Point’s Draft Report ‘Hard to Believe’

There’s been a lot of news lately about the draft Alameda Point environmental impact report (EIR), especially its chapter on traffic. There hasn’t been a lot of news about the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Navy’s jointly issued final environmental assessment for Alameda Point and their traffic impact report for the planned military cemetery, columbarium, and outpatient medical clinic at Alameda Point.

The city’s hard-to-believe draft EIR for Alameda Point anticipates no significant traffic impact at the tubes: it projects an increase of 8 cars per hour during the morning commute. Unbelievably, it concludes the real impact will be at the other end of the island — at Doolittle Drive. (If the city “leaders” really believe this, it boggles the imagination to wonder why they would even consider building 80 more houses or a hotel complex on Harbor Bay adjacent to Doolittle Drive? But that’s another story in this sad saga of Alameda’s development, not this story.) This story is about the VA and Navy report and what it says about the city’s draft EIR for Alameda Point.

As quoted in the Sun (“VA Reveals Plans for Point Facilities,” Nov. 28, 2013), the VA and Navy report “noted that … the Atlantic Avenue and Webster Street intersection would perform at unacceptable levels not only because of the projected (VA and Navy) project, but because of other Alameda Point development.” In other words, the joint VA-Navy report concludes — despite the City’s absurd claims to the contrary — that even without the addition of the cemetery, columbarium, and clinic, current planning and development for Alameda Point will result in “unacceptable” levels of traffic at the tubes.

The report goes on to say, “The minimal additional traffic resulting from the proposed (VA and Navy) action would not, cumulatively, make the already unacceptable intersection significantly worse.” Already unacceptable! Get that? Things are already so bad, there’s no need to worry about making them worse. I don’t know about you, but that conclusion gave me pause.

To any reasonable/rational person, that sentence says, whoa, stop, go back, do not pass go … reconsider what you are doing at Alameda Point and the west end: a new Target store; a new 24-hour “lifestyle” Safeway; a new In-and- Out Burger; a new gas station; 275 new housing units at Alameda Landing; 1,450 new housing units at Alameda Point; 6,000,000 squarefeet of new business and retail space; 8,900 new jobs, all of it next to the 7,000 student College of Alameda, everyone entering and exiting through the tubes, where the city “leaders” and their draft EIR anticipate no significant traffic impact … Duh!

The only thing that seems to slow these “leaders” down are lawsuits (at Crown Beach) and public referendums (at the Chuck Corica Golf Course) — otherwise they are hell-bent on developing, developing, developing .... and leaving us with an island few of us who live here will want.

It is not hard to understand the insanity of scheduling all this development on an island with only one seismically-challenged point of entry and egress on the West End where the development is planned?

Perhaps instead of a public referendum on Crown Beach, as has been suggested, there ought to be a public referendum on all city-owned land: no development (or funny, sneaky, lastminute rezoning and/or revoking of the City Charter or changing of the Master Plan) unless specific plans have been approved by a public vote.

That’s what stopped the badly designed SunCal and Chuck Corica deals, and it’s probably what will stop the development of Harbor Bay and Crown Beach as well. If we’re really lucky, perhaps the city of Oakland and the leaders of Chinatown will pull the plug and stop the West End development.

Hopefully, they’ll force Alameda to conduct an accurate and truthful traffic impact report, one with honest and realistic recommendations that address these problems, as Alameda’s current City Manager, John Russo, did when he was city attorney for Oakland. Somehow, what he learned and understood there he forgot when he came here.

Finally, consider this: one of the virtues that makes Alameda the beauty of a city that it is is that somehow Alameda missed or was bypassed or refused the building boom of the 1960s and ’70s. There are no huge, boxy, glassy high-rise office buildings, apartments, or condos to ruin the skyline and diminish the light and space. We live in a better place because of that, because people at that time said “no.”

Look around at what is being built. Does anyone actually think or believe that in 40 or 50 years people will look at these buildings — this current development of the Island — and say, “good, well done, I’m happy; it’s made Alameda a better place to live”?

It is time, I think, to once again exert the power of the people over those who say they represent us to make sure, in fact, they do.

Mark Greenside is a resident of Alameda.