Regional jobs and housing plan could aid Point, waterfront development

Regional jobs and housing plan could aid Point, waterfront development

Michele Ellson

Bay Area housing and transportation planners are finalizing a new regional development strategy that could channel badly needed dollars into future development efforts at Alameda Point and Alameda’s Northern Waterfront, though city staffers fear it may not be enough money to support needed transportation improvements for all the homes and jobs the developments are expected to accommodate.

The Plan Bay Area aims to slow suburban sprawl in favor of townhomes and apartments near jobs, shops and transit by funneling billions of dollars in transportation and other funding into 170 “priority development areas” across the nine-county Bay Area and by allowing certain types of development along wider swaths of the Bay Area to proceed with less scrutiny than is typically required.

The plan is slated to be approved by the governing boards of the Association of Bay Area Governments, which oversees planning for housing, and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the Bay Area’s regional transportation planners, this summer.

Alameda, which is home to two of the priority development areas proposed by the plan – Alameda Point and the Northern Waterfront – has been projected to add 5,889 new homes and 9,150 jobs between 2010 and 2040. Specific transportation improvements the plan would seek to fund here to support new homes and businesses include rapid bus service linking Alameda to Oakland and improved access to the I-880 freeway at 23rd and 29th avenues.

While city staffers are urging council members to support the plan, they want policymakers to ask for more money for transportation improvements they think will be needed to handle the traffic that will be created by new homes and jobs on the Island. In a staff report that was originally written for tonight’s meeting, they say Alameda needs more bus and ferry service, better I-880 access from the Posey Tube, an earthquake-resistant Miller-Sweeney Bridge and better bicycle and pedestrian access to Oakland.

“These improvements have to happen for us to be able to attract the jobs and build the housing that (they’re) talking about,” City Planner Andrew Thomas said during an interview Monday. “The private sector is not going to be able to fund these improvements on their own.”

The regional planning effort was prompted by SB 375, a 2008 law that seeks to provide more housing for people across the income spectrum and to reduce car and truck emissions by uniting land use and transportation planning – and by directing billions of dollars in transportation funding to cities and counties that comply with the plans.

The law also allows the development of higher-density housing and mixed-use projects – 20 units an acre or more – that are within a half-mile of transit or a major roadway to proceed more quickly than is typically permitted, reducing the amount of environmental review required or in some circumstances, eliminating it entirely. Those provisions would streamline approvals for housing projects across much of Alameda, a map included in the draft Plan Bay Area shows.

In addition to meeting the law’s mandates of reduced vehicle emissions – 7 percent by 2020 and 15 percent by 2035 – and promotion of more compact development that mixes homes and businesses, the plan seeks to reach additional goals that include reducing pedestrian and cyclist deaths and others hastened by emissions, boosting open space and economic growth, and making housing more affordable for the Bay Area’s poorer residents. As written the plan anticipates progress toward most, but not all, of its goals.

The plan would direct an estimated $57 billion in transportation and other funds between now and 2040 toward reaching those goals, including $14 billion through a new OneBayArea grant program that will give cities and counties that comply with the regional development strategy federal money for everything from road repair to bus and rail fixes to Safe Routes to School programs.

It would also pump $24 billion into existing transportation and transit systems, $16 billion into county transportation priorities, and $630 million toward car sharing and vanpools, electric car chargers, commuter benefits and other programs aimed at reducing emissions.

Planners anticipate the Bay Area will be home to an additional 2.1 million people by 2040 and another 1.1 million jobs. About two-thirds of the housing development would be allocated among 15 cities, with the remaining third spread among the Bay Area’s 86 other jurisdictions; San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose would be expected to provide land that could accommodate much of the development, as would Silicon Valley, where much of the area’s job growth is expected to occur.

As the Bay Area’s population grows and its demographics shift, planners believe new residents will seek out the compact, transit-oriented housing the plan seeks to create. They expect that a growing number of aging Baby Boomers and young professionals – and Asian and Latino families who are expected to make up bigger slices of the Bay Area’s demographic pie – will seek out townhomes, condominiums and apartments in urban areas that offer easy access to shops and services over single family homes deep in the suburbs, where a car is often required to access those services.

The plan and the dollars attached to it could be a boon for the city, whose leaders want to redevelop Alameda Point into a series of walkable and transit-rich new neighborhoods with a few thousand new and existing homes and an array of businesses. City leaders had anticipated using future property taxes to pay some of an estimated $650 million tab for new roads and utilities to support the development, but with the state’s redevelopment agencies shuttered, they are scrambling for new funding.

But Alameda will have a lot of company in its quest to secure funds, as cities across the Bay Area – including far-flung suburbs where less development is desired – fight for precious transportation dollars.

“That is going to be interesting,” Thomas said.


Mpomeroy's picture
Submitted by Mpomeroy on Sat, Jun 8, 2013

The estimated number of additional cars that would be produced by the housing plan (around 11,000) and the estimated number of additional commuters generated by the job number (around 7000) would completely change the quality of life for those who already live in Alameda. And the traffic mitigation proposed, such as a rapid transit bus service and improved access to 880 at 23rd street and 29th street, are just a couple of bandaids, and won't have much of an effect on traffic in the two lane tunnel, actually could make it worse if the dedicated bus lane becomes a reality. Perhaps the overall strategy is to make commuting so onerous, that people will rise up and demand a new tunnel, say one from Alameda Point over to the west Oakland Bart Station. I bet that could be done for less than the 650 million the city needs for infrastructure on the base. If the ABAG goal is to improve quality of life for bay area residents, why are they failing to consider the damage this plan will do to ours?
We need to start thinking of solutions this now, How about charging a toll to go through the tunnel and using the money to build a new one? Lets think outside the box.