Blogging Bayport Alameda

March 7, 2007

“It’s not you, it’s me”

Filed under: Alameda, Alameda Point — Lauren Do @ 6:31 am

So, I can’t help but feeling a little like a 17-year old girl stood up for prom. UWI courted us all with their big promises and big money and all we have to show for it is a sad crumpled pink dress and runny mascara.

Why, UWI? Why? (imagine fists thrown up in the air, kneeling on the ground in the rain…sort of like the scene in the Shawshank Redemption only minus the crawling through football fields of sewer)

You made us all long for the green village from a brownfield of dreams…or something like that and now you are poof…gone. Back to your sky scraping structures and underwater hotels. And this is what we are left with, a “Dear John” letter (or I guess in this town, it would be a “Dear Dave” letter because of the sheer number of Davids floating around):

“After careful review of the requirements that are unique to our development model, we have come to the conclusion that the transaction structure is inconsistent with our needs and those of our team.”

As reported in the SF Chronicle:

…Assistant City Manager David Brandt said that while UWI’s proposal sounded good in concept, it lacked details, and it was difficult for city officials to verify much of the information about the company, which is headquartered in the United Arab Emirates.

In particular, city officials were uncertain about the sources of the company’s funding.

“As best we could determine, it was wealthy Mideastern individuals or holding companies,” Brandt said.

The firm also provided only vague descriptions about some of its past and current projects around the globe, he said…

Some people have asked, “what the heck is a transaction structure?” and what does that word vomit actually mean? It’s pretty much Greek (or in honor of UWI, Arabic, to me), but here are some sites that talk about transaction structure. My guess is that they would rather put their model green village somewhere in the world where they can pretty much swoop in and do whatever they want. Maybe the idea of all the community meetings they would have to host was just not what they wanted. Although they did indicate they would be able to front all the money and money seemed to be the least of their concerns, maybe that was the posturing of a company who was puffing to make their proposal seem better. They probably couldn’t “make it work” in the immortal words of Tim Gunn.

And regarding the question, who is this Vafa Valapour character, the only thing I turned up on a google search is a posting on…ready for it…on a Madonna mailing list website and an article from 1993 from the University of Pennsylvian about the Ba’hai faith.

The one thing UWI leaves us with is the other developers a lot more focused on the idea of green development, as mentioned by other commenters. At the rate developers are fleeing the Alameda Point project, one would think that we as a town has cooties. At this point, we can only hope that whoever ends up being selected as the Master Developer will capture some of the spirit of UWI and work with some of the groups that UWI had pulled together as part of its team.

So why do I still feel a little bitter?



  1. I second the emotion

    Comment by Paul Seef — March 7, 2007 @ 7:45 am

  2. Well if nothing else, their temporary presence did bring forward the need to focus on a green development.

    Unfortunatly, while the phantom investors fly back to Dubai on their goldstream jet, the local folks, particularly Cybertan have probably seen their chances of ever moving forward go down the drain as a result of hitching their hopes to UWI.

    Comment by notadave — March 7, 2007 @ 8:30 am

  3. Did google on “Transaction Structure” and found it is used mostly in the project finance world.

    PriceWaterhouse does “Transaction Structure” development and define their practice this way:

    Development of Transaction Structure

    In case of providing advisory to an investor, our services of defining appropriate structure of privatization transaction mainly include:

    1. Assistance with setting proposed price per share, including (assumptions analysis assumed in the financial model)

    2. Estimating capabilities in the range of investment obligations

    3. Development of the social packet proposal

    An important factor of appropriate transaction structure is maintaining optimal proportions among the above three the most significant elements in such a way that an offer submitted is on one hand attractive and on the other gives an investor the feeling of rationally prepared investment division.


    To put it simply, UWI backers either (a) could not find the money to pay, or (b) they were not sure what they going to be getting and when.

    In any event, the City was never inclined to give the job to a relatively “weak” group as UWI when they had “strong” alternatives.

    I suspect that the remaining 3 big boys also have problems with “b” and if the City got some PriceWaterhouse advise it would have something to do with MEASURE A.

    Comment by Niki J. — March 7, 2007 @ 8:45 am

  4. As much as I like some aspects of the UWI plan, it was obvious to me it was TGBT and I am not a bit surprised they’ve dropped out.

    The best part of their plan was that it recognized that the land has value: they were willing to pay for land that they would then develop, without asking for city funds. It seems that their 108MM bid was too high, especially in light of their futuristic fantasy of a plan, but the land HAS value. A developer SHOULD pay for it.

    Comment by dave — March 7, 2007 @ 12:41 pm

  5. dave, just to clarify, the 108 million is the negotated price between the navy and the city. All the developers have to pay that amount. UWI was just willing, supposedly to pay it all in cash up front. The others want deferred payments.

    Comment by notadave — March 7, 2007 @ 1:36 pm

  6. And to be real clear, the $108 million price tag is not for all of property known as Alameda Point. The $108 million is for Phase 1 outlined in the PDC. The Navy still has plans to auction off the remaining land.

    Comment by Mike McMahon — March 7, 2007 @ 1:48 pm

  7. The other developers do not have the cash. They have to go to banks to get the money on a project which all of the banks previously listed with the highest risk factor and lowest desire rating you can give a commercial project. This will be interesting. UWI might have been the only ones that could get the money.

    Comment by Paul Seef — March 7, 2007 @ 1:57 pm

  8. Notadave,

    Thanks for clarifying the 108MM. But what is the difference btw being “unwilling to pay it all in cash up front” and “wanting deferred payments”?

    Mr. Seef:

    Trouble in residential loans has been front page news lately. Many subprime and other residential lenders have gone bust recently, sharply reducing the capital availabe for residential loans.

    While not nearly as bad (yet) there has been more than a little pain in the commercial mortgage market as well. Yield spreads have risen dramatically in the last couple weeks.

    (look at page C3 in today’s WSJ, among other places)

    While it’s hard to quantify at this moment, these events will most definitely crimp the financing schemes for the base, at least in the near term.

    A developer’s ability to get financing will depend heavily on its other businesses away from the base. The base will not generate any cash flow to cover loan payments for some time, so a developer will likely need to have other profitable ventures in place to receive financing for the Point.

    Comment by dave — March 7, 2007 @ 3:42 pm

  9. No one should be suprised UWI withdrew the offer. Their proposal offered MORE than required while all the others offered LESS.

    The investors probably did not understand our fierce commitment to McMansions rather that skyscrapers and palaces.

    Money up-front, Deposited in 30 days!!

    No call on future taxes to pay for infrastructure!!

    That is what municipality WET DREAMS are made of.

    What is puzzling is the AARA staff reluctuance to accept the offer and at least test the sincerity of the Dubai folks and their team. What did they have to loose?? 30 days??

    I may be that rotten smell is not from Dubai, but closer to home.

    Comment by Niki J. — March 7, 2007 @ 4:32 pm

  10. dave, I think you misread what I said.

    Comment by notadave — March 7, 2007 @ 4:58 pm

  11. notadave:

    Your 2 descriptions have much the same meaning. Splain what you mean.

    Comment by dave — March 7, 2007 @ 5:26 pm

  12. I dont think we want Islamofacists running our community.

    Comment by Dirty Mike — March 7, 2007 @ 7:35 pm

  13. I can’t stand it any more. At the risk of getting myself into major hot water with some very important people, I can state without question that the Saudi Royal family is the major financial backer behind the UWI project. Therefore, money was NOT an issue.

    Courtesy and the ability to recognize when a world leader comes to your door and how to treat said world leader, and the desire to avoid screwing around, are the reasons UWI has decided against trying to work with Alameda to realize a darn good vision. I am sorry, but you cannot expect to drag a member of royalty around like a dog on leash (forgive the analogy, but it’s the best I can come up with right now). And yes, if they invest half a billion dollars in something, they want to be able to have a say in what happens and not follow a blueprint developed by others who understandably had a different funding structure and thus other vision in mind. The backers kept a low profile for a reason. They do not intrude in a community because doing so brings with it pomp and circumstance that routinely surrounds personages of their stature. However, I do believe their representatives were clear when communicating with the ARRA that money was not an issue. The City was provided more information than I was and I figured it out (and I’m one IQ point above an idiot – and, yes, someone in the know kindly called me to tell me that I was right).

    But it seems the real message is not getting through. A HUGE opportunity walked away. Think big. Really big. Not in development, but in OPPORTUNITY.

    Jobs, transportation alternatives, renewable energy, global warming research, new technologies, better internet, etc., etc., are drifting away. CINCI will try to work with others, but others really won’t have the same degree of pull or drive to get things moving. UWI can easily move on. We need them WAY more than they need us. Yeah, they wanted to “swoop in and do what they wanted,” but really, would that have been such a bad thing? The Naval Air Station has been a “second cousin” to the City since the Air Station was built in the ’30s. The people involved in the PDC (involved, intelligent, reasonable folks) were addressing the issue of absorbing that second cousin with the best possible vision, given the available opportunities. UWI sort of blew that out of the water, unintentionally.

    So would it be so bad to contact UWI and say, “Hey, we’re sorry! You wanna swoop in and spend half a billion dollars, that’s A-okay with us. And yeah, if you give us what has been described, you can do whatever else you want.” We’re talking 700 acres. UWI isn’t invading the entire island and razing established neighborhoods outside Alameda Point. Some existing housing at Alameda Point may be sacrificed, but aren’t changes in the future likely there anyway? Giving Alameda Point to UWI is likely the best way to preserve the status quo on the rest of the island (or even roll back the clock to rail service and Neptune Beach-esque days? How the orchard owners must have thought “those Victorians were SO HUGE!”). My Central Alameda neighborhood isn’t without problems. Duplicating it, or something like it, at Alameda Point ISN’T going to help solve the transportation problem – or guarantee that Alameda maintains its small town community feel. In fact, it is highly likes that further “standard square footage development” is going to force all of Alameda into gridlock and less small town community feel.

    Comment by Nancy Pyle — March 7, 2007 @ 8:31 pm

  14. Folks, its over. No point speculating on why and wherefore. Whoever was behind the UWI bid was misguided about the “transaction structure” and now they are better informed.

    Alameda needs to move on to what is best for Alameda, and maybe it isn’t the PDC or Measure A, regardless of who wants to invest in Point Development.

    Comment by Niki J. — March 8, 2007 @ 12:19 am

  15. Regarding Comment #12.


    That is Alameda’s MO though, which makes UWI not a good fit. I also drank to Kool-Aid and am heart-broken but we’re better off with them pulling out now than getting selected and pulling out later when they can no longer handle dealing with the city. Everyone has lost a golden opportunity here.

    Comment by Ben Kruger — March 8, 2007 @ 5:14 am

  16. Mr. Kruger, I don’t think I understand (Post 15). So it’s Alamedan’s MO to say one thing (“We want to maintain the status quo,” i.e., keep small town feel) while doing another (let the opportunity to keep the status quo on most of the Island go without effort)? And I don’t think UWI was misguided about the “transaction structure” (Post 14). They were mistaken in believing that Alameda was more sophisticated, and perhaps opportunistic (in the good sense), then it is. Oh well, if Northern California is lucky, Alameda’s lose will be Oakland’s gain.

    Comment by Nancy Pyle — March 8, 2007 @ 6:14 am

  17. Dave, I said that UWI WAS willing to pay upfront. I said the other developers DIDN’T want to pay up front, but wanted to defer payments.

    Comment by notadave — March 8, 2007 @ 7:51 am

  18. Nancy, I am impressed that UWI was able to provide you with more of the financial details than they were willing to share with the city. Maybe if they had been just as informative with the city we wouldn’t be mouring their departure.

    Comment by notadave — March 8, 2007 @ 7:54 am

  19. Notadave, I can’t believe that I was provided with more info than the City.

    Comment by Nancy Pyle — March 8, 2007 @ 8:50 am

  20. I AM SCEPTICAL of Nancy’s info. #13, 19. UWI is clearly a startup with a little history and is reluctant even on its own website to provide useful information – “Name of some countries are withheld at the request of the Governments involved.” Of course, being based in Dubai, the money is likely to come from some Royal Family, most of which like privacy about the varied ways in which they funnel money out of their kingdoms. Little UWI would not be inclined to share specific information with you, me or Nancy.

    I AM ALSO SKEPTICAL of the City staff motives for what seemed a really prejudicial treatment of the UWI bid – that is “we consider only the qualifications of UWI itself and not the team members”. The UWI bid was obviously in a category by itself yet they were evaluated as if they were a Catellus-type land developer, rather than an international project finance group. It seemed entirely irrational.

    In other words, I AM SKEPTICAL at the notion that there was NOT a presumed winner of this bid from the start. Others have pointed out the “indicators.” UWI rep must have figured this out after a few rounds with the City.

    Finally, I AM SKEPTICAL of any bidder that suggests that they are committed to a PDC that was driven by Shea Homes and found financially un-feasible. At least UWI was honest about the fact that they did not accept the PDC.

    Comment by Niki J. — March 8, 2007 @ 8:54 am

  21. sorry, notadave, I misread

    Comment by dave — March 8, 2007 @ 9:39 am

  22. To further clarify, when I Googled Dubai, I found, which identifies UAE Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. I put that together with $100 million to buy the property, $100 million to install CyberTran, $100 million to fund cleanup and I “jumped to the appropriate conclusion” that the backers of UWI were really really rich and important people. So I asked the appropriate person (they were at the Open House on Tuesday, Feb 6 and offered up contact information) the correct question and got what I am sure is the answer (on the day that the UWI withdrawal was announced). I can’t believe that someone in the City didn’t do the same. It is just unfortunate that the City didn’t then go on to ask the same questions I did as to why UWI is walking away (if the Cit hasn’t).

    I can believe that someone in the City, who is weary of fighting the battles that are dividing Alameda, would shy away from this opportunity that the community at large apparently is missing. Measure A was a grass roots effort. Supporting something like UWI will need a grass roots efforts (a nod from all those who are perceived to fight it) if it is to survive. Logically, don’t you think UWI recognized that and that is why they approached the citizens, not just City staff (as the other developers did)?

    We urgently need to think outside the box here because UWI has raised the bar, not just in sustainable development, but in all aspects of Alameda envisioning its future. And along those lines, could we not have a resolution that provided a 100-year rezoning for Alameda Point (with a ban on this model being copied elsewhere on the island) that would allow UWI to do what it needs to do so that future generations of Alamedans have the opportunity to choose between continuing to contain change/maintain the status quo, have a blend of status quo and controlled growth, or to let growth “go wild” because it fits with the lifestyle 50 years from now?

    Indulge me for a moment. NAS was used by individuals in the service of outside interested (i.e., the US government and its allies) by individuals who largely came and went during the execution of their duties by sea and air, with some ground transportation. Just doing some crazy speculating, isn’t it possible that UWI will be having individuals who largely come and go during the execution of their duties by sea (yatchs) and air (private jets)? The Navy brought financial aid to Alameda’s school districts. UWI can bring jobs, transportation, new technologies, amenities suitable for world leaders…see the parallels? You want Alameda to continue as it has, you want UWI. You want Alameda to have some options for the future, you want UWI. So we give a little, and we get a lot.

    Comment by Nancy Pyle — March 8, 2007 @ 10:05 am

  23. Nancy,
    I don’t see the point of your email…they already withdrew. Do you think they will change their mind if we ask them?

    Comment by Joel — March 8, 2007 @ 10:38 am

  24. If the right people ask in the right manner, yes.

    Comment by Nancy Pyle — March 8, 2007 @ 11:39 am

  25. On second thought, you’re right. Forget what I’ve written. Just mark me down as another Alameda crackpot. This idea will never fly. I don’t know what I was thinking! I gobble it all back up. I’ll go take my meds now…

    Comment by Nancy Pyle — March 8, 2007 @ 11:59 am

  26. Before you throw away the koolaid Nancy, let me ask a question. You are in essence proposing that UWI be given free reign to do as they wish, because they have an innovative idea, and supposedly bucks. Would you do the same with other developers, or would you want strict controls and due dilligence? Why does UWI get off easy in your view?

    Comment by notadave — March 9, 2007 @ 8:10 am

  27. Because of the fringe benefits offered: full payment of the $108 million, payment of $100 million for the cleanup, payment of $100 million for installing CyberTran, jobs creation, support of innovative technology development, support of better broadband internet access, contibutions from world-reknown “green” architects… If the other developers are willing to be so generous AND offer to make sure that there is worldwide acceptance and support for the Innovative Technoligies/Global Warming Institue (i.e., stick around and get the folks who need to be there to be there), they should be allowed to “go wild,” too. But that does not seem to be what they are offering, or have done at all the other bases where they have worked (or they have been unusally mum about their accomplishments at their other developments — Catellus’ apparent “key” accomplishment was keeping trees from being “demolished”-no doubt a good thing, but not on the same scale as the things UWI was suggesting; Lennar has put up some really ugly buildings at Mare Island that are supposed to “capture” the architecture of the past; Sun Cal…???). If the other developers are offering fringe benefits, they should do a better job of identifying what those benefits are. Nothing in their presentations seems to address future generations of Alamedans, which is by far the most important thing to me. What are we carving in stone that will plague today’s 5-year-olds when they are 50 (or, in turn, their grandchildren)?

    Alameda is demonstating itself to be intolerant and unreasonable in a number of areas, apparently in response to public pressure. But the fact is, if the attempt is made to absorb Alameda Point into the balance of Alameda by forcing development, similar to housing existing in other neighborhoods(high density or not), the problems (and yes, there are problems) in those neighborhoods will simply multiply the overall problems in Alameda–transportation for one, school funding for another, demand on infrastructure (the EBMUD water and sewer lines), lack of sustainability of the island in the event of a major catastrophe — I was trusting that folks at the on-island think-tank would be working on these things as part of demonstrating a new way to develop property and establish self-sustaining communities.

    Also, for the better part of a century, Alameda Point was “held apart” from Alameda. Who can believe that abruptly changing that isn’t a nightmare waiting to happen? It appeared to me that UWI was offering a model more similar to history — a property planner suggesting an unusual and extraordinary use of the property, in my mind, in keeping with the nature of the previous almost-century of use. Changes beyond the original plan could be worked out over time, without the property sitting there unused. I believe the other developers will be staging development to respond to the real estate market — and not much else. That’s their business. UWI, in suggesting a new approach to development, looked at it differently, or at least that was the “kool aid.”

    Comment by Nancy Pyle — March 9, 2007 @ 9:16 am

  28. The follow-up questions from the City, and the developer’s responses are now posted at I’ve just begun to dive into the responses, but the questions themselves are interesting, particularly the green building questions, and questions about the impact of measure A.

    Comment by notadave — March 9, 2007 @ 12:05 pm

  29. RE: #28 — thanks a lot, notadave! I now have some weekend reading ahead of me…

    Folks — This stuff bears further reading, analysis and scrutiny… everybody who is interested in the development of the Point should check these responses out…

    Comment by Dave S. — March 9, 2007 @ 4:05 pm

  30. I have heard second-hand that Catellus had a meeting several days ago to lobby two members of the City’s global warming task force, including the chairperson of the task force. The meeting featured pastry, sliced fruit, and Barbara Price in pin stripes. The task force chairperson invited two other non-task force members to the meeting; Alamedans who are interested in the issue of global warming. The purpose of the meeting was to ask the attendees how Catellus could improve its image given all of the interest and positive press around the UWI proposal (the meeting was held before UWI dropped out).

    The problem with this from my perspective is that the task force chairperson is on record as being opposed to lobbying of the task force from developers competing for the Alameda Point project. When I attended the February 14 task force meeting I asked whether the task force had a role in evaluating the developers’ proposals. The answer from two task force members, including the gentleman who later in the meeting was elected chairperson unanimously, was that the task force did not have a role in evaluating or in any way supporting the developers’ proposals. The chairperson had a lot of energy on the issue of lobbying of the task force by developers and/or supporters of the developers’ proposals. He said, in reply to my question, that he had been lobbied by several people who supported the UWI proposal, and that if it continued it would prevent the task force from performing their job of developing environmental standards for Alameda pursuant to the ICLEI program. The tone of his reply was in the nature of a reprimand, and there were other task force members who postured a shame-shame wagging of heads in approval of the chairperson’s reply. You may recall that I was at the task force meeting in part because I wanted to see if the task force would support the UWI proposal.

    Apparently, lobbying of the task force by developers is not a problem so long as the developer is Catellus. When the developer is Catellus, the chairperson of the task force will invite others interested in environmental awareness to be lobbied along with the task force members. Since I am getting this information second hand I invite anyone with direct knowledge of the meeting to explain the apparent hypocrisy of the task force relative to their role in the selection of the master developer for Alameda Point. I hope to be proved wrong as to the conclusions I am drawing from this troubling information.

    Comment by Mike Rich — March 11, 2007 @ 10:08 am

  31. Was this public meeting in M.Rich’s #30 postproperly noticed? Or were only ‘friends of Catellus” invited? Will this meeting be counted in the future as one of the numerous meetings Catelus has held where they recieved positive support?

    Comment by D. Kirwin — March 11, 2007 @ 11:05 am

  32. Maybe the VA proposal for a 50 acre cemetery and large out patient hospital complete with drug rehab, mental health and substance abuse clinics on the Point don’t coincide with UWI ‘s plans for the island or at least not in the eyes of the financiers of the UWI proposal. The 579 acre parcel would require access thru the parcel to be developed under the present PDC. In trying to develop and upscale global training institute perhaps the Dubai group also has a case of NIMBY’ism.

    Comment by D. Kirwin — March 11, 2007 @ 11:42 am

  33. In the article discussing the VA proposal, mention was made of using some of the land for “Revenue generation” Anyone have any ideas how they are going to generate revenue other than by building housing out there?

    Comment by notadave — March 11, 2007 @ 11:48 am

  34. By “sustainable” in developing Alameda Point I thought we mean “planet friendly”, not what will sustain business as is, one of our City’s developers who put business 1st:
    “We view sustainability as a state where the needs of people and commerce can be met while supporting our communities, protecting our environment and restoring the ability of the land to provide for future generations. This could arguably be called the purest form of sustainable development.”
    This “view” does not show a commitment to sustainability in the way UWI talked about.

    I also giggle through the shock of reading on page 6 of the Catellus response;
    “A wide array of environmental technologies and design features
    were incorporated into our world headquarters building,
    including an illumination system that harvests sunlight to reduce
    power consumption and recharging stations for electric vehicles.”

    Are they referring to windows and a power outlet? I am more impressed with their PR writer (Mayor Johnson’s friend Barbra Price) than their green building technology.

    Just like USA needs an exit strategy for our wars – to know when enough is enough, and what to do when we reach that point; our local governments need to know how to stop the run-away population growth that diminishes the quality of life for those who live here.

    Friday night I was driving to Berkeley to meet with friends from the North Bay. Traffic was moving on 880n until just past the 7th Street exit. From that point until we could get off at the next exit (Ashby) it was over 30 minutes. It gave me a little time to think while watching a glorious sunset. I thought about global warming and the impact of the 10’s of thousands of cars spewing their contributions to affect this planetary damage. I thought of 100’s of thousands of non-productive hours wasted in the lives of all the occupants of those vehicles. I had to ask myself again about why the region allows the ever expanding housing growth that the region clearly cannot support in and a sustainable manner.
    I continually see places like Berkely who have grown so much recently and now have much higher crime rates, much worse roads, more suffering retailers, a city who said they could not afford to clean out the storm drains last years despite the flooding of some businesses.

    I have to wonder what the direction is for Alameda and why.

    Will BA governments, ABAG included, continue to promote growth despite the adverse impact on the environs? Must we promote such growth until living conditions are so bad that under-developed areas of Ca & other states is equally attractive to the BA, despite inclement conditions or lack of access to attractions the BA has built?

    We need to question why density in places like the Bay Area is allowed to continue when we are so far above the population saturation level for earth friendly living.
    BA weather is probably the #1 reason for our density, and higher home prices. Will our local and regional governments continue to allow counter-productive growth just to glean the rewards of making developers happy?

    Comment by D. Kirwin — March 11, 2007 @ 11:49 am

  35. Re #32, I thought that cemeteries were not allowed in Alameda because of our low ground, high water table. How can the VA be considering this?

    Comment by Kevis — March 11, 2007 @ 12:38 pm

  36. As I understand it, the VA’s proposal is only for an above-ground cemetery (columbarium?).

    Comment by Mike Rich — March 11, 2007 @ 1:09 pm

  37. DK,

    So far I have found the answers from Catellus in their Q&A to be overly chummy in a way that seems slick. If Ms. Price did have a hand in it and she is wired directly to the mayor, I guess that raises my eyebrow a bit.

    My immediate reaction to Catellus presentation at Mastick was that it was overly solicitous and this Q&A reads the same way in parts.

    On other accounts, it sounds like it’s time for you to consider taking BART from Fruitvale to visit your friends in Berkeley, unless all those other people on 880 do it instead and let you have your freeway back.

    Also, unless you have a solution for population control, I suggest you come up with new alternatives to either urban density a la Berkeley, versus sprawl a la Livermore/Antioch/etc.. You can’t not have either, and if unsustainable sprawl in outlying regions is O.K. as long as it’s not density in Alameda, that is a rank form of NIMBYism to me.

    I’m developing a theory of good NIMBYs and bad NIMBYs, kind of like the witches in the Wizard of Oz.

    Comment by Mark — March 11, 2007 @ 1:48 pm

  38. To add to post 30, I believe Catellus will pull out also. The demands are not economically practical…in order to pay for the demands. Would you spend millions of $ which will not give you a return in the long run? Maybe we need to reevaluate the point and what we want and what it is worth?

    Comment by Joel — March 11, 2007 @ 3:29 pm

  39. BTW Mark,
    Our family loved the restaurant PICANTE when it was at South Shore. We were sad when it closed. Friday when we were meeting North Bay friends we decided to go to the PICANTE that is still open on 6th street near Gilman in Berkeley. With a babysitter at $10/ hr there is no way we can take public transportation – it would be 2 different Bart lines plus a bus line in each direction. When we travel as a family the cost for public transportation, subsidized as much as it is is still far more expensive than driving, and usually lengthens the travel time considerably, which is why most transit uses are commuter-based or within a city. Kudos to my in-laws who never drive from Davis, and make full use of AMTRAC. With twice the passengers in our car the train does not make sense economically. Let’s double the price of gas – it would be an incentive to ban SUV’s, to use transit, and to hasten the coming of alterative energies.

    As for population control – the easiest solution is to stop building homes and commercial property where the population exceeds a healthy use of existing infrastructure. With the recent state transportation bonds, -I think it exceeds $20 Billion – but there is $0 to mediate traffic concerns on 880 or on 80 in the BA. IMO we are past every estimate of what a healthful limit would be set at if we were progressive or forward thinking enough to set healthy goals and limits. There is a reason roads in Dublin and Concord are sooo much wider than in SF or Alameda. They are planning ahead in a way Alameda could not foresee 100 years ago. Capacity limits should be set to not exceed the healthful capacity of the infrastructure.

    Comment by D. Kirwin — March 11, 2007 @ 10:22 pm

  40. A more sustainable approach to development also means that we have a dedicated
    group of locally based team members who know the fabric and make‐up of the
    Alameda community. Catellus employees are active in a number of Alameda
    organizations aimed at bettering the Alameda community. This same sense of
    community purpose and participation pervades the entire Catellus/Prologis
    corporate culture, whether in Amsterdam, Beijing, or the Bay Area. At Catellus/
    Prologis, we encourage our team to be actively engaged in the community in
    whatever manner delivers the most impact. In this way, we contribute to the sustainability of our
    organization and the communities in which we live.

    Comment by D. Kirwin — March 11, 2007 @ 10:58 pm

  41. Regarding UWI coming back to the table, here is a possible scenario:

    All of the developers eventually bail-out, The Calif. attorney general goes after some elected officials for insider deals. A citizen’s community group sues for disclosure. All of the City’s rights expire. The Navy claims E. Domain and pulls the whole project back. In the meantime UWI has been negotiating with the Navy, who has already worked with Dubai in the past and knows how to treat them, and the day after the current options fall apart, The Navy announces UWI has been granted the rights to come in and do the WHOLE THING WITHOUT RESTRICTIONS. What do you want to bet everything I just predicted is not already underway as we talk…???


    Comment by Paul Seef — March 12, 2007 @ 8:45 am

  42. Out of that whole scenario, the only thing that might, might happen is the navy cancelling the arangement with the city and acutioning off the land directly. Nothing else you mention is either likely, nor a close resembelance to reality.

    Comment by notadave — March 12, 2007 @ 9:34 am

  43. However one gets there, the bottom line is what notadave and I agree will happen in the end, no matter the roller-coaster in-between,.. in which case UWI is the most likely suspect…

    Comment by Paul Seef — March 12, 2007 @ 2:20 pm

  44. Halliburton announced that it is moving its world HQ from Texas to Dubai. After 100’s of billions of no-bid contracts for Iraq they must need to protect their profits from pesky USA taxes. Maybe Halliburton can become a UWI partner.

    Comment by D. Kirwin — March 12, 2007 @ 3:57 pm

  45. Mark, (#37)
    I re-examined the Catellus proposal at the City’s Alameda Landing page, ( see ) and did not see Barbara Price or her company, PK Consultants listed in the Catellus proposal as their marketing consultant. I was confused that I was mistaken or had made a wrong accusation. I thought I had pointed out that she was part of their team, just as Catellus had “borrowed” the City’s AP home page’s slogan “Home Again” and the same city website picture as Catellus cover art and title for their presentation documents. (Hmmm, don’t you think our city’s AP development dept participated in this?)
    As I kept looking I found you can go to the proposal link page and then to the presentations each developer gave at Mastic Center 1-23-07. It was at this meeting that I learned that Ms Price had joined the Catellus Project team. Eye brows rising? – You can check it out yourself. She must have joined the Catellus team between the posted proposals and the Mastic presentation, or her participation was not disclosed until she could have more of a local impact. –That kind of maneuvering is part of Catullus’s ‘sustainability’. Post #40 is a direct quote from Catullus’s response to questions posted on the city web site noted.

    Page 7 at
    Catellus Project Team
    _ Ted R. Antenucci,
    President Global Development
    _ Gregory J. Weaver,
    Managing Director
    _ Tom Marshall,
    Executive VP
    _ David Tirman,
    Senior VP Northern California
    _ Michael G. Englhard,
    First VP Development
    _ Bruce J. M. Knopf,
    VP Development
    _ Greg Moore,
    VP Retail Operations
    _ Anni Chapman,
    VP Property Management
    _ Frank Schaffarczyk,
    Development Analyst
    BKF Civil Engineer
    Cox, Castle & Nicholson LLP
    E-Agency PR & Media Rel. – Irv Hamilton
    Emsiek & Partners, Inc. Land Use Planner
    ERM Environmental Consultant
    Fehr & Peers – Matthew Ridgway,
    Traffic/Transportation Consultant
    Farella Braun Martel LLP
    Holland + Knight LLP
    IRIS Environmental – Sandy Stevens
    Moffatt & Nichol Engineers – Marina Consultant
    SMWM Master Plan/Land Use Planner
    PK Consultants, Inc.- Barbara Price
    Government & Comm. Relations Consultant
    SWA Landscape Architects
    ROMA Design Group

    Comment by D. Kirwin — March 12, 2007 @ 4:07 pm

  46. Paul, while we may agree that it is not unlikely the Navy may auction the land, I believe UWI has a snowballs chance in hell of ever being involved. It was a creative idea by a bunch of dreamers who didn’t have the financial capacity to implement.

    Comment by notadave — March 12, 2007 @ 4:17 pm

  47. “a bunch of dreamers who didn’t have the financial capacity to implement.”?
    I have a very different opinion.

    Comment by D. Kirwin — March 12, 2007 @ 5:03 pm

  48. Reading stories about why Haliburton is moving to Dubai made me wonder whether the AARA staff did not make a mistake in treating the UWI bid so dismissively.

    The largest U.S. Naval base seems to be in Dubai.

    Dubai is viewed as the financial capital for the “new world order.”

    There seems to be more construction going on in Dubai than anywhere else in the world.

    Why did our Mayor think that Alameda Point development was too complex for these “inexperienced” folks?

    And,in the interest of full disclosure, does anyone have the questions that the City asked UWI to answer.

    I notice that on the Alameda-Point posting, questions to UWI are not listed — only the question to the bidders that responded. Wonder why.

    The questions to UWI could well reveal why they decided quit.

    Comment by Niki J. — March 13, 2007 @ 10:34 am

  49. Niki J – I think if you go to the city web cast you can view the questions being asked of each developer. If the city sent questions that were not asked of them during the council meeting that would be very interesting. Early UWI blogs on the site had contact info.

    Comment by David Kirwin — March 13, 2007 @ 1:30 pm

  50. DK,

    I would have driven to Picante too, but I think I would have picked a different restaurant first. I worked on Picante’s expansion of the Berkeley site and ate their giant taco for lunch every day for weeks. I’m waiting for Alameda Taqueria to reopen.

    More importantly, I think my point about population control went over your head, which I think sort of speaks to my point. I meant world population, not controlling increases locally. If the planet keeps burgeoning with people we have to manage them. Concentrated urban development is going to be infinitely more sustainable than endless outlying suburbs. You seemed to be singing the praises of wide freeways in Dublin as some sort of visionary 100 year plan. Yeah, the original development of places like Alameda couldn’t foresee this future. That fact doesn’t snap my head.

    On Ms. Price, I have no motivation to ferret out her associations. Her mere involvement/employment with Catellus does not raise red flags. If she personally crafted the Q&A, I would begin to sniff about that, because I thought they were sort of shallow.

    Comment by Mark — March 13, 2007 @ 6:04 pm

  51. Here are the City questions:

    ARRA-Directed Follow-Up Questions
    From February 7th Meeting to Select New Master Developer
    As part of the February 7th meeting agenda item to select a new Alameda Point master
    developer, the ARRA had a number of follow-up questions for the four master
    developer teams. These questions, to be responded to in writing, are provided in two
    parts. The first contains questions to be answered by every team and the second
    includes team-specific questions to be answered as directed.
    1. Please describe your firm’s experience with military base closure and dealings
    with the Navy, and the remediation and redevelopment of Superfund sites.
    2. Please describe your firm’s experience in green building and your conceptual
    approach to green building at Alameda Point. Please also describe any positive
    or negative impacts that making Alameda Point a 100 percent green project
    would have on project economics.
    3. How can the ARRA be assured that your firm will make necessary investments
    consistently and on a timely basis as needed? Please describe your firm’s
    internal process for making development and investment decisions. Also, please
    provide documentation of your firm’s commitment and recommended
    mechanisms for assuring the availability of capital for property acquisition,
    developer and City predevelopment costs, environmental remediation, and
    4. In what ways would you expect the business terms contained in the draft
    conveyance term sheet between the ARRA and Navy be changed to improve the
    feasibility of the project?
    5. How does your firm’s vision conform to or vary from the goals of the PDC, the
    need for environmental remediation, and the constraints of Measure A?
    6. Please discuss the impacts of Measure A on maximizing “green” development
    and ensuring an economically viable project at Alameda Point.
    7. Please describe your firm’s expected timeline for development, including plan
    refinement, entitlements, groundbreaking, and project phasing.
    8. Please describe the economic relationship between the residential and
    commercial aspects of the development project – e.g., will residential values
    “drive” the project?
    9. How does your firm envision utilizing tax increment financing, and what
    assurances will the CIC receive that tax increment will be used only as
    Page 2
    10. What is your internal rate of return (IRR) goal for the Alameda Point project and
    on what is that rate based?
    11. Please describe the nature and timing of your firm’s proposed transit services for
    Alameda Point.
    12. Will you work with Alameda Power & Telecom (AP&T) to enter into preferred
    provider marketing agreements for telecommunications services, including bulk
    serving arrangements to provide telecommunications services on a universal
    basis at Alameda Point?
    13. Please describe your approach to addressing the historic preservation concerns
    expressed by the Alameda Architectural Preservation Society (letter attached).
    1. Please provide documentation of the relationships and roles of each of the UWI
    team members, including any contractual commitments between UWI and CMA.
    2. Please provide documentation of the roles CNCI and its various members have
    agreed to play in this development project, including commitments to research,
    real estate development, financing, etc. Please also provide documentation of
    CNCI’s organizational structure, funding sources and amounts, copy of
    membership MOU, etc.
    3. Please provide documentation of the authority held by Dr. Cluff to speak on
    behalf of the University of California.
    4. Please provide documentation of expressions of interest or commitment by thirdparty
    businesses or prospective tenants in the project envisioned by UWI.
    5. Please clarify UWI’s conceptual business plan, and explain the relationship
    between the real estate development project economics and the overall
    economics for the project, such as revenue participation with businesses. For
    example, what return measures are sought for the real estate development
    project versus the business operations?
    6. How and when does UWI envision developing transit connections off the Island
    (e.g., to Fruitvale BART), given physical, economic, and regulatory
    7. In the event that UWI’s vision for a “Green Island” proves infeasible, please
    describe how UWI would approach the development of Alameda Point.
    Page 3
    1. If selected, will Catellus’ investment in multiple and expansive projects in
    Alameda represent too little diversification of its activities? Similarly, will the
    City be at greater risk of having development on multiple key projects
    interrupted by dynamics at a single company (ProLogis)?
    2. How can Alameda be assured that the Alameda Point project will continue to be
    a top priority for Catellus through multiple business cycles, and that capital will
    be allocated to allow development to proceed as expeditiously as possible?
    1. Please describe how SunCal’s financial partnering may affect the decisionmaking
    process for capital calls under dynamic market conditions.
    2. Please describe SunCal’s existing relationships with commercial builders and
    others who may be involved in implementing the non-residential portions of the
    Alameda Point development, including the adaptive reuse.
    1. How can Alameda be assured that the Alameda Point project will continue to be
    a top priority for Lennar through multiple business cycles, and that capital will
    be allocated to allow development to proceed as expeditiously as possible?
    2. Please provide information regarding legal or regulatory proceedings or
    negotiations regarding the historic preservation program at Mare Island, and the
    outcomes or current status of those proceedings.

    Comment by Paul Seef — March 13, 2007 @ 9:05 pm

  52. Mark-
    Population as with politics – think globally, act locally. Where have your global thoughts led you? What are your local solutions? If you want to criticize, how about providing an option?
    BTW did you compare the City’s Development Dept web site for the Point with Catullus’s presentation?

    Comment by D. Kirwin — March 14, 2007 @ 5:26 am

  53. Thanks for the questions Paul. That reinforces my belief that most of the agreements that UWI touted were in fact not in place, and that once UWI was asked to provide specifics, then realized tha game was up.

    Comment by notadave — March 14, 2007 @ 7:46 am

  54. If the city of Alameda is seriously considering Lennar Corporation as a leader for the Naval Air Station project, they need to do a bit of research about Lennar’s track record. Spend some time on and read about how Lennar turns the American Dream into the American Nightmare for thousands of homeowners throughout the country, including California.

    Senator Elizabeth Dole said it best when she was on the Federal Trade Commission: ” . . . for too many Americans, the dream home has turned into a nightmare. You know as well as I do that as families move into their own little Garden of Eden, more and more are finding the apple full of worms. As a result, some homebuyers believe they are being bilked for thousands of dollars, and they are expressing not only anguish but outrage. Shoddy building practices can be concealed from many purchasers who cannot be expected to have the technical expertise to evaluate the structural soundness of a home or the quality of electrical, plumbing, or air conditioning systems…The patience of the American consumer is rapidly running out. . . . Consumers are demanding more protection from the government, not LESS. The consumer movement is no longer made up of small bands of activists with no troops standing behind them; the consumer movement is now part of our culture – it embraces every one of us. And it will not be denied over an issue so fundamental as decent housing . . .”

    This statement was made in 1979, but nothing has changed. If anything, with the raging housing boom, and the inability of local inspectors to keep up with inspections, this problem has become a national virus, and Lennar is the poster child for defective homes.

    If the city does select Lennar, they will need to implement a very aggressive inspection policy throughout the entire construction phase, not just final inspections, when the worst defects are already covered up with walls and roofs.

    One of the most egregious examples of Lennar callous disregard for the American Homeowner was the electrocution of a man in a new Lennar home that recently received a clean inspection. Now the widow and her children are involved in a lawsuit with Lennar, and Lennar is not accepting responsibility. The lawsuit details can be found at

    Mike Morgan – 772-260-5448

    “Good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while bad people will find a way around the laws” – Plato 427-347 BD

    “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

    Comment by Mike Morgan — March 14, 2007 @ 9:02 am

  55. Regarding my post #30, I want to apologize to the person that shared that information with me. A miscommunication led me to believe that the person who shared the information was not concerned about me passing it along, when in fact that person was expecting me to hold the information in confidence. So, to that person I say, please accept my sincere apology. It was not my intent to break your confidence in me.

    Comment by Mike Rich — March 14, 2007 @ 6:28 pm

  56. Mike,

    Not knowing who that person was or is, and therefore how they could be harmed by the leak, as it were, I’m glad you made the post because this needs some daylight.

    DK’s post #31 mentions noticing, but it doesn’t appear this was an official city function requiring noticing. However, if your description of the task force meeting where you brought up UWI is accurate and this other meeting did in fact occur, I am wondering why. It would seem that for the sake of consistency, if nothing else, if the task force was approached by Catellus about such a meeting, the response should have been the same as to Mike on lobbying about UWI.

    Comment by Mark — March 14, 2007 @ 7:37 pm

  57. Isn’t any time a city task force is convened a city function requiring public notice? Don’t they have regularly scheduled meetings that the public can attend? Even special meetings require notice. If it were not an official meeting, but the members were together, even if brought together under another pretext if the business of the task force were discussed that would be a violation of the Brown Act.

    Comment by D. Kirwin — March 14, 2007 @ 11:17 pm

  58. DK – the meeting was not of the task force, it was a meeting with two people who are on the task force. It wasn’t a quorum and it wasn’t a special meeting. You see multiple members of the city council at a number of events, meetings and egads! even private events that aren’t noticed.

    So the scenario as described (sedond hand btw – there is no confirmation that any such gathering took place) doesn’t violate the brown act. Having said that, if indeed the head of the task force met with catellus after saying they wouldn’t take any kind of stand, some explanation should be provided at the next meeting.

    Comment by notadave — March 15, 2007 @ 6:44 am

  59. Not to belabor this, but the meeting did occur. The fact that neither of the task force members who were there have made any attempt to deny it tells you something. My concern is not about a Brown Act violation, but about the special treatment that was given to Catellus after the Task Force took a position that lobbying of the Task Force by the public on a behalf of a particular developer’s proposal (much less by the developer itself) is inappropriate. So, the Task Force members who attended should explain that behavior. Until then, I’m not going to presume anything relative to motivations, but if they don’t come forward and make any attempt to explain it then they invite continued scrutiny and, yes, criticism.

    Comment by Mike Rich — March 15, 2007 @ 9:33 am

  60. Mark was right to question (in comment #37 and comment #50) Mr. Kirwin’s comment #34, in which he simultaneously pines for “earth friendly living” and wonders “why density in places like the Bay Area is allowed to continue,” and his subsequent comment #39, in which he praises Dublin and Concord for wisely planning roads that are “sooo much wider” than those in Alameda.

    The idea that the urban core of the Bay Area needs to reduce density and widen roads in the name of “earth friendly living” is absolutely preposterous. Suppose you could ban all forms of urban development and take all of the commercial and residential spaces currently concentrated around the bay and spread them out evenly for many, many miles to the north, south, and east. Suppose also that you could carve out an extensive network of “sooo much wider” roads, ripping down buildings, trees, and whatever else happened to be in the way.

    If you could do all this, you might actually achieve the reductions in urban traffic congestion for which Mr. Kirwin longs. In the process, however, you would destroy the very concentrations of jobs, people, and culture that make Bay Area cities attractive in the first place. More importantly, you would vastly increase each household’s consumption of land, energy, and other natural resources. Walking, bicycling, and public transportation would cease to be viable options for anyone. This traffic engineer’s dream scenario would be very friendly to cars but hardly friendly to the Earth.

    Conventional wisdom holds that cities are dirty places, and that suburban living is an environmentally friendly alternative. As these maps produced by the Center for Neighborhood Technology demonstrate, the exact opposite is true. Cities do exhibit higher concentrations of pollution, but the total pollution produced per household is significantly less in urban areas than in suburban ones.

    For any given population — rising, stable, or falling — the more people who live in cities, the lower the impact on the planet. I’m not suggesting that anyone should be forced to live in cities by government decree, but I do think it’s only fair that people who lead an energy- and land-hungry lifestyle should pay full price for it, and that those who do choose to live in cities should not be penalized by policies that effectively siphon off urban wealth and real estate (in the form of enlarged roads and parking lots in the urban core) to support the car-dependent suburbs.

    Mr. Kirwin’s trip to Picante in Berkeley serves to illustrate some of these points. I don’t know where Mr. Kirwin lives, but the trip from my place to Picante could be accomplished by bus with a single transfer (Line 51 to Line 72) in just over an hour (65 minutes, to be exact). The round-trip cost for a family of two adults and two youth would be $20.40 if they paid cash fares. Of course, regular users of public transportation would be wise to purchase monthly passes, in which case the out-of-pocket cost of the trip would be zero.

    The true cost of driving — including all societal costs, like emissions — is approximately $1.19 per mile (this estimate comes from Commute Solutions, a program of the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission), so the 23-mile round trip for the hypothetical family of four from a home in Alameda to dinner at Picante in Berkeley works out to $27.37, or $6.97 more than taking the bus.

    Of course, Americans today pay nowhere near the full cost of driving, which is one of the many factors that causes folks like Mr. Kirwin to clog the roads instead of taking public transportation. Of course, if drivers paid more and the money were invested in public transportation, as has been done in cities like London, one could expect the transit travel times to drop considerably.

    Today the trip to Picante averages 11 MPH by bus, but this could easily be raised to 16 MPH with dedicated transit lanes, signal priority, and other measures used in modern bus rapid transit and streetcar systems. That may sound slow, but it is actually faster than the 14 MPH average speed of Mr. Kirwin’s journey when that half-hour freeway delay is factored in. If there were a metro system along the route, an average speed comparable to normal driving could be achieved; for example, BART’s average speed of 33 MPH, is comparable to the average driving speed of 36 MPH for the trip to Picante under moderate traffic conditions.

    However, instead of building up our urban transit systems and reconnecting our cities with high-speed rail, we the people of California have chosen to embark on an orgy of bond-funded freeway building, financed not by gas taxes or other user fees but by money taken directly out of the state’s general fund. The governor’s latest budget actually cuts $1.1 billion from public transit. Instead of tipping the balance in favor of lower-impact lifestyles, we’re rushing to tilt the tables in the other direction!

    Comment by Michael Krueger — March 15, 2007 @ 1:16 pm

  61. M. Krueger – What are you smoking?

    I did not suggest widening roads anywhere. I suggest we not develop more than our roads can handle in an ‘earth friendly’ manner. In other words, hour- long traffic back ups should not be routine. Yet they are, which demonstrates we have over-developed for this region. If other, newer areas have been developed with the traffic handling infrastructure that can handle more traffic (wide roads) while we cannot, let your common sense guide you as to where additional development should be allowed and not allowed.

    In your mathematics of the cost of transit you forgot to factor in the babysitter watching our kids while we got out – so add in the $10/hr. Our little PT Cruiser probably drank between 1 & 2 gal gas. What is the value of our time – priceless if we so seldom get out of town? Do you know anyone who factors intangible costs? If so many buses should stop running too – I see lots of empty or near empty busses on the roads at much higher environmental costs.
    Those are just some of the reasons mass transit has little success.

    However I do agree with you in some aspects

    Comment by David Kirwin — March 15, 2007 @ 2:45 pm

  62. Mike Rich,

    I’m in full agreement with you, but I’m thinking about how task force members would come forward or perhaps even know somebody expects them to, unless they read this blog and there are no clear indications of that. I don’t mean to belabor this either, because for one, I don’t think the task force has that much clout, but the principle involved is what is important.

    I’ve been active in Alamedans for Climate Protection since early on and have been on the ACP Yahoo list serve since it’s inception. A link to your original mention of this situation on this blog was posted on the list with a request for explanation. I seconded that post. No response has been forthcoming in about a week, even after second and third posts requesting some explanation. Not all task force members are on the list, but the chair person who was an original ACP member, is on the list. I know who most of the other task force people are, but don’t know who the other member was who allegedly attended the Catellus meeting was, or who other persons were, who were “invited”.

    From my own sources I do understand that Barbara Price was involved in organizing the meeting. I don’t want to rumor monger, but here I have to tip my hat to Dave Kirwin’s cynicisms about her involvement with Catellus.

    Comment by Mark — March 15, 2007 @ 4:26 pm

  63. Isn’t the issue regarding the task force and the catellus meeting predicated on the idea that the task force will make a recommendation?

    If the task force is not involved in making recommendations to the council for the choice of developer (it’s not), then what does it matter if two of the local citizens meet with Catellus to talk about what a fabulous company they are on green planning. (I’m imagining that Catellus’ message is “we’re fabulous” it could be something different).

    Isn’t it possible that the message Mike got at the task force meeting (don’t lobby us, we’re not involved) is consistent with a couple of members going off to a meeting on a civic issue?

    Now, if the issue does come back to the task force, I’d raise a few eyebrows, but given the scope of the task force, I don’t see that happening.

    So far, no one’s shown that there’s a there, there.

    Comment by johnknoxwhite — March 15, 2007 @ 7:16 pm

  64. Cities do exhibit higher concentrations of pollution. End of story. Why would anyone want to live there just because the pollution per household is less? So you can be poisoned more a little less at a time, by more people?

    Anyway, I’m not sure the claim is true. Urban areeas are enormous energy sinks, that is whay they have heat islands. They use far more nighttime lighing, for security purposes.

    If you check an unbiased source, government figures show that urban rural and suburban households have very similar energy usage.

    Rural households have lower transportaion costs than urban households.

    Suburban households drive only slightly more than urban households, but they spend less time in transit, and their vehicles operate in a more efficient range. They do burn more fuel than urban dwellers, but it is almost entirely because they drive larger cars.

    Urban dwellers spend far more time in transit, primarily because they use transit. At one time, suburban dwellers did drive considerably farther, but that is no longer as true because jobs have moved to the suburbs.

    If you plot the locations of people that have long commutes, you find that the percentage is around 10%, regardless of their living location.

    The idea that suburbs are sucking off the cities is just wrong. Suburban and rural areas supply the cities with almost everything they need, including workers.

    Areas with high job concentrations are more than happy to export all the costs associated with housing to the bedroom communities. In rural areas landowners pay the same taxes on their house and lot as anyone else, and then they pay additional taxes on the rest of the farm. That money directly subsidizes more urban areas since rural land requires little in the way of services.

    The land itself is frequently restricted to growth, in order to protect the city water supply. This has the side effect of keeping housing prices high in urban areas, thus subsidizing urban homeowners capital gains.

    I think the quoted value of the true cost of driving is a little exaggerated, but not enough to quibble. Consider the alternatives. The DC Metro system reports operating costs of $0.44 cents per passenger mile and $8.40 per revenue mile. That is just operating costs. The full costs, calculated by the same means as used for autos is very near or even higher than $1.19. In fact, based on a competitive analysis rail and bus transit is efficient for less than 2% of the total transportation needs.

    As for load factors, trains and busses actually carry around more empty setas than cars, when expressed as load factor. $8.40 per revenue mile and $0.44 per passenger mile works out to something like 19 passengers per revenu mile. There are 80 seats on a rail car. Buses are even worse.

    In other words, virtually everthing said by Michael Krueger is common wisdom: and factually wrong, even if these ideas are stongly promoted by agenda driven organizations.

    When we really want an efficient transportation system, we will switch to vans: jitneys if you will. These could offer computer dispatched door to door service with fewer interim stops than transit and at a far lower cost, especially if they are self-driven and do not require operators.

    The secret to efficient transportation is more and smaller vehicles, not bigger and fewer. The final logical extension to that idea is walking, of course. Making things more pedestrian friendly is a fine goal, but we should not confuse that with transportation. Transportation implies the people are the cargo, not the beast of burden.

    Comment by Ray Hyde — March 15, 2007 @ 8:00 pm

  65. JKW makes a good point. It’s been clear to me all along that the meeting was not official business of the task force or even the climate group for that matter, and so there is no official impropriety.

    When UWI wanted to lobby the public they did just that, they held an extra curricular meeting for the public and made sure it hit the paper.

    I don’t mean to commit character assassination on the task force chair by innuendo, it’s just that when you catch wind of some action and want to know what’s up and then get stone walled, instead of getting a direct answer to a simple question, the whole thing can fester. And if you are an irritable person like myself, it’s hard to let go some times.

    Comment by Mark — March 15, 2007 @ 8:21 pm

  66. John,

    I don’t see how the meeting between some of the task force members and Catellus is consistent with the force’s stance that they should not be lobbied; that’s moving into the realm of Orwellian double-speak if you ask me. If you look at my original post #30 I am raising a concern about the hypocrisy of the task force saying that my simple question raised in the public meeting would somehow prevent them from doing their job, and then accepting an invitation to a non-public meeting with a developer. Having said that, I spoke at length with the chairperson of the task force at an event on Thursday evening and I think we more or less cleared the air. Stan seems like a nice person; so does his wife Miriam. I won’t presume to paraphrase Stan’s explanation of the meeting, which he confirmed did take place, but I’m moving on and I support the Task Force’s efforts to create standards pursuant to the ICLEI program.

    By the way, the event we attended was a lecture by the Director of Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, who is a Nobel laureate. The topic of the lecture was responding to the energy crisis and global warming through alternative fuels, including bio-fuels. There was a lot of information imparted that gave me hope that brilliant people are working on a technological fix to the problem of global climate change. There was also a lot to take away relative to the work of the Task Force (e.g., standards for green development, etc.), so Stan’s attendance at the event was a timely and positive development.

    Comment by Mike Rich — March 17, 2007 @ 7:41 am

  67. Mike,

    I agree that you should be able to address the task force (or any body) on any issue you like.

    Given your previous comments about the Task Force refusing to take a stand on the developers, perhaps I read too much into your recent post. Apologies.

    Comment by johnknoxwhite — March 17, 2007 @ 7:49 am

  68. Mr. Kirwin, I apologize for misconstruing your statements about road widening in comment #39. I am glad we agree that widening roads is not an acceptable solution to urban traffic congestion.

    I must also apologize for my lousy math in comment #60. The total round-trip cost for a family of four on the bus would be $12.40, not $20.40. I can assure you that I wasn’t smoking anything, but perhaps I did have a bit too much coffee!

    You also raised a very important point about the value of time. The driving cost estimate I used included 18.8 cents per mile for the value of the time spent driving. To make a fair comparison, one would have to add $14.79 to the fare to account for the time spent on the bus, which actually puts the cost for the family of four at $27.19, just shy of the $27.37 cost of driving. Factoring in the 30-minute traffic delay, however, bumps the cost of driving up an additional $3.41 to $30.78, or $3.59 more than the bus.

    As you pointed out, however, the babysitter changes things. If the kids stay at home, that brings the fare down to $8.00, but it adds 62 minutes of babysitter time, bringing the total cost to $33.12. Even with the freeway delay, the bus is still $2.34 more than driving. In other words, you’re right; public transit does not really make economic sense for this particular trip, at least not at its current snail’s-pace speed.

    With that, I’d like to conclude this fascinating economic analysis of hypothetical bus trips to Picante and return to the issue of density and the environment. If we take road widening off the table, it makes your idea of limiting density and development to ensure freely flowing traffic on existing roads even more difficult to implement. In order for this strategy to work, you would need to remove and disperse not only housing units but also commercial, retail, and cultural facilities. Much of that traffic on our freeways consists of people traveling to jobs, shopping, entertainment, and events in the urban core. Even if housing density in the core were severely restricted, you’d still have the freeways clogged with cars from Livermore, Dublin, and Tracy — that is, unless you could somehow remove and disperse the very things that are drawing those folks here in the first place.

    So let’s assume that you don’t widen any roads, but you start a program of closing down housing, retail, commercial, and cultural space in the urban core and moving it further and further out into the hinterlands. Perhaps the empty buildings could even be preserved as museums, as long as they weren’t popular enough to draw throngs of visitors to the urban core. Any buildings not worth saving could be torn down and replaced with lovely parks or civic “gathering places.”

    If you could somehow accomplish all this, you just might disperse traffic enough to eliminate congestion. However, in so doing you also would have effectively eliminated walking, bicycling, and public transit as viable travel options. The Bay Area would look like most areas in my home state of South Dakota: Yes, there is no traffic congestion, but most distances are too far to walk or bike and there is no public transportation whatsoever. Driving — often in a single-occupant vehicle — is pretty much the only option for every trip.

    Your South-Dakota-style low-density utopia would certainly be car-friendly: Everybody could drive everywhere without ever encountering congestion. However, the total consumption of land, energy, and other natural resources per household would be much, much higher than it is today. How exactly is that “earth friendly”?

    Comment by Michael Krueger — March 18, 2007 @ 4:44 pm

  69. MK – Somebody must have slipped something in your kool-Aid. Your idea is ‘whacked out’. Please do not attribute your whacked logic to me – it is completely your own. I did not advocate closing or destroying property in our overpopulated areas. I only advocate stopping adding to our density problems in these over-dense areas. Why do you insist or refuse to understand that simple reality? Other better-planned and growing areas will have their own cultural centers. Perhaps the increase property values especially for office space will mean more virtual commuting to help save our environment.

    Comment by D. Kirwin — March 18, 2007 @ 10:47 pm

  70. Mr. Kirwin, I realize that you were not actually calling for the abandonment of any property, and neither am I. What I presented was a thought experiment based on your ideal of limiting density and development intensity to such low levels that road capacity is never exceeded. My point is that if all development were actually done this way, the result would be far less environmentally friendly than what you call “over-dense” development. Do you agree or disagree?

    Comment by Michael Krueger — March 18, 2007 @ 10:58 pm

  71. I disagree – we have plenty of roads, but we have been adding too much traffic to them. Your opinion that adding density will reduce traffic is idiotic, but that is beside the point. The fact is that most of the population determines the cost of driving by what it costs to fill their tank, and the rest of the population seems to include the added costs of vehicle maintenance to arrive at the IRS cost per mile now at 46 cents.

    Your “thought experiments” seem to wander on a mission where no man has gone before… And also does not address the point.

    My point is: Since we have developed this region beyond reasonable traffic considerations, we should stop increasing density. Other regions have planned better for handling traffic and have not reached limits of reasonable traffic density and that is where development should continue. Do you agree or disagree?

    Comment by David Kirwin — March 19, 2007 @ 10:33 am

  72. I think the problem here is that we are each talking about different things. You are talking about traffic congestion, and I am talking about per capita environmental impact. These are not the same.

    I agree with you that it is possible to limit traffic congestion by limiting development. However, I disagree that this reduces the environmental impact per household; in fact, it increases per capita emissions and consumption of resources, despite the fact that traffic congestion is less severe.

    You thought I was claiming that increasing density reduces traffic congestion, and you disagreed. Well, you were right to disagree, because increasing density does not reduce overall traffic congestion. I have never made that claim.

    Increasing density reduces the traffic generated per household. Overall traffic still goes up, but by a smaller amount that it would have if the same number of people had been spread out over a wider area.

    So, we both agree that increasing density is not going to eliminate traffic congestion in urban areas. I realize that there are a number of arguments to be made for and against density. Some of these arguments may be impossible to settle because they ultimately boil down to subjective issues of personal preference.

    Even if you ultimately reject density for other reasons, can you at least accept the objective fact that low-density development is less environmentally friendly than denser development?

    Comment by Michael Krueger — March 20, 2007 @ 9:55 pm

  73. MK – what you state in #72 was de-bunked in #64. High density is NOT a solution. I will agree that high density CAN sometimes be a better approach to housing; as in cases of critical care, assisted living, school dormitories, and for agoraphobics or the penal system.
    Energy usage per household I think is a personal lifestyle effect not dominated by urban suburban or rural location.

    Comment by D. Kirwin — March 20, 2007 @ 10:58 pm

  74. DK,

    Everybody is idiotic but you. MK didn’t respond to Ray Hyde, but I can see both their points and think there is a skew. If we had our heads screwed on correctly there is no reason swarms of smaller more efficient vehicles would be better as Ray contends.

    In #50 you posted “Mark-
    Population as with politics – think globally, act locally. Where have your global thoughts led you? What are your local solutions? If you want to criticize, how about providing an option?”

    To me you are throwing my question to back at me without an answer. I originally made the point about global population being part of what we address in local development standards like density. You aren’t giving any more detailed solution than anybody else, so why are accusing me of being critical without offering alternatives? That’s rhetorical, so don’t bother with another encyclopedic length response.
    My solution was clear if not detailed, we need to mitigate traffic from urban density because sprawl is even a worse scenario.

    Comment by Mark — March 21, 2007 @ 8:10 am

  75. Mr. Kirwin, I intend to respond to comment #64, but I wanted to clear up our misunderstanding first. I don’t have time to reply in detail right now, but here is something for you and Mr. Hyde to look into in the mean time: What research can you cite to show that people in low-density communities use the same or fewer resources per household as those in urban areas? You say you think energy use is merely a “personal lifestyle effect,” but do you have any evidence to support that claim?

    Comment by Michael Krueger — March 21, 2007 @ 8:16 am

  76. MK – your ‘research in post #60 needs some exaimation – A Bus company says buses are better. Big surprise All the ‘societal costs – where are those figures from? Gimme a break. Lets face it we are not professionals at reseaching the topic nor do I have the free time.

    My point still stands: Since we have developed this region beyond reasonable traffic considerations, we should stop increasing density. Other regions have planned better for handling traffic and have not reached limits of reasonable traffic density and that is where development should continue. Do you agree or disagree?

    Comment by D. Kirwin — March 21, 2007 @ 10:51 am

  77. Mr. Kirwin, the key to my argument is not the “true cost of driving” data you mention; those were in support of a secondary argument about how the current economic landscape is skewed in favor of less energy-efficient forms of transportation. I agree that assessing things like societal costs is very tricky, so let’s put this secondary argument aside for now and return to the main point, which is environmental impact per household.

    The most important source I cited in comment #60 is a study of automotive greenhouse gas emissions done by the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT). Specifically, I provided a link to emissions maps of the San Francisco Bay Area.

    The CNT study, which is based on based on data from the Federal Highway Administration and the U.S. Census Bureau, was performed under the auspices of the Transportation Research Board, not “A Bus company”:

    The Transportation Research Board (TRB) is a division of the National Research Council, which serves as an independent adviser to the federal government and others on scientific and technical questions of national importance. The National Research Council is jointly administered by the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine.

    In comment #64, Mr. Hyde never challenged the data, assumptions, or methodology in the study. Instead, he simply tried to dismiss the results as ideas “strongly promoted by agenda driven organizations.”

    If the Transportation Research Board, the Census Bureau, the Federal Highway Administration, the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine are all unacceptably biased sources driven by some pro-transit agenda, I would like to see an example of what Mr. Hyde would consider independent research worthy of consideration. Apparently, not many researchers meet his standards, because I did not see a single citation of a source in his comment.

    In closing, yes, I still strongly disagree with your “point” that the Bay Area should not add any density in the urban core. I believe the answer is not to limit density but rather to increase mobility by improving access to modes of transportation other than the single-occupant vehicle (SOV), and by making sure that SOV operators are paying the full cost of their mode choice. Adding density where it makes sense is what makes efficient use of non-SOV modes possible, whereas limiting density will have precisely the opposite effect.

    Comment by Michael Krueger — March 21, 2007 @ 3:42 pm

  78. I should clarify what I mean by adding density “where it makes sense,” because what makes sense depends a lot on one’s assumptions. For Mr. Kirwin, the only kind of development that makes sense is low-density sprawl, because this is the only way to ensure that roads are never clogged without restricting access in some other way, such as through parking policy, tolls, or congestion charges. I acknowledge that this kind of development “makes sense” if access by single-occupant vehicle (SOV) is the only consideration.

    However, I do not think sprawl development makes sense based on environmental grounds, which I believe trump the desire to make every destination easily accessible by SOV. I think it makes sense to focus development on areas with good pedestrian, bicycle, and public transit access. This can mean doing development in areas that already have good access, and it can also mean doing development in conjunction with new investments in non-SOV infrastructure like new transit lines.

    I actually agree with Mr. Kirwin and others when they call for transportation infrastructure and operational improvements to be planned right along with new development, rather than being left for cities to figure out later on, once the developers have made their money and pulled out. I do not agree with those who feel that those dollars should be spent on infrastructure that improves SOV access, like new a estuary crossing for automobiles. If such a crossing could ever be built, the only thing that would make environmental sense is a transit-only crossing that would reduce transit travel times, thus shifting trips from the SOV to transit. (I realize that the actual prospects for any kind of new crossing are remote; I’m just presenting this as a hypothetical example of a major transportation investment in Alameda.)

    Comment by Michael Krueger — March 22, 2007 @ 11:24 am

  79. Michael – there is a huge difference in what I have said and what you say I have said. Please stop that, it is not only annoying, it is inherently dishonest to continue to misrepresent what I say, but it seems to be your M.O. A productive discussion requires attention to words and meanings, not interpretations to meet your agenda.
    I never said I am for “sprawl” over high density. I have repeatedly said “since we have developed this region beyond reasonable traffic considerations, we should stop increasing density. Other regions have planned better for handling traffic and have not reached limits of reasonable traffic density and that is where development should continue. Do you agree or disagree?”
    You chose to disagree.
    Likewise I never said that transit infrastructure should be designed right along with development – That obviously is too late; hence the problem with continued development in the Bay Area – Remember your ‘thought experiment’ and your realization that it is too late to provide adequate road width or that it is impossible to reduce the local population to meet the limits of our transportation infrastructure? You should realize then, that transportation infrastructure must be planned ahead of development, and be in place with development. It is easier and cheaper to plan to avoid major problems than to create problems and then try to figure out a solution. But you have plenty of company in your “build now – pay later” approach. You don’t have to leave our island to find leadership willing to make those mistakes.
    Your claim “Increasing density reduces the traffic generated per household. “ is unsubstantiated. Even though you realize that “Overall traffic still goes up, but by a smaller amount that it would have if the same number of people had been spread out over a wider area.” In other words adding high density in areas already suffering with a traffic problem will exacerbate the environmental problem. This is clearly a negative effect.
    You ask “Can you at least accept the objective fact that low-density development is less environmentally friendly than denser development?” That is a large question, I can’t say absolutely no. The problem is that people cause pollution. It is absolutely regrettable that environmental problems had to get so bad before intelligent action can be motivated, yet still today greed overrides responsible action. At one time Ford was the leader in the electric car race, need I say more?
    For environmentally neutral development I think we would have high density, and low numbers, and we would be living in a “domed environment” – not a practical target for dealing with life on our planet. Getting back to your question – I think high density development – life in tall buildings – breeds neglect of environment because of the diminished role of nature. Residential neighborhoods naturally evolved because of ‘human nature’ – to be close, but not to close to others. Family and community gardens provide an important relationship to the planet.
    It has been pointed out ad nausium that mass transit systems cannot not support themselves – that the fairbox usually provides only about 20% of needed funds. Yet most “Transportation Commissions still support busses. Let’s look at Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission who sponsored the research you have been quoting.
    I was mistaken. The Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission is not a bus company. However the Santa Cruz Metropolitan Transit District is ‘the’ bus company for the Santa Cruz area. For years I always had a monthly bus pass with them. It was the efficient model for me as a single person. This was true when I lived in the hills above Ben Lomand (very rural) or downtown Santa Cruz, Aptos or Capitola. (urban centers)
    However SCMT, the ‘bus company’ is the major player of the SCCRTC
    Founded in 1972, the RTC has twelve voting members:
    • All five members of the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors
    • One member from each of the four incorporated cities in the county
    • Three members appointed by Board of the Santa Cruz Metropolitan Transit District Directors
    You see, the bus company is the only company involved on the Transportation Commission.
    For some unnamed reason it seems that “Transit Commissions” always are in favor of high density and continued growth. Could it be that the commissions are driven by the bus companies? Could it be the commissions are started and filled by development friendly sponsors?
    Most buses have such low rider ship, SOVS may be more earth friendly, but the bigger question is “SOV or HOV – Why are we still driving such polluting vehicles?” That should be your question – my question is still about the location of development.
    Yet transportation pollution is only one of a myriad of issues concerning development –where it should be allowed and what density should be allowed in a given area. It seems silly to me to ignore the fact that overall quality of life must be preserved. In that regard your issue of transportation pollution is a single small piece of the puzzle. Hopefully planners are now doing a better job with the new communities being built outside of the Bay Area.

    Comment by D. Kirwin — March 22, 2007 @ 11:08 pm

  80. DK,

    Stepping back from the edge for a second, where are the “Other regions have planned better for handling traffic and have not reached limits of reasonable traffic density and that is where development should continue?”

    Comment by johnknoxwhite — March 23, 2007 @ 1:07 pm

  81. JKW-
    Check out all the developing areas of the Central Valley. Area outside Modest, Tracy, Patterson, Turlock, Diablo Grande…

    Yes they are building much wider roads to handle future local traffic. They are not widening freeways which might lead one to suspect they plan to be rather independent communities, not extensions of the Bay Area. Sadly I report I know of no preplanning of light rail or ultra light rail, so they seem to be only supporting wheeled transportation.

    Comment by David Kirwin — March 23, 2007 @ 2:25 pm

  82. Mark,

    Regarding post #74 – I never called anybody idiotic; in post #71 I referred to MK’s (post #68) opinion as idiotic – There is a big difference – I am challenging his ideas not attacking him. I apologize if you think that was uncalled for (like my questioning him about what was slipped in his Kool-aid, or what he was smoking when he was misrepresenting my statements to ridiculous levels. All of that is unproductive.

    In #74 you say I did not offer an opinion on handling global population problems – please check near the beginning of the discussion on density in post #34.

    I really think it takes new development in newer, less populated areas to plan to meet the challenges of transportation and energy usage, effects on the planet etc.

    In the Bay Area and in Alameda we are stuck with the infrastructure we have. I advocate that we realize our limitations; it is too late to start over. We can do better in the future, but perhaps not here in Alameda or the Bay Area. I had hopes for UWI because they were planning solutions prior to development. With Catellus we will have more of the same like at the Alameda Landing – We will figure out traffic solutions after the development. Then all we can do will be limited mitigations and who will pay for them and what will we need to give up to fund the mitigations? Park services, more bond debt, more limits of future general fund money?

    I would appreciate a continued debate, but not if I am attacked. (please attack my ideas – we can all learn from that) Please also don’t misrepresent what I am saying – I don’t appreciate having bad ideas attributed to my name.

    With this in mind this can be a useful blog although this thread is getting long.

    Comment by David Kirwin — March 23, 2007 @ 2:26 pm

  83. DK,

    I’m not advocating we all call each other names every at opportunity, but emotions ebb and flow with the debate and I can abide by people loosing it once in a while. I can take it and I can dish it out.

    A recent post of yours started with “Idiotic Mark”. I don’t care Dave, but I believe that was you calling me idiotic. I’m not complaining about being called idiotic, just asking you for some consistency or maybe to focus on the merits of the debate and to get a thicker skin. Frankly, at times it’s hard to separate a person from their point of view when assailing the latter.

    I will simply fall back on, “if you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen.” So if your standard is never call people names, then don’t do it yourself. My credo might be: be human, try to be consistent, but be accountable.

    Comment by Mark — March 23, 2007 @ 2:50 pm

  84. Sorry Mark, The only time I can find that I used the term “idiotic” was to MK – “I disagree – we have plenty of roads, but we have been adding too much traffic to them. Your opinion that adding density will reduce traffic is idiotic, but that is beside the point.” Please show me where if in fact I called you names. Even if you can’t – .I apologize if I did.

    Comment by D. Kirwin — March 23, 2007 @ 4:27 pm

  85. That would be your post #7 in “Brr its cold in here”
    But instead of name calling, I think the crime here was theft of a comma. If office depot has a sale on them(commas) I’ll bring you a few extra this weekend.

    Comment by notadave — March 23, 2007 @ 7:06 pm

  86. Mr. Kirwin, I believe Mark is referring to comment #7 on the “Brr, it’s cold in here . . .” post.

    I agree that this thread is getting long and far from the original topic. I am still interested in a debate about development and the environment, and I would like to respond to your comment #79 in more detail if I have a chance.

    I’ll say for now that the point of my thought experiment was to take your ideas to their logical conclusion, which, I believe, is sprawl. I did not mean to put words in your mouth, but I am sorry that it appeared that way.

    You, too, have taken my ideas to what you believe is their logical conclusion, which involves things like “tall buildings” and “higher crime rates.” I don’t agree with that conclusion any more than you agree with mine, but that is part of debate. If we agreed on everything, it wouldn’t be much of a debate, would it?

    Perhaps our host would be interested in a new post that could provide a forum for continuing this discussion.

    Comment by Michael Krueger — March 23, 2007 @ 7:07 pm

  87. MK
    1.- Although I do believe high density does lead to increased crime rates you were first to bring it up on this thread, I don’t remember bringing it up in this discussion. (and could not find such reference checking above.) Maybe taxpayers funding empty double length busses to drive around empty is a crime that should be addressed. Really I am very supportive of mass transit; but I also believe we need vans and smaller busses to meet realistic environmental and financial goals.

    2. Are you now implying increasing Bay Area density does not include tall buildings?

    Nowhere have I distorted your arguments to absurdity as you have been doing to mine in this thread.

    Comment by D. Kirwin — March 24, 2007 @ 12:02 am

  88. DK,

    You’ve written the following on this thread:

    “it is inherently dishonest to continue to misrepresent what I say,”

    “I never said I am for “sprawl” over high density.”

    “Check out all the developing areas of the Central Valley. Area outside Modest[o], Tracy, Patterson, Turlock, Diablo Grande”

    Every location you list is Sprawl, starting with your general qualifier “The central Valley.” They are the very definition of “Sprawl.”

    Further, these are not locations that have planned for needed traffic capacity, they have been fighting for new freeways and infrastructure because of the overdevelopment and lack of freeway infrastructure to support it. Anyone who has traveled to Yosemite, Bear Valley, Big Trees, etc. knows what happens when you hit Tracy. Traffic stops.

    Richard Pombo, great environmentalist as he was, fought consistently for funding for freeway widening and new freeways because of the troubles they are having in the central valley.

    It would seem that MK’s extrapolation of your arguments to a “logical conclusion” were dead-on, as your own specific examples of what you are “for” is creating sprawling development.

    By the way, the traffic on 880, 580, 680, where do you think a lot of it comes from? With the sprawling development you encourage driving, as transit (rail, whatever) options become impossible. Stopping all growth in the inner-bay area does nothing to alleviate traffic problems, it exacerbates it.

    Look at Walnut Creek, as it’s become a bigger hub for commerce, traffic in the “reverse commute” direction has become so bad that we are building a hugely expensive fourth-bore in the Caldecott tunnel. To alleviate traffic in the opposite direction. State 1B transportation bonds are funding massive highway expansion in the central valley to deal with the “well planned” transportation in that area.

    (Some complain about $30 million for a theater and it’s non-existent effect on education spending in Alameda, look at what actually happens when you leverage bonds with repayments from the state general fund to the tune of $64 Billion over 30 years, that is money that is directly removed from education.)

    Comment by johnknoxwhite — March 25, 2007 @ 9:13 am

  89. Hey John,
    You made some very valid points. I also believe urban sprawl is a big problem which need to be addressed. My best friend boss drives each day from Modesto to San Mateo…such a crime. She has 3 children who never see her. I work with a guy who drives 75 miles each way and gets home just in time to see his kids before they go to bed.

    Smart growth as I see it has building housing close to transportation hubs or moving work centers out to housing hubs sort of speak. There needs to be multi-unit housing built in Alameda. That is due to our location. 11 miles from SF, 3 miles to Oakland, 10? miles to Walnut Creek, Close to Hayward and Fremont…people need to have places to live close to where they work.

    As the price of gas goes up this might be a by-product.

    Comment by Joel — March 25, 2007 @ 9:55 am

  90. DK,

    On “idiotic”, no apology necessary because in context it wasn’t offensive to me, but to be civil and done with it, I accept since you offer. I think that selective memory about things said is somehow more bothersome.

    To move on, I was just thinking that your rejection of density is sort of akin to the U.S. rejecting the Kyoto Treaty because it doesn’t include China and India.

    Kyoto calls for an equal percentage roll back of emission levels. We have to give up more because we pollute more, but in the end we will still have the vastly higher standard of living.

    Per capita, China and India don’t pollute as much as we do, but their over all potential to pollute is huge, so the U.S. says it won’t play the game if they aren’t included, as if we are completely equal in every way, including standard of living.

    An analogy could get confusing if the comparison is based on even distribution, because then we would want equal density everywhere, as if there were no tangential conflicts related to how much space we have. And if we in the city are densest now, why should the solution be that we need be even denser? Right?

    Wrong. The answer is that we who enjoy our tree lined streets and access by proximity to urban amenities, (and in our case also have hugely valuable undeveloped space right next door), must make some relative sacrifice to help maintain some equilibrium in the larger context of development and transportation. This quickly extends from the local to global.

    China and India should be entitled to higher standards of living, but can we expect the world to sustain them having our high standard of living? I don’t think so. That is why Kyoto leaves them out for the moment. It’s not like they are supposed to be unaccountable, it’s just that the playing field is so skewed and Kyoto is a crude enough instrument, that it doesn’t make sense to impose it on them for now.

    We in Alameda, and places like it, have it really good, by most measures, global and otherwise. No Minnesota winters! No acres of Shanghai towers. It seems selfish to me to expect to maintain every aspect of our standards of living unscathed while everybody else around us has to adjust to increasingly difficult conditions locally on up to globally, as the world population increases and resources dwindle.

    Comment by Mark — March 25, 2007 @ 10:48 am

  91. I hope it’s abundantly clear that I don’t think we are entitled to our high living standards either.

    Comment by Mark — March 25, 2007 @ 10:54 am

  92. That is actually my point exactly!!
    These presently developing areas will continue to be their own growth centers of commerce, entertainment and residential density. Despite the fact we all know somebody with a long commute, people want to commute less. These developing areas should be buildin-in the traffic infrastructure for the future. Where are the electric rail systems that would be the “Transit Hubs” for the future? Because as you point out, high density only increases the percentage of transit users, so these developing areas should be building to meet the planed needs. In Alameda, the increased transit users with added high density would grow from what percentage to what? From 8 – 12% to 12 – 18%?. That’s a significant increase. But what about the balance of the added population?

    Any increasing of local density will put over 80% of the new population on already overburdened commute roads. Is this your solution to local environmental and safety concerns? Isn’t it better for government to require positive planning in areas that are not already fully developed? Let’s say you want to increase density in Alameda – doesn’t it make sense to first provide the transportation solution?

    Adding 80% or more of new residents to the transportation problem is obviously not a solution. That is what it sounds like you want to do however. I may be wrong. I may be misunderstanding your thoughts for population growth, increased density and dealing with the issue of traffic alone. (We can discuss the effects of increased density on the education system, crime, open spaces, and public support systems on other threads.)

    The human race seems to have always developed along our transportation systems – whether it was towns popping up along the interstate highways, along the railroads, next to shipping harbors, or even ancient caravan routes. Why expect that to change? If we understand the importance of transportation, why aren’t we building the transportation solution into the growth instead of as an afterthought that we cannot accomplish?

    That is why I have repeatedly said “since we have developed this region beyond reasonable traffic considerations, we should stop increasing density. Other regions have planned better for handling traffic and have not reached limits of reasonable traffic density and that is where development should continue. Do you agree or disagree?”

    If your point is that these other developing areas have not planned well either – I will say you may be right, but they have the potential ability to do so before they are at population-transportation capacity. Perhaps those are the areas where ideas like CYBERTRAN should focus, before it is too late there too.

    Comment by D. Kirwin — March 25, 2007 @ 1:21 pm

  93. Mark,

    If you can figure out a way to get around the fact that Alameda is an island and the transportation problem with Alameda Landing and Point development is getting on & off the island – if you figure out a solution to that – I may be in a position to agree that perhaps the point should have higher density development.

    I too agree with your point that we the USA should lower our expectations and standards towards a universally sustainable level. It will take generations, but that is no reason to not start. Mc Mansions therefore are not part of my vision either.

    Comment by D. Kirwin — March 25, 2007 @ 1:29 pm

  94. One solution is build business that keep people on the island.

    As the gas goes up, I notice more people on the fairies. Maybe raise gas tax more so people ride public transportation. Use the extra revenue to put in place more public transportation…such as Bart extensions. Parking lots at Bart. More Fairies…buses…perhaps cybertrains. The new water taxi idea to Jack London is a solution.

    It would be nice if all 200 employees at Cliff bar would purchase houses in Alameda…I would love to work in Alameda. …maybe I will apply for a job at Cliff bar…once they are here. I have sent my resume to several companies here.

    It also would be nice to have stores in Alameda which I could shop. I think the Theatre will help and hopefully another new grocery store on the base. I think we already have drug stores covered. Hopefully Alameda Landing will hit some of the uncovered market.

    Alameda needs a mix of housing in order to obtain this…something for the corporate executives down to the clerks at Walgreen’s.

    I know a lot of people think Bayport as Mc Mansions but it is not all huge houses. We have an Apartment complex on the site and house ranging from 1500?-3750 sq ft. No different than some of the other parts of Alameda. The biggest house on the outside are actually duplexes.

    Alameda already has some little bunlos but

    Comment by Joel — March 25, 2007 @ 2:38 pm

  95. sorry wasn’t done his wrong button trying to backspace …bungalows…but no one wants them we went into one for $600k and it needed a lot of work, 1 bedroom, no yard, probably 600 sq ft if that. I don’t know if it sold but someone probably bought it.

    Comment by Joel — March 25, 2007 @ 2:43 pm

  96. DK,

    you appear to be describing LA, high density growth at regional centers connected by roads and trains. (growth that followed existing available traffic capacity) I’m not sure I’m convinced that this pattern of growth worked out in the transportation realm.

    Comment by johnknoxwhite — March 25, 2007 @ 5:27 pm

  97. Mr. Kirwin, I would like to respond to the issues you raised in comment #87.

    First, you were, in fact, the first one to bring up crime rates in comments on this post, in comment #34:

    I continually see places like Berkely who have grown so much recently and now have much higher crime rates, much worse roads, more suffering retailers, a city who said they could not afford to clean out the storm drains last years despite the flooding of some businesses.

    I find it hard to understand why this “density causes crime” argument keeps resurfacing, despite the evidence Ms. Do and I have presented to the contrary.

    Anyway, I don’t want to get side-tracked on a second debate here, but smaller buses are not the silver bullet that so many people seem to think they are, for a number of reasons that I would be happy to discuss on another occasion. Also, I can assure you that most of the buses running through the tubes — a point of special concern for many Alamedans — are quite full and doing an excellent job of moving more people in fewer vehicles. A number of Alameda’s lines are among the best-performing ones in the AC Transit system.

    Although some people tend to fixate on the “empty buses” (and conveniently overlook the full ones), transit must always be considered as a system. That nearly empty bus late in the evening may have been what allowed those riders to take another, fuller bus that same morning. If the evening run had been cut altogether, those folks might have been forced to drive for both trips, thereby increasing congestion during the crucial morning rush.

    Finally, it is possible to have density without “tall buildings,” by which I assume you mean skyscrapers or high rises. Yes, it is possible to have a city dense enough to support good transit without any high rises. For example, Vienna, Austria is a very dense city with excellent public transportation, yet the vast majority of its buildings are five stories or fewer. In addition to public parks, courtyards and terraces provide open space for residents. This “Low Rise – High Density” development pattern, which has been the subject of academic research, helps combat sprawl without sacrificing quality of life.

    One needn’t travel abroad to find other examples of density without high rises. The Santa Clara Avenue transit corridor right here in Alameda is already dense enough to support frequent service along our segment of Line 51, AC Transit’s most heavily used line. In other words, transit works on Santa Clara Avenue, despite the complete absence of what most people would consider “tall buildings.”

    Comment by Michael Krueger — March 25, 2007 @ 5:47 pm

  98. JKW – Is your preference to continue to build without a traffic solution?

    I am certainly not intending to describe LA. I don’t know the best solution, but continuing the pattern we are now following in Alameda and the entire Bay Area has been making the problem worse for decades. How do we establish a realistic limit? (IMHO we have already exceeded it) What do we do when we reach that limit? How should ABAG encourage further population increases to migrate to better prepared areas? How do we better prepare those areas? Why do the traffic commissions want to continue to make the traffic problem worse? Why does ABAG encourage making the traffic issue worse?

    Comment by D. Kirwin — March 25, 2007 @ 5:59 pm

  99. DK,

    First, what traffic commissions are you talking about? Second, how do they make things worse?

    (By the way the “bus company” you refer to in the above Santa Cruz example, is a publicly run transit system, not a private company.)

    Second, where does ABAG encourage further population increases or making traffic worse? ABAG has absolutely nothing to do with how many people live in the Bay Area. That’s a choice that people make.

    The projected increases are not “encouragement” they are expectations of what’s going to happen. ABAG tries to find a way to come up with way to equitably accomodate the needed housing so that some cities (say Atherton or Alameda) don’t say “no more housing” necessitating other communities (say oakland or San Leandro) have to accomodate them.

    The people are coming. It’s how we deal with them that matters.

    Comment by johnknoxwhite — March 25, 2007 @ 6:42 pm

  100. Answer to your question re: build without a traffic solution….I don’t understand what you’re asking.

    Personally, I think the city should be a lot more aggressive in reducing the number of auto trips generated by new developments and encouraging reductions in existing households. I support mitigating traffic wholly.

    The problem is, the same people who want all building to have no traffic impacts tend to hold the same “get real” philosophy about the need to fully accommodate all “possible” auto trips which are conflicting positions. A more “honest” (and I’m calling no one a liar) approach would to be against all development everywhere (which apparently you are, so thanks for the consistency).

    What I see in your arguments above is a desire to have zero impact on your own personal lifestyle (a valid viewpoint) and a hope at finding some development alternative that is both “green/sustainable” yet pushes all development to some “other” area.

    I understand the impulse, but I don’t think that its black and white like that. One can’t have it both ways (green but sprawling). There are difficult trade-offs.

    A quick, amusing, story, saw a friend over the weekend who’s colleague moved to Manhattan to do transportation planning. He got a job working on a downtown brooklyn project, and a crowd of people (in NYC) came out and started yelling about them trying to turn the area into Manhattan. Apparently, no matter where you live, no matter whether you’re the 16th largest city (out of 101) in the bay area (alameda) or the 5th largest city in the country (Brooklyn) any growth is turning your beloved city into Manhattan.

    Comment by johnknoxwhite — March 25, 2007 @ 6:53 pm

  101. Mr. Kirwin, as Mr. Knox White pointed out in comment #88, it’s not exactly a stretch to say that the logical conclusion of your ideas is sprawl, despite the fact that you claim not to support sprawl. I also find it strange that you have such a strong reaction against purely hypothetical scenarios like my thought experiment, yet you have no problem extrapolating my ideas to a “domed environment” straight out of science fiction, or spinning a yarn (in comment #79) about corrupt transportation commissions beholden to bus companies, all without a shred of evidence. You claim (in comment #76) not to have the free time to do any research. Well, perhaps you could free up some valuable time by sparing us the conspiracy theories.

    Speaking of precious time, in comment #61 you wrote the following:

    What is the value of our time — priceless if we so seldom get out of town? Do you know anyone who factors intangible costs? If so many buses should stop running too — I see lots of empty or near empty busses on the roads at much higher environmental costs.

    Those are just some of the reasons mass transit has little success.

    For someone who claims to be “very supportive of mass transit” (comment #87), you certainly have a strange way of showing it. You were able to give a number of reasons why transit won’t work for you, here in the heart of the Bay Area’s urban core. However, if transit doesn’t work for you here, what makes you think it is going to work for the good folks in the Central Valley? If it’s not cost-effective to run buses here, where we already have more than enough density to support them, what makes you think it will be cost-effective to build light rail lines through the sparsely populated sprawling exurbs? Wouldn’t that be an even bigger “crime” (as you called it in comment #87) against the taxpayers?

    I do agree that transportation infrastructure should be in place when a new development opens. When I used the phrase “planned right along with new development” in comment #78, I did not mean to say that plans alone should be made, without actually building anything. I really meant “planned and deployed either before or right along with new development.” The point is that the infrastructure needs to be built and the operations funding needs to be in place on “day one.” I don’t think it really matters whether it is available before or simultaneously with the opening of the development, but I agree that it should not be postponed until “later on, once the developers have made their money and pulled out.” I am sorry if that was not clear.

    However, upholding the principle of having transit in place on “day one” of any new development does not preclude making transit improvements in already built-up areas. Why should we spend scarce transit dollars building light rail in the Central Valley when similar investments here in the urban core of the Bay Area would have a much higher social and environmental return? Should we give up the opportunity to build such systems if doing so would also involve some infill development along the line? Mr. Kirwin, you seem to suggest that we should refuse such an investment because the Bay Area is already “too dense” . . . or have I misunderstood your position?

    Comment by Michael Krueger — March 25, 2007 @ 8:55 pm

  102. JKW response to #99:

    If you let them, they will come.. We still don’t have the infrastructure to support them… (them being the results of continued growth as in your post)

    This discussion is going around like a merry-go-round in a bad dream.

    Who cares who owns the bus company that drives the transportation commission in Santa Cruz?

    We obviously have different opinions on how much growth is sustainable. You on the transportation commission support higher density growth in Alameda and the Bay Area which compounds our traffic problems.

    I, on the roads, say enough already – our roadways are full. Your “solutions” are making the problems worse.

    My wife has the luxury of not having to leave Alameda for work, but she can recognize the increasing traffic problems here. Between shuttling kids, getting to work and shopping, she also lacks the luxury of time to enjoy a series of bus rides to meet her responsibilities.

    You fail to accept that we have traffic problems and instead want to substantially increase the number of vehicles on our roads to increase island density. Your argument that the new high density development will only put about 80 -85% of the new households in SOV’s falls flat for mitigating our existing traffic problems. I f you don’t admit we have a traffic problem; you obviously wouldn’t be able to solve it.

    BTW are there really 101 cities in the Bay Area?
    By “tall” buildings; I think 4-5 stories is tall – “sky scrapers” are far taller than “very tall”

    Comment by D. Kirwin — March 25, 2007 @ 10:54 pm

  103. Mr. Kirwin, you speak of the members of the Transportation Commission as if we are not users of Alameda’s streets and roads. I realize this will be a real blow to your conspiracy theory, but we were not issued personal jet packs or teleporters when we were sworn in.

    All of us on the Transportation Commission use the roads, just like you. Some of us take transit and ride bicycles on a regular basis, but all of us walk and all of us drive, albeit in varying amounts. One member is fond of reminding the commission that his preferred mode of transportation is a “big ol’ American car.”

    In comment #52 you spoke of the need to think globally and act locally, but when it comes to actions that could make a real difference, like taking public transportation for more trips, you claim that you and your family do not have “the luxury of time to enjoy a series of bus rides.” I am not suggesting you and your family should take the bus for every trip, but might it not be possible to take it a little more often than you do now? If everyone were able to walk, bicycle, and take transit for just a few more trips, it would not only help the environment, but also help build political support for the measures required to make these modes safer, faster, and more convenient.

    I agree that quality of life must not be overlooked when attempting to solve transportation and environmental problems. I simply do not believe quality of life is defined in terms of traffic congestion.

    The fact is that if we are not willing to restrict travel (as Beijing has done) or charge people for driving into congested areas (as London has done), then traffic congestion will always be with us, no matter how many restrictions we place on development. Even building an excellent transit system will not eliminate congestion, as one can see in many major cities around the world.

    The key is to re-focus on personal mobility rather than automotive mobility. I apologize for repeatedly bringing up Vienna, but our trip there made a profound impression on my wife and me. Despite the fact that the city suffers from chronic traffic congestion, we were able to get around with ease, on foot and by public transit. Unlike our experiences with transit in the United States, which all too often makes one feel inconvenienced and powerless, we felt unhindered and empowered. The advertising slogan of the Vienna transit agency at the time was, “The city belongs to you,” and that’s exactly how it felt to ride their excellent system.

    I’m not suggesting that Alameda can or should be transformed into Vienna, but I am suggesting that if we focus on improving conditions for walking, bicycling, and public transportation, we can give our citizens mobility despite regional and even local traffic congestion.

    If people insist that we must eliminate traffic congestion, we should talk seriously about congestion charging, an issue council candidate Mike Rich raised during his campaign. If that solution seems unacceptable, and assuming Beijing-style travel restrictions are a non-starter, then I suggest we start learning how to live high-quality lives despite traffic congestion.

    On that note, I would like to suggest that any further comments on this topic be attached to the new post “L.A. traffic with the Oakland crime rate, part 1.” It would be nice to close out this marathon thread without mentioning either Nazis or puppies on the freeway.

    Comment by Michael Krueger — March 26, 2007 @ 10:53 am

  104. MK,

    I had heard from people who have been to China that the huge swarms of bicycles in Beijing are a thing of the past, as a Chinese middle class is growing and the desire to adopt American style automobile habits increases. I hadn’t heard of the travel restrictions, just the single child policy. Can you verify the decrease in bikes and elaborate on restrictions, please?

    Comment by Mark — March 26, 2007 @ 1:41 pm

  105. Mark, let’s take it over to “L.A. traffic with the Oakland crime rate, part 1”; I’ll reply there.

    Comment by Michael Krueger — March 26, 2007 @ 2:06 pm

  106. MK – it sounds to me like you think the burden of allowing increasing density should fall solely on the residents of the community.

    Don’t the residents of the community have the rights as U.S. citizens (that maybe they don’t enjoy in China or elsewhere) to create laws to protect the quality of life in their community? Like Measure A for example.

    You seem to have a problem with citizens wanting to protect where they live. As I look around I see bigger and growing social problems when density is compacted in the kinds of towns and cities we have in the bay area. I am not against designing a better way – but encourage it to be done where “what already is” is not an impediment to the kind of non-LA sprawl-less density you envision. I have to say I have no idea of what your vision is – I may like it -Why don’t you try to articulate what you mean.

    While you are at it, if you have time you and Lauren could also express more clearly what your “picture” for Alameda is too.

    Comment by David Kirwin — March 26, 2007 @ 2:44 pm

  107. Mr. Kirwin, please, let’s take the discussion over to the “L.A. traffic with the Oakland crime rate, part 1” post.

    Comment by Michael Krueger — March 26, 2007 @ 2:52 pm

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