Point Enters New Era

Alameda Point is on the cusp of a new era in civilian reuse. Plans for construction of residential neighborhoods and commercial space are taking shape, alongside growing productive reuse of aircraft hangars. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is poised to begin the first phase of its $240 million clinic and columbarium project. In addition, the Water Emergency Transportation Authority (WETA) is studying plans for accommodating their increasing ferry ridership.

At its Tuesday, Feb. 18 meeting the City Council will get an update on the pending 68-acre "Site A" residential and retail plan. The council is also scheduled to consider authorizing an urban design firm to draft detailed plans for a 100-acre residential neighborhood along Main Street near the ferry terminal.

In November 2014, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) awarded a $250,000 grant to the city to prepare the Main Street Neighborhood Specific Plan. This sub-district at Alameda Point is part of the new zoning system adopted by the council in early 2014 along with environmental and infrastructure documents. The yearlong public review process for the Main Street neighborhood design will not result in any commitment to build. It will only provide the necessary planning and design document for seeking bids when the City Council decides to move forward with the neighborhood’s construction.

A key part of the design will be moving the Alameda Point Collaborative (APC) onto a smaller footprint near the Ploughshares Nursery. The move will achieve a long-sought consolidation of housing, services and programs. A condition of APC vacating its current property for development, which they occupy through Congressional authority, will be for a future developer to fund the construction of new transitional housing and a community center to replace the old.

Reflecting the existence of Ploughshares Nursery, the urban planning team will include a specialist who will be tasked with expanding on the use of agriculture as a community benefit, according to the staff report. The planning process will also devote considerable attention to whether and how the former senior officer housing, known as the Big Whites, will be incorporated into the new community.

MTC also funded the design of the Waterfront and Town Center (WTC) Plan around the Seaplane Lagoon. Alameda Point Partners’ "Site A" proposal is an outgrowth of the WTC planning process.

VA 2016 budget request

At the end of the previous City Council meeting, City Manager John Russo announced that President Barack Obama’s 2016 budget proposal includes $70 million for the VA project. If approved by Congress, the money would go toward site work, utilities, geotechnical work and wetlands mitigation.

As part of the VA’s agreement with the city, the VA will lay all new infrastructure from the north entrance, down West Red Line Avenue past the gym and out to its runway site. The infrastructure will be sized so that the city can tap into it when needed. The VA will also build an underground dry utility trench from West Red Line Avenue over to Alameda Municipal Power’s electrical substation near the east entrance. The city will have use of the trench when needed.

A section of the VA’s footprint will impact wetland, and the VA will have to mitigate the loss. It’s unknown at this stage whether the VA will add to the existing wetland on the southeastern part of its property near the Seaplane Lagoon, or whether it will send its funds to a wetland mitigation bank.

Ferry service

WETA recently completed the installation of a new passenger gangway at the Main Street Terminal. The upgrade was precipitated when Bay Ship and Yacht moved its floating dry dock closer to the terminal. The passenger-loading ramp is now further west, making the ferry exit maneuver safer.

Ferry ridership at the Main Street Terminal went up drastically following the BART strike a few years ago.

Automobile parking has spilled over onto an unpaved lot and the shoulders of Main Street. A ferry access study, initiated by WETA last year, is looking into expanding parking facilities and bus service to the terminal on Main Street as well as Harbor Bay. A series of public hearings have been held. The results and recommendations are expected by June, according to WETA Chief Planner Kevin Connally.

A WETA-funded study on the feasibility of establishing passenger ferry service in the Seaplane Lagoon is in progress. The developer for Site A, Alameda Point Partners, is proposing to pay for passenger ferry terminal construction, but not operations.

The landscape adjacent to the Main Street Ferry Terminal is about to change. At Tuesday’s council meeting, the city council will be asked to approve spending $290,000 from the Tidelands Fund account for Power Engineering Construction Company to remove the historic Todd Shipyard crane next to the ferry terminal.

Removal of the crane is part of the deal by which WETA took over the Alameda Ferry and will purchase the ferry terminal property from the city. In January 2013, a search was launched for a contractor to relocate, preserve or reuse the crane. No viable proposals were submitted.

Richard Bangert keeps tabs on Alameda Point at https://alamedapointenvironmentalreport.wordpress.com.