The Mystery of the Millions…Not so Mysterious
Action Alameda/Save Our City! Alameda (SOCA) has made much noise lately about the almost $700 million required for infrastructure at Alameda Point. They point out that SunCal’s master infrastructure plan calls for an expenditure of $679 million. Depending on the day, sometimes Action Alameda claims SunCal is asking for the entire $700 million in subsidies from the City and other times they recognize that the City can provide up to $184 million in tax increment redevelopment bonds, and question where the “missing” $500 million will come from. Whatever Action Alameda’s accusation du jour is, they claim it will lead the City of Alameda into the dark abyss of bankruptcy.
Scary stuff. And while we give credit to Action Alameda for their ability to utilize current buzzwords such as “bailout” and “bankruptcy” to tap into the economic fears of many citizens, their accusations are without merit.
In terms of the “bankruptcy” and “bailout” accusations, the City of Alameda has done an excellent job of disputing them. Links to the City press releases can be found on our home page: homesalameda.org.
So what about the almost $700 million in infrastructure costs?
The first question is, just what exactly are the infrastructure needs and can we use what is already there?
Infrastructure includes the basic physical and organization structures to provide Alameda Point with roads, water, sewage, and all utilities. Existing structures were built in the 1930’s and 1940’s are either in ruin, out dated, outmoded, or non-existent. SunCal has spent thousands of dollars assessing the infrastructure needs. But it’s pretty easy to see for yourself .
The geographical uniqueness of the Point present additional specific challenges. The SunCal plan includes site grading, drainages, water quality issues, demolition and relocation, street work and regional transportation. As well, there are many geotechnical challenges concerning earthquakes, sea rise, the use of sand fill, materials from the Posey Tube, bay sediments, tidal marshland, and young bay mud. These geotechnical situations lead to such necessities as the use of deep reinforcing piles and soil improvements, to name just two.
The full draft master infrastructure budget can be viewed here: http://www.alameda-point.com/APDocs.html
So it’s expensive. And necessary for any development that might be built on the site of the former base, regardless of the plan eventually put in place.
Of this, the City is estimating that the tax increment financing available will be capped at $184 million based on the increased tax increments over the life of the project, an amount that will need to include money for affordable housing. To generate the $184 million, the city would sell tax increment bonds backed by the increased increment from the development. The uses for such financing are limited but do include infrastructure improvements necessary to the development of the area. The money does not come out of the general fund – it does not take away money from city services or lead to bankruptcy! In fact, the City has adopted a policy of fiscal neutrality for redevelopment of the Base. The bonds are paid back only from property tax dollars the development generates. A full explanation of how redevelopment funding works can be found here: http://www.homesalameda.org/newsletter/rp_finance.html and here: http://www.homesalameda.org/newsletter/0109report.html
SunCal’s plan depends on construction of infrastructure and the difference between the tax increment financing and the actual cost of the infrastructure construction will be borne by the developer.
It is disappointing to have Action Alameda/SOCA try to destroy years and years worth of community efforts to develop Alameda’s newest neighborhood. And it is shameful that they are preying on the insecurity of their fellow Alameda citizens.
What about the VA?
A part of Alameda Point was always to be a government-to-government transfer. It had been hoped this would be between the Navy and the Fish and Wildlife agency, however this has been derailed over the responsibility to conduct the clean-up of this pretty dirty site. Therefore, the Veteran’s Administration is considering locating a facility at Alameda Point. HOMES Board member Joan Konrad addresses some concerns over this proposal in a letter to the VA, reprinted with permission below:
“Locating the Veterans Administration facility at Alameda Point can be a benefit to the City of Alameda if the VA is willing to cooperate with the City of Alameda, SunCal (the Alameda Point master developer), and the Navy in not only mitigating negative impacts but in actively working to become an asset to the City.
I have four areas of concerns:
- How will the VA become involved in the City and SunCal’s efforts to improve and increase the use of the public transit system serving both the needs within the island and in getting off the island?
- How will the VA facility integrate into the life of the new Alameda Point development and enhance the lives of people there?
- How will the Superfund site (IR 2) be cleaned to a level that will leave the land safe in perpetuity through earthquake, erosion, subsistence and rise in sea level?
- How can development of the facility protect the least terns? This might be a good time to examine instances and other places where the least terns have coexisted with human activity.
This is an exciting opportunity. Let’s hope this endeavor can be a benefit all concerned.”
There is additional concern focused on questions of increased traffic and how the infrastructure necessary to any development would be achieved and scheduled in order not to disrupt the lives of the 500 plus residents of the Alameda Point Collaborative.
Step It Up, City!
For months, HOMES has championed the idea of a city-wide transportation plan. Many Alamedans already face traffic challenges near the tube and on the East End as Bay Farm residents bring children to schools in central Alameda. Any development, along with a possible VA facility, will increase those challenges. But there are solutions and there is funding to determine those solutions. However, it is up to our elected city officials to actively seek the funding to support developing an Island-wide transportation solution. And it is up to our elected officials to work with SunCal to develop an Island-wide master plan for transit that will benefit ALL Alamedans.
SunCal cannot be expected to negotiate with other cities and agencies or apply for grants available to cities. They and the City need to partner on this plan that will affect all of Alameda.
Let’s Keep Our Eye on the Ball
Or, rather, on the plan. With so many distractions lately, it’s easy to forget that the plan SunCal presented to the ARRA on January 7, 2009 is the result of over fifteen years of hard work by Alameda citizens. There have been meetings, workshops, and surveys. Letters written, voices heard. A community vision developed and goals put in the General Plan. What we need to be doing now is not second-guessing all our efforts, but analyzing what SunCal has produced in terms fulfilling our vision. This is the goal that we are being distracted from by irresponsible individuals and their fallacies designed to play on our fears.
Please analyze it from every viewpoint. Would you like to live in this new neighborhood? Do you think that having nine types of housing to buy or rent would appeal to you, your parents, or your children? Be thoughtful and personal in your evaluation. Include:
- Does it provide needed amenities for its residents? For other Alamedans?
- Does it mirror “old” Alameda in terms of historic preservation, architecture, neighborhood centers, parks and recreational opportunities?
- Is it environmentally responsible? Does it provide sustainability?
- Does it include alternatives to automobile dependence? Traffic mitigations?
Guard against hysteria – make your own checklist!
HOMES Needs Your Help
Just a few short years ago, people said we would never be able to talk about the many possibilities now present for the future of Alameda Point, that the backdrop of Measure A would prevent the community from even being able to consider an environmentally sustainable, walkable, transit-oriented development. But we are! And HOMES has been at the forefront of promoting this open, inclusive and often exciting discussion.
Our expenses are minimal, but there are costs to maintain a web site and produce our newsletters and other materials. Please help us keep this discussion moving forward. We rely solely on the donations of individuals for support.
Donations may be sent to:
HOMES, 816 Grand St., Alameda, CA 94501
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