Wetland Park Plan for Seaplane Lagoon is Phony

Wetland Park Plan for Seaplane Lagoon is Phony

The plan for a so-called “De-Pave Park” on the western side of the Seaplane Lagoon would be something to cheer about if the park had any chance of ever being created. The concept behind the park is to remove the concrete tarmac and shoreline boulders, allowing for a natural wetland shoreline. The text of the city’s recently released draft Town Center and Waterfront Plan, however, allows existing industrial buildings to remain there “if needed.”

This is a change from the first presentation of De-Pave Park in 2013 when the Town Center and Waterfront Plan was rolled out. The existing structures were not shown in that drawing. The community was led to believe that all structures would be removed to provide a natural wetland-oriented transition to the existing Runway Wetland on federal property. Not so anymore. The structures can stay. 

The “if needed” caveat sets the framework for never moving forward with the plan. If the buildings are being leased, the buildings will be “needed.” If the buildings are needed, then the pavement around them will also be needed. The city is continuing to market these buildings to tenants and, thus, there’s not likely to come a day when we try to secure grant money to develop the park. The infrastructure plan also shows we are going to save the massive eyesore “Building 25” from sea level rise with a levee. 

The design map reveals another shortcoming: A network of concrete trails, spur trails, and concrete “campsites” cluttering up the natural ecosystem. A modest habitat-sensitive perimeter trail or boardwalk would be more appropriate.

This so-called “park,” colorfully laid out in green, is not zoned Open Space. It is zoned Waterfront Town Center.

Changing the western shoreline of the Seaplane Lagoon to a wetland-grassland landscape would implement climate change adaptation goals and carbon sequestration goals. Without a commitment by the city to implement De-Pave Park in the Town Center and Waterfront Plan — including removal of all buildings on the western side of the Seaplane Lagoon — a great opportunity to help rebalance the San Francisco Bay ecosystem will fall through the loopholes. 

Here’s one way to ensure De-Pave Park becomes a reality. The city should make the proposed ferry terminal and marina on the east side of the lagoon contingent upon constructing a new wetland and grassland on the west side. Marine fuel usage and aquatic habitat disruption on the east side should trigger the ecosystem enhancement on the west side. It’s a balanced approach.

City Hall is requesting comments on the draft plans for the Town Center and Waterfront Plan by next Thursday, May 15, in preparation for a June 9 Planning Board meeting. City Council is expected to approve the plan in July. Comments can be submitted to city planner Andrew Thomas at athomas@alamedaca.gov for forwarding to the Planning Board. 

Richard Bangert writes the online Alameda Point Environmental Report.