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ALAMEDA POINT: The road ahead

Submitted by on 1, August 4, 2010 – 4:50 am7 Comments

The City Council’s decision to effectively fire SunCal as developer for Alameda Point leaves a big question: What next? Will the city try to hire a new developer, or go it on their own? Or will nothing happen at all?

The council has asked city staff to offer a range of options for moving forward in the fall, and they expect to be able to build on the work done during SunCal’s three-year tenure here and the 12 years of planning efforts that preceded it. Members of the council have also said they want a fresh public process aimed at finding a realistic development solution for the paradox that is the Point.

The Island decided to reach out as well to ask you where you think we should go from here. And we got a diversity of opinions in response.

Some people said they’d like development at the Point to be less focused on housing than SunCal’s plan was. Mike P. wrote in that he’d like to see low-rise hotels and marinas, Bay Trail extensions and campgrounds with cabins added to the businesses and housing already on the base, along with the VA hospital and columbarium that is proposed for a portion of the Point. And City Council candidate Adam Gillitt said he’d like to see more commercial uses at the base, including light industry, manufacturing, Internet and entertainment uses.

“Alameda already has close to 1,000 houses for rent or sale right now on the market, and many thousands of square feet of commercial space available,” Gillitt wrote.

Others said they’d like the city to consider building on the site’s existing strengths, which Richard Bangert said include marine and water access and its existing buildings.

But some feel Peter Calthorpe’s mixed-use vision for the Point – or an iteration of that vision – is still the way to go. Jon Spangler said he thinks the city should move forward on implementing that vision, preserving more of the buildings on the site than planned if the money can be found to do it. And Karen Bey said she’d like to see more open space and a stronger commitment to wineries in the plan.

“My vision has always had more open space than the Calthorpe plan, with high end hotels and upscale condos clustered around the waterfront. The views at Alameda Point are spectacular,” said Bey.

Traffic continues to be a paramount concern around any proposed Point development. “Whatever is done with the space must come up with a transportation plan that doesn’t completely clog the tubes on the West End,” Dave Latham wrote.

But Spangler said he thinks the transportation strategies developed by SunCal’s transportation consultant would have dulled the traffic impacts of the Calthorpe plan, as would additional cross-Estuary pedestrian or water transit options.

The big issue, though, is how to pay for the things we want at the Point. Bangert said he’d like the Navy to reconsider giving Alameda Point to the city for free, and he said the city could do that by pursuing an economic development strategy there instead of building homes. He said the Point’s $108.5 million price tag was one of the factors in Alameda Point Community Partners’ exit as the first master developer for Alameda Point.

He also thinks the city should start looking for federal money to pay for infrastructure instead of trying to pay that bill, which could cost an estimated $650 million, with lease revenues, as has been considered. But Spangler said he’s not so sure that money will be available.

Bangert said he thinks the council should consider Councilman Frank Matarrese’s suggestion the city form a nonprofit corporation to handle the development themselves. But John Knox White wrote that he doesn’t think that’s feasible.

“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,” Knox White wrote. “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.”

Ultimately, the council is going to have to make those difficult decisions about what should be built at the Point, Pat Kennedy wrote.

“The key question is not what should go on this land … but rather what does the city want?” Kennedy, who identified himself as an investor who has hired developers, wrote. “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 services, 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 want housing, it needs to be upscale. (H)igh density, low cost housing is a negative on the tax rolls — and so on.”

What do you think? Join the conversation by submitting your comments below. In the meantime, a group of local folks is holding a community meeting to talk about what’s next at the Point at 7 p.m. Wednesday, August 11 at the Alameda Naval Air Museum, 2151 Ferry Point. It’s free and open to the public.

7 Comments »

  • Mark says:

    I’m sure this question was answered long ago, and I’m the only one in Alameda that doesn’t know the answer. Why can’t we do any Port activity?

  • ddw says:

    How about using at least a portion of the land and buildings for space related ventures, both government and private? There are buildings that were build for specific technology -i.e. the engine test facility, etc.

    The area near the piers that was a RV area could be cleaned up and used for campers or bay area sightseers.

    Build a marina, clean up the seaplane lagoon area and restore that area around the museum for historical displays of aircraft and ships.

    The VA and the organizations that deal directly with providing services and shelters to the homeless and others that need social services should be given whatever land they need to build a new center

    And then put in environmental light industry, restaurants, teen center.

    We really don’t need any more homes on this island. It’s sad to see how much area has been lost to the continued building of homes.

  • Scott says:

    Whats the plan now? Spend the next 14 years talking about what a bad plan Suncal had and what a bad company they are. Doing nothing is no longer an option. Hasn’t the council been talking about what to do with the point for 14 years? The Alameda community does not care what company develops the point, just that it starts to be developed. Enough is enough. Alameda needs a plan and we need it today, not in 4 years.

  • ryan says:

    unreal. i know this will drag on for years to come. the point is the best piece of vacant real estate in the country and it sits abandoned because alamedans are so damn stubborn. DO SOMETHING! ANYTHING! its a waste land with views right now.

  • Lorre says:

    At one of Council Member Frank Matarrese’s community meetings I heard someone propose an upscale senior community at the Point. I was surprised, but as I listened to him describe the benefits, and thought more about the benefits and risks myself, the better the idea seemed.

    – Market Demand. Our nation’s aging population, Rossmoor’s success, and the waiting list at our own Cardinal Point imply significant market demand for this beautiful setting. Recent data also indicates that this population segment now has the greatest disposable income and asset values, more adequate than the general population’s to support such a community. Additionally, what urban planners think of as responsible development — sections of high density housing to maximize contiguous, public open space — would be a desirable housing format.
    – Traffic Concerns. Traffic levels are likely to be significantly lower than typical, not during peak commute, and a good match for electric vehicles and public transportation.
    – Compatibility With Desired Community Benefits. Open space, parks, and even the long-discussed golf course would be compatible amenities. This is likely to accompany an appreciation for historic buildings and the least tern habitat, while demand for more costly public services such as schools and police would likely be low.
    – Support of Community Assets. A senior community would also be a good match with the proposed Veteran’s health center and create additional demand for the services of our local, community-supported hospital.
    – Affordable Housing Requirements. Affordable housing is also a good match for the population, from segments of the resident population to home health care workers and other support system workers finding a very cost-effective and healthy walking commute.

    There are several other benefits to this proposal. I’d love to hear what others think. Am I missing something?

  • Judy says:

    Oh No! This is our next step:

    “Members of the council have also said they want a fresh public process aimed at finding a realistic development solution for the paradox that is the Point.”

    Isn’t that what we’ve been doing for the last 12 years??? It is literally impossible to satisfy all the talking heads in Alameda, so we just need to get behind something as a community and move forward.

    The city will probably take the master plan that Suncal proposed and try to do it themselves. Well, at least it was a good plan.

  • RM says:

    On Wednesday, August 11, 7–9 pm, there’ll be a meeting to talk about what to do with the NAS and all Alameda residents are invited to attend. It’ll be held at the Alameda Naval Air Museum, 2151 Ferry Point #77.

    This will be the first in a series of meetings with the theme “Moving Forward at Alameda Point.”

    At this first meeting, they’ll review what has taken place since the Navy left, with special focus on discussing the Community Reuse Plans and Preliminary Development Concept that were developed by the citizens of Alameda. There will also be a panel discussion with current commercial tenants of Alameda Point and an overview of what has been done and an update on the status with the Navy.

    The vast majority of Alamedans want to see Alameda Point developed, and there are many elements that everyone can agree on. Future meetings will include looking at some of the alternative uses that have been suggested; discussions on other base reuse developments; and some of the challenges we face.”

    “We do not have to start from scratch to develop a good plan for Alameda Point,” said current Vice Mayor Doug deHaan. “There is a master plan that was developed by the community and approved by the City Council and Alameda Reuse and Redevelopment Authority (ARRA). It is time to re-visit the plans to see which elements are viable for moving forward and what other elements the community would like to see included. Now is the time to bring all interested Alamedans together.”

    There are many creative, talented, and intelligent people in Alameda.

    Please put this meeting on your calendar.

    Speakers will be Vice Mayor Doug deHaan, Nancy Hird (President of the Alameda Architectural Preservation Society, George Humphreys (Past Chair of the Restoration Advisory Board) Todd Roloff (CEO of National Response Center) and other speakers from the Alameda Point Business Community.

    For further info:please call Gretchen Lipow at gretchenlipow@comcast.net

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