Alameda initiative delayed to next year
SunCal, California's largest private developer, has proposed several thousand new homes and up to 3,000,000 square feet of retail and commercial space for the former Naval Air Station in Alameda, now known as Alameda Point. SunCal has written and circulated an initiative to enable the development, but it is delaying submission of the signatures. With the delay, the measure will not be on the ballot before early 2010..
SunCal's initiative raises complex environmental questions. The initiative would make possible, but not guarantee, that the development of Alameda Point would comply with the Club's vision for a more sustainable community there. Such a community could include a mix of condos, apartments, and townhomes, as is typical of Alameda's older neighborhoods but currently prohibited in new neighborhoods. The initiative could fulfill the Club's vision - if it is built out at urban densities, and if environmental remediation, transportation improvements, and affordable housing are fully funded. The initiative would give SunCal so much discretion that is impossible to forecast the extent to which the development would implement the Club's vision.
At this time the funding status of the redevelopment of Alameda Point is unknown, and possibly insufficient. City staff, in a document titled "Alameda Point Development Election Initiative Report Executive Summary Part I", observed, "The Initiative does not calculate the total cost of infrastructure for the project. Therefore, it is unknown whether the $200 million will be sufficient to fund all... improvements." The proposed improvements include a regional Alameda Point sports complex, parks and open space, improved beach frontage, Bay Trail extension, on- and off-site traffic and transit improvements, a ferry terminal and transit hub, upgrades to the existing fire station, and a branch library. Staff suggest that funds will also be required to clean up portions of the site to residential standards where the Navy has committed to cleaning to industrial standards only.
The Club is also concerned that a thorough Environmental Impact Report will not be available until after the election. Such a report will analyze the compatibility of proposed land uses with the residual contamination at the former Naval Air Station and with the impact of the new homes and businesses on traffic. Alternatives and mitigations for adverse environmental impacts could be unnecessarily limited as they would have to be consistent with the initiative.
With SunCal's delay in submitting its measure, some Alamedans are looking at what might be included in a new initiative or a referendum placed on the ballot by the Council. If the new measure is based on the old, rather than just limited to changing the charter to allow condos, apartments, and townhomes, then the Club has identified several desirable changes.
- to remove limits on how much the city can require the development to provide for transportation improvements, environmental clean-up, parks, public facilities, and other public benefits;
- less permissive entitlements, which would still allow the developer to build but leave the city with more control over how much to develop (up to the maximum), when to develop it (phasing), the definition of public benefits, and control over redevelopment financing;
- minimum 30-day notice and comment periods for all planning and permit hearings and decisions; the initiative as written would reduce several appeal periods to 10 days, including for use permits.
Write to the Alameda City Council at:
Alameda City Hall
2263 Santa Clara Ave.
Alameda, CA 94501
Urge the Council to consider an alternative ballot measure to SunCal's initiative.
To join in the Sierra Club's efforts for environmentally sound development at Alameda Point and protection of the Alameda National Wildlife Refuge adjacent to SunCal's development, contact or call (510) 848-0800, ext. 312 or Bill Smith at (510) 522-0390 or by email to smithwja -at - gmail.com or, especially in relation to the refuge, Arthur Feinstein at arthurfeinstein -at- earthlink.net