Blogging Bayport Alameda

January 5, 2009

An Inconvenient Truth

Filed under: Alameda, Alameda Point, City Council, Development — Tags: , , — Lauren Do @ 7:00 am

Well, what can you say, I guess deceptive tv ads are always part of a political campaign process and since SunCal kicked it off with political polling to test different messages, Action Alameda, er I mean Save Our City Alameda, has decided to respond with a limited tv ad buy that is chock full of scary, self-important voice overs, bolded font with key words highlighted in different colors.  Seriously, the only thing it is missing is ominous background music which probably cost too much to get the clearance rights for.  

Nothing is really lost by not seeing the spot itself, it’s simply the following slides with the faux-Movie guy voice.  The only thing missing was the requisite, “in a world where [fill in the blank here]…”

slide1

First of all, Alameda is nowhere near bankruptcy, let alone on the “verge” of it.   Honestly, if you are going to make contentions like that, at least back it up with some facts.  Certainly you can’t do it on a 30 second ad buy, but at least put it on your website.

slide2

Interesting that the spectre of lawsuits would be brought up as part of this, since if the City did what Action Alameda…err…Save Our City Alameda is suggesting, this would also expose the City to lawsuits as well.  But again, the point of this ad is not to inform, but rather to scare folks into submission.

slide3

And that was why the City put Measure P on the ballot.  To help find additional funding for essential services.   What was the point of this slide?  Yet again, more scare tactics.  As newer communities, like Bayport, have additional taxes levied upon it in order to pay for things like fire services.   You see, while our property tax increment might be going to pay off the bonds for the infrastructure, the City built this “fiscally neutral” community services district in order to relieve the burden of new residents on existing city services.   Meaning that if there is a shortage of money for city services, like firefighters, police, etc it’s not because there are new residents from new developments.

slide4

The implication, of course, is that the money will come out of the general fund.   Which it will not.   While I know not everyone is a fan of the mechanism of Redevelopment and Tax Increment Financing this tact is really intellectually dishonest.  The money generated by tax increment financing would, more than likely, go towards infrastructure costs.  Not houses, as suggested by this slide.   If we really want to get technical, SunCal doesn’t even build vertical development (e.g. they don’t construct physical buildings, but rather acts as a true Master Developer and subcontract out the vertical development to other developers).   Of course there is also the use of the very tired phrase “bail-out.”  Inappropriately used, I might add, but strategically done in order to conjure up just the right amount of animosity for folks who don’t follow the issue, understand how tax increment financing works, and are already fatigued by all the talk about bank bailouts, auto-industry bailouts, etc…

slide5

I guess it would be too much to ask for evidence of this $1 billion debt.   Nothwithstanding the fact it may not be quite correct to ascribe debt created by redevelopment areas in order to improve those areas under the umbrella of “City’s debt.”   Again, whether you agree with the mechanism of redevelopment or not, to make this claim is intellectually dishonest and is used to muddy the waters rather than make valid criticisms of the SunCal plan.

slide6

I liked the red, white and blue motif on the end slide.   Because only those that agree are truly patriotic.

Seriously though, the graphics remind me a lot of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth.   More than likely because the black background, white font with red used to highlight key words (which are meant to be parrotted by those taken in by the ad) makes for a pretty effective piece of propaganda.   Of course, saying something is happening/has happened does not mean that it is true, but I suppose that Action Alameda, er… Save Our City Alameda is relying on a 30 second TV spot to reach out to folks that don’t really know what is going on and will be scared and frightened into submission by the stark whiteness of the Arial Black font and spurred into action by the red text.

Putting aside this scare first, plan later tactic by Save Our City Alameda, wouldn’t it have been more effective to talk up the plan for a land trust, put out specifics on how a land trust would be structured and who would eventually fund it?   Personally, I’m not opposed to the idea of a public land trust, but without specifics or someone with very generous deep pockets willing to finance a public land trust, it doesn’t seem to be a viable option.   If the City is expected to finance a public land trust then we really would start incurring a whole lot of debt charged to the City, which I assume is what Save Our City Alameda is trying to prevent.  

People in support of this land trust have trotted out the Presidio Trust as an example of how it would work in Alameda, but I don’t see how that is an option for Alameda unless folks like the Lipows have already reached out to Nancy Pelosi, Pete Stark, Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein, or insert name of your favorite congressperson here to ask them to pass legislation to transfer Alameda Point from the jurisdiction of the Department of Defense to the jurisdiction of the Department of the Interior and then pass more legislation to create a Public Trust for Alameda Point that would become this “wholly owned government corporation” which would have to reach self-suffciency within a specific amount of time.   During that time, the Trust would have to upgrade exisiting infrastructure at the Naval Base because I’m pretty sure the old infrastructure probably doesn’t have many good years left in it.   Simple, right?    Or does Save Our City Alameda have some other plan in mind?    Because if they do, they certainly are being rather tight lipped about it and stingy with the details.

Because really, anyone can say, “Yes I would love to see Alameda Point as a Land Trust,” but as they say, the devil is in the details and no one with all these alternative plans for Alameda Point have really done that detail work, instead relying on fearmongering to attempt to stall existing plans rather than laying out, specifically, what they find so heinous about the SunCal plan.

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54 Comments

  1. I’m coming out of hibernation to comment on the Presidio Trust model being pushed by Action Alameda, and unfortunately endorsed by folks who are otherwise fairly smart and well meaning, but in this case seem to have been distracted by shiny lights.

    The Presidio Trust:

    Doesn’t provide any low-income housing. The lowest rent is more than $1800 for a 600 sq foot studio.

    Market rate commercial rents keep out any community or grassroots organizations.

    Is exempt from complying with many local laws and zoning regulations.

    Is under the control of a federally appointed board. There is no local oversight.

    Cost taxpayers more than $300 million to establish, and still receives significant federal funding.

    Take away the federalization of the Presidio Trust, and that would leave the local community on the hook for the infrastructure development.

    The most disheartening aspect of this misinformation campaign, is that it is causing the public to not even bother scrutinizing the plan being put forth by Suncal. Most Trust proponents I have been talking with over the last week acknowledge that they have not even read most, if any of Suncal’s proposed plan. Suncal’s plan, while I believe provides the best option for the development of Alameda Point, is still lacking in significant details, and instead of focusing on those details, the community dialogue has now effectively been hijacked.

    Comment by Doug Biggs — January 5, 2009 @ 8:13 am

  2. I happened to see the ad when I was flipping through channels last night. What up with the scare tactics? There are lots of real/important issues to attend to in the discussion of how/what/if to develop the point. I find it extremely disheartening when dialogue about the point strays so far from logical/reasoned debate. Well-thought out results require thoughtful discussion.

    Comment by Eve — January 5, 2009 @ 11:14 am

  3. Come one … everyone knows that commercial is total BS. Do you think that the people who made the video believe it? LOL …
    :-)

    Comment by Jeff R. Thomason — January 5, 2009 @ 12:37 pm

  4. Thank you for publishing the facts refuting the scare tactics being used by
    Action Alamedain an effort to discredit the fine development plan proposed by SunCal which the ARRA will discuss Wed. night, January 7 at 7:00 p.m.

    Their allegations:
    * the City is handing over the land to SunCal for free- is False. The owner (USNavy) is charging $108,000,000 for it.
    *The City is providing SunCal with a $700million taxpayer subsidy – False.the bonds as you observe are tax increment bonds usable for very specific purposes and are repaid out of the increased taxes generated from DEVELOPMENT of the base, NOT from taxpayers. Incidently 20% of tax increment bonds are used to subsidize low to moderate income housing which may make it more feasible to build the mandated low income housing
    at AlamedaPoint.

    Lauren you are doing a great service for Alameda in correcting these people who are trying to incite protestors based on factually incorrect information.

    Those curious about tax increment financing can geta City informational brochure “Community Improvements that Pay for Themselves” which also explains why blighted areas are such risky investments that private enterprise can not do it alone.

    TheAction Alameda’s factually incorrect proposal to convert Alameda Point to a Public Land Trust is another scare tactic.

    Please see the HOMES websitewww.homesalameda.org for detailed explanations of both fallacies.
    Helen

    Comment by helen Sause — January 5, 2009 @ 1:06 pm

  5. This ad is ridiculous–it’s not even very good as a blatantly misleading attack piece. But I don’t have cable, so I’m perhaps not the intended audience.

    I’m not sure whether I think the project should be approved or not one should always be very careful dealing with developers; they’re sharks) but if I were a developer, I’d be rather happy. As the saying doesn’t go, “With enemies like these, who needs friends?”

    Slightly off topic…I think that in ’09 the economic malaise may sink the project for the time being and, if it does, that Action Alameda will triumphantly take misplaced credit.

    Comment by BC — January 5, 2009 @ 5:43 pm

  6. Helen,

    I find your post utterly ridiculous. If you actually believe what you posted, how about trying to explain how SunCal’s plan can benefit our community, or how it enhances Alameda’s self reliance and sustainability and try to explain how this is “fiscally neutral” and will not impact traffic. Good grief!

    Also explain how re-development helps a community despite all the evidence to the contrary. Explain how another large-scale re-dev project in Alameda will work out differently than it did for Vallejo, even though that city has all that highway access and our city has none.

    Vallejo’s Mare Island Naval base was huge, and I worked on many feature films on that base after it was closed including “Jack”, “Metro”, “Sphere” , and “Patch Adams”, and I think some others. –In all I spent well over a year there, probably closer to several years all combined. Despite the much longer lifespan of that base (1854-1996), known best for its ship and submarine building, I don’t think it had the same degree of toxicity problems as Alameda’s base. Vallejo did ‘hook-up’ to developers faster than Alameda did and as a result Vallejo is now in worse financial condition. Try and prove Vallejo’s bankruptcy was not caused by ‘outside influences’ looking for ways to grab the resources of the city. Because you can’t is a major reason why the citizens of Alameda are more wary.

    Even without base development by SunCal and the Billion or so it will cost taxpayers, I don’t think it is unlikely that Alameda will go bankrupt given the loss of revenue due to present lawsuits, the collapse of AP&T, the apparent lies the citizens were told regarding the financial condition of the telcom endeavor, and the financial “firewall” protecting the city from telcom issues. Even prior to these issues our city is foundering financially.

    Helen if you want to give us the facts – how much the current debt service bill for already approved redevelopment bonds and projects, and how high is that going to grow without the $700 million for SunCal’s plan?

    If you look at the maps presented in the SunCal plan as part of this development zone, eliminate the building on toxic plumes, “young mud” (like under where the Cypress freeway structure collapsed), and the expected flood levels providing only 18” sea rise over 100 years instead of the more standard 36”, and there is no way the present development plan is feasible – not even close, no way, no how. Everything is another problem to be “mitigated”, because none of them are solved. This is not a private investment a private risk, it is public money, public risk, combined with SunCal using more “other peoples money”. It is not a good plan, it is not a safe plan, it is not a plan that would serve the people of Alameda. It is only a plan that will not ever happen.

    For the “peoples version” of the truth of redevelopment funding, or ‘tax increment funding” instead of the H.O.M.E.S. presents “the developer’s view” ; see http://www.coalitionforredevelopmentreform.org/references/morrreport.php or http://redevelopment.com/index.html

    Comment by David Kirwin — January 5, 2009 @ 7:20 pm

  7. So, we are going to trust a hedge fund company and a real estate developer? These folks hire professional schmoozers who are adept as Madoff in affinity fraud.

    When you con your own
    http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/sunday/commentary/la-oe-rodrguez22-2008dec22,0,2524962.column

    The word “con” comes from the word, “confidence.”
    ☆ con (kän)

    adjective
    Slang confidence a con man

    transitive verb conned, conning con′·ning

    1. to swindle (a victim) by first gaining the person’s confidence
    2. to trick or fool, esp. by glib persuasion

    noun
    Slang the act or an instance of conning; swindle; trick
    http://www.yourdictionary.com/con

    Beware of those who may be as well educated as you, as articulate as you and as bright as you. It is too easy to be charmed by those with a well-schooled tongue who make some locals look coarse.

    Comment by AlamedaNayTiff — January 5, 2009 @ 7:32 pm

  8. ANT,

    It doesn’t mean the locals aren’t coarse. Is Dennis Greens revisionism now embraced as gospel?

    Are you going to champion the ignorant over the educated now? Trust only those who say “Alamedaian” not Alamedan, and Thee-A-ter not theater?

    The affinity crimes are simply crimes of opportunism by people with not sense of loyalty. The affinity groups are incubators for easy opportunity for those with no morals, often referred to as sociopaths.

    I’d rather employ some extra diligence in scrutiny than embrace provincialism.

    Developers are not sharks by definition as BC stated. I actual know some who are extremely ethical people.

    Comment by Mark Irons — January 5, 2009 @ 8:57 pm

  9. I’ll back off from saying developers are sharks necessarily. They are businesspeople who are looking out primarily for their own interests (and doing so mostly ethically). The trick is finding a development plan that is mutually beneficial for the developer and citizens. That takes more than an ethical developer.

    Comment by BC — January 5, 2009 @ 10:01 pm

  10. #6

    Try and prove Vallejo’s bankruptcy was not caused by ‘outside influences’ looking for ways to grab the resources of the city.

    From Governing Magazine:

    …Vallejo, a city of 120,000 about 35 miles northeast of San Francisco, flat-out went broke this year through a combination of generous public-safety salaries, declining property values and fiscal mismanagement.

    But the largest share of the blame in Vallejo has centered on public-safety salaries and benefits, which make up about 75 percent of the city’s general fund budget. Base pay for firefighters is more than $80,000 per year and employees can retire at age 50 with a pension equal to 90 percent of their salary, the result of a retroactive pension increase several years ago.

    Are you suggesting that our firefighters are “outside influences” trying to “grab the resources” of Alameda?

    Comment by Lauren Do — January 6, 2009 @ 7:43 am

  11. The tax increment that is taken from the sale of these properties goes to pay off the bonds and their interest (over 30 to 40 years), it does not go to the general fund to pay for our public safety or fund our public schools.

    So what income is generated (and where) to grow our general fund to the point that our levels of public safety personnel can rise to the fit the needs of the (growning) number of citizens we have? I would really like to be informed on this.

    Measure P was a waste of time, as it can in no way bring in the kind of money the city needs. Sales tax is also not the savior. So?

    Municipal government is supposed to provide for public safety (police, fire, hospital, etc.), is it not?

    But if you look closely, what you see is the city council and staff are acting like (and in fact are) land developers.

    Sprawl may make sense in an area that has lots of land to build on. We are an island that has really been built out as much as it can be on the land that is not toxic or flood plane.

    Why build more? No reason other than for SOMEONE to make money. Building more will not improve the quality of life in this town.

    Can we remember that there is a MILLION PLUS SF of commercial/retail in this town that is as EMPTY as a GHOST TOWN. That more is being considered is a JOKE. Having more empty retail / commercial will not improve the quality of life on the island.

    More affordable housing will improve the quality of life on the island, but that is NOT what developers are interested in because that does not make money for them. They make money off McMansions and CondoMaximums.

    Development is the monster that eats its own tail, and this is why SO MANY COMMUNITIES have been having problems with it. I once lived in a community that had a “no growth” charter amendment. This and the fact of a working planning department somehow did not stop the building of tract homes on flood planes that, guess what, flooded. The investments those people made on homes were mostly lost, the insurance industry being what it is.

    Those with years of experience in the game (who made their careers, their livings, their retirement incomes on development and redevelopment) are very quick to assure the public that the public has nothing to fear from redevelopment.

    But it tends to come across rather like that line from the Wizard of OZ: “ignor the man behind the curtain.”

    Comment by E T — January 6, 2009 @ 8:33 am

  12. I wonder how many of the anti suncal folks have even bothered reading the plan? Given the misinformation being touted by kirwin and others, I would doubt if any of them has.

    Comment by notadave — January 6, 2009 @ 8:34 am

  13. Lauren, if you want to give us the facts – how much is the current debt service bill for already approved redevelopment bonds in Alameda and projects, and how higher is that going to grow without the $700 million for SunCal’s plan?

    You can try to provide the same for Vallejo – did their budget deficit exceed their costs for redevelopment related payments or vice-versa?

    Think Helen can explain the rest of questions in post #6?

    Comment by David Kirwin — January 6, 2009 @ 8:34 am

  14. Just as an FYI, base pay for Alameda firefighters is over $90,000 a year. Alameda firefighters also get extra pay for being paramedics (over $11,000 annually), pay in lieu of vacation time (about $4,500 a year ) and other extras like a uniform allowance and money for education. The firefighter with the most overtime last year made an additional $65,000 on top of his base salary, while many others earned in the 10s and 20 thousands on top of their base pay, putting them well into the mid 100,000s salary-wise. The city also pays a variable amount into the retirement system, about $30,000 per firefighter last year and city firefighters are eligible to retire at 50, with three percent of their salary per year worked. (Which means our firefighters can retire at 50 after 20 years of service and earn 60 percent of their highest base salary AND have full medical benefits…) As part of negotiation in the 90s, Alameda firefighters get full, life-time medical benefits for themselves and their spouse after just five years of service. Are these costs due to outside influences or inside obligations?

    Comment by Eve — January 6, 2009 @ 8:35 am

  15. #14. Thanks for all that information, Eve.

    However, the interesting thing is that the city was involved in these negotiations, wasn’t it? The city agreed to these pay arrangements, didn’t they?

    Now, the city cries poor, as if the public safety personnel are a mafia protection racket.

    Does this make sense? Does this not beg some questions about how city management works and negotiates?

    Perhaps this is what you mean when you ask your own question: “Are these costs due to outside influences or inside obligations?”

    Your question is an excellent on, indeed. The answers are far from facile, I would bet.

    Comment by E T — January 6, 2009 @ 10:36 am

  16. 13: Shouldn’t some of the onus be on you to prove that Alameda is following Vallejo to bankruptcy? You’re the one that seems to think it’s true. And how can you ignore the public-safety benefits aspect of this? Do you think Vallejo’s woes are all down to redevelopment? You’re happy to demand that others explain things. Maybe you’d like to take a stab at this. (And saying, they both have toxic former military bases isn’t a satisfactory answer.)

    Comment by BC — January 6, 2009 @ 10:36 am

  17. Most private sector/nonprofit sector employees I know are taking huge financial hits. Some are have lost their jobs entirely, others have had their wages frozen or cut, many have lost some or all benefits…one friend’s company just announced they would no longer be matching employee contributions to retirement accounts. Another just had the percentage they pay for health insurance doubled.

    As the economy tanks, and everyone suffers, it seems obvious that benefits and salaries negotiated at different times (like before anyone knew how the costs of health care would skyrocket) should be open for renegotiation. I think it is only reasonable to look at the salary and benefits of a particular employee group in the context of other public sector employees and, too, with an eye toward the other services that Alamedans would like the city to provide.

    Comment by Eve — January 6, 2009 @ 11:25 am

  18. Eve is right. 80% of something is better than 100% of nothing.

    Comment by Jack B. — January 6, 2009 @ 11:33 am

  19. except debt

    Comment by John Donne — January 6, 2009 @ 12:09 pm

  20. I just caught up with the Gammon article in the East Bay Express on the telecom debacle and the city of Alameda’s involvement (talk about Inconvenient Truth!). AP&T employees are public sector employees, right? And the city was trying (unsuccessfully) to patch the hole in that levee, wasn’t it?

    http://www.eastbayexpress.com/news/the_other_shoe_in_alameda/Content?oid=890101

    Article rather speaks to (and begs more questions) the questions I asked in post #15.

    Comment by E T — January 6, 2009 @ 12:44 pm

  21. Politicians need the support of public employee unions in order to get elected and seek higher office. Why anger the unions by opposing pay and benefit increases?

    Alameda isn’t going bankrupt; it is raising taxes and cutting services. Without the tax increases and service cuts, we would be in crisis.

    Comment by AlamedaNayTiff — January 6, 2009 @ 12:45 pm

  22. Lauren, Is Alameda to join the list of SunCal bankruptcy petitions(McAllister Ranch near Bakersfield,McSweeney Farms in Hemet,Summer Wind Ranch in Calimosa to name a few)? Alameda can’t adequately support our fire fighters (who are about to start station brown outs) and police officers; how can we get involved with such a shaky organization like SunCal AKA D.E. Shaw?!? The Land Trust is the way to go!

    Comment by Ricky Martin — January 6, 2009 @ 1:02 pm

  23. I’m sure that SunCal/Shaw will be putting together a lot slicker ads to sell their project than the one by SOCA. Lots of smiling little kids with young parents of various ethnic backgrounds is a SunCal favorite. Probably a lot of “We need the jobs” ads as well. I guarantee you that the ads will be a lot more polished and focus-group tested than the rather amateurish one mentioned here.

    The whole concept of developing the old NAS with thousands of homes is deeply flawed. The City of Alameda is way out of its league trying to harness the development. Alameda can barely fill potholes and issue parking tickets. The old NAS needs to be put under a joint powers agreement with the State or Feds.

    The “land” at the old NAS (and I really hesitate in calling it land as it is only poor quality fill that is laden with toxic wastes) isn’t suitable for residential development. It isn’t that SunCal’s proposal is bad; it is that it is in the wrong location. There is likely to be a major quake on the Hayward fault well within the next 20 years. It could happen at any time.

    Putting thousands of new homes with over 10,000 people and close to that number of cars on a remote corner of an island with no ingress or egress except for two underwater tubes – one built 80 years ago and the other 45 years ago does not sound like a “plan” to me. Someone in authority needs to provide the leadership to say that we are on the wrong path. Who is it going to be?

    Comment by AlamedaNayTiff — January 6, 2009 @ 1:07 pm

  24. “Significant damage also occurred to the Alameda Naval Air Station. Substantial liquefaction led to the closure of both the 8,000-foot and 7,200-foot runways. The terminal building had structural damage and was closed. Other damage occurred to piers, railroad tracts on piers, and the water- and gas-distribution system. Power was not disrupted. Helicopter pads also were not damaged and were used during the emergency operation. The two runways were repaired and reopened (one in December 1989 and the second expected in January 1990) (EERI, 1990). However, the facility was closed in 1995 and is now scheduled for reuse.”
    http://www.abag.ca.gov/bayarea/eqmaps/liquefac/roads.html

    Comment by AlamedaNayTiff — January 6, 2009 @ 1:30 pm

  25. Alameda Point Draft Master Plan (December 2008), by SunCal

    Intro and Chapter 1: Overview
    http://daysog.info/01_Intro_Chapter_01.pdf

    Chapter 2: Process
    http://daysog.info/02_Chapter_02_Plan.pdf

    Chapter 3: Design Principles
    http://daysog.info/03_Chapter_03_Design.pdf

    Chapter 4: Master Plan: Part 1: Mixed use, Civic-Open Space etc
    http://daysog.info/04_Chapter_04_Master-Plan-Part-01.pdf

    Chapter 4: Master Plan: Part 2: Civic-Open Space and Historic Areas
    http://daysog.info/04_Chapter_04_Master-Plan-Part-02.pdf

    Chapter 4: Master Plan: Part 3: Adaptive Re-use
    http://daysog.info/04_Chapter_04_Master-Plan-Part-03.pdf

    Chapter 4: Master Plan: Part 4: Buildings
    http://daysog.info/04_Chapter_04_Master-Plan-Part-04.pdf

    Chapter 4: Master Plan: Part 5: Affordable Housing
    http://daysog.info/04_Chapter_04_Master-Plan-Part-5.pdf

    Chapter 4: Master Plan: Part 6: Circulation
    http://daysog.info/04_Chapter_04_Master-Plan-Part-6.1.pdf
    http://daysog.info/04_Chapter_04_Master-Plan-Part-6.2.pdf

    Chapter 5: Transportation
    http://daysog.info/05_Chapter_05_Transportation.pdf

    Chapter 6: Sustainability
    http://daysog.info/06_Chapter_06_Sustainability.pdf

    Chapter 7: Infrastructure
    http://daysog.info/07_Chapter_07_Infrastructure.pdf

    Chapter 8: Next Steps
    http://daysog.info/08_Chapter_08_Next-Steps.pdf

    Comment by Tony Daysog — January 6, 2009 @ 2:05 pm

  26. An elected somebody needs to provide leadership on the land trust idea as well. Clearly, while it has been mentioned before in passing, it was never “discussed.” It is an inconvenient truth that citizens who propose ideas but do not hold an office or any position inside government cannot enter into agreements, obtain access to the right people, legal counsel, or even all the information to present a fleshed out plan of how exactly a land trust should be formed. It is convenient to call on them to do so or accuse them of being naive or unrealistic, but the fact is, if three people on the council decide to put their effort behind the idea, it will happen. Certainly staff and the team of city attorneys and managers is able to do much of the work and answer many of the questions, while getting paid for doing their job. I very much would like to see three councilmembers lead the way out of the potential disaster which is Suncal.

    Comment by AD — January 6, 2009 @ 2:13 pm

  27. Thanks for posting that Tony. I hope some of the anti Suncal folks will finally take the time to read the document. Most of them prefer to make up their minds without the benefit of research though.

    Comment by notadave — January 6, 2009 @ 2:38 pm

  28. #27
    Remember when you read it that it is a SunCal document and essentially a sophisticated sales pitch much like this one.
    http://picker.uchicago.edu/Enron/EnronAnnualReport2000.pdf

    Comment by AlamedaNayTiff — January 6, 2009 @ 3:02 pm

  29. Actually, I think that there are anti SunCal folks reading the material. It has been put together into an attractive package, I must say.

    Am I convinced by it?

    That is another story.

    Comment by E T — January 6, 2009 @ 3:32 pm

  30. Re 26
    I believe what your speaking about is called representative democracy, of which Alameda is one. Just because an ordinary Sam or Sally would like to see X happen at the point doesn’t mean they get to decide. Those we have elected to public office we have given more power, presumably based on their know how, understanding, political savvy and so forth. Our City Council is who we elected to represent us. That’s why they have more say.

    Comment by Jeff the little guy — January 6, 2009 @ 3:35 pm

  31. 30: Agreed. So Action Alameda/SOCA could consider putting together a set of candidates to run for office on a common platform and see what the voters decide.

    Comment by BC — January 6, 2009 @ 3:41 pm

  32. BC (#16)
    No BC, it is not my responsibility to “prove” the plan will fail despite that it seems highly probable.

    OBVIOUSLY – the burden of proof lies with those who promote a change that will have drastic affects on our island.
    SunCal has furnished a plan that would not help our sustainability, that will create drastic additions to island traffic without an ability to mitigate the problem, other than the TC concept that “acceptance is mitigation” .

    If you haven’t read it before, just look at the plan – start with the overview link Tony posted – let me repeat part of my post #3 –

    If you look at the maps presented in the SunCal plan as part of this development zone, eliminate the building on toxic plumes, and eliminate building on “young mud” (like under where the Cypress freeway structure collapsed), and don’t build on the expected flood levels (SunCal is considering only 18” sea rise over 100 years instead of the more standard 36”), and there is no way the present development plan is feasible – not even close, no way, no how. There would be no place left to build! Everywhere they want to try do a half-measure toward a safer build – make it safe enough, long enough for them to get their money. There are no long term safety nets for the new community or the present community from the impacts of the plan – and to really better understand the issues, read more of the plan., look at my response to DTO (downtown Oakland) – #16, Greening of Alameda Point, in regard to Chapter 6 (see again Tony’s post above)

    Everything is another problem to be “mitigated”, because none of them are solved. This is not a private investment a private risk, it is public money, public risk, combined with SunCal using more “other peoples money”. It is not a good plan, it is not a safe plan, it is not a plan that would serve the people of Alameda. It is only a plan that will not ever happen.

    Comment by David Kirwin — January 6, 2009 @ 3:41 pm

  33. Whoa there, DK. Deep breaths. No need for the capital letters. I said provide evidence that the city will go bankrupt. That’s a pretty bold assertion.

    Comment by BC — January 6, 2009 @ 3:45 pm

  34. 30 – 31
    …And we can all breathe a deep sigh of relief that we have Measure “A”.

    Now with MA, (3) CC members do not have the power to make the decision and the voters of Alameda will have the real ‘say’.

    This is critical because that same CC majority did approve the wages of all our police and firefighters, and our total wage package for the city management and development offices, and approved breaking the firewall protecting the city from AP&T telcom debt… Who ‘ya gonna trust? The city’s money is OUR money, not THEIR money. WE live here, so WE should have more of a say on what is allowed to have such an impact on OUR lives in OUR city.

    So LWV, Alameda, what say you as far as election ad spending reform for ballot iniatives?

    Comment by David Kirwin — January 6, 2009 @ 3:52 pm

  35. #33

    Which is worse, that some people may die because of service cuts or that the city avoids bankruptcy?
    http://theislandofalameda.blogspot.com/2009/01/fire-department-brownouts-looming.html

    I’m really not asking a snarky question. If the city cuts enough fire, paramedic and police while at the same time raising taxes, then the city can keep operating. Is that a better option than declaring bankruptcy? Is destitution better than seeking financial relief?

    More California Towns Face Bankruptcy
    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122954346309915189.html

    Comment by AlamedaNayTiff — January 6, 2009 @ 3:59 pm

  36. I’m not sure whether or not Alameda will go bankrupt. I’ve not reviewed its accounts in detail. But nothing I’ve seen in the press or on the various blogs convinces me it will.

    Bankruptcy should be avoided: it’s never good to default on one’s obligations. And I’m inclined to think Alameda shouldn’t unincorporate but haven’t given it much thought.

    My point is just that it’s easy to say “Alameda is on the verge of bankruptcy” without doing the hard (and tedious) work of analyzing the data. And what I’ve seen on the AA/SOCA sites in terms of financial analysis is, to be frank, risible.

    Comment by BC — January 6, 2009 @ 4:19 pm

  37. #30-31. Which is why I said, I want to see 3 councilmembers take the lead. They can and they should. It is only responsible to do so–there is no plan B, if Measure A vote doesn’t go Suncal’s way, or if they go belly up, both of which are very likely. You don’t have to be a looney to want to see a viable alternative. It costs nothing to ask staff to come back with a comprehensive report on different kinds of land trusts and possibilities for Alameda Point other than housing development. When I voted for some of these councilmembers, I did that with the hope that they can act flexibly according to the circumstances, and that they will always have or demand a back up plan so they are not left high and dry again. Well, seems to me the time is ripe to do just that. Go ahead, council, do it! Stop being the drowning man grasping at straws, always being led by this or that developer or yielding to demands from some agency or other, instead of leading or setting your own demands.

    Comment by AD — January 6, 2009 @ 4:37 pm

  38. RE 34 & 25

    The will of the majority is very often a bad thing..in fact, historically, the majority has supported all sorts of human rights/public policy disasters…Prop. 8 being one such recent example. Prop. 13 is another good example.

    Measure A, while putting a stop to all development, is an unnuanced law that doesn’t allow for development that might make good sense–like, for example, the conversion of vacant estuary warehouses to housing or a homeowner’s conversion of a large home to several units. In reality, despite much rhetoric, we the people, tend toward selfish small-mindedness and various modification of a my-me-mine attitude. Just look at those who object to the development of the point—many of them are those who have businesses or residences there already…those who would be disrupted by development. Most people’s first reaction to any law or policy is how will this impact me. Very few think how with this serve society in general, mankind in general. It is that view–a view larger than oneself–that one hopes one’s elected officials hold. And the good ones do.

    Comment by Jeff, TLG — January 6, 2009 @ 4:40 pm

  39. Last time I looked MA put a stop to development that made bad sense. General Mankind is a big guy so we little privates have to band together and pass onerous legislation for our own protection. Thank god for it!

    Comment by John Donne — January 6, 2009 @ 5:00 pm

  40. Little guy,

    I do not have any stake at the point, I don’t even live in that part of town. I very much look at the larger picture, as most of the posters who’ve brought up concerns about flood plains, long term sustainability, jobs and so on here do. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could strive together, or at least try really hard, to create a job center instead of a sleeping center at the point that would reduce the amount of commute to other areas and/or create a reverse commute thus alleviating regional traffic problems? Could we strive, or at least try very hard, to retain control over that land to the maximum degree possible so we can both profit from its uses and limit its liabilities? Satisfying your needs locally, including job needs, is a major tenet of a movement designed to serve society in general, mankind in general. Why must you assume that there are selfish and not UNselfish motives behind others’ ideas?

    Comment by AD — January 6, 2009 @ 5:12 pm

  41. “Measure A, while putting a stop to all development, is an unnuanced law that doesn’t allow for development that might make good sense–like, for example, the conversion of vacant estuary warehouses to housing or a homeowner’s conversion of a large home to several units.”

    The second instance (converting a large home into several units) is one of the main reasons that Measure A was passed in the first place. It does not generally make good sense in terms of property values and neighborhood desirability to cut single family homes into units. Just look across the bridges/tubes. The housing across the way in Oakland is equivalent age to Alameda yet because they went on and on with the blockbusting and converting single family homes to units, their neighborhoods are ruined. In the 1940′s – 70′s Victorian and Craftsman homes were not respected or desired, so they got cut up into units where they weren’t demolished altogether. Measure A is a blunt measure that stopped the wrecking ball and there are maybe better ways to protect our neighborhoods now, but the idea that someone wants to start cutting houses into units AGAIN scares me.

    Comment by Kevis Brownson — January 6, 2009 @ 5:30 pm

  42. I went to the Presdio web site and read about their set up. Without being able to claim detailed comprehension, I began to feel overwhelmed by what seemed to be apples and oranges, i.e. there were many aspects of what was described which just dodn’t align well with our situation. It was last week and I didn’t take notes or I would enumerate some of the points.

    There may be other land trust templates we should consider, but I wish Save Our City Alameda would do more than this rather loose allusion to the Presdio.

    I Googled Public Trust Lands and the description I read was rooted in the Tidal Trust Lands concept, which is a whole complicated and messy set of laws regarding tidal property. Part of the Point is Tidal Trust Lands dating back to high tide before it was filled in. Basic rules of TTL include a restriction on building residences. I couldn’t see how development of the entire Presidio could fall under Tidal Trust Lands. So that left me feeling very unsure I had increased my grasp of anything.

    If Public Trust Lands are supposed to be some magic bullet, those who tout that option should do all they can to flesh that out. Leadership among elected representatives would also be welcome.

    BC- apart from referring to developers being sharks by definition, your post #5 reflects my sentiments entirely.

    I welcome the SunCal plan at least as a point of departure for an attempt at forward looking solutions for long term sustainable development. At this point in time I am wary of fully embracing the plan. I really resent the debate being muddied with boogieman tactics by SOCA and agree with the closing points in Lauren’s post in that regard.

    Comment by Mark Irons — January 6, 2009 @ 6:00 pm

  43. Well Mark, there is the reference to the Jenner Headlands Trust, but I think that is even more of a departure than the Presidio Trust.

    From what I understand about the Presidio Trust is not that it fell under the Tidal Trust Lands, but that the land was designated a national park, albeit one that had to pay its own way. Here is an interesting NewsHour report on the Presidio.

    One positive about the Trust, they made commercial tenants pay for building renovation, one bad thing about that, it essentially privatizes that building.

    Comment by Lauren Do — January 6, 2009 @ 6:23 pm

  44. To take this plan seriously is little more than an exercise in fantasy, like concerns about the view from the restaurants — somehow I keep visualizing a tank at an aquarium. I understand that the city has seen development of other projects in similar waterfront settings which were successful. Unfortunately, times change, and now that the threat of global warming and of an imminent major quake are apparent, it is not responsible or “smart” to go ahead with another development — involving 1000′s of homes — on a site which is extremely vulnerable to sea rise and to quake damage.

    The city will have enough problems to contend with as it is for its existing homes on fill, without adding a whole new neighborhood. Let SunCal build housing where it can actually be expected to survive for another 100+ years.

    And as DK says as to SunCal’s intent: “make it safe enough, long enough for them to get their money”. It’s easy enough to see what’s in store for this site, and who’ll be left holding the bag (so to speak).

    Comment by DL Morrison — January 6, 2009 @ 7:21 pm

  45. Jeff #38 –

    Measure A does NOT put a stop to all development. Please stop trying to spread that lie again.

    You may say that there is both good and bad development that Measure A stops, and clearly there is both good and bad development that would still be allowable as far as Measure A. We can only hope the PB or Planning Dept would prevent the ‘bad’ development MA would allow.

    As far back as a year or more AD cited examples, with links to other kinds of public trusts,
    the Presideo is only one type of many, and a public trust is only one of many options.

    I am confused by anyone claiming that the $108M price tag is so high, while also saying our city should go out on the line for $700M or more for the developer. As I recall the reason we jumped from a ‘land returned free from Navy” to $108M was because of the significant increase in housing units that was planned. Gee it seems that high cost of infrastructure costs, a significant portion of the $700M SunCal wants the city to bond, is also because of the even greater number of housing units they want to add.

    #38 – I want to add that I have no vested interest in the Point – I live on old Bay Farm and work in Berkeley. Yes, I am still concerned about what the SunCal plan would do to “my” city – which of the people who have businesses or reside on the base have even posted their objections here? I don’t think this blog is as popular as you imagine, but many of us are concerned for all those who do live and work here, but “those little people” are no concern of Helen or H.O.M.E.S. any more than the displaced San Franciscans were a concern to her during her career as deputy director of SF redevelopment.

    Comment by David Kirwin — January 6, 2009 @ 7:30 pm

  46. Mark (#42),

    Please explain what you mean by;
    “I welcome the SunCal plan at least as a point of departure for an attempt at forward looking solutions for long term sustainable development” –

    Again you use the term “sustainable development” – what do you mean by that, how would this plan help Alameda to be more self reliant and sustainable? How will this plan sustain the rising bay water level? I thoroughly read the chapter on sustainability and saw no promise of anything remotely like what sustainability means to me or what is possible. I would rather see food production both on grade (helping to clean the soils, actually the cleanest soil may be under the runways), and the large hangers used for food production, and green industry jobs. Not tearing it all down to build 5 story apts. – which may only help SunCal’s corporate sustainability if the voters approved it and DE Shaw does fail like so many other hedge funds are already doing.

    Seems the developer has put a plan together that will not work for Alameda, and that ‘sustainable communities’ has moved beyond the simple ‘new urbanism’ and just adding more mixed use wherever space is available. Even right over in Berkeley, which RE people would say was once more ‘desirable’ that Alameda has gone for ‘the new urbanism myth’ hook line and sinker. There more and more businesses are closing, and much of the new units that were for sale they are trying to dump on the rental market with less success despite a very affluent campus crowd – and the young, single crowd is the best target for ‘new urbanism’. I think we will have to examine that really makes up true sustainable communities. While sustainable plans may differ according to the remaining needs of each area, this plan does not help Alameda reach that goal IMO. If you think it does, please explain why.

    Comment by David Kirwin — January 6, 2009 @ 7:33 pm

  47. Encinal has a great football team. However, I wouldn’t bet on them against the Raiders. I have much more confidence in SunCal/Shaw representing the interests of their investors than I do in the City of Alameda representing the interests of its residents. Nothing against the folks at city hall, but they are just out of their league when it comes to the old NAS. Beverly Johnson is an attorney. How many cases has she won over the past five years? Would you hire her to represent you? Who do you trust to represent your interests?

    Comment by AlamedaNayTiff — January 6, 2009 @ 7:55 pm

  48. Also, remember who it was that negotiated the public safety contracts that now consume most of our tax dollars. You are going to trust these people to now represent your interests negotiating with SunCal/Shaw?

    If we are now going to jeopardize public safety in order to meet the financial demands of firefighters, perhaps it is time that the firefighters be willing to lessen their demands and bring their salary and benefits more in line with those of the typical Alamedan.

    (And could someone please explain to me why every medical call to the fire department requires that both a fire engine and an ambulance both be dispatched?)

    Comment by AlamedaNayTiff — January 6, 2009 @ 9:29 pm

  49. Fire engines are dispatched simultaneously with an ambulance because: Firefighter EMT’s and Firefighter Paramedic’s, assigned to a fire engine, can begin assessing the victim and expedite advanced medical care prior to the arrival of the ambulance. In addition, fire engines are now equipped with advanced life support (ALS) equipment and medications to help patients who may need definitive care such as ECG monitoring, IV, medication & electrical therapy, and advanced airway care.

    Comment by smokey — January 7, 2009 @ 8:40 am

  50. #49

    Apparently some cities have more sense than others:

    VICTORVILLE — An older woman who lives near Fire Station 314 calls 9-1-1 every time she needs to go the doctor.

    “She absolutely refuses to call a taxi,” said Marty Brown, president of the local firefighter’s association.

    While many calls for medical aid are legitimate, there is currently no differentiation between a cut finger and a stroke. Most fire departments around the country respond to all medical calls in the same way: fire engine plus ambulance, going full speed.

    “You only have to look at that for so long to realize it’s not a wise use of our resources,” said Mat Fratus, deputy chief of the city of San Bernardino Fire Department.

    As Victorville officials consider a proposal to put paramedics on fire engines, they are looking to San Bernardino — the first city to filter out calls at the dispatch level — for ways to save resources.

    San Bernardino, which began the program in 2001, trains dispatchers to not only take callers through medical emergencies, but to determine whether a fire engine is needed at all.

    “Everyone still gets a response,” Fratus said. “We don’t ever just not show up.”

    With the number of medical aid calls increasing by double digits from 1998 to 2005, the city had to do something.

    “The only way to deal with that is to add more resources to the system,” Fratus said.

    The emergency medical dispatch system “at least deferred the cost of having to add more units by increasing the effectiveness of the way we respond,” he said.

    In Victorville, medical aid calls made up 73 percent of the calls in 2005.

    In San Bernardino, Fratus said, 20 percent to 25 percent of all medical aid calls did not need a fire engine response.

    Comment by JD — January 7, 2009 @ 8:49 am

  51. Looks like the suncal plan supporters can not explain what benefit there would be for our community. Helen tried to make a plug for the plan, but neither she nor one of the other supporters could respond to the questions in post #6.
    Also Mark – if you could respond to #46, maybe we could understand how some define ‘sustainable’.
    There must be some really ‘loose” interpretations of the term.

    Comment by David Kirwin — January 7, 2009 @ 3:19 pm

  52. 52. Senor Hamster Wheel-
    Just maybe some people have other priorities than reading or answering you comments for fear of being thought remiss or that not responding means they cannot speak to your points if they thought they were worth addressing.

    Comment by Mark Irons — January 7, 2009 @ 3:41 pm

  53. Nice post Mark, I am sure you meant it with all the “civility’ you could muster, but I think the questions that have been asked on this thread by myself and others are very important considerations for anyone who is giving Point Development any thought.

    Since there were a few who were supporting the plan posting here, it is an opportunity for them to offer an informed response, not just for me, but for others as well. From your previous post it appears even you are still ‘on the fence’ as far as the SunCal plan. Don’t you wish to hear reasonable responses to the questions of cost, benefit, sustainability, and liabilities of the SunCal plan?

    Sometimes Mark, it seems that you prefer to cater to your personal resentments rather than to reason.

    Comment by David Kirwin — January 7, 2009 @ 4:08 pm

  54. How about we have a one-month moratorium on questions from David Kirwn? Or, better, we require him to answer his own darn questions. Better, Lauren could make a general policy for everyone. Maybe it would save her some research time.

    Comment by Bonnie — January 7, 2009 @ 4:45 pm


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