Alameda Point town center developer selected

Alameda Point town center developer selected

Michele Ellson
Alameda Point

The City Council voted Wednesday to approve an exclusive agreement with Alameda Point Partners to negotiate a deal to develop a 68-acre waterfront town center at the former Naval Air Station, despite opposition from residents who think the lame duck council should wait and let the new council decide.

“This is a tough decision. But stalling is not the answer to a tough decision,” Vice Mayor Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft said.

Council members, who voted 5-0 to approve the agreement a few minutes after midnight Wednesday, said they needed to respect the two-year public process they’ve engaged in to develop a plan for the Point and select developers to fulfill it – a process they said demonstrated the public’s interest in their plan to redevelop Alameda Point.

“This has been the culmination of an active engagement process,” Councilwoman Lena Tam said. “It’s important to respect that process and move it forward.”

Councilman Tony Daysog said many of the people asking the council to wait were simply seeking to undo the work that had been done over the past several years.

“We can’t move backwards,” Daysog said. “We can’t have that whole discussion again.”

The council faced a packed house, with dozens of speakers divided between those who wanted the city to keep moving forward on efforts to develop the Point with others who wanted the council table the negotiating agreement until new members are seated.

Mayor-elect Trish Spencer and Councilman-elect Frank Matarrese both asked the council to delay the decision, saying they should have the opportunity to give input on the agreement when they’re seated in a few weeks instead of waiting until a completed development plan and agreement come back to the council for approval.

“No one has indicated why this item cannot wait 28 days from today’s date,” Spencer said. “This is one of things that, as sitting members of the council, I hope you realize: That it’s time to let go, (and) make way for the new council.

“We had an election, and the people have spoken,” Spencer added, saying she thinks the mayor’s race reflected opposition to the city’s plans for Alameda Point.

Councilman-elect Jim Oddie urged the council to move forward, one way or another.

“Right now, you are my elected council,” Oddie said. “You are here until December 16 and I am urging you not to abdicate your responsibility.”

Some residents advocated for the agreement, saying efforts to revitalize the Point have been subject to a lot of public debate already, and that more is coming; others said the housing, transit and other amenities the development would provide are needed. But others questioned whether it was worth initiating an effort to come up with a development plan incoming council members might ultimately reject.

While Ashcraft, Councilman Tony Daysog and Oddie have expressed support for the council’s current plans for the Point, Matarrese has said he doesn’t want new homes at the Point, while Spencer has vowed to slow development. Four council votes will be needed for the development to move forward.

City staffers and the developer focused on the job-creation and open space aspects of the development envelope the City Council authorized for the site, which includes up to 800 homes, shops, office space and hotels.

“Bringing business to Alameda, and to this market, is something we understand how to do,” said Joe Ernst of SRM Ernst, one of the developers in the partnership.

Ernst said he wants the commercial mix at the town center site to include artisans, retail, art, dining and entertainment, including businesses already ay the Point. Representatives of an Oakland winemaker and Whole Foods said Alameda Point Partners is working on creating a food production hub at the old Navy base.

Alameda Point Chief Operating Officer Jennifer Ott said the rough development plan for the Point was created though a comprehensive public process that engaged many people but generated little opposition.

James Edison, a financial consultant working for the city, said housing will help pay for new infrastructure at Alameda Point, and Ott said an attractive gateway will help draw new business to the Point.

“Being able to tour corporate users through an attractive gateway is extremely important. We want it to look like somewhere where a corporate user wants to locate their campus,” she said. “People want to pick and choose parks and jobs. We just don’t think this is realistic.”

Ott said that the city is pausing an effort to select a developer for a second, 82-acre site where a corporate campus is anticipated. She said neither of the developers the city is negotiating with is willing to offer money upfront for roads and utilities, as Alameda Point Partners has done.

Councilman Stewart Chen, who noted that it’s difficult to attract developers, said a South Bay development group that sought to purchase the Bachelor Enlisted Quarters and a portion of the Point’s taxiway “basically bailed on us.” Mayor Marie Gilmore announced that the city had entered a settlement agreement with the group, Alameda United Commercial.

A development plan and agreement will be created and vetted by the community and a list of city boards and commissions over the next several months. The council could consider whether to move forward with a development deal as early as May 2015.


Submitted by WannaBeInAlameda (not verified) on Wed, Nov 19, 2014

And so the developer's pocketed minions have their last stab at destroying the fabric of Alameda. Their decision clearly shows their utter and complete lack of respect for what THE CITIZENS OF ALAMEDA want. Hopefully the damage can be minimized once the new council is seated.

If this council is remembered for anything, it will be this decision. It shows truly where their allegiance is: To "BIG MONEY" and NOT to THE CITIZENS OF ALAMEDA.

Submitted by MoreHousesinAla... (not verified) on Wed, Nov 19, 2014

This council will be remembered for being brave enough to ignore the antihousing bullies who just want to keep Alameda for themselves.

Submitted by Sylvia Gibson on Wed, Nov 19, 2014

Antihousing bullies, seriously? It's almost too ridiculous to comment on. I grew up in Alameda and now I'm raising my family here. My grandchildren and great-grandchildren might just live on this island. I'd like decisions to be made with the long-term good of the community being the #1 priority. Not a short-sighted profit grab that leaves us wondering what happened when the developer moves on to its next project and we are stuck with the results forever.

Submitted by kathryn (not verified) on Wed, Nov 19, 2014

This council did exactly what they were supposed do. This whole thing was vetted by the community. And hey! The "community" is more then half RENTERS! Who, given the insane rent increases, needs affordable housing. Those who do not want more housing either don't understand the need or already "have theirs " so don't care.

Submitted by Brian (not verified) on Wed, Nov 19, 2014

Michele, I noticed you weren't at last nights meeting and I suggest you go back and review the tape. I was there and at least 90 percent of the speakers that spoke were in favor of the ENA moving forward. Your writing during this election has been very biased and it's obvious you are not favorable towards the outgoing council. I would like to see an accurate portrait of what the community feelings are on this subject. The campaign and election is over. We need to keep moving the city forward. I personally request that you take a step back and report the facts. This will help move a community forward that is obviously split on issues. Thanks

Submitted by John Piziali on Wed, Nov 19, 2014

I watched the entire meeting right up to 12:am those of us who would like to see this type of development on the Point are not crooks and we are not beholding to developers or big business, nor are the council members whom we agree with. I have lived here in the West End for 71 years, I walk on the point almost every day of the year. This is not a short sighted power grab, it is the future of Alameda. My question for those who believe we should have no housing on the Point, please be very clear on how we get the infrastructure built with no funds available from the city?. Where will the hundreds of millions of dollars needed for infrastructure come from?.

Submitted by Michele Ellson on Wed, Nov 19, 2014

Hi Brian,

I did catch the meeting from home on TV (got back from the school board just as this item was being heard). Of the 38 public speakers who I caught, 23 were in favor of moving forward, 13 were opposed and two listed issues (traffic and a lack of emergency water supply) but it wasn't really clear whether they were for or against moving forward.

Submitted by Struggling (not verified) on Wed, Nov 19, 2014

I am pro development at Alameda point for many reasons, but nearest and dearest to my heart is for the potential for it adding housing inventory to Alameda. I was recruited to Alameda from out of state by my employer "VF Corporation." VFC houses the headquarters for major apparel, footwear, and outdoor equipment brands like The North Face, Jansport, Lucy and Smart Wool. Alameda Point Partners (APP) built a beautiful campus for us in Alameda on Bay Farm Island. When VFC recruited me in 2010, the salary they offered me was enough for me to afford a nice 1.5 bedroom apartment in the East end of Alameda main island. I was happy to accept the offer and excited to live in Alameda where I could ride my bike to work. Not having a commute goes a long way to my idea of quality of life.

Unfortunately, due to Measure A, limited housing inventory, and lack of rent control, owners and landlords in Alameda are getting away with raising rents by large amounts. My rent went up 20% this year alone. When I went to look for another place to live in my budget, I was stunned at the going rate for a one bedroom. I don’t qualify for low income housing and I can’t afford to buy a house so I’m left with four options.

1. Leave Alameda and endure a long commute in which case what’s left of my discretionary income would NOT be spent on Alameda businesses.
2. Accept the rent increase in Alameda and spend half of my take-home pay on housing.
3. Live in a dump.
4. Get roommates (which at age 44 isn’t an ideal scenario – most people my age have families and don’t want roommates and I don’t want to live with people at different stages of life).

One of the units I looked at when searching for a new apartment in October was literally a tool shed butted up against the fence in someone’s back yard that they had plumbed with a toilet and a sink. The going rate - $1300/month. I also looked at a lot of ramshackle 2-bedrooms – places where people do a lame re-model and turn a closet into a bedroom so they can charge 2-bedroom prices. All I want is a clean, updated one bedroom, but there is a very limited supply of those. One bedrooms at the recently remodeled “Panamor” are $2375/month for a 700sft 1-bedroom.

I think I’m fairly representative of the work force that developments like Alameda Point Partners (APP) are trying to recruit. I hear a lot of talk about enticing businesses to Alameda and creating jobs, but if you bring jobs to the island, it is your civic responsibility to provide a variety of housing options for them as well! Everyone is looking to improve their quality of life and for many of us that means avoiding long commutes and living close to where you work. If you give people this option, they will chose it. By living close to work, people won’t be adding to the traffic and limited infrastructure concerns people have. I rarely use the tube or the bridges. I’ve tried to create a life where I don’t have to leave the island and that means that what’s left of my discretionary income is spent here, in Alameda. Isn’t that the goal of fostering a healthy economy in Alameda?

I also want to caution that the company I work for, The North Face, since moving to Alameda, has seriously struggled with employee retention and recruitment. I work in the footwear division of The North Face. As we seek to build our business, we are trying to hire people with footwear-specific experience. Those people currently live in Portland where brands like Nike, Adidas, Columbia, Keen and Under Armor have offices. We’ve been unable to recruit anyone willing to relocate. The salaries the company can offer do not compensate for the extremely high cost of living in the Bay Area. We are losing people to Portland where, even though the salary may be less, their dollar goes a lot further especially when it comes to affordable housing. Consequently, there are some discussions about creating a satellite office for footwear in Portland. We love you, Alameda, but we might have to have a conscious uncoupling.

Development at Alameda Point may be able to entice businesses in, but unless they allocate a large percentage of the development to housing, businesses will struggle with employee retention and recruitment. I’d also like to request that the housing provided isn’t just single family homes. We all love families and our Norman Rockwell version of reality, but I’m begging APP to please offer a solid inventory of one and two bedroom apartments as well.

That was a lot. Thank you for listening.

Submitted by Ariane (not verified) on Wed, Nov 19, 2014

I stayed for the entire meeting. I decided not to speak. It definitely did not seem that 90% were for the ENA, but it did seem that the outgoing Council as it stands had already made up its mind on how they were going to vote in advance of the meeting. I will reserve my other comments for a longer write up.

Submitted by victor quintell (not verified) on Wed, Nov 19, 2014

John, I also watched up till midnight just to see what these council members were going to do. They clearly showed their utter and complete lack of respect for what THE CITIZENS OF ALAMEDA want. Their allegiance is: TO "BIG MONEY" and NOT to THE CITIZENS OF ALAMEDA. Just look at the Amount of $$$$$ they were given from Developer's over the past terms in office. I spent 36 Years on the BASE and it is not ready for any type of housing, Schools or parks for children. Traffic problems will never be corrected until we get new people in our PUBLIC WORKS DEPT.

Richard Bangert's picture
Submitted by Richard Bangert on Wed, Nov 19, 2014

The refrain that "developers will just get their money and move on" is sounding trite. Unless you personally built the place you live in, you are living in a dwelling that was built by developers who moved on.

This 68-acre project at Alameda Point is the culmination of the process that started right after SunCal and its mega project was bid adieu. It's the opposite of the bloated shaky deal 4,800-home SunCal plan. And given the new information in the article above that there are no commercial developers willing to lay down money on the Enterprise Zone, this is the only game on the table, and it's not one that someone just pulled out of thin air. The staff could have recommended finding a developer for the entire town center, but they didn't. I see this as a cautious beginning of the end of blight, the quaintness of which has worn off for me.

Submitted by Kate Quick (not verified) on Wed, Nov 19, 2014

I have a very sick elderly dog and watched from home until the end. The preponderance of the speakers were for the Council discussing and voting on the issue, and for the project. Some of those asking for delay of the process suggested that they were for the project, but thought the new Council should be allowed to weigh in. The only badly behaved person was countered immediately by Nick Cabral who thanked the members of the Council who are leaving for their service to the community and said he was sorry that the person had gotten out of line and insulted the Council. It was a good view of what civic engagement should be like, and ended with a 5-0 vote to go forward.

Submitted by Wedgee (not verified) on Wed, Nov 19, 2014

It looks as if some people believe that housing development at the Point will result in more affordable rental housing in Alameda in general.

While that is possible, it is far from given. I'd even say that it's unlikely.

First, if anyone in Alameda thinks that they will be able to buy a home out there, what incentive does a developer have to build homes that are anything other than as expensive as the market will bear?

Did the Bayport development do anything to increase affordable housing in Alameda for anyone other than the folks who qualify for the few units in the development that were required to be affordable?

I encourage those who wish for more affordable housing in Alameda to ask at Planning and Council meetings what the least expensive non-subsidized units in any given new development are expected to sell for.

Throwing up a pile of homes that only wealthy people can afford does NOTHING to increase the supply of reasonably-priced rentals, unless you believe that the people who will buy them are now occupying rentals in Alameda. I do not believe that; I suspect that expensive housing at the Point will mostly draw people who do not already live in Alameda, ultimately having no effect on the pricing of rental housing.

Building more homes for affluent people does not automatically do anything to lower rents elsewhere in town. Those who want to make money building those homes would love for us to believe otherwise.

There are good reasons for building housing out at the Point, but an expectation that it will bring down housing prices is not one of them.

Submitted by Granville Gilbert (not verified) on Wed, Nov 19, 2014

The ousted mayor and her developer husband got what they wanted and she paid back the developers donations.

Submitted by John Piziali on Wed, Nov 19, 2014

I believe there could be new homes built at the Point and they could be more reasonably priced if they could be built in clusters, or two and three story buildings, another words smaller more compact units. Yes that would violate measure A at the Point which I am in favor of. It would also help the people in the work force that need this type of housing. I guess I'm becoming an housing advocate.

Submitted by Eric (not verified) on Wed, Nov 19, 2014

Why is it when the council approves something, the 'anti-everything' crowd assumes some pay to play is involved. Has anyone asked and / or verified if this developer gave any money to various candidates? Time to find a new (more credible) line of criticism.

Submitted by Steve Gerstle on Wed, Nov 19, 2014

Housing Supply & Demand

Alameda is about a tenth the size of San Francisco. According to these numbers, it would take about 10,000 new housing units in Alameda to have a significant effect on housing costs.

Submitted by neil (not verified) on Thu, Nov 20, 2014

Steve: your point about supply and demand is the very essence of free-riding. The same point can be made about global warming. We can't do anything on our own, so let's leave it to others. I guess that's "Alamedans First" at work.

Wedgie: you can't make up your own laws of economics. By all means, dislike housing because of traffic or whatever, but don't claim that building housing won't increase the supply.

Submitted by frank on Thu, Nov 20, 2014

Actually if I remember correctly there is an agreement in place between the City of Alameda and Renewed Hope that 25% of Housing built at the Point will be BMR. I'm sure someone can find the specifics of the agreement.

Submitted by Chris Muir (not verified) on Thu, Nov 20, 2014

I'm not anti-development, per se, but I am against development if there is no accompanying infrastructure plan. Without another way to get on and off the island from the west end, development on the base is a non-starter for me. I know this is a hard problem, but moving ahead with development plans without dealing with this issue, and hoping things just work out, is akin to magical thinking, not city planning.

Submitted by Wendy (not verified) on Fri, Nov 21, 2014

Are people forgetting that Oakland right across the estuary and Treasure Island between them will soon one day have tens of thousands of new homes increasing gridlock to San Francisco and around Alameda. It's all about $$$$$$$$$. The infrastructure/safety plan of the entire area is ignored. What the outgoing council fails to acknowledge is the people of Alameda have made it clear what they want yet they still put on their green dollar sign horse-blinders and carry on without public vote and very little discourse. Jim Oddie sounds like a pawn for the outgoing council.

Richard Bangert's picture
Submitted by Richard Bangert on Fri, Nov 21, 2014

Chris, Yes, it is a hard problem. But if we are going to put the brakes on a development project, it would be more fair to begin with the Del Monte project. Del Monte ceased operations in 1990. NAS Alameda was slated for closure in 1993, which launched an intense community planning process. The first plans for reuse of the Del Monte warehouse didn't appear until 2002, and have evolved ever since.

With regard to Alameda Point planning, after a 20-year planning odyssey, we've arrived back at "square one," which is the original 1,425-housing-unit plan that at the time was deemed the most the West End could handle without a new crossing. The problem we face is that now that we've arrived back at "square one" with AP planning, there are other players standing on the playing board.

Submitted by Chris Muir (not verified) on Fri, Nov 21, 2014

Richard, how was the increase in traffic for 1,425 units justified? Was the decision that this number was acceptable made before the CalTrans report that stated that the tube was already at or over capacity?

Islands have more planning problems than normal cities, but we continue to want growth like the surrounding cities. The fact that we're an island could be taken advantage of, if the number of ferries was multiplied by a good factor, so that they could run much more frequently, and commensurate shuttles to the ferry terminals were added.

Richard Bangert's picture
Submitted by Richard Bangert on Fri, Nov 21, 2014

Chris, without seeing the CalTrans report you refer to, I would say the answer to your question is Yes. But I don't think it is the Tube that got worse, so much as it has been a case of 880 getting worse, and therefore traffic exiting Alameda gets bogged down - especially with an ill-suited roadway interchange on the Oakland side. For more info on "what were they thinking?" take a look at the 1999 Environmental Impact Report for the base reuse plan of 1,425. It's in two parts located here:

Submitted by elliott gorelick (not verified) on Sat, Nov 22, 2014

And for those who like to point out that the Theater was great so why was anyone complaining, let me go on record as really being a fan of the theater before and after it opened (I don't know i the financial arrangements were handled properly). BUT I ran down for a quick errand and to pick up takeout food last night. It took so long to find a parking space, I probably could have walked the mile in less time. So I wouldn't go back to the way it is, but there are always tradeoffs. The question I have is what the hell do I get (that's right - a totally selfish question from a current resident of Alameda, the only stakeholders our elected officials should be considering) out of Point development?

Submitted by Paul Foreman (not verified) on Sat, Nov 22, 2014

Richard, have you driven the tube outbound at morning commute? The backup is at the traffic light at the end of the tube. Traffic flows freely beyond that point. It could be argued that that is a staging light to space out traffic going on to 880 North, but there is another light beyond that, so I don't think this light is designed for that. Therefore I do not think the problem is 880. It is everybody leaving Alameda over very few exit points at the same time. Even if 880 is the culprit, it does not change the fact that adding thousands of additional cars to the tube commute is a major problem, not to mention emergency evacuation from a disaster, so I'm with Chris on this one.