Department of Veterans Affairs gains Alameda Point property

Department of Veterans Affairs gains Alameda Point property

Michele Ellson

The Department of Veterans Affairs officially took ownership of 624 acres of Alameda Point on Monday, which it hopes to transform into a new, one-stop medical and benefits center, a national cemetery and a wildlife preserve.

“We are proud that the new One VA facility will call Alameda home,” Mayor Marie Gilmore said during a public ceremony at the Alameda Theatre & Cineplex that included a color guard, speeches and a video offering the history of the former Naval Air Station and renderings of the planned facilities.

The complex is slated to include 158,000 square feet of medical clinics and office space and an 80-acre columbarium with enough space to hold the cremated remains of up to 300,000 servicemen and women and their family members. The remaining 512 acres will remain undeveloped and will be managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a California least tern colony and migratory stopover for other birds, with some public recreational access.

The department hopes to secure money from Congress to build the $208.6 million project next year, and a staffer said they anticipate it will be open for business in 2018 or 2019. It will replace the department’s outpatient clinic in Oakland.

Monday’s ceremony marked the Navy’s second major transfer of property at Alameda Point. The city secured 509 acres of Alameda Point in 2012.

Speakers at the ceremony detailed the challenges they faced in effecting the land transfer to the VA, from environmental constraints to bureaucratic hurdles and federal funding issues.

The seeds for the VA deal were sown in 2003, when the department – which needed new facilities in the Bay Area – became aware the Navy had land available, Claude Hutchison, a former VA official who helped secure the deal, said Monday. The process encompassed the administrations of two presidents and five Veterans Administration secretaries, he said.

But Hutchison praised Alameda and former Mayor Beverly Johnson, who he said welcomed the VA with open arms.

“We knew instantly that we were in the perfect community,” he said.

The VA has come under fire for lapses in care that left dozens of veterans dead and tens of thousands of others facing long waits for care. The Federal Bureau of Investigation launched a criminal investigation, while the results of a White House investigation of the VA released in June found “significant and chronic system failures.”

Glenn Haggstrom, the VA’s director of acquisition, logistics and construction, acknowledged the recent scandals over the lapses in care and benefits for veterans and promised that “immediate reforms” are underway. He said better facilities are among the things the VA needs to improve care.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee, who one speaker called a “tremendous advocate” for veterans and for the project, said she’ll continue to fight for funding for the facilities, which are intended to provide “one-stop” access to meet a variety of veterans’ medical and administrative needs.

“This is the standard and the model for the rest of the country,” Lee said of the planned complex.

Veterans said the services the new facilities would provide are badly needed here in the Bay Area and that the supply of existing medical services for veterans have not kept up with the need for those services. Northern Alameda County is home to nearly 29,000 and the greater Bay Area, 267,000.

“We all know that the VA has faced some challenges,” said Delphine Metcalf-Foster, a veteran of Desert Storm and Desert Shield who worked at Alameda Point. “I am hopeful that the VA will be able to make a real impact here in Alameda.”

Comments

Submitted by Tom (not verified) on Tue, Nov 4, 2014

VA
Not accessable via Bart.
On a dead end road.
Almost at sea level.
Wow, great planning!

Richard Bangert's picture
Submitted by Richard Bangert on Tue, Nov 4, 2014

Tom,
The VA will be providing regular shuttle service from the downtown Oakland BART station. The VA didn't pursue locating their clinic in the mixed-use area of Alameda Point, which would have offered potentially more bus service, mainly because of a national policy of grouping facilities together for cost efficiencies. So, the decision was to site the clinic next to the new national cemetery. Their facilities won't be anywhere near sea level when they are finished bringing in fill. The clinic will be anchored to a "floating" pile system, not traditional pilings, making it highly resistant to earthquake damage. Another reason for the location is that the land was free. Buying 120 acres in the Bay Area would have cost a fortune.

Submitted by luczai (not verified) on Tue, Nov 4, 2014

This is an appropriate use of the Point and the existence of a VA facility may actually help us improve public transportation in the area. Welcome Vets!

Submitted by Tom (not verified) on Tue, Nov 4, 2014

Richard:

Thanks for the info.

Lots of problems and you provide answers and solutions.
Busses from Bart, floating piles, fill dirt to raise the above sea level building site.

Now you may want to propose building dikes around the complete island of alameda to keep the access roads and Posey Tubes unflooded when the seas rise.

Would be very interesting to see what is here is just another 50 years.

Submitted by JAG (not verified) on Tue, Nov 4, 2014

Most Excellent thanks.

Submitted by Jacquelline (not verified) on Tue, Nov 4, 2014

This is great and a good use of the point. Thanks to all involved in getting this done.

Submitted by nickquattro2u (not verified) on Tue, Nov 4, 2014

This has got to be the very best that could have been done with this already historic landmark! Congrats to all that made this happen!

Submitted by Chris Longstaff (not verified) on Thu, Nov 6, 2014

Yeah, you can't bury the dead vets in the ground "Because of Liquefaction" that means they wouldn't stay put in an earthquake, but there's another reason....The Navy "Cleanup" is mostly on paper, the toxic waste is still in the ground and groundwater!

It would be disrespectful to bury a dead vet in a toxic waste dump!

Submitted by Charlie Schreiber (not verified) on Sat, Nov 22, 2014

With all the rumors being thrown about, and the apparent lack of physical progress in the use of the NASALA property. With the announcement by the VA, I finally felt relieved that no foreign government is going to turn the lagoon in to a high end golf course, and the necessary supporting infrastructure on the rest of the base!
I never thought that I would have a feeling of gratitude to the VA.

Submitted by Jim Jones (not verified) on Mon, Feb 23, 2015

Completely moronic use of some of the most valuable land in California.

As a Vet, I support more services for vets, but to put the facility on such valuable lands is moronic. The land should be sold at public auction to developers and the money raised would fund a huge VA health clinic elsewhere on base. The developers could have been obligated to integrate 25%+ housing for Veterans, to make it even better development. Such a waste of one of the Wests great views and sunsets.