ALAMEDA POINT: The road ahead
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.