Shipways Project Redo Before Planning Board

City of Alameda    The Cavallari Group will present a brand-new plan for the Shipways development to the Planning Board next Monday. The new plan has four buildings instead of the single one in the original plans.

North Shore development adds 329 new housing units

The Shipways Residential Project, 1100-1250 Marina Village Pkwy, has once again come before the Planning Board. According to the city, the Cavallari Group, Inc. submitted an application for a development plan and design review on March 15, 2017. The following month, the Planning Board sent Cavallari back to the drawing boards. 

The board asked the developer to distribute the units among two or more buildings rather than the one large building Cavallari had proposed. In addition the board requested view corridors through the property to the Oakland Estuary and a reduction in the buildings’ mass.

Cavallari revised its design. Instead of the single building, the proposed project includes four separate multifamily residential structures of four to six stories, containing a total of 329 residential units. This number includes 54 deed-restricted affordable-housing units, as opposed to the 2017 design of a single, large building with 292 residential units and 40 deed-restricted units.

The project still includes a 2.5-acre public waterfront park, with a dual-purpose dock for ferry shuttle service. Also held over from the 2017 plan are a public kayak launch, showers, bathrooms, waterfront amenities and an extension of the Bay Trail.

Shipways is part of the city’s 1984 Marina Village Master Plan. This plan defines the basic development concept and permitted land uses for the 206-acre site, once home to a large shipbuilding enterprise. There have been several efforts over the last 20 years to develop the site for both residential and office uses. These efforts have included a variety of different residential proposals and an office building proposal. 

All of the prior efforts failed due to a combination of factors: 

  • Local and regional market conditions. 
  • The difficult and expensive geotechnical conditions on the property that must be overcome to develop there, and 
  • The restrictions imposed by the City of Alameda’s 1972 limitations on multifamily housing, Measure A.

United Engineering began operations on the site in 1916 and endured until the 1960s. Unlike most of Marina Village, the Shipways site remains undeveloped to this day. 

The Planning Board will hear Cavallari’s presentation and listen to input from the public at its Monday, May 14, meeting. The board meets in the City Council Chambers at City Hall, 2263 Santa Clara Ave. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. 

The Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation built the four large concrete shipways that jut from the Alameda shoreline into the Oakland Estuary in 1942. They — and the companion six craneways — served the company as massive construction sites. Between 1942 and ’45, some 6,200 men and women worked on these shipways, turning out eight 23,000-ton troop ships — each named for an admiral. 

For example on Nov, 29, 1943, workers laid down the USS Admiral C. F. Hughes. As with the other seven troop ships the company built in Alameda, Bethlehem built the Hughes under contract with the United States Maritime Commission. On Aug. 27, 1944, Louise Nimitz, the wife of Captain Otto Nimitz, and the sister-in-law of Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, was on hand to break a champagne bottle over the brand-new troop ship’s prow. The following January the Navy took command of the ship. 

The Hughes served in both the European and Pacific theaters during World War II. On one assignment, the ship transported 221 Japanese prisoners-of-war. Ironically the Hughes put in at Pearl Harbor where the prisoners disembarked. 

After World War II, the Navy decommissioned the ships. The army operated them with civilian crews and renamed them for generals.

The government ordered 10 troop ships, but only eight saw service during the war. It canceled orders for last two — the USS Admiral D. W. Taylor and the USS Admiral F. B. Upham. Workers completed these ships, however. The government “bareboat chartered” the ships, delivered them without a crew, to the American Presidents Lines, which outfitted them as the USS President Cleveland and the USS President Wilson respectively. 

In addition to turning out troop ships, workers also repaired hundreds of other ships. They set wartime records for speed of construction and participated in the first-ever quadruple launching. Like other shipbuilding enterprises, Bethlehem closed its shipyard here after World War II. Its shipways may soon anchor a housing development along the Oakland Estuary.