Conversation Piece: What are your hopes and fears for Alameda Point?

Conversation Piece: What are your hopes and fears for Alameda Point?

Michele Ellson

A few weeks ago, I had an interesting e-mail exchange with a friend regarding the redevelopment of Alameda Point. While the conversation about the Point at City Hall seems to revolve chiefly around whether or not to build homes at the Point and what kind of traffic those homes might generate, my friend offered a more nuanced view of the pros and cons of proposed development on the former Naval Air Station.

In short, they said they thought Alameda Point Partners' proposal for Site A - a 68-acre waterfront site that is proposed to hold 800 new homes, shops, parks and more - will be a good trial of development at the base, large enough to test out the city's development approach and perhaps bring more life to the West End but small enough that it won't dominate Alameda or the base if it doesn't work out. The friend - who doesn't like the business-only approach some are advocating - liked the idea of more housing in Alameda that could give families who now can't afford the Island a chance to move here and the developer's promise of small, local merchants, but worried that the promise wouldn't be kept and that the development would end up looking more like Emeryville than Alameda, with more traffic to boot.

Reading my friend's personal analysis of the hopes and concerns they had about redevelopment of the Point and Site A, it occurred to me that others might have a similarly nuanced view of the opportunities and challenges Point redevelopment could bring, and I wanted to throw the same question out to The Alamedan's readers. What benefits do you think the proposed development could bring, and what concerns do you have?

Feel free to let us know what you think, by leaving a comment below. In the meantime, if you'd like more information on what's proposed for Site A, you can find it on the city's website. The City Council will get a status report updating them on latest regarding the Site A proposal at its April 21 meeting.


Submitted by Kurt Peterson (not verified) on Mon, Apr 13, 2015

Thank you Michele for posting an article that hopefully will stimulate discussion concerning a very important topic for Alameda's future (the development of Alameda Point). I have to agree with your friend's statement where he mentions that Alameda Point might become similar to Emeryville. This is a very likely possibility with one of the partners of Alameda Point Partners being a developer of the Powell Street (Emeryville) fiasco. I also remain skeptical that Site A's development will only have a net increase of one vehicle through the Alameda Tube during commute hours (as stated in the Impact Report). Though I somewhat agree to your friend's notion of using Site A as a test for Alameda Point, I still believe there are many unanswered questions that need to be addressed before the project moves forward. And keep in mind, Alameda already has approved development tests in place, with Alameda Landing and the Del Monte projects. Are there more Alameda voices out there? If so, please write a comment.

Submitted by Judith (not verified) on Mon, Apr 13, 2015

The quaint character of Alameda will soon be no more and I'm not happy about that.

Submitted by Shoshanah (not verified) on Mon, Apr 13, 2015

In my opinion, the biggest problem with new housing on the base is the criteria the city staff is using for measurment. The plan is to put no more housing than the Navy had. Well, the denizens of the military housing stayed on the base for work; there was little, or no, impact on the tube. Adding 800 homes with two vehicles each, each of which will probably leave the island as there is a dearth of jobs here, will dramatically impact egress. When the full complement of 1450 units is constructed, just try getting through Chinatown.

Submitted by Doug Biggs (not verified) on Mon, Apr 13, 2015

The statement was actually that it could end up like Emeryville IF (emphasis added) promises aren't kept. The DDA that is developed can ensure that promises are put in writing and followed. If we do that, I think Site A will become an amazing catalyst. Big enough to make a difference at Alameda Point. Proof that development can improve the quality of life, but as your friend says, still allow room for further innovations or changes in course for additional developments if needed.

Submitted by Scott W (not verified) on Mon, Apr 13, 2015

I'm genuinely curious if people who live west of Webster near the base are against Alameda Point development as much as people who live on the East End?

Submitted by Chris (not verified) on Mon, Apr 13, 2015

It seems that the plan includes a large percentage of rental units and a smaller proportion of units for sale. I do not think that's a good deal for Alamedans, cities benefit far more from increasing home ownership instead of rentals. Also, homes for sale can help stabilize prices in the long term and are a permanent solution, yet adding rentals is only a temporary fix. Renting from these large developers just transfers hard earned money from the middle class to the 1%. We should add starter houses (or condos) in the $300's - $400's that first time homebuyers can purchase.

Overall, instead of a less dense development and home ownership, we are adding a ton of apartments... I thought we elected Trish Spencer to take care of this situation, not to rubberstamp a bad plan. Hope she does the job she got elected for, and gets something better for Site A

Submitted by Matt H (not verified) on Tue, Apr 14, 2015

My concern is that nothing will happen, and that The Point will be a liability vs. an asset. What other piece of land has the potential of this site? Re-development has already taken too long. Just about anything is better than nothing.

Submitted by Karen Bey (not verified) on Tue, Apr 14, 2015

My hope for Alameda Point is that the Granville Island vision for Alameda Point will increase tourism in Alameda, allowing us to tap into the $9.4 billion dollar tourism industry in San Francisco. The development of Alameda Point and the Granville Island vision for Alameda Point can help us attract some of those tourists to spend “A Day in Alameda”.

We were once a resort community before the build out of the Alameda Naval Base, and the development of Alameda Point as a regional destination can help us recapture our resort status, diversify and increase our tax base, and increase jobs in the tourism industry. The beautiful views, the planned parks and open space, the seaplane lagoon ferry terminal, the proposed restaurants and shops, as well as the existing tourism assets we already have at the base (The USS Hornet, The Navy Museum, the wineries and breweries) are a great start – and my hope is that we build on this to create a tourism industry in Alameda.

San Francisco’s tourist spent $9.4 billion dollars in 2013 up from $8.9 billion in 2012. The number of visitors rose to over 16 million in 2013 and SF collected over $600 million in taxes as a result.

Developing and increasing our tourism assets at Alameda Point will add a new line of tax revenue in our city budgets that could set us up for life. That’s my hope for Alameda Point.

Submitted by Joe Cloren (not verified) on Tue, Apr 14, 2015

Where is the emergency water supply?? All other bay area cities have emergency water supplies, why doesn't Alameda??
Why is overcrowding more important than public safety?

Submitted by Jennifer (not verified) on Tue, Apr 14, 2015

I do live on the West End close to the base and I am excited by the prospect of development in the sense that we really need more (and more inexpensive) housing. If it's going to end up like Emeryville that would be unfortunate, as Emville is unattractive AND expensive (worst of both worlds)! Traffic will of course be terrible, I find it hard to believe it could be otherwise, and there are no plans to improve it -- not even a pedestrian bridge, much less a car carrying one. I hope they make the ferry runs more frequent and if they actually ran back and forth from the ferry to Oakland regularly, that would enable people to reach BART easily.

Submitted by Doug Biggs (not verified) on Tue, Apr 14, 2015

Scott, I also live on the West End, work on Alameda Point, and work with residents of Alameda Point. Yes we are excited by the development for several reasons: additional rental and affordable housing to serve a diversity of needs, jobs, jobs jobs. And infrastructure improvements. The base has become a liability to the City if we don't move forward on development. Instead of being cost neutral or even generating revenue, the point is going to become much more expensive as we rack up costs of failed infrastructure, and costs of lost business. Folks may not realize but due to previous delays in development we lost out on Revolution Foods a start-up healthy food company which is now producing more than 1 million freshly prepared healthy meals for school kids each week. They started out at Alameda Point, but needed infrastructure and space to expand and we weren't ready, so they left. How many other great opportunities like this can we afford to lose out on?

Submitted by Malcolm (not verified) on Tue, Apr 14, 2015

I live on the West End in the Bayport community. I for one am skeptical of the development plans on the Point. It would be great if there were local mom and pop restaurants and shops to go to, but I fear the businesses will look like what's happened at Alameda landing. We don't need more chain stores that make Alameda look like Emeryville. Traffic is already cumbersome and with the addition of the Del Monte development it will be an issue. Ferries to Oakland might be helpful but then where does that place you? It would still be a bit of a trek to get to the nearest BART station.

Submitted by Reinhard Seidl (not verified) on Tue, Apr 14, 2015

I work in the Marina Village Office park right next to the Tunnel. I don't have to go through the tunnel daily because I also live in Alameda but one of my colleagues just got stuck there again tonight.

I think traffic is already heavy there and adding 800 homes could cause some serious congestion I will be my main concern.

Regardless of what type of housing in business is proposed at the point I have not ever seen any real solutions proposed for the resulting traffic.

Submitted by Scott W (not verified) on Tue, Apr 14, 2015

FWIW I feel like this is one of the more productive non-screaming conversations about Alameda Point development pros and cons. Thanks Michele.

Setting aside the traffic issue, which is probably unsolvable long-term regardless of 800 houses or not (funny that I find that number much smaller than most people I think?), there ARE ways to ensure that small businesses fill the majority of the new Alameda point. I'm not sure what kind of ability the City Council has to make a similar agreement with APP, but it seems like something they should at least examine as an opportunity to ensure the Point becomes something more generally acceptable to Alameda than an awful Emeryville-zation, which seems to be the one thing that everyone pro development and only a bit pro development can agree would be a disaster. A Point that draws in only small businesses and artisans and puts people there to use them would be a really terrific, very Alameda outcome.

Submitted by Michele Ellson on Wed, Apr 15, 2015

Thanks Scott, that's definitely what I was shooting for :). I wanted to give folks who maybe can't get to city hall for a hearing the opportunity to weigh in. I also want to thank John-Michael Kyono at Alameda Peeps for posting this and continuing the discussion there.

Submitted by PW (not verified) on Wed, Apr 15, 2015

When I see Alameda Landing and think about how that will look and feel spread out over the entire Point, I feel sad. To be welcomed back to the island by a gas station and fast food place every night just as you exit the tube is depressing. It seems like a missed opportunity to do something really wonderful out there, that includes open spaces and tourist destinations,some housing mixed in with businesses. It seems like we are selling ourselves short - Alameda is an amazing location! Why are we settling for something that looks and feels like every other city in California? Can't we at least issue some restrictions on signage and facade that make the design of these building look less cookie cutter? I know they have done that in other cities.

Submitted by Doug Biggs (not verified) on Wed, Apr 15, 2015

The issue of business mix (small vs. chains) is interesting, and perhaps not as intuitive as you would think. The Development Agreement (I think) restricted Alameda Landing to only leasing to chain businesses. This was specifically included (at the request of the Webster Street Business Association) to prevent competition with small locally owned businesses on Webster Street, i.e to focus on different niches, and hopefully help drive some of the landing traffic to Webster Street. Given the latest news that one of the chains coming in essentially duplicates an existing Webster Street Business, it will be interesting to watch. So looking at Alameda Point, I would have a strong preference that the existing businesses at the Point be incorporated into the development (and I believe the current plan takes that into consideration), and that new businesses focus on bringing new services/destinations to Alameda and Alameda Point, but not necessarily restricted to chains or no chains.

Submitted by Ron Mooney (not verified) on Wed, Apr 15, 2015

I would hope people could be more specific than not wanting to be like "Emeryville". I chuckle when ever I read that as I know Emeryville made very specific plans for its development, where it wanted retail, commercial and housing and developing to protect older areas, but ensuring the decaying industrial base would be revitalized. If not being like Emeryville means not being like Powell Street Plaza then that is simple ... both with zoning and planning ... besides not much chance based on the economics (there is no I-80 on the point, sorry).
Traffic can be managed, and we should embrace solutions, not cry "no .. no" otherwise as has been stated we will have a huge liability to contend with in the future.

Submitted by Scott W (not verified) on Wed, Apr 15, 2015

Doug Biggs, that's interesting, hadn't heard that.

It feels like Site A is far enough away from Webster that you could make it cute and quaint and small and local without interfering with Webster Street development. Ron Mooney (and others...) does Alameda have experience putting in zoning and ordinances that keep things small and not chain stores? Is there something in place that's led to that on Park Street, or has that just been a natural process? Anyone know?

Submitted by Lorri Garrett (not verified) on Wed, Apr 15, 2015

I live on Bay Farm and love that there is a Target on the island. All those tax dollars stay here now. I would love to see a new Neptune Beach. A place for tourists as well as our kids to hang out. Something like Santa Cruz, just not as tacky and better junk food. And a ferris wheel with view of the city and bridge. As for traffic, I do think they need better ferries or another bridge or tunnel on the base. Something that avoids downtown would be great. Dream big.

Submitted by Lucy Gigli (not verified) on Wed, Apr 15, 2015

Housing at Site A is critical if we are going to address rising rents. We've already waited long enough and too many people I know are having to leave because they can't afford to live here, since they weren't lucky enough to buy years ago. Projections are for two-thirds (2/3) rental units and one-third (1/3) for sale at Site A. This ratio is a significant departure from other new developments in Alameda.
Plus we need the transportation infrastructure that the housing will bring to round out the rest of the transit in Alameda. More ferry service, more transit will benefit everyone.

Submitted by mary spicer (not verified) on Wed, Apr 15, 2015

I have wondered about the level of contamination. From the Alameda Point websites it seems like they disclose a lot about clean up, but when I talk to people that have daily connection [ one person that works and 2 business owners ] to the land at the point I hear stories about potential toxic land and water and it concerns me.

Alameda has a huge opportunity to create something special in the Bay Area. What would it look like to create a place that honors Alameda's past and rebrands the city as an environmentally forward city. What would it look like to bring nature/environmental awareness into and as a part of a new identity - kind of coming out of the 1940/50's industry, honoring that and setting a future forward pace for ecology aware urban renewal as part of the development plan. It could attract a whole set of new ideas/companies/income/tourists instead of a potential let's do it quick land grab. Feels important to take time, this is an amazing opportunity to have this much space to create with and it would be great to have a cohesive plan for the whole base instead of a chunk here and a piece there. Some type of ideas that could unify the base dev and make it feel more like a collective collaborative community based design. It would be great if the plan could truly serve the community and that means working with the issues of traffic and resources before we just build.

I love this project> gets the community involved in creative ideas that connect people with the city, place and environment as a living thing. They use the idea of placemaking which is a planning and design strategy that draws inspiration from the local community to create public spaces that promote health, happiness, public engagement and well-being. The point is not an easy project for all involved - but how cool is it to have all this space to potentially create something unique, special and set the pace for other cities.

Jon Spangler's picture
Submitted by Jon Spangler on Wed, Apr 15, 2015

I agree with Doug Biggs and other supporters of the current Alameda Point Partners proposal. I think it will turn out better than Alameda Landing, which has been a personal disappointment--but much less of one than it would have been without lots of community input over a decade or longer that improved the plans for Alameda Landing.

AP needs to be rebuilt--and soon--so the businesses there don't have to move away when the sewers, water lines, etc., fail. Development that includes housing is the only way Alameda can afford to rebuild the failing infrastructure that is costing us $$$$.

The APP plans call for housing for Alameda workers--and I am a renter who wants to have a shot at living there. (I resent people who think that those of us who rent are somehow less valuable members of this community: I have been a homeowner and a renter, and given as much time and effort to my community while renting as I did as a homeowner.)

Alameda needs more multifamily rental housing for the people coming here to work with the VA, at Bay Farm Island businesses, and more. And that housing needs to be built near transit so that commuting by bus, bike, or on foot become real options. Otherwise, the historic neighborhoods that we all love will be clogged with cars.

We have worked long and hard to realize the dream of redeveloping AP "just like the rest of Alameda." And the APP plan for Site A does that relatively well. Let's give it a try before the infrastructure fails catastrophically....

Submitted by Gerard L. (not verified) on Thu, Apr 16, 2015

My expectations for AP couldn't be lower. How did the city with 1,000's of acres of developable land put a public housing project on a well known toxic site?

The development was predicated on the Navy cleaning up groundwater, a remediation project the Navy has already abandoned, as in the groundwater is not going to be cleaned up.

Air samples from inside Shinsei Gardens were never collected or analyzed according to plan.

The sub-slab ventilation system's measured capacity is 1% of the design, and ineffective.

Despite these flaws a state engineer had no problem signing a certification that the cleanup was completed according to plan.

Shinsei Gardens is the poster child for an Engineering Ethics course.

Submitted by Todd Edelman, D... (not verified) on Mon, Apr 20, 2015

Most of the large retail businesses on the West End that require frequent deliveries by large trucks are close to the water (Marina Village, Alameda Landing) or next to the water, like Alameda Point. Is there a possibility of some of the material and equipment for construction of Alameda Landing, Alameda Point and the VA facility to be moved by boat and barge? Same question for the retail business areas. It may be possible to serve the Webster Corridor from the same docks.

For both shorter and longer term uses, there would be a sort of remote Alameda on the Oakland side of the Estuary, close to the 880 or other cargo corridors. Goods would be loaded there. An extra would be required to get goods to the delivery areas of e.g. Alameda Landing, but an interesting alternative to that is a new channel that serves the center and creates additional waterfront for future homes at Alameda Landing.


On the people side of things, a guided ropeway (gondola) system from the new ferry terminal to the VA to West Oakland BART should be re-evaluated.

It matches well the frequency of BART trains during commute hours, is very appealing to tourists, is usually all-electric, could enable most employee and visitor parking at the VA to in Oakland next to the Port (and part of this is that it's for the constant trickle of visitors to the VA all day long. This should not be an alternative to VA parking, it should be the only VA parking except for persons who have medical needs -- though the ropeway would be follow ADA).

Submitted by Maureen (not verified) on Mon, Apr 20, 2015

As a resident of Alameda Point, renting one of the former officer homes, I can attest that a lot of positive changes are already happening at the Point. We have more businesses here than most people know. We have a steady stream of visitors for sporting events, auctions, etc. It has been good to see all these activities.

My hope for Alameda Point is that it does not become another cookie-cutter project like the new Alameda Landing area. The stores are nice to have, but they are all chain stores, offering little opportunity to the many talented business people already in Alameda.

I also hope that new development is smartly planned to allow open space along the waterfront areas, but also the most expensive of the housing space lining the inside of the open space. This accomplishes two goals - sharing open space for walking, bird watching, etc. but also raising premium tax dollars for the most expensive houses with the premium views of the city.

I also hope that whatever is built, that it is well executed. I've noticed several projects built in the past two years that are missing the little details. For example, the sight line at the intersection of Willie Stargell and 5th is not good - it is an accident waiting to happen. Another example is how close the new gas pumps at the Circle K on Webster are located to the street - it is very difficult to get in and out of the station. The setbacks were not studied carefully enough before they were approved. I think I share the same sentiment as many Alameda residents that we are not anti-development, but are concerned that some of the development has been poorly designed. It would be nice to see some changes with planning and approval to look more carefully at the small details.

Finally, traffic is the obvious issue that has to be addressed (as so many people have already well stated.) Even without development of the Point, we need help with this. When the tunnel gets backed up, trouble piles up around the area. For example, last Tuesday there was an accident in the tunnel around 5pm. Traffic backed up everywhere, including people trying to get over to Park Street to reroute. There needs to at least be some signs that give information when the tunnel is closed as to why, how long the problem might last, and suggested re-routes. We couldn't tell if the traffic was due to an issue in the tunnel or on 880. With some information, people could have better adjusted. Given more development to come, this will continue to be more and more of an issue.

Well, thanks to everyone for participating in this conversation. It is very positive in nature and nice sharing among the community.