Alameda Point Explained: The plan

Alameda Point Explained: The plan

Michele Ellson

Plans for Alameda Point, then and now.

Bill Clinton’s ascension to the presidency heralded a sea change in the way the federal government disposed of the dozens of military bases they began shuttering in the late 1980s. The Clinton administration offered communities an alternative to the feds’ existing practice of trying to sell the former military installations: The government would give communities first rights to the property, for free, if they promised to reuse it in a way that generated jobs.

Alameda secured one of these no-cost economic development conveyances in 2000, after finishing one major task: completion of a reuse plan that spelled out what city leaders planned to do with the property once they got it. Drafted by dozens of locals and representatives from other cities and levels of government, the Department of Defense-funded plan would be used by the federal government to determine how it planned to dispose of its former Naval air station in Alameda.

Development plans for Alameda Point have gone through several iterations in the 17 years since the reuse plan was drafted, but the city’s managers promised the Navy they’d return to the original community reuse plan in 2011, and have been planning for the future of the Point based on what is contained in its 248 pages. The Navy handed over 1,379 acres of land and water on Tuesday, and is planning to give the city additional acreage between now and 2019.

So what does the plan say?

Billed as a “roadmap” for conversion of the base property to civilian use, the NAS Alameda Community Reuse Plan offers “a bold vision for the future”: A culturally and economically diverse new neighborhood populated with an energy-efficient mix of homes, businesses and parks that maintained Alameda’s walkable, small-town feel – and a core area of the base’s historical structures – and made use of the Point’s prime waterfront views and access.

The reuse plan divided Alameda Point up into a series of subareas that included a housing-rich Main Street neighborhood; an Inner Harbor area that would host light industry and a regional park; a Civic Core packed with historic structures that would see civic and educational uses along with reuse of former Navy housing and research and development space; a marina area along the Seaplane Lagoon that would see marine uses and 384 homes; a North Waterfront area with 1.4 million square feet of office, research and light industrial space and another 144 homes; the Northwest Territories, which would be home to a golf course and nearly 1 million square feet of commercial space, with a 29-acre park at its northwestern tip; and a wildlife refuge offering hundreds of space to the endangered California least tern and other birds that use the Point as a migratory stopover.

While the reuse plan outlined a desire to balance homes and businesses, it placed the mandated emphasis on jobs. All told, the plan was expected to generate 17,105 jobs and 6,603 new residents who would live in 2,737 homes at Alameda Point – 1,513 of which were already there.

The plan also made allowances for others who had dibs on base space in order to provide parks, schools and housing for homeless people. Agencies that sought these public benefit conveyances included the school district, the local parks department and the East Bay Regional Park District, the Alameda Naval Air Museum, the Conservation Science Institute and Pan Pacific University; additional property was requested by the Alameda County Homeless Providers Base Conversion Collaborative. The Coast Guard sought to keep close to 600 homes it was using, while the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service sought 595 acres for a wildlife refuge.

The plan’s authors determined the Point’s rebirth would earn the city a little more money than it cost to provide services there – generating $5.4 million in revenues per year versus $5.2 million in costs – but they acknowledged traffic could pose a challenge. One traffic-easing option included in the plan was exploring the feasibility of a new bridge or tunnel linking the West End of Alameda with Oakland; barring that, development could be restricted if all other transit options were maxed out.

A year after the plan was written, in 1997, some amendments were made that included removal of the city’s support for Pan Pacific University and inclusion of a sports complex in the Northwest Territories.

After two master developers that sought to build more housing than the reuse plan envisioned came and went, city staffers held a series of community meetings which they said confirmed that Alamedans still supported the basic concepts in the city’s original Point plan. But a number of things have changed in the years since it was written.

Nearly 600 of the planned-for homes were built on the Navy’s former Fleet Industrial Supply Center property adjacent to the Point proper, transforming it into the Bayport neighborhood, and another 300 are proposed as part of the adjacent Alameda Landing development. Current plans for the Point envision another 1,425 homes and 10,000 jobs.

Negotiations between the Navy and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over the planned refuge stalled, and the Navy began bargaining with the Department of Veterans Affairs, which is planning to place a clinic and cemetery on 112 acres of the Point and to maintain the rest as open space. In an effort to avoid impacts to the tern colony, the facilities were moved north, taking 46 acres that the city had been expecting to get.

The cost of redeveloping the Point has also grown in the years since the plan was inked. In 1996, the estimated cost of replacing the Point’s roads and utilities was $184 million; more recent estimates place that cost at over $650 million. And its roads and buildings have deteriorated greatly since the Navy left, in 1997.

Meanwhile, a major revenue source the city thought it would have at its disposal as it built new roads, utilities and affordable housing – future property taxes – disappeared in 2012 after lawmakers and the courts abolished redevelopment agencies.

The reuse plan’s drafters envisioned the completion of revitalization efforts in 2020; those efforts could now extend past 2040. Nevertheless, city leaders are excited to get started on creating a new future for the Point.

“This has been a long time coming,” Mayor Marie Gilmore told Bay City News Service this week, “and we’re incredibly excited that we can finally move forward with the development of Alameda Point.”

Comments

Submitted by George Phillips on Wed, Jun 5, 2013

I am happy that the base reuse is moving forward but note that, after 17 years of endless discussions and attempts, we are back to the original concept. As we have seen countless times in this City, too many cooks have often spoiled the broth.