeks before voters turned down their development plan and a related business agreement at the polls. But city staff said the plan didn’t comply with the terms of SunCal’s negotiating agreement with the city, and they gave the developer 30 business days to fix the problem or risk being in default of their negotiating agreement.

The developer submitted a Measure A-compliant plan on March 22, about a half hour before the deadline was to expire. But they said they still want to build their original plan.

City staff wrote in their summary to council that they are checking to see if the plan complies with the terms of SunCal’s negotiating agreement. They said they hope to wrap that up by the end of this month.

Separately, Reuters has reported that Westland Development Company, the SunCal and D.E. Shaw-owned company that was to build on tens of thousands of acres in Albuquerque, N.M., has filed for bankruptcy.

The company told Reuters it filed for bankruptcy to avoid the uncertainty associated with litigation filed by lenders, who sued when $181.5 million in loans to Westland matured.

Also on the council’s agenda: Negotiations between the firefighters union and city management for a new firefighters contract continue. The existing contract lapsed in January.

The council is set tonight to consider approving an agreement to darken the department’s assistant fire marshal and fire protection engineer positions. Instead, the city would allow six firefighters to train to become fire investigators, and it would be allowed to contract out the fire protection engineer position. In exchange, the firefighters union would agree to withdraw its grievances regarding the city’s failure to fill the assistant marshal position, and it would also agree not to sue.

Oh, and Councilman Frank Matarrese has asked his fellow dais-mates to begin a process to revitalize Webster Street.

Relevant documents on this and more are here and here.


  • Alan says:

    Let’s see, the voters rejected the SunCal plan and like Dracula: THERE BACK!

    I’m no expert but it would seem the last thing we need now are more houses either in Alameda or in the nation at large. I can’t imagine how SunCal intends to make money on this deal without somehow, some way dipping into the tax payers’ pockets. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

    Even if SunCal could turn an honest market based profit, the issues of increased traffic and population density remain. A lot of people have moved here because Alameda maintained some semblance of a small town atmosphere. Although diminished by recent residential development and chain stores filling the malls, there is just enough of that atmosphere left to be worth protecting.

  • Kathy says:

    Just heard that Alameda officials are planning another trip to the El Toro Marine Base, now the “Great Park,” to see how a City can develop an old marine base.

    I hope they’re also planning for a financial backer, and not counting on taxpayers money to buy the land.

  • Richard Bangert says:

    Wrong metaphor. Like Zoltar, they are back.

  • Alan says:


    The linked content is hilarious and informative. The beneficence of the alien overlords is heartwarming. So different from the likes of, let’s say Goldman Sachs, which has been described as a “vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity”. Or, are they indeed so different?

  • Barbara Thomas says:

    I hope they are NOT planning for a financial backer. Especially the vampire squid type. Such as SUNCAL and DESHAW. Once the vampire squid et. al. abandon all hope of sucking Alameda dry to the bone, our elected officials owe it to the people to get the land returned for the price the Navy originally paid. And they need to get on their horses and get to Sacramento to speak with our state representatives. Requiring Alameda to subject itself to density bonuses when there is absolutely no similarity between Alameda and the rest of the state to traffic access is absurd. It shows a complete lack of communication and understanding. Alameda is subject to the traffic controls of Oakland for every single vehicle, car, bus, taxi, bicycle that travels off the island. If Oakland, for example, Chinatown, sues Alameda to block increased congestion, what is Sacramento going to do? Are the newcomers to SUNCAL’s proposed homes and millions of square feet of commercial space going to be happy to sit in traffic for 45 minutes to get through the tube and onto the freeway? What will that do to the air quality on both sides?

    The linked content is wonderful.

  • dlm says:

    I finally watched the City Manager’s presentation on SunCal negotiations –well, at least some of the discussion, tho on the whole I’m left wondering what happened w/ the default. The notice of default stated that SunCal failed to provide a “base” plan for its proposed development — and it still hasn’t provided a base plan for the current plan — which means, a Measure A compliant plan that illustrates how the proposed 3,700 homes would be laid out on the site, BEFORE the density bonus is applied. By skipping this step, SunCal can re-configure the hypothetical MA-compliant plan and go directly to its desired final plan without explaining how it got there.

    I’m speculating that SunCal is either in default on the “current” Plan B, or has never cured the default on the first Plan B (and I wonder how many more “XYZ” plans we’ll go thru with the ongoing, endless run-around that SunCal has put the city thru — why are we doing this?).

    I’m also speculating that SunCal’s current strategy is to present some sort of generic “home” which it could hypothetically build on every square inch of the residential districts without regard to contamination, then translate that into the final plan with the density bonus factored in. See for example the “zero lot line single family home” that appears in the current Master Plan. A “zero lot line SFH” is a new concept to me, I have to say. These homes are supposed to be 3 stories high (in part) and completely COVER a 2,000 sf lot. Doesn’t that seem a bit odd???

    Here’s the link for the Master Plan — see p. 98 of the pdf — strange how these SFH’s so closely resemble townhomes…

  • Richard Bangert says:


    The Interim City Manager said that a staff report on SunCal’s latest submission will be forthcoming by the end of the month. We will then learn whether this current submission is a) workable, and b) desirable. The ENA does not in any way guarantee to either party that a deal will be signed. APCP walked away because it didn’t work for them. We can walk away if it doesn’t work for us.

    It would be instructive to learn of another development of this size that was entitled from the beginning with a density bonus overlay. I have always been under the impression that the density bonus was geared for smaller infill projects like, say, the Boatworks or the Del Monte building. Remember, SunCal is not going to be building the homes. They need to sell the land with its entitlements to a builder who will do that. From the standpoint of knowing where we are going and what we will end up with, I would say that this is even worse that Measure B. Where it’s going to end up, if it goes forward, is to make a mockery of the EIR process. We already had an EIR 11 years ago that said 1,800 homes was about right.

    P.S. on that link in dlm’s post: I gave up on waiting for it to load.

  • dlm says:

    Hi Richard — thanks for mentioning the staff report.

    The density bonus can be used on any project, if the developer offers to build “x” amount of affordable housing units. The size of the density bonus depends on the number of affordable units, but it allows as much as 35% additional units, so roughly doing the math (3700 x .35) that totals ~5,000 units in all. So we voted down Measure B and here’s SunCal, still with us and oblivious to our concerns. And you’re right, the exact number of housing units depends on each builder, the Master Plan just makes the option available.

    The link for the Master Plan is slow — it’s a big file. Just give it some time — it’s worth getting a look at the “zero lot line SFHs”.

    And incidentally, I think the Boatworks project factored in the density bonus — the number of units allowed is being contested, but — in any event — they’re definitely using the density bonus.


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