Nuclear research coming to Alameda Point historic district

Tenant plans to design next-generation nuclear power plant

The underground infrastructure at Alameda Point may be old and in need of replacement, but many of the Navy’s industrial and civic buildings were built to last centuries.  One of those buildings is Building 9, a former records warehouse on West Tower Avenue right across the street from the Bladium that is rock solid and worth rehabbing.

According to developer Joe Ernst of srmErnst, the horizontal alignment of the steel superstructure has moved a mere 1.2 inches in the 77 years since it was built.  “And for all we know, it could have been off by an inch when it was built,” said Ernst.

Building 9 at 707 West Tower Avenue undergoing $24 million renovation project.

The hangar-like structure is being readied for the first tenant, Kairos Power.  Kairos will set up a laboratory to test components that will make up a new type of nuclear reactor.  No radioactive material will be handled there.  In fact, Ernst says it’s spelled out in the deed.

Continue reading “Nuclear research coming to Alameda Point historic district”

Housing limit under review

Part of the vacant military housing near Alameda Landing, formerly known as North Housing, fetched a winning auction bid of $38 million.

In order to complete the sale, the current “government” zoning designation must be removed.  At the same time, the city recommends removing the government zoning from two adjacent parcels that will soon be transferred to the Alameda Housing Authority and Habitat for Humanity.  The residential, multifamily zoning will remain intact. Continue reading “Housing limit under review”

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.

Artistic expression at Alameda Point

The viewer is left to decide where graffiti ends and art begins in the following images. Regardless of opinion, one thing is clear: There are people looking for an opportunity to artistically express themselves.  And Alameda Point has plenty of abandoned interior and exterior walls to accommodate them.

"Art in the park"
“Art in the park”

Artist Sam Norton created the mural below at City View Skate Park at Alameda Point in 2015 to honor and remember his friend and fellow skateboarder Clay Harding who died the previous year.

The blue letters spell the word Surya, the name of the Hindu Sun god and Clay’s adopted boarder name. The sides of the mural are adorned with sloths, one of Clay’s favorite images and his own mark as an artist. The mural was approved by the city.

Sam Norton mural at City View Skate Park, Alameda Point, honoring skateboarder and artist Clay Harding.
Sam Norton mural at City View Skate Park, Alameda Point, honoring skateboarder and artist Clay Harding.

City View Skate Park is located at 1177 West Redline Avenue. The locations of the images below are left to viewers to figure out.

"Graffiti Lounge"
“Graffiti Lounge”
"Graffiti Cafe" Alameda Point
“The Graffiti Art Viewing Room” Alameda Point
"Heads Up for Clay"
“Heads Up for Clay”

Graffiti wall Alameda Point

"The Eyes Have It"
“The Eyes Have It”
"Graffiti Lounge Another View"
“Graffiti Lounge – Another View”
"Handball Court Tags of the Day"
“Handball Court Tags of the Day”
"Handball Court New Tag"
“Handball Court New Tag”
"Mess Wall Special of the Day"
“Mess Wall Special of the Day”
"Blue Orb in the Park" another view.
“Blue Orb in the Park” another view.

Navy to transfer school property

Newly available funds from the 2014 Measure I school bond, as well as the expected growth in student enrollment, prompted Alameda Unified School District (AUSD) to submit a request to the Navy in April to acquire the vacant Island High School and Woodstock Child Development Center parcel on Singleton Avenue on the city’s West End. The Navy responded favorably.

Vacant Island High School site on Singleton Avenue. Coast Guard housing is to the left. Singleton Avenue and vacant North Housing area is to the right. Woodstock Child Development Center is on the far side of the high school.
Vacant Island High School site on Singleton Avenue. Coast Guard housing is to the left. Singleton Avenue and vacant North Housing area is to the right. Woodstock Child Development Center is on the far side of the high school.

The school district previously leased the 5.9-acre parcel from the Navy at no cost. AUSD was slated to receive the two sites from the Navy under a previous application for a Public Benefit Acquisition. However, AUSD vacated the sites in 2010 and 2011 and withdrew their application due to the estimated hundreds of thousands of dollars required for upgrades to the sewer and water lines.

The school district has been resorting to creative desk shuffling in recent years to cope with a shortage of adequate space and lack of funds. One example given by School Superintendent Sean McPhetridge in the application to the Navy states, “One school has gone so far as to relocate a classroom computer lab into a former student toilet room to accommodate the growth of enrollment.”

Currently, the Woodstock Child Development Center and Island High School jointly operate on the site of the former Longfellow Elementary School. The acquisition of the property will allow the district to relocate those two programs back to Singleton Avenue where they previously operated.

Children's playground equipment is from when the school housed Miller Elementary School prior to becoming a high school.
Children’s playground equipment is from when the school housed Miller Elementary School prior to becoming a high school.

In the application, Superintendent McPhetridge describes a veritable ripple effect of efficiencies that would ensue as a result of the acquisition. It would “open the former Longfellow Elementary School site and allow the transfer of other programs from other elementary schools currently in operation, and in turn, it would open classroom space at many existing elementary schools,” stated McPhetridge. “The transfer of programs from existing elementary schools to the former Longfellow Elementary School site would provide for the growth of students at their neighborhood schools.”

A 2014 demographic study projects that the school district will add approximately 1,000 students over the next 10 years, the majority of them on the west side of Alameda. Redeveloped Alameda Point and Alameda Landing are projected to produce approximately 600 students.

“The District has not committed to a full modernization of the buildings at this time, but is planning on committing the funds necessary to open both campuses and provide safe and updated facilities,” stated McPhetridge in the application.

The property transfer process for public benefit conveyances involves sending the parcel from the Navy via another federal agency, in this case, the Department of Education. “The U.S. Dept. of Education approved this transfer and is now waiting to get the title from the Navy,” said Susan E. Davis, Senior Manager of Community Affairs at AUSD. “Once that happens, the Department of Education will give the title to us.”

“We’re hoping that the campus will be open sometime in the 2017-18 school year,” said Davis. “Designing, getting state approval, and doing the construction on school buildings can take some time.”

Singleton Avenue with vacant North Housing on the right. School parcel is on the left.
Singleton Avenue with vacant North Housing on the right. School parcel is on the left.

The Singleton Avenue school sites are located next to the Coast Guard housing to the south. Across the street and to the north of the school parcel is the vacant North Housing site, which is still owned by the Navy and zoned for a new residential neighborhood.

Originally published in the Alameda Sun.

School Board meeting April 28, 2015 regarding property request – see agenda item F – 6.

Alameda Point Collaborative hosts luncheon down on the farm

Patrons seated themselves under a canopy between rows of crops at Alameda Point Collaborative’s farm for its fifth annual “Urban Farm Table” fundraising luncheon on Sunday, May 17. A guitar and stringed bass duo provided musical ambience for the arriving guests from within a nearby thicket of blossoming passion fruit vines. Bees went about their business from teeming beehives clinging to the branches of a fruit tree in the farm orchard. It was an earthy affair.

APC farm luncheon

The Collaborative provides supportive housing for homeless individuals, children and youth services, and job training programs, such as selling their farm produce through a subscription service, operating a commercial kitchen, and raising and selling plants at the Ploughshares Nursery.

Bryant Terry at APC farm luncheonNationally known author and sustainable food activist Bryant Terry gave the keynote address. He wove together personal memories of food and culture from the days before the phrase “slow food movement” was coined. Terry characterized APC’s local farm program as a radical idea in an era of corporate agribusiness that harms the environment and shortchanges consumers’ health.

Terry praised the Collaborative’s Farm2Market subscription produce program as a model that should be emulated throughout the country. “There are many urban neighborhoods where it’s easier to find a gun than a fresh apple,” he said. Terry is the author of the critically-acclaimed “Vegan Soul Kitchen: Fresh, Healthy, and Creative African-American Cuisine.”

Terry wrapped up his engaging talk about food and culture by preparing a simple veggie dish over a gas burner. While he was chopping and stirring, he offered a tip for anyone expecting dinner guests. He said no matter what you’re serving, throw some olive oil and garlic into a hot skillet before the guests arrive to get that aroma into the air. “They’ll compliment you every time, even if all you are serving is dessert.”

A cadre of snappily dressed servers delivered a two-course meal. The tricolored beet salad with pistachios, spring greens and radishes was topped with a roasted apricot and Point Reyes bleu cheese vinaigrette and accompanied by a slice of Rosemary focaccia.

Jeff Rosen at left in white.
Jeff Rosen at left in white.

The gourmet menu was created and supervised by Jeff Rosen, executive chef at Oakland’s Blue Heron Catering. All of the produce was grown at APC’s farm. Joe Pucci Seafood provided the local salmon. The featured beverages came from Rock Wall Wine Company, St. George Spirits, and Petitpot.

As each pan-roasted salmon entre was assembled, chef Rosen personally inspected each plate and spooned on the Tuscan salsa verde before it was hustled off to the table. The nine vegetarians enjoyed the chef’s fresh pea and green garlic cakes with shaved fennel.

Awards were handed out to volunteers and supporters from the Haas School of Business, Buena Vista United Methodist Church, Bay Farm Elementary School, and Alain Pinel Realtors.

The event was sponsored by Alameda Point Partners, Penumbra, SanMan Productions, VF Outdoor, and Assemblyman Rob Bonta.

Published in the Alameda Sun, May 21, 2015

Signs of the times at Alameda Point

New street signs have been installed at Alameda Point, along with iconic winged emblems painted on the sides of hangars. The purpose of the new signs is for helping visitors find their way around and highlighting attractions and key tenants. The signs also create an enhanced sense of place for current and future tenants.

Square Peg Design, a company based out of Oakland, developed the signage program and describes it as “an interim program that addresses the immediate needs of Alameda Point as a bridge to the ultimate reuse of the site as envisioned in the new Alameda Point Zoning District Ordinance.” They state it will “clean up the confusing signage that has grown over the years and replace it with an organized and comprehensible wayfinding program.”

Aviation-themed Alameda Point signAviation history up to the time of the Naval Air Station provided inspiration for the designs.

The Alameda Point Wayfinding Signage Program project was commissioned in September of 2014. The contract for fabrication and installation was awarded to Ellis and Ellis Sign Systems of Sacramento at a cost of $360,000. No General Fund money was used for the project.

Click on any photo below to enlarge.