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.
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”
~ 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.
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.”Continue reading “Waterfront plans change at Alameda Landing”
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.
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”
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.
“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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
More than 24 new residential and commercial buildings are proposed for construction at the 68-acre Site A project at Alameda Point, which was approved unanimously by the Planning Board on Monday, May 11. All the buildings will be solar ready. But according to Joe Ernst, the project leader for Alameda Point Partners, there is no guarantee there will ever be any solar panels on the rooftops.
Ernst blames the currently underfunded rebate incentive system and a lack of financing vehicles with tax incentives, which can leave developers having to absorb the full cost of the photovoltaic solar panels. He said it could take anywhere from seven to 10 years to offset the cost of the solar panels through power savings if his company had to fund them out of pocket.
The solar panel rebate programs offered by the State of California and Alameda Municipal Power lag far behind the ambitious goals recently launched by Governor Jerry Brown. The governor’s executive order on greenhouse gas reduction, issued on April 29, 2015, followed through on goals that he outlined a few months earlier in his inaugural address.
“I envision a wide range of initiatives: more distributed power, expanded rooftop solar, micro-grids, an energy imbalance market, battery storage, the full integration of information technology and electrical distribution and millions of electric and low-carbon vehicles,” said Governor Brown in his speech.
But at Alameda Point, the inconsistency between the governor’s goals and the programs to implement them stands in stark contrast. The proposed 68-acre Site A project next to the Seaplane Lagoon is left wanting for solar panels. But a few feet away at Hangar 41, Wrightspeed is preparing to manufacture fuel-efficient electric powertrains for trucks with the aid of $5.8 million in grant funding from the California Energy Commission.
In order to limit the onsite production of power, which cuts into a power company’s bottom line, rate structures for buying and selling power from rooftop solar producers can be skewed in favor of power companies. This, in turn, can effect decisions on investing in rooftop solar. One of the hurdles is right here in Alameda.
Alameda’s Public Utilities Board recently held a workshop on rate structure alternatives known as Net Energy Metering (NEM) and Feed In Tariff (FIT) but held off on making any decision. Rooftop solar proponents favor an expansion of NEM.
A nonprofit agency in Palo Alto overcame obstacles to installing rooftop solar with a combination of independent financing and various incentives. In early 2014, the Oshman Family Jewish Community Center completed a rooftop solar project on their campus that was financed through a power purchase agreement and took advantage of available incentives. It required no capital costs to the center.
The company that packaged the deal, THiNKnrg, owns the solar panels. It will deliver electricity at 4 cents a kilowatt, half the current energy rate, saving the center an estimated $1.5 million over the 20-year contract. The deal covers 12 buildings with 1,840 solar panels, which will generate .5 megawatt of power. It is Palo Alto’s second largest rooftop solar system.
The rooftops at Alameda’s Site A project will be designed to accept the weight of solar panels. Conduits, pathways, switchgear and metering will be designed into the buildings. Although this new construction project is a prime candidate to turn on the lights with solar on the first day, it’s unlikely without the support of state incentives and Alameda Municipal Power.