Navy to sell vacant housing

On Wednesday, April 12, the Navy will auction off part of its long vacant military housing known as North Housing.  The opening bid for the 14.9-acre parcel is $5 million.  The online auction is being conducted by the federal General Services Administration.

In the coming months, another part of the North Housing neighborhood will be given to the Alameda Housing Authority and to Habitat for Humanity, and the former Island High School and Woodstock Child Development Center in the neighborhood will be given to Alameda Unified School District.

north-housing-land-use-map-added-detail
A complicated land disposal process for the area began about 10 years ago when the Coast Guard decided not to accept the housing site.  Continue reading “Navy to sell vacant housing”

Transportation agency calls for more housing in Alameda

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) issued a new regional planning document on August 30, 2016, suggesting the amount of housing needed in Alameda to meet state goals. MTC is requesting input from local jurisdictions.

Alameda City Planner Andrew Thomas slammed the commission’s recommendations as being woefully out of touch with Alameda’s existing land uses and its limited regional transit connections.

Approved plan for Priority Development Area (PDA) at Alameda Point.
Approved plan for Priority Development Area (PDA) at Alameda Point.

MTC’s forecast calls for adding roughly 10,000 new homes in Alameda by 2040, with the majority to be added in existing neighborhoods, outside of so-called Priority Development Areas (PDAs) like Alameda Point and the Northern Waterfront. This could only be accomplished if a host of improbable and unrealistic events were to occur, according to Thomas. Continue reading “Transportation agency calls for more housing in Alameda”

Dining on the farm at Alameda Point

The Alameda Point Collaborative (APC) served up gourmet meals at their annual Urban Farm Table fundraising event on Sunday, May 15, 2016. About 100 guests were seated under a canopy squarely in the middle of crops growing on the Alameda Point farm.

Keynote speaker Matthew Dolan, executive chef at Twenty Five Lusk in San Francisco, spoke at the Urban Farm Table fundraiser for the Alameda Point Collaborative.
Keynote speaker Matthew Dolan, executive chef at Twenty Five Lusk in San Francisco, spoke at the Urban Farm Table fundraiser for the Alameda Point Collaborative.

This year’s menu was again created by Jeff Rosen, executive chef at Blue Heron Catering of Oakland. Some of the salad and entrée ingredients, such as arugula, strawberries and onions, were grown within a few steps of the table.

APC is the largest supportive housing provider for homeless families in Alameda County. Adults in the community can acquire new job skills and self-confidence in APC’s various enterprises – Ploughshares Nursery, Farm2Market farm production, and commercial kitchen. The Farm2Market program sells produce through a subscription service.

May 2016 crops at Alameda Point Collaborative farm.
May 2016 crops at Alameda Point Collaborative farm.

Matthew Dolan, executive chef at Twenty Five Lusk in San Francisco, gave the keynote address. His message centered on food choices. Food that is bad for your health is often bad for the environment because of the way it is produced, according to Dolan.

Dolan singled out Monsanto Corporation for manipulation of agricultural seed production geared to boost production at the expense of the environment. He also said that some hamburger meat used in fast food restaurants was a grade below the meat used in dog food.  

Dolan praised the kind of positive changes in food choices that are being made possible by community farms like APC’s.

Guest speaker and APC resident Jamie Sneed exemplified the value of the Collaborative’s programs. Her story began on the floor of the emergency room at John George Psychiatric Hospital as victim of a suicide attempt in 2011. She went from the hospital to a shelter in Hayward, sharing a windowless room with nine other women, and then moved to transitional housing before landing a spot at APC.

Sneed credits APC’s career center and its on-the-job training program with motivating her. “It was such a transformative experience,” said Sneed. “I will never be the same. The six-month program gave my life structure when I needed it most.”

Sneed spends part of her time working on the farm. She is also polishing her writing skills and has taught computer skills to others, as a result of APC’s training program. “For those of you who have supported us over the years, thank you,” said Sneed. “I am here because of you.”

APC operates an education center to serve the more than 300 children and youth who live there. Literacy is a major focus of the academic programming. School-aged children get support with homework, one-on-one tutoring and participate in special enrichment activities at the center.

APC was formed in 1999 following the closure of Alameda’s Naval Air Station. APC was allowed to acquire 34 acres under provisions of the federal McKinney Act, which was created in the mid-1980s to address homelessness.

Originally published in the Alameda Sun.

Photos from Alameda Point Collaborative farm, May 15, 2016.

Waterfront plans change at Alameda Landing

~ Developer proposes housing, hotel, and plaza at former Navy supply center

Alameda Landing is about to enter its final phase of development. A 2006 plan that once called for all commercial on the 41-acre waterfront parcel behind Target is being replaced with a new plan. It includes an additional 375 housing units, a 124-room hotel, restaurants, and a small amount of commercial space. An eight-acre waterfront park and promenade remain as the centerpiece.

Proposed Fifth Street Plaza with water shuttle. Courtesy of Catellus.
Proposed Fifth Street Plaza with water shuttle. Courtesy of Catellus.

The developer, Catellus, decided to shelve the all-commercial plan due to lack of demand, coupled with high costs to develop the seismically challenged site.

Sean Whiskeman, senior vice president of development for Catellus, points to the fact that zero new office construction is underway along the Interstate 880 and Interstate 80 office corridor. The lack of demand “is a very compelling statistic in our opinion,” said Whiskeman, “especially given the alternative office sites available within Alameda.”

In addition, current rents would not support the upfront investment of $90 million in land preparation costs, according to Whiskeman. “Asking rents on the island are approximately $16.50 per square foot,” said Whiskeman. “Rents would have to be close to $55 per square foot to justify building the office park on our waterfront site.” Assuming a 3 percent average annual growth rate of commercial rents, it would only pencil out if construction began 41 years from now, according to Whiskeman.

Another challenge is the seismic stability of the massive concrete wharf and the soft shoreline. The park and waterfront promenade will be built on the wharf. There is currently a warehouse on the wharf, but it will be demolished to make way for the public open space.

Two warehouses between Mitchell Avenue and Oakland Estuary. Warehouse on the right is on the wharf. San Francisco is in the background.
Two warehouses between Mitchell Avenue and Oakland Estuary. Warehouse on the right is on the wharf. San Francisco is in the background.

The wharf was constructed in the 1940s to handle train cars and cranes for Navy supply operations. There are over 4,000 piers underneath the wharf, and they have eroded and lost their structural integrity, according to Whiskeman.

The site is built with mud dredged from the Estuary, which is subject to liquefaction during an earthquake. The edges are stabilized with a rocky riprap, which creates the shoreline.

“In a seismic event of any size, that Bay Mud is going to build up a lot of energy, and it’s going to want to go somewhere,” said Whiskeman. “It’s going to want to go to the weakest point, which is the water’s edge,” continued Whiskeman. “That Bay Mud is going to explode out into the water and with a ton of force. It’s going to take with it anything in its path, including those piers and the wharf.”

The shoreline seismic plan will incorporate a system of several hundred underground columns of cement and soil mixed together, which could serve to both stabilize the shoreline and provide lateral restraint to the wharf structure.

The city currently owns the property. The city will continue to own the wharf after Catellus creates the eight-acre park and public space.

The 2006 development agreement for the former Navy supply center property allows for changes in land use, as long as no additional impacts are generated.

Aerial rendering of proposed plan for final phase of Alameda Landing. Existing Target store is at center left. Courtesy of Catellus.
Aerial rendering of proposed plan for final phase of Alameda Landing. Existing Target store is at center left. Courtesy of Catellus.

“We’re not generating any more trips than were already approved,” said Whiskeman. “We are net neutral, and in some respects we are net positive as far as trips because peak trips are about the same in the morning, and the evening peak trips are less than what was approved.” Transportation consulting firm Fehr & Peers provided the traffic impact analysis for Catellus.

The consultant’s data does not factor in the traffic reduction measures currently in place, according to Whiskeman. Alameda Landing residents and businesses already fund a BART shuttle to and from the 12th Street Station during weekday peak commute times.

“Part of the beauty of this next phase is that the transportation program gets more robust as more revenue is able to be put into the program to help fund the shuttle program,” said Whiskeman. It will also fund a new water shuttle to Jack London Square. Whiskeman said that the owners of the Alameda-based Commodore fleet would operate the water shuttle.

On May 23, Catellus sought input from the Planning Board. Board members suggested Catellus include more commercial space, smaller and more affordable housing units, and space for existing tenant Starlight Marine Services to continue operating its tugboat business there.

Starlight Marine Services tugboat at Alameda Landing wharf.
Starlight Marine Services tugboat at Alameda Landing wharf.

Catellus expects to return to the planning board with revisions to the plan on June 27 for final approval of the land-use change.

If approval of the new plan is granted, Catellus could begin work early next year and complete demolition and seismic work within 12 months.

Originally published in the Alameda Sun.

Alameda Landing promenade:park

Turning Basin Park facing the area of the Estuary where ships are turned around.
Turning Basin Park facing the area of the Estuary where ships are turned around.
Close-up of Turning Basin Park showing water feature play area. Courtesy of Catellus.
Close-up of Turning Basin Park showing water feature play area. Courtesy of Catellus.
Fifth Street Plaza proposal for Alameda Landing (close-up).
Fifth Street Plaza proposal for Alameda Landing (close-up).
Jack London Square directly across the Estuary from proposed plaza and water shuttle launch at Alameda Landing.
Jack London Square directly across the Estuary from proposed plaza and water shuttle launch at Alameda Landing.
Outline of areas developed by Catellus - Bayport and Alameda Landing - with final waterfront phase. Alameda Point is in the background. Courtesy of Catellus.
Outline of areas developed by Catellus – Bayport and Alameda Landing – with final waterfront phase. Alameda Point is in the background. Courtesy of Catellus.

Demolition of former Navy apartments begins

The demolition of 16 former Navy apartment buildings at Alameda Point has begun. On January 5, 2016, the City Council awarded a $547,000 contract to Asbestos Management Group of Oakland to perform the demolition.

Demolition of Navy apartment buildings at West Tower Avenue and Orion Street, Alameda Point.
Demolition of Navy apartment buildings at West Tower Avenue and Orion Street, Alameda Point.

In April of 2015, the city council directed city staff to come up with a plan to address safety and blight issues after KTVU Channel 2 aired a story about unsafe conditions at the abandoned housing area.

The structures are located on Orion Street, West Tower Avenue, Stardust Place and Pearl Harbor Road. Demolition began during the second week of March and is expected to be completed within 60 days. The job is being paid for out of Alameda Point base reuse funds.
Continue reading “Demolition of former Navy apartments begins”

City receives award for brownfield redevelopment

The city has received a prestigious award for its successful collaboration with a private developer on a brownfield redevelopment project—namely, Alameda Landing. The new retail and residential area is located near the Webster/Posey Tubes.  

“The Landing is a complex project that lends itself to a public-private partnership,” said Debbie Potter, the city’s Community Development Director. Potter accepted the Phoenix Award on behalf of the city at the “Brownfields 2015” conference in Chicago.  The award dovetailed with the conference theme of transforming blighted areas into productive sustainable development projects.  

An old warehouse used for the Navy's former Fleet Industrial Supply Center and a crane at the Port of Oakland provide a backdrop for condominiums nearing completion on Bette Street at Alameda Landing.
An old warehouse used for the Navy’s former Fleet Industrial Supply Center and a crane at the Port of Oakland provide a backdrop for condominiums nearing completion on Bette Street at Alameda Landing.

“Public-private partnership is pretty much the model at all former military bases.  But it’s not a business model that every developer embraces,” said Potter.  “Business is conducted in public.”  

More business will be conducted in public early next year when Catellus is expected to approach the city council with revised plans for the last and final phase, which will include downsizing the previously approved office space and adding housing.

One project is selected from each of the 10 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regions. Alameda Landing took home the award for Region 9, which covers California, Nevada, Arizona, Hawaii and Pacific Islands.    

The city inherited a potentially valuable land asset from the Navy in 2000—a housing area that was to become Bayport, and an abandoned naval supply complex and hospital that was to become the Landing. Soon thereafter, the city selected Catellus as the developer.  

Since then, challenges have been a frequent companion.   The city and Catellus “had to work through infrastructure challenges, regulatory challenges, and financing challenges,” said Potter.  “Virtually every aspect has required special attention, from soil conditions to retail makeup to the strength of the pier structure along the waterfront.” 

As Bayport construction was underway, it became apparent that the initial proposed plan for 1.3 million square feet of research and development office space at the Landing was not viable.  The time to adapt or die arrived early.  “Being nimble throughout the process is key,” said Potter.  “Without flexibility, you end up with no project.”

By early 2007, the city had decided to give Catellus wide latitude on what it was allowed by right to construct at Alameda Landing.  Any configuration is allowed as long as the impacts, namely traffic, do not exceed the impacts identified in the environmental impact report.

The most significant changes were the slashing of office space to 400,000 square feet and the addition of up to 300 residential units at Alameda Landing.

In 2009, while the city and Catellus were waiting on the economy to rebound from the last recession, a fire of suspicious origin engulfed the abandoned hospital, which was still owned by the city.  Lead and asbestos were incinerated in the fire.  The added demolition and special cleanup costs amounted to several million dollars.  The city will finally recoup all of its cleanup costs with a final payment from Catellus during the waterfront phase, according to Potter.

Wooden debris being cleaned up after a fire destroyed the abandoned Navy hospital in 2009. Location is about 100 feet west of Target at Alameda Landing. Looking northwest. Photo used by permission from City of Alameda.
Wooden debris being cleaned up after a fire destroyed the abandoned Navy hospital in 2009. Location is about 100 feet west of Target at Alameda Landing. Looking northwest. Photo used by permission from City of Alameda.

Most of the Landing retail space is now filled, and the 284 residential units are nearing completion.  “Tri Pointe is the first private multifamily housing constructed in Alameda since the charter amendment known as Measure A was enacted in 1973,” said Potter.  “The Tri Pointe residential project was approved under provisions of the city’s Density Bonus Ordinance.”

Generous landscaping complements the loft-style condominiums at Alameda Landing near Target.
Generous landscaping complements the loft-style condominiums at Alameda Landing near Target.

Construction is about to begin on Stargell Commons, 32 rental units for low- and very-low-income households, along with a community center.  Catellus is bringing the infrastructure to the site and contributing $2 million for this project.  The City of Alameda Housing Authority will own the land and lease the land to Resources for Community Development, which will build and manage the complex.

Stargell Commons, to be located at Bette Street and Stargell Avenue at Alameda Landing.
Stargell Commons, to be located at Bette Street and Stargell Avenue at Alameda Landing.

The final phase of the Landing—in the warehouse area between Mitchell Avenue and the Oakland Estuary that was originally slated for office space, a Miracle League baseball park, and a waterfront park and promenade—begins next year.

But first, the city council will be asked to approve a major revision that will include the addition of housing and the subtraction of office space due to weak demand. The Miracle League baseball park has been scratched because it’s now slated to become part of Estuary Park nearby, which Catellus contributed toward.  

The authority for adding housing to the last phase of the Landing project originated in 2012, when the former city council updated the General Plan Housing Element, creating a Multifamily Overlay zoning designation. These special overlay zones, or sites, provide the rights for multifamily housing on specific sites.  It designated 10 acres at 30 units per acre on the land north of Mitchell Avenue.

“It gives Catellus zoning rights to residential if they want to pursue residential,” said Potter.  “No amendment to the development agreement or master plan is needed,” explained Potter. “But keep in mind that the zoning designation—multifamily overlay—is constrained by the requirement that any revised uses must fit within the environmental impact report and not generate additional impacts.”

The city currently owns the warehouse area north of Mitchell and collects about $800,000 a year in rent from two tenants. The land will be sold to Catellus upon approval of the revised plan. 

The Phoenix Awards Institute, Inc., a nonprofit, administers the awards. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the International City/County Management Association organized the national conference in Chicago.

Originally published in the Alameda Sun.

Brownfield definition:  “A brownfield is a property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant.”  Source:  U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Additional info:  California State Water Resources Control Board Brownfields Program.

Stargell Commons courtyard close-up.
Stargell Commons courtyard close-up.
Bioswale water filtration in the parking lot of Alameda Landing retail area.
Bioswale water filtration in the parking lot of Alameda Landing retail area.
Description of "bioswales" in Alameda Landing parking lot.
Description of “bioswales” in Alameda Landing parking lot.
Bioswale natural filtration for water runoff in residential area of Alameda Landing.
Bioswale natural filtration for water runoff in residential area of Alameda Landing.

Navy housing site safe to transfer

The vacated residential area known as North Housing—located between Alameda Point and Alameda Landing—has been deemed environmentally safe for transfer out of Navy hands. The approval comes after a four-year effort to clean up groundwater to drinking water standards was declared unnecessary and terminated.

Center courtyard in former Navy housing area called North Housing. Looking north/northeast.
Center courtyard in former Navy housing area called North Housing. Looking north/northeast.

The original overly cautious risk assumption in the 2007 cleanup plan—that humans might somehow ingest the salty groundwater 10 to 20 feet below the surface—is now seen as implausible. The vapor extraction system covering a six-acre area of benzene and naphthalene-contaminated groundwater was dismantled in 2014 after a new round of tests showed that there is no evidence of harmful vapors rising to the surface.

The land was originally slated for transfer to the Coast Guard. But the Coast Guard decided in 2008 that it no longer wanted the property. The Navy and the city then worked out a plan that incorporates a federal requirement for homeless accommodation and a for-profit development.

The 22.7 acres slated for auction to a private developer will be tagged with utility infrastructure costs—streets, drainage, utilities—on all of the North Housing area, except for the Housing Authority’s 13.6 acres and Habitat for Humanity’s 2.2 acres. The Housing Authority and Habitat for Humanity will be responsible for bringing new utility services from the nearest street to their housing units.

Draft map prepared by the city of Alameda showing proposed Housing Authority, Habitat for Humanity, and private developer parcels. Pending final approval. Dusty rose area going to Housing Authority, blue to Habitat for Humanity, tan to private developer. Click on map to enlarge.
Draft map prepared by the city of Alameda showing proposed Housing Authority, Habitat for Humanity, and private developer parcels. Pending final approval. Dusty rose area going to Housing Authority, blue to Habitat for Humanity, tan to private developer. Click on map to enlarge.

Mosley Avenue will be connected between Alameda Landing and North Housing with 360 feet of new roadway.

In 2013, the Navy turned off its air pump and carbon filter vacuum cleanup system to see if it made any difference in the concentrations or movement of contaminants. It didn’t.

But before the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would sign off on a permanent shutdown of the cleanup system, it wanted a new set of tests at ground level to ensure there is no risk of harmful vapors. The Navy conducted tests inside the vacant housing, in the crawl spaces, and under the parking lot and basketball courts at the former Island High School property. The negative results satisfied the EPA.

In April the Navy officially amended its original 2007 Record of Decision cleanup plan, with regulatory agency concurrence, citing new evidence. It also cited city, county, and state regulations that prohibit intrusive activities and specifically prohibit well installation in the shallow groundwater where the contamination is located. The cleanup plan amendment said that results of the evaluations of extensive data for this cleanup area “show that there is no unacceptable risk for current residential and school uses and any potential future land uses.”

The amended plan also cited new evidence that suggested the contaminants were part of what is called the Marsh Crust at around 20 feet below ground and essentially stuck there. The Marsh Crust is a layer of “hydrocarbon gunk” that Oakland Gas Light Company’s coal gasification plant discharged from about 1880 to 1910. The waste discharges went into what was then San Antonio Creek, and much of it settled on the nearby marshland where North Housing now sits.

Time lapse map showing former marshland where North Housing is now located. Source: US Geological Survey Historical Topographic Map Explorer.
Time lapse map showing former marshland where North Housing is now located. Source: US Geological Survey Historical Topographic Map Explorer.

The land was never cleaned up before being filled in for use as San Francisco Bay Aerodrome—hangars and two runways—from 1930 to 1941. The Marsh Crust extends from the Oakland Estuary to Bayport and over to central Alameda Point. A city ordinance requires a permit before digging into the Marsh Crust to ensure safe handling.

The 37-acre North Housing area lies adjacent to the new Alameda Landing residential neighborhood. The site currently contains 51 residential structures with 282 three- and four-bedroom units constructed in 1969.  With the possible exception of the two acres going to Habitat for Humanity, all of the units will be demolished to make way for new construction.

Future Housing Authority property, with new Alameda Landing houses in the background.
Future Housing Authority property, with new Alameda Landing houses in the background.

The Housing Authority will build 90 units of supportive housing that will include a community center.

It is not yet determined what Habitat for Humanity will do with its parcel. The private developer area is currently zoned for 315 units of multifamily residential housing and may exceed that number if the density bonus is applied for.

The transfer of properties is expected in 2016. The auctioning of the for-profit North Housing Navy property will follow, but no firm timeline has been announced.

Edited version of article first appearing in the Alameda Sun.

Appendix pelican graphic

Record of Decision Amendment for groundwater cleanup at OU5 – April 2015

North Housing amendment to NAS-Alameda Community Reuse Plan

Map showing two groundwater cleanup areas in OU-5.
Map showing two groundwater cleanup areas in OU-5.
Control module with pumps for groundwater cleanup system waiting to be hauled away from North Housing.
Control module with pumps for groundwater cleanup system waiting to be hauled away from North Housing.
Charcoal filter tank to remove benzene and naphthalene from groundwater vapors, waiting to be hauled away.
Charcoal filter tank to remove benzene and naphthalene from groundwater vapors, waiting to be hauled away.

North Housing

North Housing, Alameda

North Housing

Typical current condition of North Housing interiors.
Typical current condition of North Housing interiors.
Typical current condition of North Housing interiors. Photo date: November 19, 2015.
Typical current condition of North Housing interiors. Photo date: November 19, 2015.

Mosley Ave. right of way

Draft North Housing site map, with Mosley Avenue connection details. Click on map to enlarge.
Draft North Housing site map, with Mosley Avenue connection details. Click on map to enlarge.
1899 topographical map of western Alameda showing marshland. Source: US Geological Survey Historical Topographic Map Explorer.
1899 topographical map of western Alameda showing marshland. Source: US Geological Survey Historical Topographic Map Explorer.