Letters to the Editor: Let's get real about Alameda Point

Letters to the Editor: Let's get real about Alameda Point

Letters to the Editor

Imagine you operate a business at Alameda Point. During Thanksgiving weekend, you lost power for 30 hours and experienced total failure of your telecom and internet service during the busiest shopping weekend of the year. The fact that 60 other businesses at Alameda Point shared your pain was no consolation. Several weeks before the power failure, a major water line break resulted in decreased water pressure to your business. These are the latest in a series of infrastructure mishaps you’ve endured in recent years. Your landlord, the City of Alameda, has plans to see that the entire infrastructure is replaced, but as the years pass and plans stall, you ponder whether your business has a future at Alameda Point.

Infrastructure failures are extremely costly for the City of Alameda. The recent water line break cost us nearly $75,000 to repair. In addition, the sewer line serving the National Defense Reserve Fleet docked at the Point broke several months ago, and the city is paying to truck sewage off the ships until it can be repaired. Regional utility providers won’t even accept responsibility for the infrastructure at Alameda Point. In time, local businesses at Alameda Point will abandon the former base. Without lease revenue from them, this major financial liability will have to be paid by the city’s general fund. Put simply, the 70-year-old failing infrastructure at Alameda Point cannot be sustained by maintaining the status quo.

It is time to get real. The price tag for new upgraded infrastructure at Alameda Point is close to $600 million for new sewers and pump stations to prevent untreated storm water from polluting the bay; new electrical, gas, water, and telecom lines; new streets and sidewalks; and new parks and bike paths. Advocating for only parks and open space is not a viable option. To only build parkland would cost a significant amount of money to construct and maintain, and does not generate revenue for new infrastructure, which is still needed. Remember, there are people who live at Alameda Point now, and they will continue to live there long after businesses have made their determination about whether to leave.

Advocating for jobs only is also not a viable option. The market and commercial investors have repeatedly told the city it is too costly and too risky. Due to its isolated location, lack of amenities, and substandard infrastructure, there is not a market, today, for new commercial “green tech” and maritime development at Alameda Point. The current green tech and maritime businesses at Alameda Point have been attracted by its existing hangar spaces (which are almost all occupied) and low rents.

The construction of new infrastructure and buildings is expensive and the market for commercial development does not yet support it. This reality was “market tested” and confirmed by the city through a recent competitive process for developing a small commercial pad at Alameda Point. No developer was willing to commit to pay for new infrastructure and buildings for just commercial development, and the city does not have the ability to pay for the infrastructure without significantly taxing our residents.

Over time, the former base can create jobs and exceptional waterfront and recreational amenities for the entire Alameda community, but if we wait too long, this opportunity will become a serious liability. Housing is necessary to kick start the future of Alameda Point. A highly qualified development team, chosen through a competitive process and whose team includes residents of our own community, has already agreed to pay for these major infrastructure improvements and amenities as part of an incremental mixed-use development.

The community’s approved plans for Alameda Point, which consist of mixed-use, transit-oriented development with limited housing - as opposed to the 4,800 units planned by previous developers - can support the significant upfront infrastructure investment, including key, site-wide utility infrastructure, amenities, waterfront and neighborhoods parks, and major transit infrastructure. Let me put it more clearly: New development pays for the upfront infrastructure the base so desperately needs.

This can be achieved in a way that mitigates traffic and encourages public transit, bicycling and walking. The community has spent the last 20 years carefully planning the future of Alameda Point – now is the time to act before we have to start cutting things we care about just in order to maintain its failing infrastructure.

Marie Gilmore, mayor
City of Alameda


Submitted by Adam (not verified) on Wed, Dec 10, 2014

This would have made a fine campaign speech, Marie, but coming 6 days before the end of your term, this seems more than a little disingenuous. Act now?

Submitted by Vicki (not verified) on Wed, Dec 10, 2014

Thank you for this, Marie. This explains so well what needs to happen at Alameda Point.

Submitted by Doug Biggs (not verified) on Thu, Dec 11, 2014

The development of Alameda Point has come a long way under your administration, and those of us that live and/or work our here are extremely grateful for that. We now have the pieces in place to move forward in a thoughtful, well planned manner. If development is delayed then those of us out here shouldn't be expected to pay the cost of negligence. This year already I have had to divert over $40,000 that could have gone for critical services to address infrastructure needs for my agency. Should development be halted, I hope the city comes up with a funding mechanism to cover these increased costs for those of us out here.

Submitted by Linda N (not verified) on Sat, Dec 13, 2014

Will the developers also provide the traffic infrastructure to move more traffic on and off the West End? More homes, more businesses = more vehicles and traffic. This is an issue that I have not heard proactively addressed as part of the development proposals.