Board considers plan for Alameda Point town center

Board considers plan for Alameda Point town center

Dave Boitano

Alameda's Planning Board and the public got an opportunity Wednesday night to weigh in on ambitious plans to activate Alameda Point's waterfront and to create a town center city staffers hope will jump-start revitalization efforts.

It was a lot to consider. The plan, prepared by the urban design firm of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, envisions everything from housing, commercial development and retail shops to restaurants and recreation in the area surrounding a lagoon once used by the Navy to taxi seaplanes into hangers at the former Naval Air Station.

The city took the initiative after one development consortium walked away from the Point project and the City Council voted a second developer off the Island after its plan was rejected at the ballot box. Future developers will have a specific set of approved guidelines to work within rather than having to go the costly planning process only to see their proposal scrapped due to public opposition.

City Planner Andrew Thomas said Alamedans preferred this method as a way of jump starting the base renaissance after years of planning.

“The overwhelming message that the Alameda residents gave to (Alameda Point Chief Operating Officer) Jennifer (Ott) and myself was, ‘Go do the work and give us something very specific to comment on,’” Thomas said.

Central to the plan is an Alameda Point town center which would include housing, retail space and recreational opportunities in the area that includes Seaplane Lagoon and aircraft hangers.

More than 1,400 multifamily housing units are included in the plan, and the board must decide if they should be built near the hangers as outlined in the plan or elsewhere. Thomas reminded the board that Alameda Point is a large area and said that locating the housing far away from the commercial area or scattering it would not encourage residents to walk to and from the stores.

Ten speakers dissected portions of the plan and raised issues including traffic, street extensions and how the project could be made transit friendly to get residents and visitors out of their cars. Most of the speakers urged the board not to build in front of the hangers because it would block views of San Francisco Bay in what is an historic part of the deactivated base.

Speakers also urged the board to push for unique, smaller shops in the commercial zone rather than big box retailers.

“To me a town is small businesses, not big box stores,” said resident Rachael Campos.

Board member John Knox White said the board must take a long look at the transit proposals and other aspects of the plan that could affect how people get in and out of the town center.

“Transportation is really key here,” Knox White said. “I don’t think you can say that there won’t be any traffic impact.”

Board member Kristoffer Koster liked the “tie-ups,” or areas where boats could dock while out on the bay.

“There are not many places to tie up unless you are a member of a club or know somebody in a slip,” he said. “There is hardly anywhere where you can come in a tie up for a few hours and explore.”

Wednesday's was the first of a number of public hearings that will be held as the Alameda Point town center and waterfront plan move through the planning process and to final approval by the City Council. The current timeline calls for the Planning Board and other city boards and commissions to consider the plan over the next three months with a final sign-off by the Planning Board in December and the council taking action sometime in 2014.


Submitted by Susan Bass (not verified) on Thu, Aug 22, 2013

I think a big open grassy Spanish style plaza, where people would stroll, dine and shop should be the centerpiece of the plan.

Submitted by carol (not verified) on Thu, Aug 22, 2013

The more I think about the space between the hangars & the lagoon, the less I like the idea of any buildings going up there. To preserve the views, the only things suitable for insertion there would be something you can see over or thru, like an amusement park, with a Ferris wheel or roller coaster [riders would really enjoy the views!]; a Playland-at-the-Seaplane-Lagoon concept,or even just a parking lot.
There is an inherent conflict between retail and getting people out of their cars. You can't have it both ways. As someone behind me sneered during the hearing: "Just try bringing home a sofa on public transit. Or a bag of fertilizer". To maximize the use of public transit, attractions to be built should not require people to tote home more than they came with.

Submitted by William Delaney (not verified) on Thu, Aug 22, 2013

One key aspect of the planning must be to make sure that "open space" and recreation is a top priority. I attended last night's meeting, and found it to be very interesting. I also appreciated the questions and comments of the Board members, especially John Knox White. They highlighted important issues and I would hope they continue to do so over time. I would also hope that the naming is considered, so that it offers a brand that reflects the objectives of the property.

Jon Spangler's picture
Submitted by Jon Spangler on Thu, Aug 22, 2013

Why are the powers that be at Alameda City Hall intent on rushing through this latest round of "planning" without public input? Last night's agenda was far too crowded to properly consider both the "town center" plans and the infrastructure for AP--not to mention gather public comment on both.

It was well after 10:30 PM when the PB finally finished its public hearing and discussions of the town center plans. The infrastructure item (7B) was only taken up after most of the 30-40 people who had come were long gone. By the time the public comment on the infrastructure BEGAN it was after midnight. (I was one of the three members of the public who stuck around to comment, and one of fewer than 8 who were still at the meeting by then.)

Is there some reason to hide these discussions from public view (by overscheduling meetings that last into the wee hours) so that critical issues are only discussed when normal people are asleep?

There are far too many unresolved issues and unanswered questions at AP to cram everything into a four-month process.

Alameda needs to look closely at the real future costs of redeveloping at AP, from what happens to submerged toxic wastes when sea level rise occurs to the current underfunding of transit in the infrastructure plan. And we cannot look carefully at anything after 11 PM, much less at 1 AM....

Richard Bangert's picture
Submitted by Richard Bangert on Fri, Aug 23, 2013

Ft. Devens Army Base in Massachusetts closed a year before NAS-Alameda. Granted, they didn't have the cleanup issues that we've had, but look where they are at today:

One of the keys to success was the state bond money for infrastructure right at the beginning. They have been commercial-oriented from the beginning, and only now talking about housing.

Submitted by Diana Verhalen (not verified) on Sun, Aug 25, 2013

I love the ideas of keeping the views, open spaces, supporting small businesses (especially the light industrial/artists that are here already), the open dock spaces for visitors (even though I have no boat nor intend to), and other reasons to visit. I'm a bit unnerved by the 1400 homes since the Webster Tube is already too congested on the way off the island, assuming that is additional to those who already live here in the officer's housing and APC housing. And with the influx of people coming to Target, etc. after work, I imagine the Tube will be additionally congested in the evenings. I also like the idea of other businesses to draw in workers for a reverse commute (such as the Veteran's Hospital). And I think we could leverage the ferry as way to bring in tourists/visitors to an attractive destination. I dream of having a community pool, with actual lounge chairs and play space that isn't swim lanes only, that is affordable for daily and/or monthly payments. Lastly, "Town Center" is a ridiculous name, as others have pointed out and provided much better, more creative and attractive suggestions. Looking forward to seeing what comes out of the public comments and additional planning.