On March 6, the Alameda City Council will consider a change to the stalled development deal for Site A, the mixed-use project at Alameda Point. The proposed change would remove a restrictive condition governing the order in which construction happens.
Alameda Point Partners (APP), the developer for Site A, is requesting an amendment to its Development and Disposition Agreement. The amendment would remove a provision that allows the city to withhold building permits for market rate units if the affordable housing subcontractor, Eden Housing, is unable to secure all of its financing. The purpose of the current provision, called a Metering Provision, was to ensure that the affordable housing units would be built in a timely manner. The city has approved the designs for Eden’s 70-unit family affordable complex and 60-unit senior affordable complex. Continue reading “Site A mixed-use construction poised to commence”
Location, location, location! But for a fenced-off dilapidated navigation light stand on a jetty at the Seaplane Lagoon, ospreys would not have had a successful nesting season this year.
In late August two adult ospreys took flight from their Seaplane Lagoon perch for parts unknown with two healthy offspring. It was a welcome sight because for the past three years a series of frustrating avian soap operas featuring other ospreys and unwanted nesting attempts aboard the maritime ship Admiral Callaghan were marked with failure. Previously in 2012 they had raised one chick, the only other recorded case of osprey reproduction at Alameda Point.
The City of Alameda became the new owner of the Seaplane Lagoon at Alameda Point on April 13, 2016. It came from the Navy with a new condition that exceeds normal protocols for dredging in San Francisco Bay.
As with all cleanup sites, the Navy, city and regulators agreed to what areas needed to be cleaned up in the Seaplane Lagoon. The cleanup plan approved in 2006 was based on testing the sediment throughout the 110-acre lagoon. The problem areas were confined to about 10 acres at the northeast and northwest corners of the lagoon where storm sewers dumped contaminants prior to 1970s environmental laws. The agreed upon plan said that there would be no restrictions on the lagoon when cleanup was done.
After cleanup was completed, two years of discussions between the Navy, state and federal regulators, and the city led to an amendment to the official cleanup decision to include a detailed management plan for any future dredging in the Seaplane Lagoon. The city led the effort to create a sediment management plan. It stipulates that all dredge sediment brought to the surface will have to be spread out six inches thick on a drying pad and scanned for radium-226 radiation at a cost borne by the city.Continue reading “Radium safety enhanced at Seaplane Lagoon”
The new residential and commercial developer at Alameda Point has set aside $10 million toward the construction of a passenger ferry terminal at the Seaplane Lagoon. The Bay Area’s ferry agency – the Water Emergency Transportation Authority (WETA) – however, has made it clear there is currently no funding to operate a ferry there.
WETA “will entirely exhaust its available operating subsidies on an annual basis, relying upon projected increases in ridership and fares to cover increasing operating costs for existing services,” stated a draft 10-year Short Range Transit Plan that WETA issued in January for public comment. “WETA’s ability to increase service levels and meet future demand for ferry service will be restricted until new regional or local sources of operating subsidy are secured,” the draft stated.
WETA’s revenue picture is more limited than other regional transit agencies, such as BART. In WETA’s case, half of its operations funding comes from fares. Most of the other half — $15.3 million — comes from bridge tolls through Regional Measure 2, which was passed in 2005 adding a $1 bridge toll. A Harbor Bay parcel assessment funds 10 percent of the Harbor Bay service
WETA will be receiving about $1 million a year from the 2014 voter-approved Measure BB transportation sales tax. But it won’t help expand ferry service. The funds will be kept in reserve to cover inflationary operating expense increases and events that increase these expenses like the Super Bowl or a transit strike, according to Kevin Connolly, WETA’s manager of planning and development.
BART, on the other hand, receives more than 70 percent of its operating budget from fares. Revenue from close to 20,000 parking spaces at BART stations is the largest source of non-passenger fare revenue. It also receives funds from a regional sales tax and a regional property tax, both of which increase over time.
WETA does not charge for parking on the roughly 600 parking spaces that it has direct responsibility for; a parking fee charged at the Vallejo Terminal goes to the city of Vallejo, rather than to WETA. In addition, WETA receives no property tax revenue, and sales tax revenue is limited to the token amount from Measure BB.
“When WETA was formed in 2009, there wasn’t a good understanding of the cost of operations and expansion,” said Connolly. “The structural deficiency with the bridge toll funding is that it’s a set amount, and it does not escalate over time,” said Connolly. He pointed out that as the years roll on, the $15.3 million that comes from bridge tolls loses its value in terms of dollars due to inflation.
“It gets to a point where fares are covering an increasing amount, or we’re increasing fares a lot,” he said. “The ferry service could be priced out of reach of most people and only be available to people with high incomes. The solution is to either fix the existing funding to allow an escalation with inflation so it maintains real value, or find another funding source.”
New ferry service out of Richmond, scheduled to begin in 2018, is one example of bringing in a new source of revenue. Last year, the Contra Costa Transportation Authority pledged $38 million toward the operating costs of the Richmond-to-San Francisco ferry service over the next 10 years. New boats to provide the service will be purchased with the help of $12 million in bridge toll funds awarded by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and $30 million in state grants.
Treasure Island ferry service, also scheduled to begin in 2018, will be funded by the project itself, with its 8,000 residential units, hotels and commercial space. Part of the funding will come from a vehicle toll to exit that island.
Connolly suggests that emergency response funding could help underwrite WETA’s ferry operations. WETA gets emergency response funding for facilities, such as its maintenance facility at Alameda Point. But it receives no operations funding for maintaining the ferry system’s emergency readiness. “We’re tasked to do it,” said Connolly, “but there’s no funding attached to it. So, that could be a source.” About 20 percent of operations relates to emergency preparedness, according to Connolly.
Newly available California Cap and Trade funds from greenhouse gas emissions are a potential source of funding that WETA is looking into.
The city and the current mixed-used developer are studying the costs to build the proposed Seaplane Lagoon passenger ferry terminal. “The operating expense will be about the same as Harbor Bay ferry service, a little over $3 million a year,” said Connolly. “Plus, there is the cost of a new vessel.”
WETA’s draft 10-year plan provides an overview of service and performance, along with projections of capital, operating expenses and revenues for the next decade. Preparation of the plan is a requirement of the Federal Transit Administration and is updated every two years. WETA is seeking public comments by February 19, 2016 via its website.
Jennifer Ott, chief operating officer for Alameda Point, said that the city is working on an agreement with WETA regarding the proposed Seaplane Lagoon ferry, and she could not disclose details. Ott said that she is hoping to bring the draft agreement to the city council in mid-March for approval.
The Planning Board and the Recreation and Park Commission will be making comments this week on the first phase of a waterfront park being planned for the north side of the Seaplane Lagoon at Alameda Point. The public is invited to offer comments.
The Planning Board meeting is on Monday at 7 PM at City Hall. The Recreation and Park Commission meeting is on Thursday at 7 PM at City Hall.
Below are excerpts from the city staff report, along with a series of images in an easy-to-examine format excerpted from the complete design proposal. Click on any image to enlarge.
“Alameda Point Partners (APP) has been working with their design consultants, park planners, a Planning Board Subcommittee and City staff to prepare detailed designs for the individual buildings and parks within Site A. APP has submitted an application for design review for a 2.63-acre Phase 1 of the waterfront park along the northern edge of the Seaplane Lagoon that is intended to be constructed concurrent with Block 11.”
“Phase 1 Waterfront Park is designed to provide a variety of public spaces for passive recreation and opportunities for the public to enjoy the waterfront location and special events, and appreciate the views of the San Francisco skyline and the historic row of seaplane hangar buildings at the entrance to the Historic District, along the northern edge of the Seaplane Lagoon.”
“The 2.63-acre Phase 1 Waterfront Park is designed to create three primary sub-areas (i.e., the Overlook, the Promenade & Terraces, and the Taxiway).”
“The Overlook includes a pavilion for a café with outdoor seating and restrooms, as well as an elevated salvaged or reclaimed wood outdoor area for overlooking the promenade at the water’s edge, as well as portions of the promenade adjacent to the water. The Overlook also accommodates flexible event and programmable space.”
“The Promenade and Terraces consists of a series of terraces and promenade spaces leading down to the water’s edge that provide for a variety of more passive spaces for enjoying and experiencing the waterfront. Access to the waterfront promenade allows for universal design through slightly sloped walkways and seating elements that provide for a variety of all age groups and needs.”
“The Taxiway area is intended to pay homage and respect to the historic elements of the former NAS Alameda by engraving a timeline along the major east west gathering area into the concrete to remind and educate the public about the history of the site and the Historic District, and by minimizing tree plantings and planted areas to preserve the ‘openness’ of the historic taxiways consistent with the Historic District guidelines. This area includes open and unobstructed areas planned for special events and food trucks and future retail buildings as conceived in the Site A Development Plan and a temporary multi-purpose lawn for active recreation uses until future phases of the Waterfront Park are constructed and this area is designed consistent with the areas to the north.”
“Address Sea-Level Rise. With anticipated sea level rise, the existing taxiways will flood. Consistent with the approved MIP and San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) policies, the Phase 1 Waterfront Park is designed to address 24-inches of sea level rise and additional sea level rise in future years beyond 24 inches through adaptive management strategies.”
“The Phase 1 Waterfront Park design maintains the “horizontality” of the space and minimizes the use of walls in order to respect the cultural landscape guidelines for the Historic District.
“Additionally, the sea level rise strategy is designed around a series of short terraces spread over a larger space to minimize the impression of changes in elevation. This approach also allows for the preservation of the existing bulkhead, which is a character defining feature of the Historic District. During storm events and “King Tides” (unusually high tides), the bulkhead and adjacent promenade will flood occasionally as the sea level rises over time, but major portions of the public park and Bay Trail will remain above the flooded areas behind the stepped terraces. As such, the design balances the competing needs to address sea-level rise, preserve the bulkhead, and maintain the horizontality of the site.”
On Sunday, April 19, Vice Mayor Frank Matarrese drove to the shoreline on the west side of the Seaplane Lagoon, and within minutes of arrival he was ordered to leave the area by Alameda Point security. He was not alone. Anyone visiting the area, which is designated as a future naturalized park on planning maps, was subject to the same experience.
The Navy temporarily restricted public access to the area over the last few years because of environmental cleanup, but removed its fencing in mid-March allowing the public to once again visit the waterfront.
Nanette Mocanu, the city’s Economic Development Division Manager, explained that the city immediately re-established the no public access rule because of a case of illegal dumping and evidence of car “side show” activity. “We will be installing our own fencing that will prevent car traffic to the area, except for the tenants,” said Mocanu. “There will be a pedestrian gate to allow people to walk along the waterfront area.”
An investigation of the tarmac area revealed a few tire tracks, but otherwise it was clean. Similar displays of tire tracks from “side show” activities appear prominently throughout Alameda Point. Illegal dumping has been a problem at the former Naval Air Station since its closure, concentrated mainly in abandoned housing areas, not on the tarmac.
Most visitors to the area have one destination in mind, the southern shoreline facing San Francisco Bay. They are usually there for only short periods of time. Under the city’s car restrictions, visitors arriving in cars will have to walk four tenths of a mile across a paved landscape to arrive at the Bay shoreline. Access will be limited to those with the desire and mobility to make the trek out to the shoreline vista point.
Matarrese was not pleased with the city’s plan to restrict the area. “I do think there is a better way, like opening and closing the gate at sunrise and sunset, since the guard is out there anyway,” said Matarrese. “I’d even be able to live with the stated restrictions if it meant a concerted effort, with a plan and a timeline, to build the park described in the waterfront plan adopted last year.”
The Town Center and Waterfront Precise Plan, approved by the city council in July 2014, calls for the western side of the Seaplane Lagoon to become “a park for visitors to enjoy nature and appreciate ecologically rich constructed habitat areas.” Referred to as De-Pave Park, it “combines a proactive ecological agenda with a compelling visitor experience by placing a picnic, camping and interpretive program within a large scale sustainable landscape,” states the plan. “The landscape strategy is to transform this vast paved area into a thriving ecology by removing the paving and nurturing ecological succession.”
At its January 20, 2015 meeting, the city council will weigh-in on the preliminary layout proposed by developer Alameda Point Partners (APP) for a 68-acre residential and commercial parcel between Main Street and the Seaplane Lagoon.
APP was selected by the former city council on November 18, 2014, to work up a plan for 800 condos and apartments and 200,000 square feet of retail and commercial space. The developer will also be responsible for changing the gateway street alignment from an oval to a straight line leading to a new public plaza at the Seaplane Lagoon.Continue reading “Alameda Point gateway plan begins taking shape”