The HOMES Front  newsletterOctober, 2009

Hello City Hall, You Wrote the Manual!

Let’s get this straight…The City of Alameda selected SunCal as the master developer for Alameda Point. SunCal produced a plan based on community input. The mayor was an early endorser of the initiative. Now the City has issued a press release stating that Mayor Johnson now opposes the initiative.

What the heck?

We FINALLY have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to transform Alameda Point from a blighted, dangerous area that is rapidly draining the city coffers into a vibrant community that will benefit Alameda with amenities and, yes, down the road, tax revenue.

City Hall, you were creating a new manual for leadership and progress in our city, but suddenly, with the exception of Lena Tam, we seem to be back to the old edition of city leadership of flip-flopping and/or remaining silent on opportunities for amenities, services and revenue that benefit our community. City leadership fought efforts to build a modern library for 30 years and almost managed to torpedo the renovation of our beautiful theatre and its accompanying development.

Does the “City” not know that it currently does not receive any tax revenue from Alameda Point? Do the majority of our leaders not know that there is a $108.5 million price tag for the land? Have they not seen the infrastructure estimates of $679 million required to make this land usable?

Is over fifteen years of community input that has finally been realized in a feasible design for Alameda Point going to be silenced by our squeamish leaders?

If there are financial concerns related to the initiative, then we urge our mayor and council to be leaders, work with SunCal and FIX THEM!

HOMES urges our readers to contact our mayor and city council and tell them we do not want this opportunity to go down the drain:

Beverly Johnson, 747-4701,

Lena Tam, 747-4722,

Marie Gilmore, 747-4729,

Frank Matarrese, 747-4726,

Doug DeHaan,* 747-4728,

*Doug DeHaan has opposed revitalizing Alameda Point from the start – hey, at least he’s consistent!

HOMES Calls For A Deeper Look

We all know by now that the Chamber voted to oppose the Revitalize Alameda Point initiative and has shared that decision via letters, opinion pieces, articles, inserts and even presentations.

They have certainly been thorough in their communications. But the question HOMES must ask is, were they thorough in their analysis?

The Chamber has repeatedly stated that they like the “plan” for Alameda Point but object to “ballot box development.” The problem is, the plan they like is not Measure A compliant, therefore the change in the Charter must be approved by the voters. The Chamber surely knows that Alamedans are not going to approve a change to Measure A without seeing what this change will mean for Alameda Point. Therefore, a plan for the Point must be attached to the Measure A amendment. Because of this unique Alameda situation, the Chamber’s number one objection just doesn’t make sense.

We also wonder just what documents and processes were included in the Chamber’s analysis. The initiative itself is just one step in this complex process. Also to be considered is the ENA (Exclusive Negotiating Agreement) between SunCal and the City, the EIR (Environmental Impact Report) yet to be completed, the DDA (Disposition and Development Agreement) between the City and SunCal which cannot be finalized until there is a legal plan, the approval role of the Planning Board, and mechanisms for additional community input such as the Pattern Book (which provides guidelines for architecture and landscape, etc.).

The Development Agreement in the Initiative clearly states: “Nothing in this Development Agreement limits the discretion of the ARRA, CIC (Community Improvement Commission) and/or the Developer in establishing in the DDA, or such other contract between the CIC and Developer, certain development and phasing obligations of the Developer.” (Exhibit F, Development Agreement, section 2.8, page 7)

It seems to HOMES that examining only the Initiative without taking into account all the other agreements and requirements does not appear to present a particularly thorough analysis of this project.

Ending the Vallejo Trajectory?

City attorney Kevin Kennedy wrote an insightful, yet disturbing, post on Lauren Do’s website about the state of the City’s financial affairs (Kevin Kennedy: A Long Way To Go, And A Short Time To Get There, October 12, 2009). In a nutshell, we’re in trouble, folks. Kevin reports that for years, the City has been living beyond its means, pushing to the future paying any bills possible. “With every passing day,” he says,” we get further and further into a financial hole.” Vallejo was in a similar situation and didn’t address the issue until the only option was bankruptcy.

While there are many, many considerations and changes the City needs to undertake to resolve the budget crisis, here at HOMES, we wondered what effect the proposed development at Alameda Point could have on the City financial future.

Currently, the costs of maintenance, repair, security and cleanup (as in the case of fire) are the obligation of the City of Alameda and are paid via lease revenues. These revenues are not keeping up with the costs; each year the City digs into their reserves to break even. (Source: ARRA Lease Revenue Cash Flow 2008-2017). A couple more incidents such as the March 2009 FISC fire, which is costing the City $2,000,000 to clean up, and the City will be completely out of reserves.

(Let’s also not forget that the City does not currently own the property and there is a $108.5 million purchase price and a $679 million estimate for infrastructure repairs and remediation).

The Revitalize Alameda Point project is designed to be fiscally self-sufficient. It relies on private funding sources along with taxes, fees and assessments generated by the development of the project. All costs associated with the project, such as police, fire, parks maintenance and infrastructure costs, will be the obligation of the project.

So, the project, if approved by voters, will at the least pay for itself and put a stop to revenue lost by the City by from the Point’s upkeep costs.

But will it do more than just stop the bleeding?

In a report to the ARRA last March entitled “Summary of Alameda Point Project Proforma,” the project, using what the report calls conservative assumptions, estimates a positive impact on the City’s general fund. SunCal and the City have not yet released any recent projections of exactly what this impact may be.

General Fund Revenues by the project will come in the form of taxes (on property values, property transfer, sales, utility users, transient occupancy, gas) as well as other sources (motor-vehicle in-lieu, business licenses, franchise fees, fines). While the project is being developed, any difference between city costs and project-generated city revenue must, by legal agreement, be paid by SunCal.

There are many reasons to revitalize Alameda Point and providing an economic benefit to the City is certainly an important one.

Honk, Honk, Honk!

Our friends at AAPR (Alamedans for Alameda Point Revitalization) did a handy analysis of the City’s recent traffic study for Alameda Point along with a follow-up piece on how density affects automobile usage. Click on Traffic Report I, Traffic Report II and HOMES’ own density quiz to read the results of the City’s conservative study of Alameda’s traffic future which shows that higher density, mixed-use, transit-oriented development does indeed reduce our reliance on the automobile. In reading this future forecast, bear in mind that we simply cannot fathom how people will do their work or commute 25 years from now.

Links, Links, Links!

There are so many sources of information about Alameda Point these days, that it’s hard to keep track. Here are a few that we think are most helpful:

HOMES (of course!). We are advocates for housing choices and economic vitality at Alameda Point.

Alamedans for Alameda Point Revitalization. The blog of initiative supporters.

Alameda Point Community. SunCal’s Alameda Point page. Here you can download the Revitalize Alameda Point initiative documents and see the elements of the development plan.

Alameda Point Vision. Presents a citizen-created vision for Alameda Point.

City of Alameda. The General Plan for Alameda Point , which includes the community vision for Alameda Point, can be accessed here.

City’s Alameda Point Page. City of Alameda’s Alameda Point page. The initiative documents can be found here as well as archives of related reports and agreements, including the ENA (under studies and plans).

Island of Alameda Alameda Point page. The Island’s site that is all about the latest news about the development plans for Alameda Point.

Lauren Do and John Knox White’s blog also often discuss Alameda Point related issues.

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.

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