Alameda Point: East Bay Express edition

Rin Kelly has done it. Written the perfect Rorshach test for Alameda Point. And I don’t mean that in a bad way. Apparently it doesn’t matter what her article says (and says well and fairly), you can see that it has proved you right all along. Which either says something about the readers or about the writing…and I’m going with readers on this one.

With quotable quotes like:

“Gallant, a new hire…is insistent that vital parts of the measure take away Alameda’s ability to “negotiate what we think is in the best interest of the city.””

It’s easy to see whatever one wants to see in the article. Emails and blog comments are flying around insisting that this has something to do with land-use and housing numbers and all sorts of other issues, but it doesn’t. As the article clearly delineates, the issues discussed are about the City’s ability to control redevelopment funding and the capping of ongoing fees on future properties. Specifically, there are three issues that the city wants more control over:

  1. Removal of the 2% cap on additional taxes and fees (current recent residents pay a little over 1% for comparison)
  2. No $200 million cap on mitigation and amenity expenditures
  3. And possibly most importantly, they don’t want Alameda Point redevelopment funds limited to only Alameda Point.

This raises a very real issue–one that is a concern to me personally—of whether redevelopment areas should be able to merge, thereby avoiding the sunsetting of the redevelopment district. It’s amusing to watch those who decry all redevelopment all the time pointing to the city’s desire to do just that, to use redevelopment money from Alameda Point to fund things in other redevelopment areas, as proof that this project is a stinker.

The other two items are more interesting with both sides of the discussion (City/SunCal) saying different things. So far, the statements from the City are “what if” statements, the idea that caps limit the ability to react to unforeseen issues. A valid concern, but also highly speculative. I haven’t heard of one item that has been identified as not being covered under the first two bullets.

Over two years ago on a post about Alameda Landing, I wrote:

2. Don’t cap the funding – The DDA caps the amount of spending on the TDM plan at approx. $435,000 without identifying the methods used to reduce vehicle trips. This would seem to be backwards. We first need to identify the appropriate solutions needed to attain the goal the city sets, then a discussion of financing can take place.

If there is a concern in the Alameda Point initiative, this would be it. That the initiative caps the funding. Of course it also spells out the mitigations and amenities that will be provided and the City should provide specific analysis of what it expects will not be covered.

In the end, it should be noted that in 2007, the council (as currently seated) unanimously approved the Alameda Landing DDA with caps.

This continuing thread of discussion, that somehow having the council negotiate all of this is a surefire way to make sure that no caps are in place is a grasp at best. At the end of the day, no matter what the project is, you can always encumber it with “more” and therefore require more funding in order to make it become reality. The council (again, all five members) have already shown, via their votes, that they acknowledge that projects are balancing act between amenities and forcing a project to become not financially viable. Those are the trade-offs that need to be discussed.

Reading the EBX article, there was nothing surprising in what it presented, only that it was presented so bluntly. What the article most likely represents is step forward in the negotiations between SunCal and the city, with the current City Manager deciding to take her position public in order to put pressure on SunCal to negotiate some items earlier than planned and for her to be able to control aspects of the negotiations. We’ll see if it works.

At the end of the day, those hoping that this article is somehow the death knell for this project, or that it indicates that the city is somehow backing away from the land-use plan that it has supported, had best start putting their hopes somewhere else.