With the clock ticking, SunCal races to repair image
A long, loud buzzer sounds, and Jim Daisa waits for it to pass. The traffic engineer and urban transportation planner is attempting to lay out the basics of SunCal’s transportation plan for its proposed development at Alameda Point for the dozen or so people who showed up for a meeting in Bladium’s upstairs bar on Wednesday, and even with a microphone, he’s struggling to be heard above the din of the soccer, basketball and hockey contests below.
The get-together is part of a broader outreach campaign the developer has launched in recent weeks to rebuild support for their ambitious Point development plan as the time they have to strike a deal with the city to move forward on the plan runs out.
Even supporters of SunCal’s plan for the Point were turned off by the business proposition and other terms that were laid out in the developer’s Measure B, and they responded by resoundingly rejecting it at the polls. Opponents of the plan have used the results to justify increasingly loud calls for the developer to leave town, and city leaders – who have been vocal about their issues with SunCal – appear poised to consider their demand.
So the developer has gone on the offensive, fighting to keep their plan for the Point alive by working to build support outside of City Hall. They’ve got until July 20, the day their exclusive agreement to strike a development deal with the city, runs out. SunCal wants to build 4,845 units of housing, 4.57 million square feet of commercial and civic space and 146 acres of parks at the former Naval base.
City staff have asked the City Council to decide before then whether they want SunCal to stay, and if so, to extend their negotiating pact. SunCal has said they want to continue to work on the Point, but it’s not clear they will have the support on the council to do so. So they are asking the public to weigh in, in their favor.
At Bladium, SunCal forward planner Nick Kosla casually offers his audience the company’s take on the election results: Voters hated Measure B’s business terms and the end-run it would have done around the city’s planning process – but they love SunCal’s plan.
SunCal’s reps announced in mid-March that they had signed a project labor agreement with unions that had contributed thousands of dollars in campaign cash to defeat Measure B. And this week, the developer cut a $20,000 check to proponents of the Measure E school parcel tax – which moved Mayor Beverly Johnson, who dropped support for Measure B midstream and has been a vocal opponent of SunCal since, to speak SunCal’s praises at a press conference announcing the gift.
They also set up a website and blog to tell their side of the story on the continuing process around the Point and to take community feedback directly on their plan. And there have been advertisements bearing slogans like “Do something, Alameda” and the community meetings.
The developer’s reps even admitted they may have mishandled the election, which they began working to distance themselves from days before the polls opened. SunCal Chief Operating Officer Frank Faye told a crowd of union members in mid-May that the company “may not have touched on all the bases that we should have” as they brought their Point plan to a vote.
Back at Bladium, Daisa explains how new ferry service, high-tech buses in dedicated travel lanes and pedestrian-friendly, high-density neighborhoods will equal less traffic through the Posey Tube than a traditional, single family home subdivision. A ring of easels bearing poster-sized renderings of the transportation options he’s discussing underscore his point. Tables with food, Alameda Point swag and a petition to move forward on the Point development sit at the back of the bar.
Attendees politely ask where the money for the transportation improvements will come from and how the developers plan to handle traffic generated by Point residents who don’t take public transit.
Fortunately for Daisa, the game buzzer downstairs holds off long enough for him to offer his answers.