Planning Board signs off on Site A

Planning Board signs off on Site A

Michele Ellson
Site A

Alameda’s Planning Board offered critical approvals Monday for a plan to develop a 68-acre slice of Alameda Point with new homes, commercial space, acres of parks and transit.

The seven-member board voted unanimously to move forward with a development plan for Site A, which is expected to serve as the long-awaited catalyst for revitalization of the former Alameda Naval Air Station.

“I am in support of this project,” Planning Board president Mike Henneberry said just moments before the vote. “It respects the past and positions us well for the future.”

City Planner Andrew Thomas cast the proposed development as an “important milestone” for the city and the culmination of more than two decades’ worth of planning for the future of the former Naval Air Station.

“This is an easy one for us. We are absolutely recommending approval of this development plan,” Thomas said.

The Site A proposal now moves to the City Council, which is expected to consider final approvals on June 16.

Monday’s vote followed comments from more than two dozen community and business leaders, housing advocates and others who urged the board to support the project in order to reverse decades of disuse that have seen the base deteriorate into an expanse of crumbling buildings, cracked pavement and faltering power and water lines.

Only one of the speakers Monday voiced concerns about the project, a sharp contrast to the loud community protest over former Point developer SunCal Companies’ proposal to build more than 4,800 homes.

Mayor Trish Spencer, who successfully ran for office on a slow-growth platform but has pledged to carefully consider the Site A plan, attended Monday’s meeting and was taking notes as public speakers took their turns at the podium.

The development proposal needs yes votes from four council members to move forward.

Alameda Point Partners, the development team the city selected late last year to develop Site A, is pitching 800 townhomes and condominiums, a quarter of which will be affordable to lower income residents; 600,000 square feet of retail and commercial space, including a 125-room hotel; 15 acres of parks and open space; and a new ferry terminal in Seaplane Lagoon. The proposal, which is expected to provide housing for 1,816 people and provide 971 jobs, aligns with plans the city has drafted and approved over the last several years.

The current planning process followed two failed efforts to redevelop the entire base with the aid of a master developer, which would oversee development efforts. Voters rejected SunCal’s Point proposal at the ballot box in 2010, while an earlier development team, Alameda Point Community Partners, walked away after determining their development plan wouldn’t pencil out financially.

Speakers urged the Planning Board to sign off on Alameda Point Partners’ Site A plan, saying it would provide desperately needed housing and new roads and utilities that could support additional business.

“We need housing at all levels to happen yesterday,” the Alameda Renters Coalition’s Angela Hockabout said. “We’ve been waiting for 20 years. It needs to happen as soon as possible.”

Alexandra Cohn of JC Cellars said she’d love to move her winery from Oakland to Alameda Point, while other businesses now based at the Point said they want new housing for their workers, most of whom live off-Island.

"We cannot sit here another 20 years and wait for these naysayers to die,” Cohn said. “We need this for our children!"

Speakers also said that failure to okay the plan would leave the Navy base to rot further.

“The only reason to say no to this is to say no to this so things won’t change. But they will change,” said Anne DeBardeleben of the Alameda Association of Realtors, who said conditions will worsen at the Point if the development is not approved.

Speakers and Planning Board members praised Alameda Point Partners for their willingness to address questions and concerns about the project. One speaker, Patricia Riley, said she was enticed by the promise of a development populated by artisans and cafés that isn’t cookie-cutter like prior developments.

“It’s going to be a big attraction for Alameda,” Riley said of Site A.

Traffic has also endured as a concern, though only one speaker expressed it Monday night. Thomas said the development will create “significant and unavoidable” traffic impacts, though the city will seek to reduce them by requiring the developer to offer transit options and by developing housing that attracts people who are less likely to drive.

Two-thirds of the homes to be built at the Point will be rental units, which planning documents say will draw fewer drivers and Thomas said could be a key step toward addressing the city’s rental housing crisis.

Separately, the Planning Board signed off on a recommendation to cap the amount of housing that can be built on the 36-acre North Housing site at 435 units. Under the current zoning, a developer or developers could theoretically build as many as 1,473 homes there.

The move is seen as one that could address that concern and potentially win a crucial fourth vote needed to move the Site A proposal forward. Vice Mayor Frank Matarrese, who like Spencer promised to slow growth during campaign season, said he couldn’t support Site A development unless the city took 800 homes off the table elsewhere.

Council members Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft and Tony Daysog voted in favor of development plans for the base that include the proposal for Site A, and Councilman Jim Oddie has hinted that he would also favor the Site A development.

In June, the council will consider approving a development agreement with Alameda Point Partners for Site A, which would be built over the course of 20 years. The council will also decide whether to grant the developer an exemption from Measure A to construct the proposed housing, which they have said they need in order to physically fit it all on the site.

The council will also consider a disposition and development agreement with the developer at a later date, along with its plan to reduce traffic the development is expected to create. The city has extended the deadline for creating the documents to September 1.

Comments

Submitted by SueS (not verified) on Tue, May 12, 2015

I don't understand why 2/3 of the homes built will be rental units would mean that there would be fewer drivers. renters don't drive? What a stupid assumption on their part.
"Two-thirds of the homes to be built at the Point will be rental units, which planning documents say will draw fewer drivers and Thomas said could be a key step toward addressing the city’s rental housing crisis."

Submitted by Weraker R (not verified) on Tue, May 12, 2015

@SueS: Because they might work there as well? Not sure

Submitted by Steve Gerstle on Tue, May 12, 2015

In addition to concerns that additional traffic will strain our limited transportation system, has thought been given to additional demands placed on limited police and fire resources? It seems that the APD is already stretched thin. New development will bring more crime as it brings more residents and visitors to the Island. Are new officers being hired to provide additional patrols and other police services? For example, How many new officers were hired to take on Alameda Landing -- or were no new officers hired and the limited resources in Police Sector One simply expected to take on that additional assignment? If the new development brings additional resources, that is one story, but if it simply strains additional resources, that is another.

Submitted by Michele Ellson on Tue, May 12, 2015

Hey Steve: I know folks who live or run businesses in Alameda Landing will be required to pay extra assessments (on top of their regular taxes) in order to fund police and fire services, among other things. Not sure yet how/if this will translate into additional feet on the street. Here's a piece I wrote on the additional taxes, in 2013: http://thealamedan.org/news/alameda-landing-taxes-moving-forward

Submitted by Kent (not verified) on Tue, May 12, 2015

I'd like to see housing (not rental units) at reasonable price points that would allow Alameda residents like me to "downsize" and retire there. That would reduce commute traffic.

Submitted by C. (not verified) on Wed, May 13, 2015

Has it ever occurred to anyone that many older life long renters in Alameda would like to downsize into smaller more affordable rentals? We need more subsidized and middle-income affordable senior housing in Alameda. There is a long wait list for Independence Plaza. Why wouldn't housing for seniors akin to that be welcome at Alameda Point? Not every senior in town has a house to cash out of and move into Phoenix Commons, Cardinal Point or some other luxury senior complex you have to buy into.

Submitted by Angela Hockabout (not verified) on Wed, May 13, 2015

A sizeable portion of the affordable housing at Site A will be designated senior housing, so indeed seniors are more than welcome at Site A.

Jon Spangler's picture
Submitted by Jon Spangler on Thu, May 14, 2015

Sue S and Kent,

Rents are skyrocketing for the almost half of Alameda residents who rent their shelter--because for 40 years, too little rental housing (and too many single-family homes) have been built in the Bay Area and across the state. Alameda's 1973 Measure A and similar decisions all over California have created a huge shortage of rental units statewide for millions of renters here. (The neutral and nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office describes this problem well and cites the need to build thousands of rental units--some of them for people like me who used to own homes and can no longer afford to buy one.)

Renters are your neighbors, friends, coworkers, working in local businesses and teaching in local schools. We and they) need more rental housing to rebalance the scales in the Bay Area housing market. Not everyone can afford to buy $1,000,000 homes. Don't force us out of Alameda and the Bay Area by insisting on home ownership for everyone.