April, 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

  1. Report on HOMES reorganization
  2. Report on Alameda Landing Presentation and Discussion
  3. Special Feature Article on Transportation: New Life From An Old Idea

HOMES Reconstructed

On March 27, 2006, HOMES held a reorganization meeting. We are proud to announce our 2006/2007 officers:

Helen Sause – President
Diane Lichtenstein – Vice President
Susan Decker – Secretary
Michael Krueger – Treasurer

Other members of our Executive Board include: Tom Matthews, Bill Smith, Doug Biggs and Daniel Hoy. The original members of HOMES remain as members of our At-Large Board.

Report on Alameda Landing Presentation and Discussion

By Helen Sause, HOMES President

Catellus continues the public review of the 86 acre Alameda Landing portion of their project. This area is on the north side of the College of Alameda adjacent to the Estuary. On Monday, April 10, 2006 a presentation and discussion of the proposed changes to the Catellus Mixed Use Development Project provided an opportunity for the Planning Board and public input on the proposal. This development will provide an alternative to the research and development office buildings proposed for the area in 1998. This requested use change provides a great opportunity for Alameda to require a development of mixed uses integrated with the waterfront. The City has a very important role to play in this decision because these changes will require the City to amend its Agreement with Catellus as well as the Master Plan and General Plan to accommodate the change in uses. We are very fortunate to have a Planning Board and staff that are alert to this potentially enormous opportunity.

We also applaud Catellus for seeking public and City input in this formative stage of the development. The challenge for them is to be open to the suggested changes and see how they can be achieved without losing economic feasibility.

Catellus’ excellent design firm, SMWM presented a power point of existing mixed use projects which include charming mixtures of retail, housing and office use. Their stated goal is to achieve this seamless blend of uses. However this objective appears to be doomed from the beginning because the 26 acre housing site is not part of the Catellus proposal. The master plan and design for the housing will be decided in the future by unknown developers.

The proposal includes 300,000 square feet of office buildings lined up broadside to the Estuary with generous open space to the water and acres of surrounding parking. They will also build 400,000 square feet of retain which lines the streets and further walls off residential views. The 10 acres of open space provides a campus like area around the buildings. This is the same plan that has been reviewed at the public meetings. I suspect that their idea is to collect all the comments and then hopefully re-plan... but in the meantime one hears the same comments repeatedly.

The comments from the Planning Board were no exception. They included:

  • Concerns about the striking lack of integration of uses and waterfront and instead locates each use separated by large fields of parking
  • Lacks linkage without through streets providing sight line to the Oakland hills and the water nor to the rest of the community including the Coast Guard housing and other adjacent uses
  • Concerns about feasibility of transportation proposals when parking is abundantly provided for retail/office uses along with low density housing. Also how this development’s transportation plan will fit in with development proposals for adjacent areas
  • Warehouse/ office buildings blocking the sight lines
  • Advocacy for a vibrant dense intermix of housing and retail with the office uses to ensure that economic viability is achieved
  • Concerns about the constraints caused by Measure A which prevents optimum flexibility in what can be built…they noted their willingness to consider additional density.
  • Integrate all the uses and the waterfront
  • Look into how the parking can be handled without having the site covered with automobiles. Particularly incorporating parking garages and perhaps seeking lower parking requirements.

The Planning Board also acknowledged that the development would be refined from this plan perspective but stressed that these concerns were fundamental to the Master Plan. In answer to their inquiries, they were advised that the office buildings would be designed and built by Catellus as demand occurred. This phasing also created concerns because it impacted the retail development schedule. The Planning Board again expressed strong concerns about the separation of uses and the need to see a master plan including all the uses and how they would be integrated. They requested that the Developer address these concerns

Also discussed was the existing Catellus/City Agreement and whether changes the Planning Board and public are requesting could be made or if these hearings were an idle act. More information requested by Staff included:

  • A copy of the 2000 Catellus/ City Agreement, analyses of the proposed changes on this Agreement and parameters of what can be changed.
  • Seeing the modification to the plan while modifications can still be made
  • An analysis of the impact of Measure A by the City Attorney (perhaps an optimum plan without this constraint?)
  • A Phasing Plan
  • Design Guidelines
  • Establish an ongoing review schedule so that they could review the proposal while it can be modified.

The meeting concluded without setting a future date for the next workshop. As a citizen, it was frustrating to see the same plan unchanged on which the public had offered almost identical critiques in two previous meetings. The public needs to follow this process very carefully and support the Planning Board’s concerns and encourage them to seek answers. The design should be “fixed” before it ever goes to the Economic Development Commission. The critique of the plan need not affect the overall economics of the deal and could become even more successful if it is redesigned to be attractive and draw developers and retail and office users. In 1998, the City did not achieve the opportunity to have a vital neighborhood of integrated uses …now there is a moment when this can be achieved.

Historic Park Street Transit
Feature Article: New Life From An Old Idea

By Michael Krueger and Susan Decker

Measure A is making it difficult for planners to ensure successful land uses at Alameda Point while minimizing the traffic impact on the city and the region. Even if it were graced with ideal pedestrian and transit-oriented development, however, the Point would still compete with growing traffic from other parts of the city, on the bridges and in the tubes. Sooner or later, the island will need a new connection with the mainland. Alternatives put forth in the Alameda Point Transportation Strategy (November, 2005) include new car bridges or tubes, expanded ferry service, and a BART station, but the best vision for Alameda’s future may come from its vanished past: the Alameda streetcars could ride again!

Nostalgia may not seem like a practical factor in transportation decisions, but there is something about streetcars that energizes a community. When San Francisco replaced buses with historic streetcars on the F Line, the average daily number of riders quickly increased from 5,800 to 20,000 [1], bringing more residents and tourists to waterfront businesses [2]. Modern streetcars have been a similar hit in Portland, Oregon, where residents and businesses pitched in to establish a line that has helped transform abandoned industrial space into vibrant neighborhoods [3]. Merchants in Jack London Square have expressed interest in streetcars, and a partnership with Alameda could be just the impetus they need to get the project on track.

In order to take full advantage of a bridge or tunnel streetcar connection with Oakland, Alameda Point would need a good mixture of businesses and residences, including apartments or condominiums, within a short walk of stations. The degree to which streetcars could increase transit trips and decrease car trips would depend on how many of the planned housing units and other uses could be located close to the line. If it were freed from the restrictions of Measure A, the Point could take its cue from the city’s historic rail stations, where compact businesses benefited from upstairs housing as well as nearby single family homes. The presence of a light rail station in a new neighborhood would make it more attractive to many prospective residents, especially if attractions such as parks and shopping were also nearby.

Older neighborhoods could also draw new life from streetcars if a line were extended through Alameda to connect with Fruitvale BART. Unlike subways and other grade-separated rail, streetcars make passengers a part of the life of neighborhoods through which they travel. With someone else doing the driving, there is plenty of opportunity to notice businesses and recreational opportunities, and generally get in touch with one’s surroundings. AC Transit’s Line 51 already serves a similar purpose for over 18,000 riders per day on its 14-mile route. If the Alameda portion of that service were converted to electric rail, with the addition of a Fruitvale stop and those at Alameda Point, and counting in those new riders who would be attracted by the fixed-route mode, it could well exceed the 10,000 daily boardings that one ought to hope for with such a line [4].

As well as fostering community, supporting mobility, and curbing traffic congestion, streetcars would help Alameda attain its goals for environmentally sustainable development at the Point. Being electric, the vehicles themselves have no emissions. Their power would come from a central source, making pollution easier to control. In general, rail vehicles are more energy efficient per passenger than cars or ferries, and light rail has an edge over larger trains such as BART, so streetcars also reduce the amount of power needed to transport people.

The sooner Alameda could revive its streetcars, the sooner we would enjoy all of these advantages. It might be possible to make such a vision reality even with Measure A in place, but it would definitely be much easier if plans could draw from a wider range of housing options. Now is the time to consider what our transportation network will become, and to look carefully at the pros and cons of the choices we are making today.

[1] American Public Transportation Association:

[2] Market Street Railway:

[3] Saporta, Maria, “Looking westward: Oregon trip puts focus on transit”,
Atlanta Journal-Constitution, June 6, 2005

[4] Leroy W. Demery, Jr., J. Wallace Higgins, Michael D. Setty.
Traffic Density Thresholds for Rail Transit: A Retrospective. February 4, 2005

Editor’s Note: Michael and Susan are public transportation advocates and officers of the HOMES Board of Directors.

Help Us Continue Our Educational Efforts!

Donations to HOMES to help us continue our educational efforts may be made to Rose Foundation/HOMES and sent to 816 Grand Street, Alameda, CA 94501.

HOMES Steering Committee:
Helen Sause, Co-Chair – 510-521-3940;
Diane Lichtenstein, Co-Chair – 510-523-1115;
Susan Decker, Secretary
Michael Krueger, Treasurer
Doug Biggs, Daniel Hoy, Tom Matthews, Bill Smith
Doug Linney, Strategic Advisor