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ALAMEDA POINT: Where do we go from here?

Submitted by on 1, July 26, 2010 – 5:00 am20 Comments

Last Tuesday, the Alameda City Council voted to effectively fire SunCal as master developer for Alameda Point. So where do we go from here?

City Councilman Frank Matarrese is asking his dais-mates on Tuesday to consider forming a nonprofit development corporation to manage the redevelopment of the Point with a focus on commercial development there; others are calling for a fresh, public process to determine what Alamedans want to see on the former Naval Air Station.

The Island wants to know what you think. What would you like to see out there? Housing, parks, light industry? What are key elements of any plan to develop the base? What’s doable, and what’s pie-in-the-sky? Should Alameda try to do this on its own, or should city leaders seek out another developer to manage redevelopment of the base? Or should we do something else entirely?

Drop us a line in the comments section to let us know what you think sometime over the next few days. We’ll post a story next week.


  • pat kennedy says:

    I am an investor and have hired many developers over time. The key question is not what should go on this land (that is for the pro’s – there are many unfamiliar technical requirements) but rather what does the city want? If you want jobs, you have to create a place that others will locate primary jobs as these will eventually support service jobs. If you need more money for city servcies, you have to create a place that will entice investors to build things that pay taxes from hotels (transit tax) to shopping (sales tax). If you wnat housing, it needs to be upscale, high density, low cost housing is a negative on the tax rolls — and so on.

    pat kennedy

  • Dave Latham says:

    Whatever is done with the space must come up with a transportation plan that doesn’t completely clog the tubes on the west end. They’re bad enough as it is. Putting a bunch more people there with little or no compensating transportation is a bad idea.

  • Mike P. says:

    VA/teaching hospital, low-rise hotels, marinas, bay trail extensions, campgrounds with cabins (as an addition to the businesses/housing already there)

  • Adam Gillitt says:

    As I said when I spoke at City Council and posted on my campaign site,

    I think that the land now referred to as Alameda Point could be put to better use to support this city in its current state through generating taxes and jobs via use by light industry, commercial, manufacturing, green/bio and internet technology and entertainment industries and keep people in Alameda. Or we can take the time to find someone better suited to our needs to develop the land.

    I have several creative ideas how that can be done by reusing the land in its current state, including bringing in new technologies, new businesses, and new people to work with to use the land. Alameda already has close to 1000 houses for rent or sale right now on the market, and many thousands of square feet of commercial space available. We do not have the infrastructure to support transportation on and off the island to handle ANY major new development.

    Furthermore, what Alameda has, is a wonderful charm from a mix of buildings from different eras. We don’t need to be the most modern looking city in the Bay Area, let some other city take on that problem. We need to use what we have, creatively and intelligently, to work FOR Alameda, not against us, to lead us into the future and generate the tax revenues this City needs to succeed.

  • Richard Bangert says:

    Capitalize on the strengths – marine/water access and existing buildings. This promotional video for the first master developer does that – “We capitalize on the existing structures by adaptively reusing them.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oi1O51NVVUI

    Best aerial view for visualizing what’s there and what the possibilities are is in the 2009 Transportation Strategy, on the second page http://www.alameda-point.com/pdf/presos/ts12-19-08.pdf

    “What are key elements of any plan to develop the base?” asks Michele. A financial plan. A key element is up front money in the form of loans or stimulus grants to jumpstart the basic upgrades, or selling a parcel to bring in cash. That would also include a conveyance agreement in which Alameda pays the Navy out of future proceeds, but nothing up front. Saving up lease money for five years so we can improve infrastructure in order to get more tenants does not sound especially promising given the upgrades that are necessary. That was more or less the concept in the 1997 Business Plan submitted to the Navy, a plan that was soon shelved in favor of a master developer. And now we have the added expense of dealing with sea level rise.

    But after ten years of hoping a master developer would pull off a massive redevelopment, it’s worth pausing to evaluate the local development corporation option.

  • Jon Spangler says:

    I remain convinced that Peter Calthorpe’s plan for AP (or something very similar to it) offers the best opportunities for
    historic preservation and reuse, minimal congestion in and around Alameda, meeting housing needs, and appropriately repurposing the former NAS Alameda.

    The lower-intensity development and the David Howard/Action Alameda plan that Adam Gillitt mentions above have real drawbacks:

    1) it recreates the same traffic problems that ANAS generated, with employees commuting into Alameda for jobs but not living here,

    2) it does not contribute substantially to Alameda’s tax base, stability, and economy the way multiple-use/residential development would, and

    3) it probably would not be able to support the extensive new infrastructure and the continuing (above-ground or to cleaner-than-commercial standards below-ground) cleanup, nor the added transit developments that are our best hope for reducing congestion island-wide.

    Properly implemented, the transportation strategies developed by Jim Daisa for Suncal would take care of most of the congestion that redeveloping AP according to the Calthorpe plan would generate. Add in an effective cross-estuary shuttle, water taxi, or a bike-ped drawbridge and the net added congestion becomes almost zero. (And that projection is based on maintaining our current driving patterns, which are unsustainable in any case for other reasons such as global warming and the increasing cost of gas.)

    I would welcome the opportunity to renovate and reuse a greater proportion of the ANAS’ historic buildings than the Calthorpe plan envisions if that proves to be economically feasible, but such preservation efforts cost big bucks, which a lower-intensity development scheme does not generate.

    I am also extremely skeptical that the federal government will want anything to do with underwriting a $1-2 billion
    redevelopment effort at AP. especially if such a plan depends on the demonstrated inadequate expertise and leadership currently available from elected or appointed officials. And we sure as shootin’ do not have any money to risk on underwriting the $700 million in new infrastructure estimated to be required.

    In other words I am extremely dubious of the efficacy of the “home-grown” redevelopment plans I have seen do far
    and i do not expect us to get very far barking up those spindly trees.

  • Adam Gillitt says:

    Jon Spangler-

    David Howard / Action Alameda News and I have no affiliation whatsoever other than he reports on news in Alameda and has interviewed me.

    I am unaffiliated with any political group, person, machine, company, entity, or perspective other than my own.

    Who do you represent?

  • Karen Bey says:

    I like many aspects of the Peter Calthorpe plan, but I would like to see an organic farm and a strong commitment to our wineries. The master plan in my opinion must include a plan to retain and attract new wineries to the Island.

    My vision has always had more open space than the Calthorpe plan, with high end hotels and upscale condo’s clustered around the waterfront. The views at Alameda Point are spectacular.

    I’m interested in hearing more about the non-profit structure for development of the Point, but I believe this site poses many challenges and Alameda Point will require a qualified master developer with a proven record of success.

  • Edmundo Delmundo says:

    Good Morning! It’s Ground Hog’s Day…

  • Scott says:

    It does feel like it is 1996 all over again Edmundo. We need to start making some progress on the point. Doing nothing is no longer an option.

  • Scott, “doing nothing” appears to be our only option. Especially now that we are starting to head down the road of bringing up “new” ideas that have been studied to death and found to be infeasible.

    As an example: Adam Gillit talk’s about 1000’s of houses for sale right now, but then ignores the MILLIONS of unbuilt commercial land in the city, not to mention the extremely high commercial vacancy rate. The idea that a no/low-housing plan with commercial/light-industrial is going to work seems to fall down on the face of it. (It’s not just Mr. Gillit proposing such things).

    Our city council has studiously avoided difficult decisions and getting involved in the planning of Alameda Point, why a non-profit development agency run by the City would all of a sudden change that is beyond me. It sounds great, but we have years of history to point at the problems that which quickly arise in a case of electeds trying to build at the base. Lots of pie-in-the-sky ideas that sound great in soundbytes.

    As to the Non-profit idea, where’s the money coming from? Councilmember Matarrese’s concerns during the Measure B debate, was that there would be no tax-increment in the future, and that the project could not rely on such funding sources. So who pays?

  • Adam Gillitt says:

    Speaking of “political vendetta(s) by a waning politician,” John Knox White, please do not go around misrepresenting my positions.

    Also, I am not going to ask you again to show me the respect to spell my name correctly. You have made it clear which concerns you represent, and who owns your vote. My opinions are mine and mine alone.

  • Richard Bangert says:

    While the reuse mechanism and site makeup are being sorted out, can we please revisit the no-cost conveyance? Removing the up front $108 million price tag can effect what we do in a big way.

    As for whether this is possible, below are excerpts from a March 2009 report by the Congressional Research Service that prepares reports for members and committees of Congress. It says that while fair market value is the current goal in base disposal, a local reuse authority CAN receive decommissioned military property if “proceeds from any sale or lease of the property … during at least the first seven years … [following transfer] shall be used to support economic redevelopment…. ”

    The authorized uses to support economic redevelopment are:
    Road construction; Transportation management facilities; Storm and sanitary sewer construction; Police and fire protection facilities and other public facilities; Utility construction; Building rehabilitation; Historic property preservation; Pollution prevention equipment or facilities; Demolition; Disposal of hazardous materials generated by demolition; Landscaping, grading, and other site or public improvements; and Planning for or the marketing of the development and reuse of the installation.


  • Richard Bangert says:

    Informative background reading in a staff report on the demise of Alameda Point Community Partners and the failure of the short-lived partnership of Lennar and Catellus prior to selecting SunCal. Note the financing concerns.


  • Richard Bangert says:

    One area that has not been studied to death is the Northwest Territories. My suggestion is for the city to convene a series of workshops involving all interested environmental groups and all relevant public agencies in order to come up with workable ideas for this public trust land. Before spending money on consultants or handing this land over to a new developer, lets get some free advice.

    Wetlands creation is one option, and would complement any work being done in the mixed-use area. Why? Because a lot of fill needs to be brought in for development to occur in the mixed-use area. There is plenty of clean soil in the Northwest Territories.

    The golf course idea did not pan out. Neither did giving SunCal three years to come up with workable plans. Their last submission to the city had the solar farm taking up, presumably (since no acreage number was given), the entire 200+ acres. Yet this idea has never been vetted by our public utilities board, nor has any solar developer ever come forward to say this is a viable idea for the Bay Area. As far as I can tell, there are no solar farms north of Modesto. Mostly they go on Bureau of Land Management land that is cheap and is in areas with place names like Furnace Creek, not in coastal areas with a radio station called KFOG. The solar farm idea, by the way, was mentioned as an option during the master plan formation only if residential reached the 6,000 level. I’d love to see a solar farm at Alameda Point, but so far the only solar idea that seems viable for Alameda Point is to place solar on top of buildings.

  • William Smith says:

    I propose that we continue to focus on implementing the Alameda Point Vision (http://www.alamedapointvision.org/) that is linked to this website. The Alameda Point Vision continues to be supported by a large segment of the Alameda community, the Sierra Club, Greenbelt Alliance, many labor unions, Renewed Hope and other housing organizations.

    The land use plan included by SunCal in Measure B and in the Modified Enhanced Entitlement Application (with the density bonus) is a plan that could be adapted with community input to realize that vision. I will continue to work to properly implement that plan (Measure B would likely not have successfully implemented the plan).

    That plan is the best option that the SF Bay region has to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by thousands of commuters who work in the Inner Bay area, enhance our regional and national security by reducing per capita oil consumption, and to provide jobs and housing for thousands of Bay area residents, including residents employed full-time in Alameda with incomes too limited to afford market-rate housing where they work.

  • Richard Bangert says:

    William Smith,

    Alternatives 2 and 3 in the “Transit-Oriented Development Alternatives” of 2008 both mirror the goals of the Alameda Point Vision of 2007. Alternative 3 is essentially the Measure B/Calthorpe plan. Since that plan failed to garner enough support among voters, in part because voters don’t believe the traffic mitigation promises, why not support Alternative 2? From an environmental standpoint there is nothing embarrassing about Alternative 2. It has half the number of residences as Alternative 3, and it might just be feasible if the term sheet with the Navy for the conveyance terms is changed.
    Alternative 2, Transit Enhanced PDC

    Insisting on reaching 5,000+ residences appears overzealous and does little to bridge the gap between the various visions.

    Also, the jobs vision in the Alameda Point Vision is dated: “the majority of jobs created at Alameda Point should be either white collar office or research and development jobs.”

  • William Smith says:

    Richard Bangert,

    Alternative 3, with more residences, makes transformational transit improvements more feasible, along with the accompanying reductions in Greenhouse gas emissions. Thus I support continuing to study the third alterantive.

    Also, I disagree that voters rejected the Alternative 3 like plan in February. Many environmentalists, housing advocates and business professionals like me supported the plan but voted against the measure because of the one-sided DDA (development contract written by SunCal for the City) and other terms. Labor voted against it primarily because Suncal refused to commit to hiring unionized labor. Many in these groups, like me, switched to support further development of the plan after Measure B was behind us.

    Good point about the jobs vision being dated, or more properly, too narrowly targeted. Good retail and other service jobs also benefit the community.

  • Mark Raymond Chandler says:

    We are on the threshold of an era that has brought our government face to face with the undautning responsibility for healing the physical and emotional wounds of thousdands of our veterans returning to uncertain futures. The question is – where do they go – what doors will be opened to them – what new battles will they have to face to receive the healthcare they were promised, Well, I believe that the Department of Veteran Affairs and the City of Alameda have the answer.
    For over six years, the Alameda County Veteran Affairs Commission has actively supported the Veterans Administrations efforts to build a modern, state of the art veteran’s medical outpatient clinic at a site at Alameda Point.
    Through newspaper articles, public speeches and networking with county, state and national government officials, the commission has built a coalition of supportive government representatives, whgo, through the urging of the commission, have agreed to set a high priority to assist our nation’s veterans in reclaiming their rightful healthcare benefits. And the key to establishing a suitable site for our ailing veterans as well as creating a dignidfied, lasting resting place for our deceased veteran heroes is right there at Alameda Point.
    Facing environmental and political roadblocks alaong the way, the commission went headlong into the fray, galvanizaing our Alameda County veterans by networking with the vet organizations to encourage them to contact the citizens in their communities as well as local legilators to lobby for the outpatient clinic to be moved to Alameda. Alameda veterans as well as our veterabs and their families throughout the East Bay overwhelmingly agreed.
    There are close to 60,000 thousand veterans residing in Alameda County. And of that number, close to seven-thousand live right here in the city of Alameda. That;s seven-thousand veterans who frequently are forced to travel outside the city – many as far as Travis Air Forc Base who won;t have to travel through the Posey Tube or contribute to the gridlock on the streets and bridges of Alameda. Quick and easy access for our veterans is the key to satisfying their needs as well as making practical and intelligent use of the hallowd land at Alameda Point.
    It should be evident that having easy access to the VA’s outpatient Medical Clinic so close to hom will build a stronger trust in our city government and surely dignify that same trust with the respect and recognition we, as advocates and citizens of Alameda have for the sacrifices our veterans have made on our behalf. We can do no less.
    Alameda icons and honored heroes – Jimmy Doolittle, John J. Mulvaney, Amelia Earhardt, the late mayor Ralph Apezzatto, the late Vice Mayor, Al Dewitt, Seat-of-The-Pants Barnstormer, Commander Iron Hat Johnson, Base Commander, Captain Duke Campbell – and thousands of military men and women brought pride and glory to those tidelands at Alameda Point for well over seventy years. Now it is time to renew the honor and pride by both didcating the land to the healing of our veteran’s at a modern, up-to-date outpatient clinic as well as showing reverence and dignity to those who paid the ultimate price for our country’s values by locating the artfully designed columbaria nearby.

    At this time, I ask the City of Alameda to tender a resolution, supporting the Department of Veteran Affairs’ initiative.

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