Remember when former City Councilmember Frank Matarrese, former Mayor Beverly Johnson, and former Interim City Manager Ann Marie Gallant all took a field trip to Southern California to visit the “Great Park” in Irvine. The Great Park is the former El Toro base (airforce?) and went through a public auction process unlike Alameda Point.
It’s not clear because there was never a lot of follow through after the field trip — I forget if I ever checked if the City ended up footing the bill for this field trip or not, I don’t think I bothered — if the thing they liked about the Great Park was the whole “Central Park in the West” element, the non-profit development corporation element (whose Board was stacked with City Council members), or the low number of housing units that were planned.
The project largely stalled out because the huge amount of money ($200 million) that was seeded into the project by the developer (Lennar) who purchased the rights to build whatever they wanted to build, ran out. In 2010, the number of units that Lennar — as FivePoint Communities — was allowed to build was 3600. Today, the number has ballooned to 9500. From the Voice of the OC:
Since voters approved the billion-dollar project in 2002, it has in many respects become a cautionary tale in the modern era of large-scale public works projects. Hundreds of millions have been poured into the project, with millions going for plans and to public relations consultants but with very little actual construction.
The centerpiece to the proposal is a 176-acre sports complex that is to include 12 ball fields, 24 tennis courts, 11 sand volleyball courts and up to 31 more sports and multiuse courts. This part of the plan drew dozens of residents, including sports boosters, players and coaches, to City Hall in support.
Also in the plan is a 45-acre bosque, 227-acre golf course, 178-acre wildlife corridor and a 35-acre canyon. Most of the planned amenities, with the exception of the wildlife corridor, could be built by 2017, according to a FivePoint presentation.
In exchange, FivePoint would have approval to build an additional 4,606 homes, bringing the total number of units to 9,500. In the coming weeks, the additional homes and the proposal to build the park will come before the council separately for final approvals.
This article allows me to segue — a little roughly but segue nonetheless — into this My Word which former City Councilmember Frank Matarrese had published last week.
Just to digress a bit, is it just me or is Frank Matarrese publishing op-eds everywhere these days? Is anyone else getting the sinking feeling we’ll be seeing another Tony Daysog style resurrection of former City Council members again?
Anyway, apparently Frank Matarrese bought in to the whole “Town Center” name confusion thing. Look, it was just a placeholder it is meaningless, they could have named it Hurdy Burdy Gurdy for all the meaning that it had. The main point that Frank Mataresse is missing in his “jobs jobs jobs” mantra is that a lot of the big businesses that we want to lure will not come without a there, there which is what the Hurdy Burdy Gurdy is supposed to do. Make a there, there at Alameda Point which will attract these awesome job creators that will provide these high paying jobs.
Look, here’s the thing, if Alameda really wants to be a huge job creator and attract a huge campus user it’s going to have to create a “there, there.” Let’s be real, do you think Twitter and Zynga built their headquarters in San Francisco because they love overpaying for square footage? Of course not. It’s because they hire a bunch of young professionals who want the San Francisco experience after they spend hours and hours crunching code. So no “there” no huge powerhouse company with lots of high paying jobs, that is what that “Town Center” is supposed to do, build that “there” to pave way for those businesses that people say they want.
If we don’t want the “town center” then we should just face the fact that Alameda will be and will always be a bedroom community and just own that instead of trying to say, “oh we don’t need any more housing” a la the Frank Matarrese piece. There have been a lot of articles talking about the flight of families from San Francisco because of the high housing prices, so Alameda could opt to become the place where those folks land.
If we don’t want the housing or the “town center” then expecting someone like EBRPD to take over the whole shabang and pay to keep up the maintenance on the whole site is pretty pie in the sky.
Essentially, if I had to sum up Frank Matarrese’s My Word in one sentence it would be, “Don’t do anything because I don’t like anything anymore.” Because nothing will be done if we decide that we don’t want to build the infrastructure to get the businesses there AND we don’t want housing.