Alameda Point Explained: 1425
Alameda Point Explained: 1425
When city leaders signed a deal to receive about 1,800 acres of Alameda Point from the Navy at no cost, it came with one small string attached: The city had to agree to construct no more than 1,425 new homes on the land – or to pay a premium of $50,000 for each new home that exceeds the limit.
The city has engaged in a massive planning process to prepare the Point for new development that features that number, along with enough commercial space to replace 10,000 of the jobs that disappeared when the base was shuttered. But housing advocates are saying the housing number is arbitrary and unrealistic, and they think more homes will be needed to see the rest of the plan – its employment base, vibrant town center, transit and parks – to fruition.
“Nothing is going to happen without people there,” said Laura Thomas of Renewed Hope, which successfully sued the city to require that a quarter of the homes built at Alameda Point are affordable to lower-income residents.
Thomas said the number “flies in the face” of statewide efforts – embraced by city leaders – to create more environmentally friendly compact developments, which would house enough residents to justify increased transit service that could help reduce traffic. She said that 1,400 homes may sound like a lot, but given the Point’s vast acreage, “there’s room for a lot more.”
The city’s business-heavy approach will create a “dead zone” at the Point, Thomas said, along with the traffic many residents are seeking to avoid since the city’s current plans don’t include enough housing to accommodate the workers city staffers are seeking to attract.
“If you have 10,000 jobs and only 1,400 of (the workers) can live here, how are they going to get here? It flies in the face of the demands of this community,” she said.
Alameda Point Chief Operating Officer Jennifer Ott said businesses will provide plenty of transit riders, too – and perhaps, their own private transit – while helping the city address its ongoing budget problems by bringing new jobs and revenue to the Island. And she said jobs, and not more homes, are what existing Alameda residents want.
“Let’s see if we can address some of those same issues with other uses,” she said.
Ott said that it will take eight to 10 years for all the homes included in the plan to be built and that it’s premature for people to start questioning the housing numbers.
“I think what we’re saying now is, ‘Let’s try to attract jobs,’” Ott said. “Later, when we build out the 1,425 (homes), would it be in the best interests of the city to re-evaluate it? Maybe. But let’s see what we can get going out there.”
But Helen Sause of Housing Opportunities Make Economic Sense, which is also advocating for more housing, questioned whether businesses would come to the Point if the city doesn’t have enough housing to shelter their workers. Sause, a retired executive of San Francisco’s redevelopment agency who helped lead the Base Reuse Advisory Group that drafted the reuse plan the city is basing its planning efforts on, said the city should determine how many homes need to be built to accommodate the new workers they are seeking to attract.
“The key would be, what does it take to serve the workforce that we’re hoping to entice into the city?” she said.
Sause said the city will be creating “another traffic monster” if it is successful in focusing development on businesses, though Ott said off-Island commuters’ travel patterns will be opposite of Alameda residents’. Sause said that assembling the right mix of housing types – matched to jobs and offering a critical mass for transit service – could blunt the traffic and new development would create.
While Ott said there are no plans to change the numbers in the foreseeable future, she acknowledged that changes in a development effort – especially for a development like the Point’s, which could take 25 to 30 years to complete – are possible. The environmental study that is being conducted will look at the impact of building 3,400 homes at the Point as an alternative to the current development plan.
But if city leaders decide to change the plan to build more housing at the Point, they could face an uphill battle convincing residents, Sause said.
“How tough will it be to change that number?” she said.
Planning Board member John Knox White has argued the city isn’t ready to offer the public a number at all, and both he and Sause think a frank, public conversation about the number of homes needed to support the jobs, town center and amenities residents want is due.
“Let’s not talk about numbers, because they mean different things to different people,” Knox White said. “We need to talk about must-haves, like-to-haves, what’s it going to take us to get there, the tradeoffs. Is it worth it to have a 30-second delay at the Tube to have a world-class sports complex at the Point? (We need to have) a conversation that has meaning, that the community can get its teeth into.”