Council considers lease for ferry maintenance facility

Council considers lease for ferry maintenance facility

Michele Ellson
WETA Central Bay Maintenance and Operations Center

The City Council is set to consider leasing a waterfront site that could be home to the first construction project at Alameda Point – a maintenance and operations center for the Bay Area’s public ferry service.

Tonight, the council will consider offering initial approval of a 60-year lease granting the Water Emergency Transportation Authority a spot on West Hornet Avenue to build its planned four-story Central Bay Operations and Maintenance Center. If the council okays the lease, construction of the $45 million to $50 million project could begin in January and the facility could be ready to open by May 2017.

Staffers with the city and the authority have been working toward a lease deal for the past four years, a report submitted to the council by Alameda Point Chief Operating Officer Jennifer Ott says. The authority’s board signed off on the lease on February 5.

If approved, the council would lease 0.73 acres of land and 3.4 acres of water to the authority for construction of the building, a 12-slip berthing facility and a parking lot. In addition to maintenance and operations, the facility would be used as an emergency operations center in the event of an emergency.

In return, they would receive rent starting at $5,125 a month, and the ferry service would spend an estimated $6.7 million on improvements that would include a water main extension and shoreline improvements for a park area that will include a section of the San Francisco Bay Trail.

The facility would be located adjacent to space occupied by the federal Maritime Administration, or MARAD, and the USS Hornet Museum.

The Sierra Club is asking the council to delay its approval of the lease, over concerns the new facility could erase critical habitat for San Francisco Bay-dwelling harbor seals. The seals have been using a deteriorating recreational pier as a resting and birthing area, and while an agreement with the ferry service to replace it is promised, it has yet to be inked.

“Given the geography of the Alameda Point Channel and Inner Harbor, a new haul-out dock nearby, possibly an anchored floating dock, should be evaluated as a mitigation measure to help retain the colony of harbor seals that find respite along Alameda Point’s shore,” Norman LaForce and Olga A. Bolotina of the Sierra Club’s San Francisco Bay Area chapter wrote.

In her report to the council, Ott wrote that the ferry service is voluntarily agreed to engage in “commercially reasonable efforts” to design and build a new rest area elsewhere, though her report also said that the nearby breakwater also offers a place for seals to “haul out” of the water to rest.

The club’s national director, Michael Brune – who is an Alameda resident – wrote to the National Marine Fisheries Service in October to express his concern about the project, saying that shoreline development “is one of the primary reasons for harbor seal abandonment of San Francisco Bay.”

The ferry service will need to earn the permission of at least one more agency – the Bay Conservation and Development Commission – before moving forward with its project.

In addition to the ferry service lease, the council will consider approving a $256,292 contract with Cultivate Studio and Urban Planning Partners, Inc. to create a specific plan spelling out rules and guidelines for developing a new Main Street neighborhood at Alameda Point. Almost all of the cost of the plan will be covered by a grant.

The plan will create standards for supporting transit in the new neighborhood and would show where streets and parks would be placed. It will not spell out how many homes will be built there.

The city’s deal with the Navy allows construction of up to 1,425 new homes on Alameda Point; anything beyond that would incur a $50,000-per-unit fee. Some 800 homes are planned for Site A, a 68-acre waterfront property where development is in the planning stages. Another 200 homes would house formerly homeless people.

The council will also consider adopting the plans and authorizing a call for bids to build a new mid-Island fire station to replace an existing station that’s outdated and not earthquake safe. Also, the council will consider a preliminary approval to purchase 822 single-stall “smart parking meters” that will allow users to pay by coin or credit card.

The meeting begins at 7 p.m. Tuesday in council chambers on the third floor of City Hall, 2263 Santa Clara Avenue, and can be viewed on Comcast cable channel 15, AT&T cable channel 99 or the city’s website. An agenda and meeting materials are available here.