I know I should be writing about the Housing Element 2015-2023 at the Planning Board tonight, but I don’t want to. So tonight is a Public Review of the Housing Element for 2015 -2023 at the Planning Board tonight if you are interested. That’s sort of the big agenda item. The other agenda item is a presentation on some housing plans at the Del Monte building but there are no documents so it’s not clear what’s going on with that one. I can’t get that excited about anything at the Del Monte building these days because it changes all the damn time.
Anyway, what I did want to write about was the big news about Google owned Makani Power which is going to be signing a pretty sweet lease at Alameda Point for more than 110,000 square feet of additional space. That’s pretty significant because (1) it’s a lot of square footage and (2) it’s Google dammit. The initial lease will be for six years with five three-year renewal options, which could mean that Google as Makani Power will be here for the long haul. Makani Power, in case you didn’t know does research around generating electricity from wind power.
So everything sounds good right? I mean, we’re getting a sort of a Google campus right?
I guess this has become a “thing.” And by “this” I mean anyone with a half baked idea on any particular subject can have their idea agendized and heard before a random City body. Regardless if that particular idea is (1) feasible or (2) conflicts with current plans that are underway.
For example, the Historic Advisory Board has on its agenda for tomorrow night a citizen idea for life sized Monopoly playing board. Because nothing says “Alameda” more than a game about pretending to be real estate developers and building as many houses and hotels as possible hoping to bankrupt the other players if they land on your property by charging them rent. Oh and when going to jail is actually a good thing when people start building a ton of houses and hotels so that you don’t have to pay anyone rent for three turns.
The terms of the deal between the School District, the City of Alameda, and the Housing Authority has always been a bit on the fuzzy and hazy side. We all know that the School District is getting some amount of money if certain property is turned over and blah blah blah, but the press release by the City that was put out yesterday was probably the most clear enumeration to date of what actually is going to happen AND how the Housing Authority got into the mix as well:
The Agreement Details
The agreement, which includes both sales and exchanges of land, will be implemented in three steps:
Ø The City grants $750,000 to AUSD to pay for renovations to the Encinal Swim Center.
Ø AUSD rescinds the deed to the six-acre Tidelands parcel, which results in the City holding the title.
A few things on the School Board agenda tonight. First the Academy of Alameda charter renewal, staff is recommending that it be renewed. Ruby Bridges Elementary is losing its principal, Jan Goodman, the current assistant principal Cheryl Wilson is getting the nod as her successor.
As an aside for those that didn’t see the update, but the gates to the play yard at Ruby Bridges was opened on Friday evening:
I walked by a little earlier than 6:00 p.m. on Friday because I dropped off #2 son at his classroom to prepare for the Ruby Bridges talent show (replaying on channel 9 — I think that was what was referenced — and it will be uploaded to the District website). Both #1 daughter and #2 son were in the talent show this year and it was a lot of fun, if a wee on the longish side. This weekend lots of people were taking advantage of the open gates and there was plenty of use to be had to a big THANKS to the School District, Rec and Park Department, and Ruby Bridges for getting it done.
Also on the agenda is an update about Wood Middle School’s new STEAM program. It looks very promising and very exciting. For those who are interested in the numbers, there are no updated numbers as to projected enrollment so that’s not there for those keeping tabs for the whole ACLC moving discussion.
So the City Council the other night voted to move forward with the Alameda Point EIR which means…well really nothing as of yet except that there is now an EIR for Alameda Point until such time that someone decides to file a lawsuit. Apparently some people finally got the message that there is not that much housing attached to this particular overall plan that the EIR studied the impacts for which was a nice change from the folks that generally go up to speak at these meetings and say “omghousing!”
As I mentioned yesterday what I worried about while starting to watch this meeting was this blog entry by City Councilmember Tony Daysog who, one would think, would understand the nuances of what all those traffic impacts should mean. Not because he should know by virtue of being on the City Council, but because he has access to staff in the Planning Department that can walk him through things that are of concern. The passage I referenced yesterday was this one, and this concern has come up in the comments on this blog and others as well:
Last night the City Council did something about the EIR (I haven’t watched yet so I don’t know what happened, I can only imagine that there was much confusion about the traffic impacts since City Councilmember Tony Daysog essentially indicated that he was confused about the traffic impacts and what the EIR is supposed to do about those impacts) Anyway, can’t say I’m looking forward to watching the meeting since it will probably be pretty painful and rage inducing.
But something that is discussed in the EIR is sea level rise and impact. Another important Alameda Point document is the Master Infrastructure Plan (annoying abbreviated as the MIP, pronounced as mip) which discusses the cost of sea walls and shoring up certain portion of land on Alameda Point in case of sea level rise (or earthquakes or something). According to an article in Scientific American published yesterday there’s a new paper out that essentially says that the impacts of flooding will be way more costly than simply investing in sea walls from the jump. It’s actually something that Planning Board John Knox White cautioned about early on in the MIP process.
So tomorrow night the City Council will decide to approve the Alameda Point EIR or not approve it. However the City Council votes tomorrow the likelihood of a lawsuit against the EIR seems pretty high. It might come from Oakland or maybe the Chinatown Coalition, perhaps it will come from Alameda residents or groups, but here’s the thing, a lawsuit doesn’t necessarily stop all development forever. It will delay it until the suit can make its way through court costing the City and whoever is suing the City lots and lots of money in the long run. The end result, if there is one, won’t be chucking the EIR as a whole (did you think that’s what happens?) nope the worst that could happen is that the judge will say that additional findings need to be made or yadda yadda yadda, but since an EIR isn’t a project approval anyway, it’s not as though it is a wholesale rejection of any particular project at Alameda Point.
Did you get that? An EIR is not a project approval, it’s just a listing of impacts that a potential project would have on a city and surrounding areas. It is a way to prolong a project, but not tank it altogether and believe me, given how much time it has taken already to get this Alameda Point project started in general, it’s just more par for the course.
Monday’s Planning Board meeting regarding the Alameda Point EIR (and assorted other documents) went fairly uneventfully and pretty much expected.
Long story short the EIR and assorted documents were voted through by the Planning Board to recommend to the City Council that they approve the EIR, etc. As City Staff mentioned, this EIR reflects the third time an EIR has been studied for roughly the same project, and — as a reminder — the EIR does not guarantee approval of any specific development it just affirms the impact for the overall project itself.
There were, naturally, the omgtraffic! comments which was to be expected and far less than I had anticipated. Former City Council candidate Eugenie Thomson was in rare form essentially saying that she, as an traffic engineer, could not understand the graphs and tables in the EIR but yet claimed that they were all wrong anyway. Someone claimed that in his
West East End neighborhood alone made up of two bedroom bungalows, each house had four to six cars each! Each! Which meant the EIR severely underestimated the impact from the future development.
Looks like Alameda Point’s “Spirits Alley” or is it Spirits Row is in full swing with between Rockwall, St George’s, Hangar One, and the newly added Faction Brewery. Just a note, Rockwall apparently will be
moving into a different space in that same row expanding their operations in the same building. The outfit that purchased Hangar One, Proximo, wants to continue the Hangar One brand in Alameda and looks like it will continue to commit to keeping that brand in Alameda for the next ten years.
Proximo is a company based out of New Jersey and according to the staff report has these labels under its wing: 1800 Tequila, Azul Tequila, El Zarco Tequila, Gran Centenario Tequila, Jose Cuervo, Maestro Dobel Tequila, Hangar One Vodka, Three Olives Vodka, The Kraken Black Spiced Rum, Matusalem Rum, Agavero Liqueur, Boodles Gin, and Stranahan’s Whiskey.
Also according to the staff report it looks like Proximo is going to expand production of the Hangar One brand and actually put some money into improving the customer experience by creating a “brand/tourism center” at Alameda Point. From the staff report:
Planning Board meeting tonight, first one of the year and it’s a doozy of one. Smaller, but still an item of interest is the cross Stargell crosswalk at Webster street which will (hopefully) keep pedestrians from darting across Stargell to access the remnant lot (aka the In N Out parcel). Given that you can’t pull up a web page without reading about some pedestrian getting plowed down by a car these days, hopefully this crosswalk will help pedestrians not get hurt while crossing the street.
I guess I should add that if you are still interested in killing the In N Out project this really would be your last chance if you can somehow muster up enough votes on the Planning Board to vote against it since the approval of the In N Out (and other businesses) in the remnant parcel is contingent on getting this crosswalk approved.
The big item on this agenda will be the vote to recommend to the City Council that they adopt the EIR for Alameda Point. For those interested in going the City of Oakland route and insisting that Alameda solve a problem that Oakland has deemed completely unsolvable you may be interested in coming up with rebuttals to these arguments which Alameda has already offered in response to Oakland’s traffic contentions.