Alameda Point Explained: The developers debut

Alameda Point Explained: The developers debut

Michele Ellson

On Tuesday, the City Council will hold a closed-door discussion to consider proposals to purchase chunks of Alameda Point from Charles Company, a West Hollywood-based developer, and DeBartolo Development, the family-run conglomerate whose founder is known as the father of the shopping mall and whose current leadership includes the longtime owner and manager of the San Francisco 49ers.

The discussion is the first of what City Manager John Russo said will be several about how much of Alameda Point to sell, and to whom.

“We’ve made it clear that we were going to start bringing deals in November. And some of them are pretty cool,” Russo said.

Russo said the city will be looking at proposals that fit into the scope of what’s being contemplated in an in-progress environmental impact report; the report examines the impacts of development options that include up to 5.5 million square feet of commercial space and 4,841 homes. He said the Point could be parceled off in chunks as small as five to 10 acres and as large as 125 acres.

“None of (the proposals) is for the whole base,” Russo said. “It’s all going to be parts and parts and parts.”

The reuse plan the city agreed to adhere to in order to win back its no-cost conveyance of the Point from the Navy allows up to 1,425 homes and 5.5 million square feet of commercial space, and Russo said the city is prioritizing rehabilitation and reuse of some of the Point’s existing buildings, development of an “employment opportunity site” occupying the Point’s southeastern corner and of a transit-oriented town center with high-density housing, shops, restaurants and more that city leaders hope will be the Point’s pulsing heart.

Also on Tuesday's agenda, the council will consider approving evaluation criteria for development proposals that would ensure that they square with the city's plans.

The Navy handed over about 500 acres of the Point in June, but two major sites – the million-square-foot Building 5 and a chunk of land near Seaplane Lagoon where the hoped-for town center will sit – are still being cleaned of toxins and aren’t expected to be in the city’s hands until 2019.

Interest in the Point has always been high. After city leaders fired the second of two master developers they hoped would plan and implement redevelopment of the base, in 2010, more than a dozen other developers stepped forward to express interest in the former Naval air station.

The list included Alameda Landing developer Catellus and Lennar, the two companies that had previously bid for the master developer job that went to SunCal, and proposals ranged from building a second campus for Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to paying the Navy the $108.5 million they were asking for the entire base.

But the failure of the master developer approach – neither developer was able to make the city-generated, Navy-approved base redevelopment plan to pencil out – and a desire to recapture a no-cost land deal prompted city staffers to revisit to the city’s original plan and to both decide what would be built and clear the many of the regulatory hurdles to building it themselves.

The result has been a flurry of planning activity and public hearings that city staffers hope to conclude in early 2014, paving the way for development of the base to begin soon after. On Monday the Planning Board will review and comment on purpose statements for list of sub-districts the Point could be divided into and on a plan that details building heights and uses and massing of construction in the town center and waterfront area.

Tuesday’s council agenda item contains no clues about what the two developers might like to build at the Point, how much land they want or what they’re offering to pay for it. Neither company returned a call seeking comment Wednesday.

In addition to malls, DeBartolo has purchased or built mixed-use projects, hotels and a range of housing, including an independent living community for seniors, with developments across the U.S. The company bills itself as one of the biggest private real estate investment and development firms in the country.

Charles Company’s website touts the development and investment partnership’s ability to restore dilapidated sites and build on environmentally impacted and poorly laid out sites in “inner city” locations, with most of its work done in Southern California; news articles show the company has built or bought malls and property in Southern California and Las Vegas.

Russo said the city will work to leverage enough value from the land at the Point to rebuild roads and utilities needed to support revitalization of the site.

“It’s got great views and it’s valuable and everybody wants it,” he said.


Submitted by reader (not verified) on Thu, Oct 10, 2013

Can it be explained why city (mis?) managers are pushing an EIR of 4841 homes when the Navy is agreeing to turn over the point at no charge for building up to 1425 homes? I have seen people like our city manager twist EIRs concerning traffic trying to down play the real impact with impractical mitigation plans. The traffic impacts alone negativity affect all of Alameda all point of ingress and egress, and mitigation plans to cover the foreseen troubles all the way on OTIS at Park, Broadway, High and Fernside intersections state that Bayview Dr will relieve some of the negative traffic impacts. Problem is that Bayview, like all Alameda roads is a residential street and already has had such bad traffic problems that over 10 years ago the city had to take traffic-calming measures there. But with this EIR they want to say it's okay to dump more traffic there? Now it appears the city will say, "Screw them and the rest of the island." Traffic problems are growing without added development, why are our city managers and city planners and city council more interested in helping developers than helping residents? Why is Russo seeking to more than triple the number of housing units at the Point?
And thank you Michele for your interactive Alameda development map! can you keep it updated and on your front page? It will be a useful tool as this development nightmare proceeds.

Submitted by Michele Ellson on Thu, Oct 10, 2013

Hi there: Environmental reports typically look at someone's preferred alternative - in this case, the 1,425 homes you referenced - and a host of other scenarios, which in addition to a no-development alternative in this case include one that has more commercial space, a preservation-oriented alternative and the one with more housing. From listening to these folks talk about their plans it sounds like they want to proceed with the 1,425 homes/5.5 million sf of commercial, but they also wanted to give themselves some leeway (hence the widely varying development scenarios). And I'm glad to hear you are finding the development map useful - I will definitely do my best to keep it updated!