The HOMES Front  newsletterSeptember, 2009

Focus On the Facts

A lot of assumptions are flying around in the swirl of controversy about the Point. Our quiz may help you focus on the facts.

Who currently owns the land at Alameda Point?

Answer: The Navy owns the site of the former Navy Air Station. The land will be transferred to the City when the purchase price is paid and other agreements, such as the schedule for cleaning up the toxic waste, are settled. If the Navy and City do not come to a transference agreement, the Navy will continue to hold rights to the land and can choose to auction it off to developers of its choosing. In this scenario, the land would be privately held and developed like any land in private ownership.

What is the price tag for the land?

Answer: The current price tag established by the Navy is $108.5 million.

Who currently pays for upkeep of the land?

Answer: The City – as in Alameda taxpayers - must pay for all maintenance and repairs of the facilities and buildings currently at Alameda Point. Although they do collect rent from existing businesses, it is not enough to keep up with the increasingly decaying infrastructure and buildings, such as the terrible fire that occurred out there a few months ago. This results in an increasing drain on City taxpayers. These costs are escalating every year so every delay adds to the City’s financial burden.

Who pays the purchase price for the land?

Answer: It is the responsibility of the City to come up with the purchase price. The City has chosen to do this by selecting a Master Developer to build out the community’s vision for the land. The Master Developer must factor in the purchase amount into their development plans.

Who pays for things like fire, vandalism, and theft that occur at the Point?

Answer: Yep, our city taxes go towards the repairs, replacement, upkeep, clean-up (in the case of fires) of the Point. The few residents and businesses out there invite vandalism and theft and the crumbling buildings and infrastructure are perfectly suited for fires and other disasters. As an example, the March 2009 fire of the former Medical/Dental facility at the Fleet Industrial Supply Center released hazardous materials into the air and cost the City $1.6 million dollars, excluding city, county and state agency fees and taxes. And there are dozens more buildings like that out there. The systems such as sewer and electrical were not originally built to current code and have deteriorated to such a fragile state that they could require major repairs at any time.

Cleaning Up

Alameda Point

One of the frequent topics about Alameda Point concerns cleanup. We know the Navy is responsible for most of the toxic cleanup and we hear that SunCal will take clean up to a higher level if the Revitalize Alameda Point Initiative is passed, but really, what does all this mean?

The Naval Air Station was home to aircraft carriers and ships, some with nuclear materials. Huge volumes of toxins were left in the soil and groundwater as a result of work performed on these vessels and planes at the Naval Air Station while it was active, such as substances used in engine repair, plane maintenance, paint stripping, and missile rework operations, along with radium used for instrument dials, paint chips and spilled jet fuel.

In addition, the World War II era buildings and infrastructure were built to different code standards and often contained lead, asbestos and other materials that we now know to be harmful to human health. Even before the Navy came to town, a lot of dirty stuff was happening out there. The site was occupied by borax processing plant, an oil refinery, and an airport.

Alameda Point was declared a Superfund cleanup site in 1999 by the federal government. A “superfund” is a designation given to the most hazardous waste sites in the nation and it gives the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the legal requirement to ensure that cleanup is completed by the party responsible for the pollution, in this case the Navy.

So the Navy got to work. Very strict oversight is provided by the EPA, the California Department of Toxic Substances Control, and the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board. All of this is in accordance with the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), which provides legal requirements and sanctions for the enforcement agencies to administer.

Hundreds of millions of dollars and extraordinary measures are being used to clean up the contaminants. Cleanup is progressing well and according to schedule. In fact, according to a June 2009 report issued by the Navy on environmental remediation of the former NAS, of the 34 sites identified for investigation, 15 are in the cleanup phase or require no further action and only 3 sites are still in the investigation phase. This is, of course, critical to Alameda because until the land is clean enough for development, the site can’t be built on, and our taxpayer dollars must continue to keep the area operational for the businesses and residents at the Point.

In some cases, cleanup is as simple as digging out contaminated dirt and replacing it with clean soil as they did six years ago with contamination near the Big Whites (the officer homes on the northern side of the Base). In other cases, the Navy has employed cutting edge technology to remove contaminants. To remediate a toxic plume at Building 5 (a former Aircraft Rework Facility), the Navy sunk pilings into the ground as electrodes. They then ran a current through those electrodes to heat up the soil, vaporizing contaminants, which were then sucked into treatment and storage containers for offsite removal. These are techniques not even imagined just a few years ago!

So why do we need any help from SunCal to cleanup the site?

The Navy will clean below ground, including soil and groundwater. SunCal is responsible for all the above-ground cleanup, including the removal of lead, asbestos and other hazardous materials from all buildings, including those that are to be demolished and historic buildings that are to be preserved. The hazardous materials must be removed from a building even before it can be demolished.

Alameda received a reality check last March of what happens without this higher level of clean up. The fire at the former Medical/Dental facility at the Fleet Industrial Supply Center released hazardous materials, including asbestos, into the air putting all Alamedans at risk. Cleanup from this fire cost the City $1.6 million dollars, excluding city, county and state agency fees and taxes. There are dozens more buildings like that out there.

Voter approval of the plan to revitalize Alameda Point will mean that the site will be cleaned to a level making it safe and usable for all who may live, work or play at Alameda Point and for all of us who live nearby!

Really, it’s hard to imagine why anyone would not prefer that the area be cleaned up to this level.

About Funding

The City of Alameda will be responsible for the share of the cleanup above the Navy’s commitment. The initiative will ensure that these cleanup costs will be paid for by SunCal through a combination of funding from SunCal, Tax Increment Funding, Property Assessments on future property owners within the Plan Area, and State and Federal grants and loans. It will not cost current Alameda taxpayers a dime and does not require a subsidy from the City that will take away funding from any City services. In fact, a legally-binding agreement requires that the Alameda Point Plan must pay for itself.

In spite of misinformation spread about by opponents of the Plan, these funding mechanisms are common and proven in redevelopment areas throughout California and the United States. They are established mechanisms that enable blighted areas to become safe and usable community assets.

house2 (1K)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

Donations are tax-deductible.

News Archive