Hearings on impact of proposed veterans' facilities start today

Hearings on impact of proposed veterans' facilities start today

Michele Ellson

The Department of Veterans Affairs and the Navy will be taking comments on a draft environmental assessment of plans to build a clinic and columbarium at Alameda Point at a pair of hearings on the USS Hornet today.

In addition to the Hornet hearings, which are being held from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. today, an additional hearing has been scheduled for 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. April 10 at the Albert H. DeWitt Officers Club and the comment period has been extended to April 19.

The Navy wants to give the VA 624 acres of Alameda Point on which to build a 158,000-square-foot outpatient clinic and 80-acre columbarium to serve thousands of area veterans. Most of the acreage would remain undeveloped, and negotiations are underway for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – which had once hoped to create a wildlife refuge on the property – to continue managing a colony of endangered California Least Terns that took root on the old runways in the 1970s.

The assessment’s authors determined that the project won’t have any significant impact on the terns, traffic or any of the other dozen items studied in the assessment. If no further environmental study is determined to be warranted, that work could be complete and the land transferred by the end of the year, a VA official told the City Council last week. The VA wants to have its new facilities up and running by 2017.

But the project has stirred some concerns, particularly over the proposed management and use of the undeveloped acreage.

Some veteran city watchers were also upset over the lack of public input into the Navy’s new plan to give 74 acres that the city had planned to repurpose as a park to the VA in order to move the project further away from the terns. The City Council voted 3-2 last week to send a letter endorsing the change.

They and members of the council took the Navy and the VA to task for choosing to hold the meetings in the Hornet, which they said would not be particularly accessible to many of the veterans the new facility is slated to serve.

The Hornet is at 707 West Hornet Avenue, Pier 3, and the Officers Club is at 641 West Redline Avenue on Alameda Point. The draft environmental assessment is available here; additional information, including driving directions, is here.

Related: Comment sought on environmental impacts of clinic, cemetery at Alameda Point

Council supports proposal to shift veterans project