Letter to the Editor: City skips procedure on Point

Letter to the Editor: City skips procedure on Point

Letters to the Editor

This letter was submitted to the City Council and other city officials and was also forwarded to The Alamedan for publication.

Dear Mayor Gilmore and Council Members:

It was a shock to open the October 17, 2013 edition of the “Sun” and learn that it appears the staff/city decision-makers are considering development proposals for Alameda Point. I thought that the author of “Why Won’t City Solicit Request for Proposals” must have misunderstood. The city staff has been so transparent in the process of planning for the development, shaping the EIR (Environmental Impact Report) and inviting community ideas on all aspects, that to learn that senior staff and council are apparently meeting behind closed doors with developers and considering proposals was totally flabbergasting! Actually, as a former city staffer, I have seen cities sued to stop such apparent closed door processes.

It was expected that the next step after completing an EIR and the preliminary development plan would be that the city would continue its transparency by saying “here is the draft development proposal the city plans to issue to the development community to see what the best team and offer will be” followed by, "what do you, community, think?" So it is amazing to learn that backroom discussions with selected developers may be occurring! We all need to know:

What are they being asked to develop?
What are they willing to pay?
What are the criteria for selection?
What are the performance requirements?
What credentials are needed? ETC...

The reason I’ve heard for this backroom dealing is “that after the failed previous master developer efforts, we don’t want to go through that again.” What total nonsense! The master development offerings were doomed to fail fundamentally because of the application of Measure A to Alameda Point. The developers selected were heavily dependent on development of enough housing units to pay for the huge development costs of the entire base, which Measure A precluded. And the firms selected did not specialize in mixed-use development projects. The recent change in state law permits developers to build multifamily homes at Alameda Point. The city has initiated a process that lays the groundwork for mixed-use development so now we have the potential of achieving an economically feasible build-out of Alameda Point.

There is still the question of the feasibility of imbalance with the thousands of square feet devoted to business and retail development compared with the number of housing units now contemplated. We do not have a rational jobs-housing balance; the businesses locating here will want their staff to have a chance to live near their jobs and with the housing shortages in the Bay Area it will be a deterrent to firms looking to locate where there are ample housing opportunities. However, none of this has anything to do needing to deal in secret with developers!

Now with the city breaking up the development into smaller projects we have a chance to attract developers who specialize in retail, multifamily, research and development, maritime uses, etc. However, for those of us who thought we were being consulted for input, it now appears we were simply being mollified. What the city should be doing is developing criteria for developer selection, proposals for various types and parcels of land, and vetting those with the community and publicly at the appropriate boards, not clandestine backroom deals offering who knows what and to who with what if any development standards and requirements.

It has been worrying enough to have piecemeal approvals – the infamous “well you (community) signed off on this aspect three years ago and now when you see the whole proposal and you don’t like it, well too bad it’s too late” way of doing business, which is difficult enough for the community to “trust.” But to have the city skip any community consideration of the what the proposals consist of, guidelines for development, terms and basis for selection, etc. - this is unacceptable!

Please resume the current transparent approach you are using for the “entitlement” process, city leaders, and the city will be the better for it. Shortcuts and quick solutions simply produce bad results. We and those who come after us will live with the results for a long time, so do it right and do not kid yourselves that by charging ahead you’ll end up with the best result. The community has had too many examples of the results of the city selecting developers through a non-public process in the last 20 years that I believe many people are concerned and want to see use of a rational, open and collegial process to ensure the city has the best developer offering the best proposal with the experience and wherewithal to carry it out.

Sincerely,

Helen Sause
President
Housing Opportunities Make Economic Sense

Comments

Submitted by Karen Bey (not verified) on Thu, Nov 21, 2013

I respectfully disagree with the letter Helen Sause has written.

Had the city decided to go with a master developer, the developer would be making deals behind closed doors and our input would mostly be on the project level. The community has opted to forgo a master developer and to let the city perform the services that a developer would normally perform.

The city has done a great job in (1) creating a community plan (2) closed on a no cost conveyance (3) zoning and entitlements (4) engaging in talks with high caliber developers (5) more than tripled the value of the base. That said, I think the City has earned the right to vet the developers coming through their door. I say let the city complete their entitlement process and vet developers who buy into the community vision and have the financial capability to develop at the base.

Finally, market timing is the driver in any successful development, and it will determine whether Alameda Point is successful or not. The process Helen suggests is a long drawn out process that could have us miss our small window of opportunity. She may get her affordable housing, but we could miss our window of opportunity to get an exciting waterfront jobs based development.

Why waste more time – 17 years is long enough!!