You said it: Alameda Point reuse – no easy answers

You said it: Alameda Point reuse – no easy answers

Frank Matarrese

Once again, plans for Alameda Point are under review as the city's environmental impact report is being prepared for what still remains as one of the most important land decisions in city history. It is very clear that there are no easy answers and that development is going to be limited and spread over many years. That does not mean, however, that we should throw up our hands and ignore the potential for these 1500+ acres on the western edge of Alameda.

The recent Alameda Point map showing zones defining Alameda Point development zones raised questions about how and when the changes from previous plans occurred. Questions are good and more should be asked since they underscore a principle that negotiations between the city and federal agencies should be in full view so the public (which foots the bills for both parties) has input to future use.

When directing that use, I hope that the city considers three avenues with merit and ones that that reflect key issues in past debates: locking significant open space into the plan, creating jobs through reuse of the existing structures and reducing the number of housing units to minimize traffic and congestion. Here’s why I think these are important to the future of Alameda Point.

First, in a future with changing weather patterns and sea-level rise, protecting the shoreline is critical. Zoning large tracts of Alameda Point land as open space, dedicated to wildlife with restored wetlands will provide much needed buffer between the rising Bay tides and the developed zones at Alameda Point. These undeveloped tracts will provide superior wildlife habitat and a greener alternative to engineered shorelines. Marin’s Hamilton Air Force Base, where wetlands have been restored in place of old runways, is a great example of what can be done. If anything, open space zones on the map should be expanded.

Second, job creation is critical not only to Alameda Point’s success, but a vital part of the Bay Area’s economic stability. These “employment” zones should be defined by ordinances that expand existing marine related commercial activities such as those supporting the MARAD fleet, commercial vessel repair and pleasure boat services. The ordinances must promote and aid in expanding the mix of light commercial use in current industrial spaces. Growing the specialty beverage industry and sports activities established at Alameda Point is a must. The presence of significant technical support for cleanup efforts, and Foreign Trade Zone status must be explored to contribute new growth in the commercial mix at Alameda Point. Working with the VA, our county representative and the Alameda Health Care District Board might bring healthcare jobs to Alameda Point and beyond by consolidating efforts. In all these efforts, jobs funded from tax dollars must be prioritized for the local workforce.

Third, improving existing housing units, establishing a better bond with neighboring West End communities and creating new housing units strictly based on job creation should be adopted as guidelines for any residential development. To address traffic and to acknowledge the reality of no significant improvement to the sole Estuary crossing, the Webster/Posey tubes, the 1,425-unit cap described on the staff report for Monday's Planning Board meeting should be reduced.

Finally, getting something done is going to take working with other agencies; our representatives on the federal, state, regional and county levels; and patience for the long haul. Wetland restoration, for example, might be more easily by funded working cooperatively with our Congressional and East Bay Regional Parks District representatives. Interaction with other communities which have experience base closure needs to be stepped up, looking at everything from contamination cleanup to traffic and to identify what approaches have been successful and to learn from real-life mistakes and miscalculations made in reuse efforts at other closed military installation.

The March 1 deadline for written comments to the draft EIR is coming fast. Alamedans can get actively involved and let their voices be heard on Alameda Point planning by e-mailing Acting City Planner Andrew Thomas at athomas@ci.alameda.ca.us. Comments can also be mailed to him at 2263 Santa Clara Ave., Room 190, Alameda, Calif. 94501.

Comments

Mpomeroy's picture
Submitted by Mpomeroy on Fri, Feb 22, 2013

Great, Great article. Thank you Frank for your cogent analysis.

Submitted by liztay on Fri, Feb 22, 2013

Excellent points about the point. Open space for a barrier against future sea level change is a key consideration. Look at the post Sandy, post Katrina efforts to restore wet lands by relocating residents to higher, more inland ground - we should not make the same mistakes by building too many houses too close to the shore.