Decision 2010: Making the Point
Now that SunCal’s gone (and candidates for mayor and City Council are universally scrambling to hoist the drawbridges so the developer never returns), the future of Alameda Point has emerged as a top issue in the upcoming mayoral and City Council races. And candidates are offering some distinctly different ideas for how they’d proceed.
Almost all of the candidates are saying they’d support a redevelopment plan that has a mix of industry and homes, and that they’re ready to have city leaders, rather than a developer, take the reins on the process of deciding what will be built on the Point – a process most insist is well underway (and not back at square one). But their ideas for how much industry and how many homes – and how much control the city should take – differ.
Some would seek a more intensely developed “transit-oriented” plan for the Point, while others favor something just shy of the preliminary development concept previous developer Alameda Point Community Partners created for the Point, which envisioned 1,700 homes. Another major difference centers around who would develop the base, with many candidates advocating a new, city-controlled local development corporation and others saying the city would be better served by a professional developer.
So who’s who? Here’s the rundown.
Keepin’ it local: Matarrese, deHaan, Sweeney, Gillitt
After a costly, three-year predevelopment process with SunCal whose main product appears to have been acrimony, candidates for mayor and City Council have said they think the city needs to be in the driver’s seat this time around. And some have said they think the city should form its own nonprofit corporation so we can develop the Point ourselves.
The day after SunCal left town, City Councilman and mayoral candidate Frank Matarrese said he wanted city staff to begin exploring such a plan, which proponents believe will allow Alameda to collect the profits gleaned from rebuilding the Point instead of a developer. And Matarrese and others who support the idea – including council candidates Jean Sweeney and Adam Gillitt – have said they want the city to start leasing out more space at the Point in order to start generating revenue there.
“(I)t makes more sense to reuse the existing structures and leverage the existing assets to generate income for the City, rather than bringing in mercenary developers who are more interested in lining their own pockets than doing what’s best for Alameda,” Gillitt wrote in response to a question from The Island about what he’d do with the Point.
Vice Mayor and mayoral candidate Doug deHaan – who still has two years left in his council term if he’s not our next mayor – said he’s “leaning toward” a nonprofit local development corporation for the Point.
One other candidate to take note of here is Mayor Beverly Johnson, who is running for one more term on the City Council (she served for four years prior to becoming mayor). Johnson – whose campaign manager is former Doric Construction and Catellus man Aidan Barry – hasn’t answered our questions, though she did tell the Alameda Democratic Club she doesn’t think Alameda needs a master developer at the Point (more from campaign manager Nancy Rogers on her position below).
Going hybrid: Gilmore, Bonta, Jensen, Ezzy Ashcraft
Other candidates who have questioned the viability of a local development corporation – the city did, after all, try to manage just the infrastructure part of the slow-rolling Alameda Landing project, without success – hope to get the best of both worlds by having the city figure out what should be built at the Point and then hire someone to make it so.
Gilmore and Ezzy Ashcraft said they’d hire someone – consultants and a land planner, respectively – to help city leaders and the community realize their vision for the Point, and then go to the market to get it built (Gilmore would look to attract investment in the project, while Ezzy Ashcraft would put the project out to bid to seek a developer or developers and split the cost of infrastructure). Jensen said she’d look into creating a public-private partnership like the one in place on Treasure Island to slowly grow the Point, and Bonta said he’d also look for a developer for the city to partner with.
“I understand the attraction to the City being its own Master Developer, especially after having such a poor experience with our last master developer SunCal,” Bonta wrote in response to a questionnaire from The Island. “But the pendulum does not have to swing all the way to the other extreme.”
Hire a professional: Daysog, Mitchell, Tam
These candidates’ positions on who should develop the Point probably don’t differ too terribly from the hybrid crowd; they’re just looking to hire a new developer to work directly with the community to implement its vision for Alameda Point (as opposed to creating a plan and putting it out to bid). Mitchell wants to “carefully pick out a quality master developer and private capital financier who will work with the community” while Tam wants a master-planned community. Daysog said that as mayor, he “will take the lead in hiring the right private developer, and I will keep them on track.”
As I said earlier in the story, Matarrese, deHaan, Gillitt and Sweeney want to lease out more of the base and use the lease money to pay for improvements there. They want a plan that focuses heavily on economic development (as does Bonta, though he is not advocating the reuse strategy). DeHaan said he’s hopeful Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory will choose Alameda Point as its new home and that their presence will jump-start job creation on the base; Matarrese wants to build on existing industries on the base and to establish a foreign trade zone there.
Daysog has said he doesn’t think the reuse strategy will work, because he’s not convinced the buildings there are in good enough shape to allow the city to charge the rent they’ll need to pay for public services for tenants, let alone new infrastructure and amenities people want at the Point. “Right now, tenants pay below-market rents because the site is mostly sub-standard,” he wrote in a letter detailing his housing and traffic plan for the Point.
His plan is more focused on creating a mix of housing types, which he thinks can be the thing that brings jobs and pays for open space and recreational amenities.
How much housing?
Only a few candidates have offered hard numbers here, though a few more have at least said what factors they’d consider in deciding how many homes should be built at the Point. Daysog said he’d look to build about 2,700 homes – the amount he said a developer would need to build to support the Navy’s $108.5 million price tag for the Point.
Gillitt has said he thinks there are already too many homes on the market, so we shouldn’t build any at the Point – or at least, not right now. He said he’d be willing to talk about housing at the Point when it’s needed, and when the Point has the infrastructure to support it.
DeHaan said he’d support between 1,500 and 1,800 homes at the Point, including homes in a remade bachelor enlisted and bachelor officers’ quarters. And Sweeney said she thinks 900 houses “would be just right.”
Others – Ezzy Ashcraft, Tam and Mitchell – have said they’d like to see another transit-oriented development like the one Peter Calthorpe designed for the Developer Whose Name Shall No Longer Be Spoken. But they haven’t said how many homes they want built.
Tam, Bonta and Ezzy Ashcraft said they’d look at factors including financial soundness, job creation and traffic in deciding how much housing to build on the Point, and Tam said the community needs to decide what amenities – parks, historic preservation – they want (and by extension perhaps, what they’d allow someone to build to pay for those).
“We, as a community, need to come to agreement over the amount of jobs, open space, sport facility, schools, transportation facilities to understand the total number of homes that are sustainable and the appropriate densities around transit hubs and amenities. It would be the responsible way to plan Alameda Point to look at the range,” Tam said.