Seaplane Lagoon ferry service in limbo

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.

Ferry passengers boarding at the Alameda Main Street Terminal bound for San Francisco. The popular Main Street Terminal at the north side of Alameda Point on the Oakland Estuary will continue in operation, even if new ferry service comes to the Seaplane Lagoon. Parking here will be expanded in mid-2016.
Ferry passengers boarding at the Alameda Main Street Terminal bound for San Francisco. The popular Main Street Terminal at the north side of Alameda Point on the Oakland Estuary will continue in operation, even if new ferry service comes to the Seaplane Lagoon. Parking here will be expanded in mid-2016.

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.  Continue reading “Seaplane Lagoon ferry service in limbo”

Waterfront Park plans – Public comment welcomed

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.

AP Waterfront Plans

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.”

AP Waterfront Plans

“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).”

AP Waterfront Plans

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.”

AP Waterfront Plans

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.”

AP Waterfront Plans

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.”

AP Waterfront Plans

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.”

AP Waterfront Plans

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Later phase. Not part of Phase 1.
Later phase. Not part of Phase 1.

AP Waterfront Plans

AP Waterfront Plans

Click on any image to enlarge.
Click on any image to enlarge.

AP Waterfront Plans

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Click on image to enlarge.
Click on image to enlarge.

AP Waterfront Plans

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City blocks car access to Alameda Point waterfront

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.

Alameda Vice Mayor Frank Matarrese being ordered to leave the shoreline of Alameda Point by Alameda Point security on Sunday, April 19, 2015.
Alameda Vice Mayor Frank Matarrese being ordered to leave the shoreline of Alameda Point by Alameda Point security on Sunday, April 19, 2015.

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.”  

Car tire tracks at Seaplane LagoonAn 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.

Car visitors to shoreline

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.”

Published in the Alameda Sun.

Waterfront plan showing proposed natural park on west side (left) of Seaplane Lagoon.
Waterfront plan showing proposed natural park on west side (left) of Seaplane Lagoon.
The distance to walk to the Bay shoreline from the gate, at the west side of Seaplane Lagoon, looking south.
The distance to walk to the Bay shoreline from the gate, at the west side of Seaplane Lagoon, looking south.
Family bicycling to the shoreline on west side of Seaplane Lagoon.
Family bicycling to the shoreline on west side of Seaplane Lagoon.

Cyclists on the shoreline

Mother and son cycling on west side of Seaplane Lagoon.
Mother and son cycling on west side of Seaplane Lagoon.
Two visitors to west side of Seaplane Lagoon shoreline being ordered to leave by security.
Two visitors to west side of Seaplane Lagoon shoreline being ordered to leave by security.
Security guard telling car driver and his friend they had to leave.
Security guard telling car driver and his friend they had to leave.
This driver was approached by security shortly after photo was taken as he was leaving.
This driver was approached by security shortly after photo was taken as he was leaving.

Vista Point

Alameda Point gateway plan begins taking shape

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.

West Atlantic Avenue will be realigned as a four-lane divided street to the right of the big tree and become a continuation of Ralph Appezzato Memorial Parkway.  Main Street in foreground.
West Atlantic Avenue will be realigned as a four-lane divided street to the right of the big tree and become a continuation of Ralph Appezzato Memorial Parkway. Main Street in foreground.

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”

Environmental cleanup reaches milestones as work continues

The Seaplane Lagoon’s north side will be looking like its old self in a few months. The Navy has begun dismantling the waterproof concrete-walled containment system that was used for three years for dewatering and testing of soil dredged from the Seaplane Lagoon, marking a major cleanup milestone. Prior to that dredging work, much of the lagoon’s north frontage served as a staging area for replacement of storm drain lines contaminated with radium-226.

Construction of a new and improved soil cover over a waste disposal site concluded this spring, marking another milestone. The 110-acre site on the southwest corner of Alameda Point took 10 years of haggling about potential environmental impacts before a cleanup plan was adopted in 2010. Work began in early 2013. The dome-shaped soil cover required 500,000 cubic yards of barged-in soil to complete.

North Pond of West Wetland on southwest corner of Alameda Point.  Pond is connected to San Francisco Bay via a new culvert near upper left of pond.  Landfill soil cover is partially visible on far side of pond and will be seeded with flowering native grasses later this year.
North Pond of West Wetland on southwest corner of Alameda Point. Pond is connected to San Francisco Bay via a new culvert near upper left of pond. Landfill soil cover is partially visible on far side of pond and will be seeded with flowering native grasses later this year.

At the far northwestern corner of the Point, work is about to begin on another long studied and analyzed waste disposal site. In a few months, the Navy will be installing an interlocking steel retaining wall along 200 yards of the Bay shoreline to contain contaminated burned waste material that was bulldozed into the Bay more than a half century ago. Water dye tests showed no toxics are leaching into the Bay, but members of the Restoration Advisory Board (RAB) questioned whether the barrier would withstand a catastrophic earthquake. Partially covered by runway pavement, the entire 30-acre site will receive a three-foot soil cover. The work is expected to be completed in 2015. The area will be available for passive recreational use such as hiking trails when the city receives the land.

Northwest tip of Alameda Point where Site 1 is located.  Waste burning area is here.  Trees have been removed.  Port of Oakland is in background.
Northwest tip of Alameda Point where Site 1 is located. Waste burning area is here. Trees have been removed. Metal retaining wall will go here.  Port of Oakland is in background.

One of the longest-running and most problematic cleanup sites is at the old Naval Air Rework Facility (NARF), also known as Building 5, covering nearly one million square feet. Radium paint used for aircraft dial painting, and chemicals associated with engine repair work led to contamination that is still being remediated. The entire floor area will be scanned again for radiation in 2015, following up on at least three prior scanning surveys of walls, ceilings, pipes, and ducts. The year 2015 will also see the Navy returning to the site for a final round of groundwater cleanup treatments targeting contamination remaining after an intensive cleanup effort a decade ago.

Building 5, also known as Naval Air Rework Facility (NARF), where additional radium-226 and groundwater cleanup is planned.  At the corner of West Tower Avenue and Monarch Street.
Building 5, also known as Naval Air Rework Facility (NARF), where additional radium-226 and groundwater cleanup is planned. At the corner of West Tower Avenue and Monarch Street.

Next door to the Bladium Sports Club on West Tower Avenue, another previously treated groundwater cleanup site will be treated again. Workers have already begun boring holes in the pavement for a network of hoses that will be used for introducing contaminant-eating bacteria into groundwater along with a bacteria food source.

On Saturday, July 12, the Navy’s annual cleanup site tour visited four of the cleanup areas. The most impressive stop was the 110-acre landfill site mentioned above. For the first time in over 15 years, members of the public were allowed to walk around and enjoy the magnificent views from the embankment that is closer to San Francisco than to city hall. The fencing is all gone, and with it the radiological warning signs. The Navy replaced an aging metal culvert that connects the site’s North Pond to San Francisco Bay with a concrete culvert.

New culvert being installed connecting San Francisco Bay, which is to the right, and North Pond of the West Wetland at Alameda Point.  Navy photo taken 5/22/14.
New culvert being installed connecting San Francisco Bay, which is to the right, and North Pond of the West Wetland at Alameda Point. Navy photo taken 5/22/14.
New culvert being installed.  North Pond of West Wetland at Alameda Point in foreground, San Francisco Bay in background.  Navy photo.
New culvert being installed. North Pond of West Wetland at Alameda Point in foreground, San Francisco Bay in background. Navy photo.

Tour participants were able to see the area’s expanded wetland with a new tiny island. Caspian Terns started nesting on the island a few months ago, another type of milestone. “The last time Caspian Terns were seen in that area nesting was in 1999 when only one nest was detected,” said Alameda wildlife biologist and Alameda Point bird surveyor Leora Feeney. The 79-acre soil cover on the landfill will be seeded with flowering native grasses later this year. The vegetation mix was chosen by the RAB.

South Pond of West Wetland at Alameda Point.  Island in pond has become a nesting site for Caspian Terns.  Looking north toward Port of Oakland.
South Pond of West Wetland at Alameda Point. Island in pond has become a nesting site for Caspian Terns. Looking north toward Port of Oakland.

According to the Navy’s environmental cleanup coordinator, Derek Robinson, $513 million has been appropriated to date for Alameda Point cleanup, although some of it remains to be spent on upcoming work. His office, the Base Realignment and Closure Program, estimates another $80 million will be needed by the time remaining projects and follow-up monitoring are completed.

Later this year, the Navy is expected to transfer to the city the 33-acre North Housing site and seven-acre former Island High School site that sit next to Alameda Landing and Estuary Park, marking another milestone on the long and winding cleanup road to civilian use.

This story appeared in the Alameda Sun:  Print edition front page and online edition.

Navy Environmental Tour Guide July 12, 2014 – Cleanup Fact Sheets

Navy Presentation Environmental Cleanup Program Review July 12, 2014 to Restoration Advisory Board

More photos and a map

Caspian Terns and chicks at West Wetland, Alameda Point.
Caspian Terns and chicks at West Wetland, Alameda Point.  Click on image to enlarge.
Trail on embankment at southwest corner of Alameda Point.  Looking south with San Francisco Bay to the right and ahead.  Additional trail to the right at riprap elevation.
Trail on embankment at southwest corner of Alameda Point. Looking south with San Francisco Bay to the right and ahead. Additional trail to the right at riprap elevation.
Concrete pad served as a base for conveyor that transferred soil from barge to land for the soil cover at Site 2.  Contractor left it in place and added a few amenities for future users of a place they had come to appreciate the beauty of as they worked here for a year.  Thank you, TetraTech.
Concrete pad served as a base for conveyor that transferred soil from barge to land for the soil cover at Site 2. Contractor left it in place and added a few amenities for future users of a place they had come to appreciate the beauty of as they worked here for a year. Thank you, TetraTech.
Dredging the northwest corner of the Seaplane Lagoon at Alameda Point in February 2012.  Tarmac dewatering, drying, and testing area behind black tarp is now being dismantled.  All dredging work is completed.
Dredging the northwest corner of the Seaplane Lagoon at Alameda Point in February 2012. Tarmac dewatering, drying, and testing area behind black tarp is now being dismantled. All dredging work is completed.

Previous stories about waste disposal areas: 

Scenic Alameda Point wildlife refuge section to be off limits with security fence (May 31, 2012)

Update notes: Subsequent criticism of the Navy as to the necessity of a security fence by members of the public and regulatory agencies led to the removal of the security fence from the final work plan design. The Navy also agreed to shorten the soil gas vents to two feet, since only trace amounts of methane gas are now emitted from the landfill waste, most of which is industrial and did not produce methane in the first place.  Additionally, the Navy agreed to examine the aging metal culvert that connects the North Pond of the West Wetland to San Francisco Bay.  The culvert provides the water lifeline for the North Pond habitat and was at risk of collapse and being stopped up with debris.  The Navy replaced the metal culvert with a concrete culvert (see photo above) and debris screen.

Navy receives comments on landfill/wetlands plans on Alameda Point wildlife refuge (July 15, 2012)

Ending threat of solvents in groundwater leaching into San Francisco Bay (August 31, 2012)

Cleanup plan changes at waste burning area (April 5, 2013)

Landscaping the Navy’s underground waste disposal site (June 4, 2013)

Massive landscaping project changing scenic area on Nature Reserve (August 5, 2013)

Landfill landscaping on Nature Reserve – Update October 2013 (October 26, 2013)

Dragon boat, canoe races held at Alameda Point

Alameda Point’s Seaplane Lagoon was the site of two days of boat races on the weekend of July 12-13.  The two-day event was sponsored by the Northern California Outrigger Canoe Association and the California Dragon Boat Association.  Saturday was for the outriggers, and Sunday was for the dragon boats.

The Seaplane Lagoon was also the launch site on Sunday for outrigger canoes heading out to the tip of Alameda Point for a race to the San Leandro Marina.   The Alameda-Point-to-San-Leandro race was sponsored by Wave Chaser.

Here are some photos showing what a great venue the Seaplane Lagoon is for outdoor events like boating.  

Note that the temporary dock facility used by the boaters was installed by Artemis Racing when they began training out of Alameda Point for 2013 Americas Cup.    

Outrigger canoes Alameda Point
Outrigger canoe race on July 12, 2014 at Alameda Point’s Seaplane Lagoon.

Outrigger canoes at Alameda Point

Outrigger canoe team staging area

Outrigger canoe team banners at Alameda Point

Dragon boat race on July13, 2014 at Alameda Point's Seaplane Lagoon
Dragon boat race on July13, 2014 at Alameda Point’s Seaplane Lagoon

Dragon boats racing at Seaplane Lagoon, Alameda Point

Dragon boat team competing in race at Alameda Point's Seaplane Lagoon.
Dragon boat team competing in race at Alameda Point’s Seaplane Lagoon.
Dragon boat team heading to starting line.
Dragon boat team heading to starting line.
Dragon boat team returning to dock after race.
Dragon boat team returning to dock after race.

Dragon boat team huddle

Dragon boat team huddling at Seaplane Lagoon

Dragon boat team

Dragon boat team at Seaplane Lagoon, Alameda Point

Dragon boat team huddle

Dragon boat teams queuing up to board their boats for next race.
Dragon boat teams queuing up to board their boats for next race.

Dragon boat teams boarding their boats

Dragon boaters on Seaplane Lagoon boating dock

Dragon boaters returning to staging areas after race

Dragon boat "village" at Seaplane Lagoon, Alameda Point

Dragon boat "village"

Dragon boat "village" at Seaplane Lagoon

Dragon boat team

Dragon boat race spectators

Spectators at Seaplane Lagoon dragon boat races

All-female Wave Chaser team launching boat for race to San Leandro Marina.  Alameda Point Seaplane Lagoon.
All-female Wave Chaser team launching boat for race to San Leandro Marina. Alameda Point Seaplane Lagoon.

Female Wave Chasers heading to race

Wave Chasers headed to race starting line in SF Bay

Wave Chaser carrying boat to Seaplane Lagoon launch

Wave Chaser launching boat

Wave Chaser launching boat

Wetland park plan at Seaplane Lagoon gets a boost

It’s more likely a new wetland will be created on the western shoreline of the Seaplane Lagoon at Alameda Point, thanks to lobbying efforts led by the Sierra Club.

Sierra Club in Alameda's 4th of July Parade 2014
Sierra Club in Alameda’s 4th of July Parade 2014

On July 1, 2014, the Alameda City Council added language to the Alameda Point Town Center and Waterfront Specific Plan that raises the commitment to remove pavement from the western side of the Seaplane Lagoon for wetland—an area called De-Pave Park.  Lobbying efforts convinced the council to include the following options to help facilitate the wetland park creation:  1) creating a wetland mitigation bank; 2) adding the area to a possible national wildlife refuge on the federal property; and 3) working with local community members who may identify funding sources for creating the passive park area. Continue reading “Wetland park plan at Seaplane Lagoon gets a boost”