The Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) healthcare facility and cemetery project at Alameda Point still has not broken ground, a decade after the first round of Congressional funding. Public officials appear to look away.
The latest setback comes with the VA having to re-do the contract for constructing the wetland mitigation plan. For unknown reasons, in November 2020, less than four months after the VA hired a company to perform the wetland work for $2.37 million, that company is out of the picture. The VA is now trying to find other companies with the same engineering skillset. The actual competitive bidding process will follow. The VA estimates the wetland project could now cost between $5 million and $10 million.
This newest delay in the unnecessarily long-running effort to do this small wetland project only became known by searching a federal contract website called GovTribe. The VA has not kept the Alameda community informed about this project or delivered on its promises for some infrastructure. The last time the community heard from the VA, they said that the project would commence in the Fall of 2019. The city does not provide regular public updates.
The VA is also seeking qualified companies to do site preparation work for the health clinic and first phase of the cemetery, according to the GovTribe website. The notice states that contractor bids for actually doing the work will be sought “in spring of 2021.” It also says, “This project could be cancelled at any time.” This is five years after Congress gave them enough additional funding to do the work, a time period during which the estimated cost for the project grew by $35 million.
The site preparation involves bringing in 300,000 cubic yards of soil to raise the elevation on the old airfield where the Antiques Faire is held, in order to protect the clinic from sea level rise and flooding. This will require at least 10,000 truck trips. The city has not offered to the VA one of the idle sites at Alameda Point that are already slated for sea level rise protection, such as the site previously offered to the Berkeley Lab for a second campus, or the Bachelor Enlisted Quarters site. Meanwhile the VA is preparing to build a hill far away from the transit system.
The VA still faces a number of regulatory hurdles before it can break ground. The permit from the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission, issued in January 2014, expired in January 2017 due to inaction and will have to be revisited.
And according to the San Francisco Water Quality Control Board, the VA will need to supply a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) environmental report in order to comply with state law for granting a wetland permit. No announcements have been made by the VA or the city that the VA is working on a CEQA report.
City officials seem reluctant to criticize the VA’s lack of progress, hiding behind the excuse that “it’s federal.” But the City became a partner in this federal project eight years ago when it agreed to give the VA 74 acres of city parkland for its clinic.
Public officials have shown no evidence of standing up for veterans or against the mismanaged VA project.
Originally published in the Alameda Sun.