March, 2006 Newsletter
Welcome to the HOMES e-newsletter! HOMES is a grassroots citizen’s group dedicated to preserving Alameda’s character at the Alameda Point redevelopment site. We believe that by offering a variety of homes in lively, mixed-use neighborhoods, Alameda Point will offer the historic feel, cultural richness and economic vitality that make Alameda such a wonderful place to live.
In This Issue
- Recent ARRA Meetings
- Alameda Landing Public Meetings
- WABA Presentation
- Feature Article: Housing for Sustainable Transportation
Recent ARRA Meetings
At the February 1 ARRA meeting, ARRA endorsed the PDC based on Measure A restrictions but avowed that they will thoroughly analyze the alternative plan which does not have restrictions requiring the construction of only single family homes or duplexes. Joan Konrad, Diane Lichtenstein and Helen Sause spoke to the benefits that Alameda can achieve if the exemption of Alameda Point from Measure A is approved and encouraged the Council to continue its support for exploring the alternative plan.
At the March 1 ARRA, the Council took the important step of approving an agreement with Metropolitan Transportation Commission for a $221,000 planning grant for Alameda Point and to provide the matching funds of $25,415 necessary to secure the grant. This provides immediate funding to begin, among other things, looking at issues concerning the seaplane lagoon and the new transit station for ferry service to San Francisco and how transit stops can be located within areas proposed for neighborhood retail and other services.
Alameda Landing Public Meetings
Open Houses were hosted by Catellus on January 21, and February 15, 2006 to invite the public to comment on the Alameda Landing project. Highlights of public feedback include:
- The importance of pedestrian, bicycle and water connections to Jack London Square, Marina Village, College of Alameda, and the West End to advance neighborhood connectivity.
- Suggestions of a waterfront park, outdoor performance areas, community event center and a landscape approach that maximizes view corridors.
- A greater incorporation of historic, cultural and environmental issues into the design and approach of the project.
- A preference for a mixed use project with residential, retail, office development that is densely configured for vibrant neighborhood interaction; design that is more inclusive of children and young adults; the inclusion of a VARIETY OF HOUSING TYPES; and sustainable design.
- Concern over potential congestion in the Posey and Webster tubes. Suggestions for alleviating the traffic problems include water-tax service, bus shuttles, pedestrian/bicycle bridge, or BART across the Estuary.
- Waterfront access is a key community item.
- Preserve views by having low-rise buildings for office and residential uses along the water. Walkable, eclectic retails districts are preferred.
- Preference for authentic, local stores or local chains. Restaurants were suggested for the waterfront area.
Helen Sause attended the February 22nd WABA Mixer and made comments about the opportunities and challenges to Webster Street revitalization. She indicated that:
- There is enormous potential for Webster Street, and revitalization is already occurring, but there are also many constraints.
- Some of the major opportunities that have been found through numerous studies include: historic character of the street, diversity of buildings, new street improvements and location.
- There are some vacant sites where interesting shops could be built.
- This is a Redevelopment Area and eligible for tax increment financing.
- However, there are some major constraints as well: Retail will only thrive where there is reasonable density to help support the necessary development returns. Measure A severely limits development potential!
- An EDAW study done in March 2005 states: “...the effect of Measure A on the Webster District has been to suppress the redevelopment potential of some vacant and underutilized properties, by prohibiting upper story residential development and thereby curtaining development returns.” Essentially this says that Webster Street is stymied unless more apartments can be developed along the street above retail!
- Helen also urged that WABA consider some additional issues and opportunities, including: the overly stringent City parking requirements; the need for a grocery store at the optimum location of Buena Vista and Constitution; and forming Five Partners with WABA, Catellus, APCP, Wilson (Harbor Island) and the College of Alameda – all who support revitalization of Webster Street.
Editor’s Note: Besides serving as HOMES Co-Chair, Helen is the retired Deputy Director of the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency
Feature Article: Housing for Sustainable Transportation
by Susan Decker
The old tree-lined streets and traditional shopping districts of Alameda were designed around public transportation, and we should expect no less for the new neighborhoods that will emerge at Alameda Point. The City of Alameda has approved the Preliminary Development Concept for Alameda Point, which “promotes a transit oriented, pedestrian friendly development, encourages energy and resource efficiency, and protects the environment through minimizing energy and automobile use…. 1 It’s a noble goal and one that deserves every boost we can give it. The most fundamental factor, unfortunately, may also be the most challenging one: configuring homes, businesses, and other facilities in a way that will allow truly convenient and pleasant travel by foot, bicycle, and public transportation.
Ensuring such optimal land use is the purpose of the Station Area Planning Grant that the Alameda Reuse and Redevelopment Authority received last year. With input from the community, ARRA is to use that grant to design what is commonly referred to as a “transit village” surrounding the ferry terminal in its future location at the Seaplane Lagoon. A concentration of diverse uses such as retail, restaurants and community services an easy walk from the Transit Center would make it easier for people to take everyday trips by bus or ferry. However, Alameda’s ban on building any type of multiunit dwellings is going to be a huge obstacle in this effort.
People are what give a place vitality, and when the office workers and store clerks have gone home for the day, the Transit Center could present a cold shoulder to those catching the last ferry of the day. Getting homes as close as possible to the transportation hub would not only make it less isolated and more attractive, but would increase the pool of likely riders. Residents of multifamily housing tend to own fewer cars, drive less, and take transit more than single-family residents, 2 so shifting a portion of the planned housing to this type of development would ease the overall traffic impact on the city.
The key is to create residential density where it counts. More people living, working and shopping close to transit corridors means more transit riders, which will allow transit agencies to provide more frequent and efficient service. The Station Area would be a good place to start, but each of the planned “neighborhood centers,” which distribute small retail, etc. throughout the development, would also benefit from concentrated housing.
The best that planners have been able to devise for neighborhood centers within the constraints of Measure A is the “shop house” 3 – two units of housing above a commercial ground floor. Due to residential space requirements, each of these buildings would have to be surrounded by a yard, making the neighborhoods less compact. Customers would have longer walks to businesses, and residents would have longer walks to transit stops than they would if more space-efficient housing could be built in the same locations.
The ideal type of housing to provide at the Seaplane Lagoon and neighborhood centers would be one or two stories of apartments or condominiums above retail and other daytime uses. They would be slightly removed from the street-level bustle, yet still an integral part of neighborhood life. This combination of complementary uses can still be seen in many of Alameda’s historical business districts and could help the redevelopment of the Point to blend in with the rest of the city.
Well-placed multi-family housing at Alameda Point would make it a more pleasant place to live and a better neighbor to the greater community. Instead of a homogenous tract of low-density housing accessible mainly by car, it would have functional transit corridors, better destinations for bicyclists and pedestrians, and much greater neighborhood diversity. The rest of the city would benefit from increased service on transit routes, and lively business districts that would give citizens more choices for shopping and recreation close to home. To realize these goals, we must find a way to step outside the rigid confines of Measure A.
1 Alameda Reuse and Redevelopment Authority Final Preliminary Development Concept, (www.alameda-point.com), p.2
2 Haughey, Richard M. The Case for Multifamily Housing, (Washington D.C. : Urban Land Institute, 2003), pp. 4-5
3 Alameda Reuse and Redevelopment Authority Final Preliminary Development Concept, (www.alameda-point.com), p. 4
Editor’s Note: Susan is a member of Alameda Transit Advocates, a grassroots group working to maintain and improve access to public transportation in the city of Alameda. Susan is also a HOMES board member.
HOMES Steering Committee:
Helen Sause, Co-Chair – 510-521-3940; email@example.com
Diane Lichtenstein, Co-Chair – 510-523-1115; firstname.lastname@example.org
Doug Linney, Strategic Advisor