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. Continue reading “Seaplane Lagoon ferry service in limbo”
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”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”