City to seek developers for two Alameda Point parcels

City to seek developers for two Alameda Point parcels

Michele Ellson
Alameda Point development

The city is getting ready to seek out developers who could build hundreds of homes, retail outlets, offices or hotels on 150 acres at Alameda Point.

The City Council on Tuesday signed off on the outline of a request for qualifications from prospective developers for two parcels at the Point, and the form of an exclusive negotiating agreement that city leaders hope to use to move forward on development deals.

Alameda Point Chief Operating Officer Jennifer Ott said she’s hoping to release the request for qualifications on May 1, with proposals due in six weeks. Pre-development efforts could begin in the fall of 2015, a timeline Ott presented to the council on Tuesday showed.

The city will use the documents to gauge interest in developing 800 or more homes, retail, hotel and office space on a 68-acre parcel in the waterfront town center area that stretches from Main Street to a corner of Seaplane Lagoon. The city will also solicit interest in developing an 82-acre spot next to that; preferred projects include corporate “build to suit” development or a “major sales tax generator” like a premium outlet mall.

“I hope we find something that will inspire us,” City Councilman Tony Daysog said.

Council members tangled on a handful of points, primarily a cap of 800 housing units in the 68-acre parcel, called Site A. Vice Mayor Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft and Councilwoman Lena Tam questioned whether that would be enough housing to attract the transit the city wants there – and is relying on to blunt the traffic development at the Point will create.

But City Manager John Russo argued that allowing more homes could impact the city’s ability to redevelop existing buildings into housing, which he said will already be a costly proposition. The Navy will get $50,000 for every new housing unit developed at Alameda Point beyond a cap of 1,425 new homes, an additional cost Russo said could short-circuit future efforts to rehab some of the Point’s aging buildings as housing.

The request for qualifications was amended to let developers interested in Site A know that they would be responsible for the $50,000 payments for every unit they want to build beyond the 800 proposed.

Another major topic of debate centered around whether the city should disqualify developers whose responses include site plans and drawings (the disqualification language was removed). Ashcraft and Tam argued that drawings should be permitted, while Russo and Mayor Marie Gilmore expressed concerns that residents would fall in love with the renderings and face disappointment if they failed to become reality.

Prospective developers will be required to offer a project description and proof that they have the experience to build whatever projects they propose. They’ll have six weeks to respond to the request for qualifications once it’s issued; a panel that includes stakeholders and community members will review the responses. Developers who are selected to negotiate a deal will have up to 12 months to do so.

Ott said she hopes to have finalists for developing the sites to the council in September and exclusive negotiating agreements ready to go by November. Development plans could be approved as early as the spring of 2015, with pre-development activities starting the following fall or winter.

City staff is seeking out a single developer for Site A and one or more developers interested in the 82-acre site, called Site B. In a report to the council, city staff said they’re focusing on these two areas first because both are “gateway” sites fronting on major roads where new development is planned. Development of much of the Point will involve reuse of existing buildings.

The city took title to about 1,400 acres of Alameda Point in 2012, including much of the property for which developers are being solicited. But portions of both parcels are still being cleaned of toxic contamination and aren’t yet in the city’s hands, with one chunk not due to be transferred to the city until 2020 – a year later than originally planned.

Over the past two years policymakers and city staff worked on planning documents that staff said would ease the way for redevelopment of the Point as the market for real estate is heating up. Still, Ott said that additional planning work will need to be done after developers are selected.

One key element of any deal reached: Developers will be required to construct roads and other infrastructure, and to pay a fee to fund additional infrastructure, like sea level rise protections. Before state lawmakers canceled California’s redevelopment program, those improvements were often funded by future property tax dollars.

Ott said that whoever developers Site A, for instance, would be asked to kick in $91 million for grading the land for development plus roads, parks and other improvements.

The document outlines also limit the city’s responsibility for moving forward with a developer. Alameda paid more than $4 million to settle lawsuits brought by SunCal Companies, its former master developer for Alameda Point, after the council declined to extend its exclusive agreement to negotiate a development deal, in 2010.

Separately, the city is soliciting comments on a proposed development plan for the full 150-acre waterfront town center, much of which is being pitched to developers in the requests for proposals. The Planning Board will consider the draft plan on April 28, and written comments on the plan will be accepted through May 15.

Earlier in the meeting, Ashcraft said she’d like the board’s input on the town center plan before setting a number of homes for a prospective town center developer to consider.

The draft plan envisions an entry area fronting Main Street that will be developed with townhomes and three- to five-story apartment buildings; a town center core with residences stacked on top of retail outlets and restaurants, plus hotels and offices; an Eastern Waterfront area along the edge of Seaplane Lagoon with restaurants, shops, offices, homes and hotels fronting a waterfront promenade; passive parkland on the Western Waterfront; and unspecified development plus a regional park where planes once taxied on and off the base.

The Planning Board heard about plans for “Phase Zero” pre-development activities intended to build buzz on the Point on Monday.

The request for qualifications represents a pivot for the city, which has been criticized for negotiating potential land deals behind closed doors. City staff had negotiated with Charles Company, a Southern California strip mall developer, for several months, but those negotiations have apparently ended.

Comments

Submitted by marilyn pomeroy (not verified) on Wed, Apr 16, 2014

An outlet mall? Really?

Submitted by luczai (not verified) on Wed, Apr 16, 2014

Gilmore and Russo say they don't want drawings and site plans because "residents would fall in love with the renderings and face disappointment if they failed to become reality"? I'm sorry. This is garbage and it reveals the contempt these officials have for public input. What they really mean is that they don't want any push back from the community if the people don't like what's being proposed. They want to make their choices without wasting time listening to public debate because, let's face it, they are going to pick who they want regardless. The comment also shows that they think the public is naive enough to buy that their concern is just a desire to protect us from getting our feelings hurt. How considerate! Oh yeah, and how does that fit into our new improved sunshiny City Hall? The hypocrisy is getting a little deep around here.

Submitted by John Thomson (not verified) on Wed, Apr 16, 2014

Ashcraft and Tam were right about being concerned about the traffic effects of the 800 homes, but totally missed the point of the EIR: the reduction in off island commute traffic by Island residents predicted in the EIR will only occur if the very robust employment occurs at the point (i.e. residents will have so many employment opportunities on the island that they will not leave the island for work anymore), the most rosy of projections possible. (do we really expect all that employment to happen when Marina Village and Harbor Bay Business Park have never had robust demand for their areas) We should require the employment to happen before building the housing!!!

Submitted by Steve Gerstle on Wed, Apr 16, 2014

"Ashcraft and Tam argued that drawings should be permitted, while Russo and Mayor Marie Gilmore expressed concerns that residents would fall in love with the renderings and face disappointment if they failed to become reality."

Probably best to call off the November election as voters may be disappointed when campaign promises fail to materialize.

Submitted by City Manager Russo (not verified) on Fri, Apr 18, 2014

The issue was not whether a developer would be required to provide detailed drawings and plans, but WHEN. At this stage of the process the City is looking to qualify developers who have an existing track record of actually building quality projects in difficult circumstances. The Request For Qualifications encourages developers to show us the plans, drawings, and photos of their existing projects. The public will therefore see the submitting developer's track record in the real world before we select any developer for further negotiation. Here is the reality: developers do not produce real plans for a site until they have site control because real plans cost money and require knowledge of the site. Before we give any developer site control, the City needs to see what that developer has actually done. I would remind us all that real estate developers are first and foremost salespeople. It is very easy to prepare a bunch of lovely renderings in order to win a public competition and secure the site; it is impossible to place any faith in those renderings because they are not prepared with any real understanding of the constraints -- economic, environmental, and governmental--that impact the site. Developers do NOT spend money to do the real analysis of a site until they control it. Keep in mind that the Request For Qualifications process is NOT the decision about what the detailed project will ultimately turn out to be. This process is merely the method by which the public, through its elected officials, decides WHO we want to work with to make a final plan. Of course, that final plan will be presented to the public for comment and the Planning Board and City Council for approval. The tone of the comments here leads me to believe that folks are confused and think that staff was proposing to approve a project without ever having a public process with drawings and plans. That is not the case. Staff simply believes that any drawings a developer creates AT THIS TIME are meaningless fluff as they are without real knowledge of the site. I can assure everyone that Staff will insist that there be detailed site drawings and renderings created by whichever developer(s) we choose so that the public can weigh in before any deals are inked.