POINT REPORT: Bailout Or Public Trust?

Action Alameda is proposing that the City terminate the Exclusive Negotiation Agreement they have with SunCal and instead turn Alameda Point into a Public Trust, similar to the Presidio. An argument they use to support this proposal is to claim that the City is turning over the Alameda Point Land to SunCal for free and giving them a $700 million taxpayer subsidy.

HOMES is always interested in hearing fresh ideas or learning of new concerns, so we have examined these proposals closely and have prepared two position papers to help our readers better understand them as well.

Much Ado About A Public Trust

Action Alameda d.b.a. Save Our City Alameda (Action Alameda was the group recently busy advocating for increasing currently allowable density at Alameda Point via the State Density Bonus Law) is now proposing a Public Trust scenario for Alameda Point, which it claims would result in a development similar to the Presidio.

Now, we all admire the Presidio – it is beautiful, with acres of forests, rolling green hills, and striking architecture. It sounds like a wonderful idea, so why would anyone be against it? Well, there are some inconvenient facts associated with Trusts.

First, the idea of a Public Trust for Alameda Point is not new. The City Council (sitting as the Alameda Reuse and Redevelopment Authority) examined the concept shortly after the former master developer (APCP) pulled out of the project in August 2006. For the following reasons, it wasn’t – and isn’t – considered a feasible option:

The Presidio Trust and the former NAS lands are not comparable. The Presidio Trust was created under unique circumstances associated with the formation by Congress of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area in 1972. The Alameda base was closed under BRAC (Base Closure and Realignment Commission) regulations, does not have such a unique circumstance, nor is likely to receive it. Special Federal legislation would be required for ARRA’s reuse of Alameda Point consistent with the Presidio Trust model. This requires a local Congressperson to convince the Department of Defense to mandate the Navy’s relinquishment of the negotiated purchase price of the land and essentially gift the land to a “wholly-owned government corporation.” Not likely to happen at any stage. If the land were given to a “wholly-owned government corporation,” then that corporation’s Board of Directors would be appointed by the President to oversee the Trust. Such Board members would not be compelled to consider Alameda’s development vision or the City’s interests nor live in Alameda. Again, control of the development – including density – would be out of local purview (as with the State Density Bonus Law).

And even the Presidio has to become economically self-sufficient. And how are they going to do that? With development by a private developer. Development that includes housing. So, even if a Public Trust could be established, it would be required to be economically sustainable, which would be achieved through development - including housing - which would be overseen by a federally appointed Board of Trustees, rather than by the local community.

Public Trusts also are exempt from local environmental and affordable housing rules, as well as from state and local taxes.

Both SunCal and APCP have testified to the inability of private financing to develop the site. APCP voted with its feet and left. SunCal conducted extensive studies and now offers a counter-proposal of what it will take to be financially feasible.

In some cases, such as with the Jenner Headlands in Sonoma County, a Public Trust is created to preserve pristine lands. But Alameda Point is not pristine. It is covered with buildings, roads and people. Without action, buildings will continue to deteriorate, roads will further crumble, and the existing Alameda Point residents will remain isolated and disconnected from the rest of Alameda. Oh yes, another small detail. The City of Alameda is under a legally binding Exclusive Negotiation Agreement with SunCal. Lawyers tend to frown and sue over arbitrarily dismissing such agreements. More information about the Trust proposal can be found at the following links:

Millions and Millions and Millions, Oh My!

In Action Alameda’s crusade to terminate the legally binding Exclusive Negotiation Agreement between the City of Alameda and SunCal, they are claiming that via the proposed development plan: 1) the City is handing the land over to SunCal for free and 2) SunCal is being given a $700 million taxpayer subsidy.

Check the facts!

First of all, the land isn’t City-owned or free. SunCal is purchasing it directly from the Navy for $108,000,000! The City does not have the $108 million purchase price.

The City took the lead in convincing the Navy it would choose the developer and create the community vision for development of the land. This vision has been refined over a fifteen-year period and is imbedded in the City’s General Plan. At every step of the way the community has been involved, including in the selection of the Master Developer. SunCal has held community workshops to ensure the ultimate goal of fulfilling the community vision.

Secondly, Action Alameda’s claim that the proposed use of in redevelopment bonds to build infrastructure will be repaid by city taxpayers is also factually incorrect.

The repayment of redevelopment bonds is paid out of the new tax increment the City would realize from development of the area. That means no bonds unless there is development. These bonds can only be put to very specific purposes that make the development possible. One example is the essential replacement of the entire infrastructure at Alameda Point without which no development can occur.

The SunCal Master Draft Plan can be found here: http://www.alameda-point.com/AP.html