Alameda Point town center developer selected
Alameda Point town center developer selected
The City Council voted Wednesday to approve an exclusive agreement with Alameda Point Partners to negotiate a deal to develop a 68-acre waterfront town center at the former Naval Air Station, despite opposition from residents who think the lame duck council should wait and let the new council decide.
“This is a tough decision. But stalling is not the answer to a tough decision,” Vice Mayor Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft said.
Council members, who voted 5-0 to approve the agreement a few minutes after midnight Wednesday, said they needed to respect the two-year public process they’ve engaged in to develop a plan for the Point and select developers to fulfill it – a process they said demonstrated the public’s interest in their plan to redevelop Alameda Point.
“This has been the culmination of an active engagement process,” Councilwoman Lena Tam said. “It’s important to respect that process and move it forward.”
Councilman Tony Daysog said many of the people asking the council to wait were simply seeking to undo the work that had been done over the past several years.
“We can’t move backwards,” Daysog said. “We can’t have that whole discussion again.”
The council faced a packed house, with dozens of speakers divided between those who wanted the city to keep moving forward on efforts to develop the Point with others who wanted the council table the negotiating agreement until new members are seated.
Mayor-elect Trish Spencer and Councilman-elect Frank Matarrese both asked the council to delay the decision, saying they should have the opportunity to give input on the agreement when they’re seated in a few weeks instead of waiting until a completed development plan and agreement come back to the council for approval.
“No one has indicated why this item cannot wait 28 days from today’s date,” Spencer said. “This is one of things that, as sitting members of the council, I hope you realize: That it’s time to let go, (and) make way for the new council.
“We had an election, and the people have spoken,” Spencer added, saying she thinks the mayor’s race reflected opposition to the city’s plans for Alameda Point.
Councilman-elect Jim Oddie urged the council to move forward, one way or another.
“Right now, you are my elected council,” Oddie said. “You are here until December 16 and I am urging you not to abdicate your responsibility.”
Some residents advocated for the agreement, saying efforts to revitalize the Point have been subject to a lot of public debate already, and that more is coming; others said the housing, transit and other amenities the development would provide are needed. But others questioned whether it was worth initiating an effort to come up with a development plan incoming council members might ultimately reject.
While Ashcraft, Councilman Tony Daysog and Oddie have expressed support for the council’s current plans for the Point, Matarrese has said he doesn’t want new homes at the Point, while Spencer has vowed to slow development. Four council votes will be needed for the development to move forward.
City staffers and the developer focused on the job-creation and open space aspects of the development envelope the City Council authorized for the site, which includes up to 800 homes, shops, office space and hotels.
“Bringing business to Alameda, and to this market, is something we understand how to do,” said Joe Ernst of SRM Ernst, one of the developers in the partnership.
Ernst said he wants the commercial mix at the town center site to include artisans, retail, art, dining and entertainment, including businesses already ay the Point. Representatives of an Oakland winemaker and Whole Foods said Alameda Point Partners is working on creating a food production hub at the old Navy base.
Alameda Point Chief Operating Officer Jennifer Ott said the rough development plan for the Point was created though a comprehensive public process that engaged many people but generated little opposition.
James Edison, a financial consultant working for the city, said housing will help pay for new infrastructure at Alameda Point, and Ott said an attractive gateway will help draw new business to the Point.
“Being able to tour corporate users through an attractive gateway is extremely important. We want it to look like somewhere where a corporate user wants to locate their campus,” she said. “People want to pick and choose parks and jobs. We just don’t think this is realistic.”
Ott said that the city is pausing an effort to select a developer for a second, 82-acre site where a corporate campus is anticipated. She said neither of the developers the city is negotiating with is willing to offer money upfront for roads and utilities, as Alameda Point Partners has done.
Councilman Stewart Chen, who noted that it’s difficult to attract developers, said a South Bay development group that sought to purchase the Bachelor Enlisted Quarters and a portion of the Point’s taxiway “basically bailed on us.” Mayor Marie Gilmore announced that the city had entered a settlement agreement with the group, Alameda United Commercial.
A development plan and agreement will be created and vetted by the community and a list of city boards and commissions over the next several months. The council could consider whether to move forward with a development deal as early as May 2015.