An amendment to the California Surplus Lands Act that went into effect in January 2020 brought long-term leasing and land sales at Alameda Point to a screeching halt for two years. The new law mandated that no government-owned land could be sold, or leased for more than a year, without first offering the land to affordable housing providers on a state clearinghouse. After the city listed six initial sites on the clearinghouse, the process ended in January 2022 without yielding one single unit of additional housing of any type.
In an effort to remedy the flawed law, Assembly Member Mia Bonta has introduced legislation to exempt Alameda Point from the process, citing the agreement with the Navy to follow the community base reuse plan. Under the current process, it forces Alameda to entertain ad hoc changes, such as offering to place housing in job-generating commercial zones. The Community Reuse Plan for Alameda Point adopted in 1996 spells out the types of uses for all of the areas, and the Navy has been conducting environmental cleanup based on those agreed-upon uses.
Everything is looking up at Alameda Point rocket manufacturer Astra. Contracts to launch small satellites are up, partnerships are up, and capital investments in the company are up. And now the company is ready to expand its facility.
Astra is headquartered at 1900 Skyhawk Street in Building 360, next to the Main Street Soccer Field. The building was formerly used for repairing jet engines and is still owned by the Navy due to groundwater contamination that is undergoing remediation. Astra renovated the southern portion of the building in 2018 and 2019 under a license agreement with the City of Alameda to begin manufacturing rockets. Its rocket engines are tested in a facility across the street that was formerly used by the Navy to test jet engines.
In April 2021, the company received the go-ahead from the Navy and regulators to finish renovating Building 360 to expand rocket production. On May 25, the city issued a building permit for the northern portion of the 180,000 square-foot building.
A new state law that took effect in January 2020 has stymied the City’s plan for commercial development on a plot of land at Alameda Point. Assembly Bill No. 1486 requires cities, counties, special districts, and the state to first offer any and all “surplus” land to affordable housing developers before it can be leased for more than one year or sold. This legislation amended the Surplus Lands Act and, unbeknownst to the city when they supported the bill, swept in former military bases.
The city had received proposals from 10 commercial developers as a result of its marketing campaign in 2019. Each applicant was willing to pay at least the minimum listing price of $36.5 million for 22 acres in the Enterprise District and provide a construction timeline. The acreage is within the larger commercial and light industrial zone adjacent to Main Street, and includes the self-storage facilities. This new law meant that the City was unable to proceed with the selection process.
“It’s ironic,” said Nanette Mocanu, Assistant Director of Base Reuse & Community Development. “The City is a proponent for affordable housing and supported this legislation. We and many other communities were caught off guard when the legislation was applied to leasing and base reuse properties,” said Mocanu. “Cities across the state are working to find solutions to the unintended consequences of this legislation.”
In early February 2020, Astra posted a video giving the public and potential customers a look inside their rocket assembly plant at Alameda Point.
Last week on February 18, the company shipped its latest rocket to the Pacific Spaceport Complex on Kodiak Island, Alaska. The rocket will be launched in the coming days to test its ability to place small satellites into low Earth orbit.
Alameda Point has specialty craft breweries and distilleries. Coming soon – craft rockets. Startup company Astra Space hopes to sell its economy-sized rockets to any entity wanting to launch its own small satellite into low earth orbit.
On April 22, the city council and members of the public got a tour of its nearly completed production facility prior to a special meeting of the council. The meeting was billed as a recommendation to authorize the city’s commercial real estate broker Cushman and Wakefield to market a 24-acre industrial area in the commercial Enterprise District to businesses and developers. But because Cushman and Wakefield had already been authorized to market the area at least twice since 2015, the real reason for the tour and meeting was to showcase a shifting strategy for the district that will now include adaptively reusing some existing buildings, rather than tearing everything down as previously envisioned. Continue reading “Rocket manufacturing coming to Alameda Point”