Professor Seeks Green Solutions for the Point

Alameda Community Radio (ACR) recently interviewed Professor Paul Kibel of San Francisco's Golden Gate University School of Law. In the interview, Kibel, who also co-directs the Center on Urban Environmental Law (CUEL), expressed his concern about the future of Alameda Point.

He told ACR that the Navy appears to be fast-tracking the approval of clean-up remedies to enable the transfer of land and the construction of new buildings. This has resulted in a six-foot-high chain-link that encloses Sites 1 and 2 and a scattered network of 30 10-foot-high white venting pipes. That fence divides Alameda Point into two distinct parts: the land east of the fence is under the city's jurisdiction; the federal portion stretches west of that fence to the San Francisco Bay.

Kibel is afraid that fast-tracking overlooks key goals of the city's open space plan that have been on the books for years.

The Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) originally planned to build a 53-acre columbarium on the federal portion of Alameda Point. Now that plan has expanded more than tenfold to a site that sprawls over some 549 acres. The VA now wants to include a 107,000-squarefoot outpatient clinic, a 250,000- square-foot in-patient hospital and 180,000 square feet of office space.

Seldom mentioned in the plan is the road to accommodate approximately 350 employees, 600 veterans, and 50 to 75 visitors to the columbarium. All this amounts to between 1,500 and 2,000 vehicles traveling to and from the Point each day. The road that will serve the VA runs through what was once conceived as open space.

Kibel's organization wants to avoid fragmentation of land and habitat on the Point. He believes that processes on the city's and federal government's portions of the Point happen with each party unaware of what the other is doing. The city is not engaged in what's going on with the federal portionand vice-versa, he said. Integrating the portions offers better land use, including the open spaces.

CUEL presented city officials with a brochure called "Flight Park at Alameda Point" to articulate an open-space vision that intentionally ignores jurisdictional boundaries and considers how beautiful and ecologically rich a holistic site could be.

Kibel describes the response from the city as polite, but noncommittal.

"They tend to the view that the federal portion is out of their control and that they can't do anything about it," he said. "The truth is, if the city defines what it wants and is a vigorous advocate, it may well affect what happens out there."

The Environmental Protection Agency and Regional Water Board representatives have sent letters to the Navy requesting alternatives.

City officials remain silent.

In the meantime, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is about to publish a biological opinion that does not address the road that carries traffic to the federal government's property. In doing so, FWS is ignoring the effect the road would have on wildlife.

"Since the FWS document will be legally deficient under the Endangered Species Act, CUEL asks FWS to take a step back and look again," Kibel said.

"This is all about the schedule. [FWS] is getting a lot of pressure from the VA to get the opinion done, and soon." Kibel said that CUEL suspects the VA's environmental assessment, which is required under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), does not address the road, either.

These omissions will lead to the Navy publishing a Finding of No Significant Impact (called a "FONSI"). No FONSI means the Navy does not have to do an Environmental Impact Report (EIR). "There are constructive solutions," Kibel said.

East Bay Regional Park District offered to manage the open space for free. It bowed out of negotiations when the city requested it pay $6 million in bond money for land the city receives free from the Navy.

The city could also respond to Oakland's request for proposals in its search for solutions to defray its problems with wetlands mitigation. This system, similar to carbon trades or offsets, allows one entity to place its waste and pollution debt into a mitigation bank and credit an entity unburdened by such debt.

City officials remain non-committal about this win-win solution. Visit ACR's website, www.alamedacommunityradio. org, to listen to an extensive interview with Kibel.

Susan Galleymore sits on the Alameda Community Radio board of directors.



0 #1 Irene 2012-07-29 04:25
When did the VA project expand tenfold?

According to an Alameda Sun article in 2007, the VA project always included both a columbarium and clinic. See:

Also, I understand that the actual VA facilities will take up 110 acres, not 549.

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