City holds first ‘Going Forward’ meeting on Point
By Rin Kelly
About 50 people showed up Tuesday night for the first of three community workshops on the future of Alameda Point. The city-sponsored workshops are meant to provide a forum for lessons learned from past stabs at developing the base and to solicit input for future efforts.
Facilitated by Deputy City Manager Jennifer Ott and held at Bay Farm Island’s Grand View Pavilion, the “Going Forward” workshop covered five main subject areas crucial to the Point’s future. Participants were broken up into tables where they covered specific subject areas.
Land use and transportation were the two hottest topics of the night, drawing about 11 people each to their respective tables. Parks and open space; historic character, preservation, and adaptive reuse; and building types and neighborhood character rounded out the workshop’s subjects.
Ott championed the format as one that will allow residents to discuss a topic in-depth at one meeting and then do the same with other subjects at subsequent similar forums.
“It’s exciting,” said Ott, who pointed to the positive tone of the evening’s discussions as evidence that people are ready to work together to see something done at the Point.
There was certainly some consensus at the workshop, including the acceptance of a wide variety of building types by those discussing that issue. Gretchen Lipow presented that group’s position at the end of the night, saying that everything from condominiums, live-work structures, small lot family homes, and light industrial buildings passed muster with her table so long as such structures were placed thoughtfully in the proper kinds of neighborhoods and did not obstruct views or stand too tall.
“Not Emeryville” was a popular refrain at Lipow’s table, and unfavorable opinions of the Emeryville style of mixed-use development also popped up at the land use table, where a small but spirited discussion of Measure A and multi-family housing broke out between attendees, who included former City Council candidates Jean Sweeney and Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft, who is president of the Planning Board.
Karen Bey ultimately presented that group’s majority position on multifamily housing at the Point as a favorable one. “Some people were against it but the majority of us felt that we did want to see multifamily homes out there,” she said.
Bey’s group examined the four previous plans for Alameda Point and selected elements from those that they most wanted to see implemented. In addition to a majority preference for multifamily housing and mixed-use development, infrastructure improvements and the need for some adaptive reuse of some, but not all, of the existing buildings ranked high among their concerns.
Gary Bard’s presentation on the opinions of the parks and open space group highlighted the six principles they all agreed on: protecting and enhancing the natural habitat, resolving problems with the Northwest Territories, partnering with the East Bay Regional Park District, maintaining the current amount of recreational facilities, creating separate trails for different recreational activities and maintaining the waterfront for public use.
Nature areas, trails and pathways, promenades, and water access won out among that group for priority open space features at the Point.
Clark Cole presented the opinions of those who focused on transportation for the evening, emphasizing the need for careful planning that will take into consideration both access on or off the Island and also how to effectively place office and retail space in order to encourage bicycle and pedestrian commutes. Cole said that his group was concerned about the possibility of such office and retail space ultimately going unused.
Buses were more important to Cole’s group than ferry access, he said, and a need for pedestrian and bicycle access to Oakland is a concern.
Alex McElree presented the findings of the historic character, preservation, and adaptive reuse group, which he said focused on financial realities. They agreed that keeping some, but not all, of the “Big Whites” at the base would be a boon, as would be keeping the massive Building 5 intact in the hope that it can be leased to a long-term tenant when remediation is completed in 2018.
In addition to the opinions generated by Tuesday night’s groups, city officials collected individual workbooks from attendees. A digital version of the workbook will be available on Thanksgiving at the city’s new website for the Point planning process, www.alamedapoint-goingforward.com.
The next workshops will be held on November 18 at Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, and December 8 at the Albert H. DeWitt Officer’s Club, 641 West Redline Avenue. Both of the two-hour meetings will begin at 6:30 p.m.