Blogging Bayport Alameda

November 21, 2008

North Housing by Northwest

Filed under: Alameda, Alameda Point, Development, Public Resources — Tags: , , — Lauren Do @ 7:00 am


After about a year and a month later the North Village Housing has entered into its public meeting phase after five organizations submitted either (1) public benefit coveyance requests or (2) homeless accomodation requests as required by law for this land that the Navy declared as surplus.   On Monday there will be a public meeting (the second of two, I missed talking about and attending the first one because of the election) to discuss and give input about the plan.  

In the graphic above I have labelled in maroon what is around the site to better orient folks to what is currently already there or also proposed to be there.   The North Housing parcel is basically everything around that wonky sort of loop and spreads out over 42 acres.

So, as I mentioned above five requests were put in, three for homeless accomodations (see link to Navy Surplus in Store postfor background) and two for public benefit conveyances (PBC).  Here is a memo to the ARRAabout what the conclusion of Evaluation Committee was.  I’ll talk about the PBC ones first because they are less complicated.  

The first is a PBC requested by the City of Alameda for eight acres to use as park space.   The Evaluation Committee recommended submitting this proposal to the Department of Interior (remember that PBCs need sponsoring Federal agencies).   In looking at the map, the land that the City probably wants is that big swath of open space at the northern part, I believe this is called Estuary Park and has been the subject of discussion by the Council previously.   However the Evaluation Committee (EC) recommended that perhaps the park be relocated in order to better serve the future residents of that area.   Not a bad idea since the intention would not be to preserve the majority of the housing onsite but rather to tear down and rebuild, with the exception of PBC request number two from Habitat for Humanity.

The Habitat for Humanity request was recommended for submission to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for sponsorship.  Habitat for Humanity would either renovate 20-32 of the existing units or build 20-30 duet style homes (a la the Buena Vista development) or a combination of the two. 

So those two combined would take around 10 -12 acres I would guess.  Eight as requested by the City of Alameda for park use and I’m generously attributing 2 – 4 acres for the Habitat for Humanity proposal.

The next set of proposals are under the Homeless accomodations requests, three were submitted, two made it past the first round which was just to determine that it was a “homeless accomodation” and only one made it through the EC.  The three proposals were:

  1. Joint proposal from Alameda Point Collaborative (APC) and Building Futures for Women and Children (BFWC, they run Midway Shelter) to rehab five exisiting buildings to relocate Midway Shelter, provide a multi-service center and job training site.
  2. Joint proposal from City of Alameda Housing Authority, APC and BFWC to construct 120 units of permanent supportive housing (PSH) which would include a community center and management offices.
  3. East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation (EBALDC) to rehab 11 existing buildings to create 88 permanently affordable rental units, 18 set aside for homeless families.

The EBALDC proposal was rejected because it was not considered a homeless accomodation project, see letter that starts on page 13 of the reader.   The EC did not recommend moving forward with proposal number one (shelter, multi-service center, job training) saying that there wasn’t a clear need for a new shelter site, the multi-service center would be better located where there were more services such as retail, and the job training site could be accomodated with the PSH proposal rather than as a separate accomodation.

So the only homeless accomodation request recommended by the EC was number 2 above with modifications.   The EC recommended that because that the final project be no more than 90 units covering 9 acres because of the 25% inclusionary zoning requirement for future redevelopment projects.  

And even with the other PBC (10-12 acres) and this proposal (9) acres there is still half of the North Housing parcel that is unclaimed.   What happens to this land you may be asking?   Well, it goes to auction.  Guesses to who might be interested in said land?   Well, if I were Catellus (Alameda Landing) or SunCal (Alameda Point) certainly that parcel would be mighty attractive.

The final public hearing before the City Council sitting as the ARRA is scheduled for December 3rd.

As an aside, a Homeless Needs Assessment was created as part of this process, which is a pretty interesting read in itself, the eight main needs in order of priority are (taken directly from the assessment):

  1. Permanent Supportive Housing—There is a need for…housing designed for individuals, such as single-room occupancy facilities and housing for couples and small families…more diverse housing configuration types than the typical three and four bedroom single-family homes located at Alameda Point.
  2. Protection of Existing Affordable Housing Stock…
  3. Access to Basic Amenities—Homeless, sheltered, and formerly homeless individuals need access to transitional and supportive housing sites that are close to services and other retail establishments providing basic amenities, such as groceries, clothing, and toiletries…
  4. Transportation…Homeless, sheltered, and formerly homeless people need to get to jobs, training, medical appointments, grocery stores, pharmacies, and other destinations to attend to their daily needs. Many felt the isolated location of Alameda Point created special challenges in regards to mobility, and many felt the area was underserved by public transportation.
  5. Educational Opportunities—Education and training, including basic life skills, such as childcare, nutrition, cooking, and establishing and managing a household budget…
  6. Programs for Children and Young Adults…
  7. Economic Opportunities… including technical training for sustainable
  8. Mentoring—Mentoring programs that establish connections to the community…

But the Needs Assessment is largely another topic for another day.   Personally I think that the EC did an okay job at balancing out the proposals with other factors such as community needs and interests, etc… and so forth.   I think where some folks on the City Council sitting as the ARRA will get hung up is the fact that even joint proposal from the Housing Authority, APC, and BFWC proposes to not save the existing structures and instead that they will construct entirely new units.  Probably because they want to have some PSH units for individuals and the units are all 3 to 4 bedrooms which would be impractical for an individual, and besides, those units are probably so seriously dilapidated they are might not even be salvageable.  

But there are Councilmembers (coughdougdehaancoughfrankmatarresecough) that are fixated on reuse.   While I think that reuse is always a laudable first goal sometimes there are somethings that simply are not worth saving especially if it would cost more to rehabilitate it and not be suitable for the population.

If you are interested, Monday, November 24, 7:00 p.m. City Hall, it says City Council Chambers but there is a Planning Board meeting scheduled at the same time, so I’m not sure which meeting gets bumped.


PBC = Public Benefit Conveyance
EC = Evaluation Committee
APC = Alameda Point Collaborative
BFWC = Building Futures for Women and Children
EBALDC = East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation
PSH = Permanent Supportive Housing
ARRA = Alameda Reuse and Redevelopment Authority (City Council)



  1. Yeah … let’s spend MORE money on people who contribute nothing to the community and who pay no taxes. And, we can impose ANOTHER parcel tax on homeowners to fund it! VIVA SOCIALISM 🙂

    Comment by Jeff R. Thomason — November 21, 2008 @ 8:07 am

  2. Too bad in this brave new world there isn’t a way for the hinterlands to be parceled out and each lot sold to the highest bidder like a good portion of Alameda was a couple centuries ago.

    Comment by Jack Richard — November 21, 2008 @ 8:55 am

  3. Jack,

    If part of it is actioned off and whoever is the highest bidder, can parcel it out…although some basic infrastructure work would probably have to be done.

    Comment by Gunter — November 22, 2008 @ 7:22 am

  4. The City Council, city staff and activists in Alameda all are simply delusional. There is going to be no financing for the SunCal/D.E. Shaw project in Alamada. They can write lots of hopes and dreams plans for projects, but without money, it won’t happen.

    Let’s look at the stark reality. There are now 30 SunCal entities in voluntary or involuntary bankruptcy. Last week SunCal’s press flak issued a rosy statement saying that an “undisclosed lender” was going to lend SunCal $75 Million to keep its formerly Lehman financed projects going. More cities were promised that money to pay development costs than that $75 Million could finance. Oakland, San Clemente, Bakersfield, you name a city, they were supposed to get the $75 Million.

    Then, there was a Reuters story that no mainstream U.S. newspaper bothered to print. That “mysterious” savior lender to SunCal was none other than D.E. Shaw & Co., the same “financial partner” involved in the Alameda project, which the city’s employees and consultants did such a half assed job vetting and tying down, to force them to fund the Alameda projects. However, it turned out that D. E. Shaw & Co. would not lend money to the bankrupt SunCal/Lehman entities unless D. E. Shaw & Co. would have a first mortgage on the properties. A request was made to Lehman’s bankruptcy judge in New York, to subordinate all of the lehman mortgages into second lien position, and he said “No. Not unless the guys running the bankrupt Lehman entities consent.” And the chances of that happening are zero since there is a blood feud going on in Orange County courts between the managers of bankrupt Lehman entities and the owner of SunCal.

    “Hedge funds” in New York, generally, are shrinking at a rapid rate, as their investors pull money out for safer territory. D. E. Shaw & Co. is being hammered by withdrawals like all of the other hedge funds. So why would D. E. Shaw & Co. even be thinking of lending $75 Million to SunCal for its Lehman related projects? To keep SunCal’s administrative structure from collapsing, and taking the Lehman/D. E. Shaw projects with it!!!

    Alameda City Council, staff and commission members, get your heads out of your assets. You need to summon SunCal and D. E. Shaw to Alameda, and require that they make a COMPLETE and PUBLIC presentation of how much money they have set aside for the Alamada projects alone. If it is not enough money, or if they won’t make that public presentation then you know the real story. The money “shown” to Alameda by D. E. Shaw & Co. isn’t “promised” or “guaranteed”. It may even be part of that same $75 Million which SunCal claimed was going to be used for the failed Lehman projects, at least until the NY Bankruptcy Court said no.

    If any of you geniuses in City government in Alameda bothered to read the Orange County bankruptcy court files in LBREP/L-SunCal Master I, LLC, you would see that Lehman’s real estate executives constructed a Ponzi scheme, suckering hundreds of contractors into doing millions of dollars of work for which there was no money to pay them. Lehman’s real estate executives were so slick, they even ripped off $22 Million from Lennar!

    And who is running D. E. Shaw’s real estate operations? A guy who was trained by these same Lehman real estate executives.

    Anyone who thinks there is any money to allow any part of this SunCal project in Alameda is going to get built is simply delusional. Stop wasting city employee time on this silliness!

    Comment by Alan from Alameda — November 22, 2008 @ 7:43 am

  5. Alan from Alameda is right, and I’ve been saying the same thing for a long time. When do the permabulls finally throw in the towel?

    Comment by Jack B. — November 22, 2008 @ 7:50 am

  6. # 3

    No Gunter, what I meant was, level all the structures, break the entire parcel now known as “North Housing into building lots and bid them out individually on the open market. You’re right about the infrastructure. North Housing’s infrastructure is probably in the same shape as East Housing’s was prior to Bayport, in other words, bad. But then, sewer, power (minus cable), water and streets are what cities are formed for. It’s only recently those obligations have been shunted off for developers to build.

    Comment by Jack Richard — November 22, 2008 @ 9:28 am

  7. Jack’s idea would be efficient, easy to manage, and would, by far, generate the most revenue for the city … provided, of course, that the city didn’t committee everything to death.


    Comment by Jeff R. Thomason — November 22, 2008 @ 10:12 am

  8. But, in this new progressive society, the only say that citizens have in the present and future and even the past of their city is those few morsels leftover after all the PC do-gooders

    PBC = Public Benefit Conveyance
    EC = Evaluation Committee
    APC = Alameda Point Collaborative
    BFWC = Building Futures for Women and Children
    EBALDC = East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation
    PSH = Permanent Supportive Housing
    ARRA = Alameda Reuse and Redevelopment Authority (City Council)

    have picked the plate clean.

    Comment by Jack Richard — November 22, 2008 @ 10:28 am

  9. Jack,

    I totally agree with you, but you would be asking the City to do it, if they could get the parcels in the first place (as you know the Navy won’t do it). So then the City to be the Master Developer and take on all the risk and obligations, which I don’t think they are willing or have the expertise to do. That is the reason why projects such as this they usually bring in someone else to be the master developer. For a city to do this for a project this size, they would have to hire people with expertise, pay benefits, get funding and a year or so later after the parcels are sold, lay off the people they hired. They also may or may not get there money back…so they are also they are taking on the risk associated with the project. And who knows maybe one developer would buy all the parcels and you would be right back where you started. In a sense that is how Bayport worked. Catellus put in all the infrastructure and in a sense sold all the parcels to Warmington with approval from the city of the master plan. The city, Warmington, and Catellus all share in the profits. Catellus could have had more than one home builder as in some of there other projects? As you look at some of the other parts of the City the projects were not parceled out such as the Man who built all those houses on Union Street area (which he used a lot of shingles). You can drive down many streets in Alameda and see the same house next to each other with a little different or same facade…so even 100 or more years ago we had master developers in Alameda…blocks and blocks of them. Look at all the cottages at the end of San Antonio street.

    Comment by Gunter — November 22, 2008 @ 12:35 pm

  10. Here’s more info re: Lehman, SunCal, D.E. Shaw and the $75 mil from a article. (Scroll down to final paragraph.)

    “[Judge] Peck also denied a request from bankrupt California developer SunCal Cos to use cash collateral owned by Lehman to obtain bankruptcy financing. Lehman loaned the company about $2.3 billion prior to SunCal’s bankruptcy and the developer said it needs to access those funds to move ahead with a $75 million loan from D.E. Shaw Group & Co. Because Lehman is also bankrupt, SunCal said it was in a unique situation where it could not get access to the cash as it would be able to if it had a non-bankrupt lender. Peck said the relief SunCal sought could harm Lehman’s claim to the loan and collateral, but that SunCal could refile a more specific request later or try to negotiate something with Lehman”

    Comment by Susan — November 22, 2008 @ 4:05 pm

  11. Hmmm, that is an interesting idea Jack, especially if the Navy would allow the city to bond for $108M, or a reduced cost, if the city could promise green tech development in accordance to Obama’s plan.

    Even the full $108M is a whole lot less than the $700M+ bonds that SunCal requests of the city for infrastructure costs, which leaves SunCal Companies, (or their future partners, or new owners) with title to all the land instead of the City.

    Gunter, you are correct that many areas of our city have numerous adjoining parcels built by the same builders, or designed by the same architect, whether or not all the parcels were under the same ownership, but nowhere are such areas comparable in scale to the Point, Bayport, the Landing, Northern Waterfront, Harbor Bay, or the 60’s infill project of South Shore and the neighborhoods along Otis. That South shore project was a huge ordeal for the City, and by reviewing old newspapers I learned that the City approving members included some on the board of the lending institution helping to finance that project. I believe my old college professor was right when he said “Politics is the science of who gets what”, so I should not be surprised to learn about the appearance of corruption in that deal,. The angry citizens who formerly had water-front property were further aggravated when the promises of the developer also failed to materialize. They were promised that the lagoons would be at least 300 ft wide – I wonder what else the developers promised the city.

    Comment by David Kirwin — November 22, 2008 @ 4:56 pm

  12. The thing is Sun Cal may be fine as all these projects are started as a LLC (Limited Liability Corp). So they could be in trouble in one development but it doesn’t necessarily effect another development. Personally I think this is wrong, as a company which takes on risky ventures should be accountable for it even if it effects other venture on the company. SunCal or can be making tons of money in one venture and bankrupt in others but have no responsibility for them. So my point is they may be in a lot of trouble in a lot of there developments and still be able to move forward with Alameda Point, no problem.

    Comment by Gunter — November 22, 2008 @ 5:08 pm

  13. The crises going on now involving both the economy and the environment are unprecedented. That’s why the blase “business as usual” attitude baffles me — it’s clear that the factors affecting waterfront developments have changed drastically in recent years, and no one can predict what will happen next – literally no one.

    Here’s a link from Bloomberg re DE Shaw, dated 11/17/08:

    The largest funds, including those run by David Shaw, Kenneth Griffin and James Simons, reported smaller declines in their holdings. At Griffin’s Chicago-based Citadel Investment Group LLC, holdings listed on Citadel LP’s 13F fell 11 percent to $50.4 billion. Simons’s Renaissance Technologies LLC of East Setauket, New York, reported a 17 percent decline to $37.8 billion. At New York-based D.E. Shaw & Co., the filing showed a 20 percent decrease to $45.4 billion.

    This year has been the worst on record for hedge funds, with the average partnership losing 16 percent through October, according to data compiled by Hedge Fund Research Inc. Market losses and withdrawals may cut hedge-fund industry assets to about $1 trillion by the middle of next year, down almost 50 percent from their peak in June, said Tobias Levkovich, a Citigroup Inc. analyst, in a report yesterday.

    And here’s something from a BCDC report, re present and future developments close to sea level:

    Between 1900 and 2000, the level of the Bay increased by seven inches. Depending on which end of the range of projected temperature increases comes about, the California Climate Action Team found that water levels in San Fran-cisco Bay could rise an additional five inches to three feet, or nearly one meter by the end of this century. More recent analyses indicate that sea level rise from warming oceans may be 1.4 meters (about 55 inches) over the next 100 years, or even higher depending upon the rate at which glaciers and other ice sheets on land melt.

    The next areas that should be identified are: flood-prone areas where it may be more cost-effective to remove existing development than to protect low economic value structures; low-lying areas that are planned for development that has not yet been built where it may be more cost-effective to abandon these plans than to try to protect the new development from flooding; and undeveloped upland areas where marshes can migrate when sea levels rise. Making these choices will be difficult, particularly if the areas contain significant environmental, aesthetic, social, cultural or historic resources or where the removal would raise environmental justice issues.

    Comment by DL Morrison — November 22, 2008 @ 6:55 pm

  14. 13

    “… — it’s clear that the factors affecting waterfront developments have changed drastically in recent years, and no one can predict what will happen next – literally no one.”

    I think this observation is very telling. No one can predict what will happen but unless I’m reading you wrong you are predicting exactly what will happen. And that prediction relies on bureaucratic reports designed for and written with an agenda. Reminds me of the traffic report that proves less traffic through the tube with higher density at the Point.

    I don’t think it’s smart making policies based on probabilities. If we were to do so, what percentage of probabilities are we to make such policies based on? 90%? 70%? 50%? 25%? Is it the five inch prediction or the 55 inch rise in the Bay water table? Precisely what constitutes a projected probability? Should we only require 50% compliance with a policy that was enacted based on a 50% probability. Should those areas deemed probable flood prone be abandoned?

    I think there are plenty of good non-weegie board issues that argue against Point development.

    Comment by Jack Richard — November 22, 2008 @ 9:51 pm

  15. Actually, I’m not predicting “exactly”, but I’m saying there’s a great risk w/ building near sea level which is foolish to ignore. The current plan assumes an 18″ sea rise, and w/ that and predicted tidal surges, it assumes that most of the site is ~already~ a flood plain. So, as things stand right now, the site has to be filled in order to ~reach~ an elevation of at least five (5) feet. Looking at BCDC maps, I can see that part of the site is less than three (3) feet above sea level. Most scientific opinion is predicting that global warming will accelerate, and it’s clearly visible in photos of Greenland and the polar ice cap, meaning that sooner or later the ocean is going to reach and surpass the 18″ rise.

    I know you don’t agree w/ global warming, so I can only point to all the evidence and leave it at that. In rational terms I’d say, we have to factor this in. (I recall one presenter who explained that the site elevation had to be raised so the storm drains would work — well, I imagine so. Water doesn’t drain uphill.)

    Bear in mind that most of the people who so zealously support high-density development do so because they believe that it delays global warming. So it’s reasonable to say to proponents, “If you think the ocean is rising, then why would you want to build at sea level?”

    Personally, I think “sustainability” should include elevation above sea level in some form, and I think the smart growth proponents lose credibility over this.

    Comment by DL Morrison — November 23, 2008 @ 12:35 pm

  16. Addressing your statement further: “Should those areas deemed probable flood prone be abandoned?”

    Yes, they should be. People are accustomed to building on these (very desirable) sites, but times change. People used to dump toxic waste everywhere too, but we don’t continue doing that because it was done in the past.

    Comment by DL Morrison — November 23, 2008 @ 12:42 pm

  17. Correction: “very desirable” refers to water front sites in particular — not flood prone in general.

    Comment by DL Morrison — November 23, 2008 @ 12:44 pm

  18. 15
    “I know you don’t agree w/ global warming,..”

    Come on, anybody who thinks climate doesn’t change ignores reality. Based on your interpretation of why zealots support what you support (hifg density housing), the rest of Alameda should stack themselves up in high density at the Point and grow water wings. How on earth can someone believe in the sea level rising over 18 inches and still preach high density building at 18 inches above sea level unless they really believe the people buying are stupid?

    Comment by Jack Richard — November 23, 2008 @ 1:10 pm

  19. Those damn stupid Dutch – 300 years living below sea level. All those windmills, tulip farms and towns built below sea level – didnt anyone ever tell them about shady developers?

    Now I’m not saying rising sea levels aren’t a problem – I’m just saying there is a solution, if there is a will.

    Comment by Sidewinder — November 23, 2008 @ 2:45 pm

  20. 18: I think we’re agreeing here, tho clearly you don’t. I don’t think high density housing should be built at Alameda Point, or any place that by an objective assessment cannot accommodate it.

    I thought quoting BCDC was pretty reasonable, but apparently not(?). They’re saying in effect that future development in low-lying areas may not be advisable — fair enough.

    Comment by DL Morrison — November 23, 2008 @ 6:22 pm

  21. 20:I think where we disagree is that based on your BCDC you’d evacuate everybody from the Point if not from the Island. I’d let nature take its course.

    Comment by Jack Richard — November 23, 2008 @ 7:26 pm

  22. I think what BCDC is saying is pretty reasonable: if a site appears to be at high risk of flooding, don’t make future plans to build on it. This site in particular, AP, is very low lying and clearly at risk — in fact, it’s already been identified as a flood plain. That’s not the same as removing existing buildings(!).

    Comment by DL Morrison — November 23, 2008 @ 7:40 pm

  23. 22 :Seemed pretty stable the last ten thousand years. Now all of a sudden it’s going to disappear unless we have carbon offsets.

    Comment by Jack Richard — November 23, 2008 @ 9:34 pm

  24. Boy, when it comes to being a real old timer, you beat out practically everybody! 😀

    Comment by DL Morrison — November 23, 2008 @ 10:27 pm

  25. Sorry about the smiley face — I was aiming for the standard emoticon.

    Comment by DL Morrison — November 23, 2008 @ 10:29 pm

  26. #19 – How long can you tread water?

    What if we lack either the ‘will’ or the funding of the Dutch?

    Comment by David Kirwin — November 24, 2008 @ 6:22 am

  27. #23 – Who said the soil at the Point has been “stable the last ten thousand years?”

    Comment by dk — November 24, 2008 @ 6:26 am

  28. 27 Who said anything about soil? But since you mentioned soil, it’s probably been as stable as your points.

    Comment by Jack Richard — November 24, 2008 @ 8:24 am

  29. 14. Jack, lending institutions, bonding institutions, investment firms and insurance companies have been making policy on probabilities and that is why the economy is in the crapper. So, I would agree with you there… 🙂

    Thanks, folks, for the discussion on SunCal, Shaw, City Hall, et al. I have been sounding the bell for a while here myself, so I am glad to see others watching the house of cards fall.

    Comment by E T — November 24, 2008 @ 10:02 am

  30. #26 – Ding! “Noah!” “What?!?” “How long can you tread water?” – Bill Cosby

    If you have neither the will nor the funds … I hear Tracy is a pretty nice place to live.

    How much would you need? 10 billion? I don’t know. Do you really intend to built a 46 ft tall seawall?

    Comment by Sidewinder — November 24, 2008 @ 12:32 pm

  31. I think it was an appropriate suggestion not to build anything we can’t afford to protect.

    If rising seas are more than a vague possibility, (and it appears almost everyone is in agreement that it is a certainty), maybe we should NOT be spending 10’s of millions to plan on building an increased liability that will cost our City a billion $ or more (to allow SunCal’s plans), and that we can not afford to maintain or move.

    ..but about that ark….

    Comment by David Kirwin — November 24, 2008 @ 2:21 pm

  32. Find the old NAS on this map

    Comment by AlamedaNayTiff — November 24, 2008 @ 2:34 pm

  33. Clearly it was operating under a cloak of secrecy back then ANT.

    Comment by notadave — November 24, 2008 @ 2:52 pm

  34. That’s a cool map. Any idea where I could get a hard copy?

    Comment by dave — November 24, 2008 @ 2:57 pm

  35. #34

    I suppose you could print it in color ink. More cool Alameda maps are available on the same site.

    Also, the map room at UCB is a pretty incredible place.

    Comment by AlamedaNayTiff — November 24, 2008 @ 4:13 pm

  36. # 32
    Find the old south shore on it. I don’t see anybody wanting to raze the Centre.

    Comment by Jack Richard — November 24, 2008 @ 4:26 pm

  37. Jack,

    I don’t see anyone wanting to raze anything on this thread.

    You can’t possibly believe that if SouthShore did not exist today that building it tomorrow would be a popular idea. (Especially if it would cause traffic issues and cost the city $700M+ in bonds)

    Comment by David Kirwin — November 24, 2008 @ 5:01 pm

  38. Great stuff, ANT, thank you. I have a copy of the 1859 map, always looking for others. Maybe Santa Claus will come through…

    Comment by dave — November 24, 2008 @ 5:37 pm

  39. I will volunteer. Raze Southshore back into the bay!! and then raze the Harsch projects up in Hood River, Oregon (my old stompin’ ground).

    But I sure would miss Trader Joe’s.

    Comment by Jack B. — November 24, 2008 @ 5:53 pm

  40. Perhaps Trader Joe’s could trade for a more stable location. Personally, I wouldn’t buy landfill property — especially the old style unconsolidated type. I also don’t want to be on the hook for it as a taxpayer. I’m tired of paying for every misadventure that someone else cooks up.

    I don’t know how long Southshore or the old NAS will be around. Every time I drive down Otis the roadway continues to decline and the trees are more unhealthy. The Bay seems to have a strong desire to reclaim its former self.

    Comment by AlamedaNayTiff — November 24, 2008 @ 6:14 pm

  41. Loved the map; I never realized that the original wetlands were bordered by Webster and Eagle Streets. (Otaez may need to set up gondola Margarita deliveries in the future.) The wetlands, as depicted on the map, make me wish I could put on my hiking boots and teleport back to 1908.

    Comment by Susan — November 24, 2008 @ 8:26 pm

  42. I would love to look at those maps, but at the moment I can’t seem to get the site to open.

    I note that Stop, Drop & Roll has a posting today titled “Clearing the air on redevelopment debt” stating that:

    A quick email to the city’s finance and development services department confirmed that since redevelopment areas are governed by redevelopment agencies and not the city, they are therefore creatures of the state. The debt created for redevelopment is not actually a part of the city’s debt, and were the bonds defaulted on (something that has never happened in the state of California), the default would not affect city tax payers, or the city’s debt rating.

    Of course, this is fundamental to the city’s risk on AP. The limited info I could find said in effect that the state is ~not~ liable for the debt and that “interfund” transfers between a city’s redevelopment fund and general fund have taken place in the past, when RE prices fell during the mid-90’s.

    In the city of Pico Rivera, for example, the state had to step in and LOAN money to the city until it could find a new use for property that had been developed originally for Northrup, after the defense contractor closed its plant.

    In essence, the state allows the redevelopment agency to “cut the base year valuation”, which maintains the tax increment on the depreciating property until it recovers value. In the meantime, tho, the portion of redevelopment going to local schools is lost, so the state makes that up (backfills) and then requires payment from the city.

    So this ~does~ affect the schools.

    Sorry if this is too long, it’s hard to summarize.

    Comment by DL Morrison — November 24, 2008 @ 8:43 pm

  43. That’s a great map! I like “Bowman’s Ditch”.

    Comment by DL Morrison — November 24, 2008 @ 9:10 pm

  44. #37


    I don’t see anyone wanting to raze anything on this thread.

    Comment by David Kirwin — November 24, 2008 @ 5:01 pm

    I will volunteer. Raze Southshore back into the bay!! and then raze the Harsch projects up in Hood River, Oregon (my old stompin’ ground).

    Comment by Jack B. — November 24, 2008 @ 5:53 pm


    Comment by Jack Richard — November 25, 2008 @ 8:30 am

  45. A couple of quotes from the Pico Rivera link above, re redevelopment bond defaults:

    Pico Rivera officials created Project Area No. 1 in 1974
    and established a base year value of $26.7 million.
    Additions to the project area in 1978 and 1984 eventually
    raised the base year value to $89.5 million. In 1989, Pico
    Rivera’s redevelopment agency sold bonds to help Northrop
    Grumman develop a factory for B-2 bombers. By 1990-91, the
    project area’s assessed value had grown to $829.5 million.
    In 1993, Pico Rivera officials learned that Northrop
    Grumman would be closing. Using assessment appeals, the
    company reduced the assessed value on its property,
    dropping the project area’s assessed value to $488.2
    million in 1998-99. The associated decrease in property
    taxes forced the redevelopment agency’s bonds into
    technical default and local officials had to use the bond
    reserve fund to make up the shortfall and pay the
    Cutting Pico Rivera’s
    base year value in half allows its redevelopment agency to
    pick up another $447,700 a year for three years. About
    $93,600 a year would come from the schools’ share of local
    property taxes, requiring the State General Fund to
    backfill the schools (but not the local community college
    district). Pico Rivera then pays back the state by 2013.

    Comment by DL Morrison — November 25, 2008 @ 11:27 am

  46. 45. Yes, the operative words in the Pico Rivera document are these “The bill requires local officials to repay the State General Fund if it ‘creates a direct negative fiscal impact on the state.'” This with regard to the schools funding.

    Comment by E T — November 25, 2008 @ 11:37 am

  47. I think any time any city issues any bonds; those bonds are backed by the issuing city not the state, despite JKW’s claim. The city is responsible for the debt. There are insurance policies available to assume responsibility to differing degrees in event of default by city. In absence of such policies and a bankruptcy by city precludes repayment ability, the bond holders may look to the state as the entity “responsible” for the city, and its debts.

    None of this creates a pretty picture, and I wonder what the point of such discussions is concerned with – Is JKW suggesting Alameda need not honor the obligations of the debt the city creates?.

    Comment by David Kirwin — November 25, 2008 @ 11:57 am

  48. What I mean by 46. is that the State of California is NOT in the business of directly supporting or taking any active role in redevelopment. Redevelopment zones and agencies are set up by the local municipalities (cities) not by the state. So the state is NOT responsible for locally issued bonds.

    And here is an article from
    C. Schwab:

    Toward the end under:

    “Local governments and other muni debt”

    While default by the state of California seems unlikely, the budget crisis also impacts local governments, like cities and school districts, that are also large issuers of muni debt. Just like state GO bonds, local GO bonds are also secured by the full taxing authority of local jurisdictions, which, we believe even in a difficult economic climate, is likely to remain strong.

    Like the state GO bonds, ratings on local bond issuers can fluctuate based on general financial position, but in the end, bond covenants for GO bonds generally guarantee that bond payments will come first. And local officials are obliged to raise taxes if required to make sure their bonds are paid.”

    That does not sound at all like what JKB was asserting, and I do not think he has “cleared” any “air” with regard to redevelopment financing.

    In this article from the Chronicle in March (

    these issues are cited as being responsible for Vallejo’s bankruptcy:

    Key factors blamed for Vallejo’s financial troubles:

    “– The city’s failure to reinvent itself economically after the decommissioning of Mare Island Naval Shipyard in 1996.

    — Ballooning public safety salaries and benefits.

    — The collapse in the housing market and the broader economic downturn.

    — Management failures”

    So, based on what JKW says, the state of California is picking up the tab for Vallejo bonds… (Vallejo’s bond rating FELL) yeah, right… I don’t THINK so.

    Okay, so how much farther does the collapse in the housing market have to go before the city realizes it had better steer clear of developing a *@%&load of housing?

    The housing only makes money for the developer. It is retail, commercial, hotel and other income that go to the city from these deals. Naturally, the developer wants to build as many houses as possible.

    The problem we have here is that there is a surfeit of available commerical space and the housing market is in the dumper, and no one has money for startups and huge corporations that sell us everything from coffee and pizza to iPods and TVs are downsizing all over.

    So, City of Alameda wants to do what?

    The whole thing is nuts. No one has any money. SunCal’s CFO is out and D.E. Shaw is losing, not to mention no where to be seen in Alameda…

    Comment by E T — November 25, 2008 @ 12:28 pm

  49. Can I just point out that JKW has his own blog? As it appears that many people have read and want to comment on his post on redevelopment wouldn’t it make more sense to keep it all in context and post it there?

    Comment by Lauren Do — November 25, 2008 @ 12:41 pm

  50. nobody reads his blog.

    Comment by So — November 25, 2008 @ 12:45 pm

  51. If any of this disussion is out of context from the current entry, I’ll eat my hat! 🙂

    Comment by E T — November 25, 2008 @ 1:07 pm

  52. ET:

    The original entry was about the Navy surplus of land that was not included in the original Alameda Point land designation. Because of this surplus declaration a different process is triggered when determining how to dispose of this piece of property. Regardless of what SunCal does with Alameda Point, the Navy is moving forward with the disposal of this piece of property.

    This land is going through the process of divvying up between uses that will be sponsored by federal agencies (Public Benefit Conveyances) and homeless accomodations requests. After those are settled the land will go to auction and whoever is the “winning” bidder on the remainder of the land will develop independent of the Alameda Point plan.

    Comment by Lauren Do — November 25, 2008 @ 1:44 pm

  53. Lauren, how does this process differ from the way Alameda got possession of the property of the Landing, including Bay Port, leading to vast amounts of redevelopment debt for our city?

    Comment by David Kirwin — November 25, 2008 @ 2:11 pm

  54. DK Question:
    “How does this process differ from the way Alameda got possession of the property of the Landing including Bay Port, leading to vast amounts of redevelopment debt for our city?”

    Oh! More!
    Dk: How long can you tread water?
    DK: What if we lack either the ‘will’ or the funding of the Dutch?

    And More:

    None of this creates a pretty picture, and I wonder what the point of such discussions is concerned with – Is JKW suggesting Alameda need not honor the obligations of the debt the city creates?.

    Comment by Mike — November 25, 2008 @ 4:06 pm

  55. In the event that something goes wrong, the city must raise taxes to pay off the bond debt and creditors. It is as simple as that.

    What does that mean?

    That means ALL our city services, not just our schools are impacted.

    It is irresponsible for anyone to suggest that the CITY that created the REDEVELOPMENT AGENCY would not be responsible for any bond debt that occurs.

    Comment by E T — November 25, 2008 @ 6:52 pm

  56. #49: If it’s any help, I can post a link to this site on JKW’s site. (I’ve also noticed that JKW seems to show up pretty quickly when his name is mentioned here.)

    I have in fact posted comments on SD&R before, but got either a couple of responses or none. I didn’t see any real discussion going on, and I think this particular issue deserves a wide discussion. I became concerned (bothered) by this when I heard Mayor Johnson say that SunCal’s plan would not lead to any financial risk for the city — that did not sound plausible to me, at least not with $700,000,000 or thereabouts.

    It’s quite correct that residential development is a net loss for a city — even without redevelopment bonds, the provision of services alone is a loss. Looking at what happened w/ AP&T, (and not disparaging anyone), and considering what a massive project this is, I think there’s just too much risk here.

    I don’t think it’s sufficient to say in effect that some other dreadful and uncontrollable thing will end up there in the absence of SunCal — that’s kind of the bogeyman approach.

    Comment by DL Morrison — November 25, 2008 @ 7:32 pm

  57. #55: See JKW’s reference to a redevelopment agency being a “creature of the state”, and therefore the state’s responsibility. In all fairness, a municipal utility district is also a result of state legislation, but that doesn’t make the state responsible for EBMUD’s debt (or SMUD’s). I’m not sure where this statement came from.

    Comment by DL Morrison — November 25, 2008 @ 7:37 pm

  58. 34, 35,

    The 1859 map of Alameda at the Alameda Info site is the best. I don’t think the maps from before that date are that accurate. In 1983 we had an El Nino which flooded my neighborhood on the Oakland side of the neighborhood during peak high tide in January (7 plus feet)of that year. I spent a couple days in the Oakland main library after that and came up with a map much like the one from 1859. The estuary and Lake Merrit were seen and referred to as one body called San Antonio slew. I also found old navigation charts in reference section. You can get quality copies of a lot of their material like the old photos in the History Room for a fee. Try the Oakland Museum also, though the search over there is a bit more complicated and the amount of material is daunting.

    Comment by Mark Irons — November 25, 2008 @ 9:04 pm

  59. In 58 meant to say “Oakland side of the estuary”

    Comment by Mark Irons — November 25, 2008 @ 9:06 pm

  60. I don’t think JKB qualifies as an expert on redev. I am not one either. And, it sounds to me like everyone is shooting in the dark.

    I don’t think it would be wise to take what appeared on SD&R to be gospel on the subject.

    If the state is TAKING MONEY AWAY FROM REDEV to give to the schools, this is telling.

    If the state were giving AP&T money to bail itself out of its T woes, then I might think that the state would be in the bailout business. But I don’t see AP&T being able to get off the hook for its bond debt. It has borrowed from the city and owes the city for that (and possibly previous) loan(s), but the chump change from the T sale will not be enough to wipe out that debt.

    So, then what?

    And is this scenario applicable to the redev business, in particular any or all of the redev districts in Alameda (for Lauren’s benefit)?

    Well, it is all bonded indebtedness, credit based on future tax increment recovery, and the city of Alameda’s name is all over it, whether we are talking about North Housing, Alameda Point, Alameda Landing, Harbor Bay…. any of it. So, if the deal goes bad, the developer files for bankruptcy, but the city is still on the hook for the bonds, even if a deal can be cut… and cutting a deal may mean a drop in bond rating and higher interest rates on repayment.

    I am fairly certain that the only recourse the city has in such an instance, is to create a special parcel tax and cut its services and general operating budget.

    The redev districts are legal entities that are supposed to be clad in iron and sheltered from the actual municipality that creates them, but this is illusory.

    Unless anyone else has further information?

    Comment by E T — November 25, 2008 @ 9:10 pm

  61. […] Commenter DL Morrison writes in to both Lauren Do and Eve Pearlman’s sites; posting a link that supposedly proved Monday’s post on redevelopment bonds wrong. But a quick check of the info shows that it does no such thing […]

    Pingback by Stop, Drop and Roll » Clearing the Air, part 3 — November 28, 2008 @ 5:17 am

  62. #61: You claim in your initial post on redevelopment that the city has no liability for any redevelopment debt. Could you please provide confirmation of that in some form? Somebody has to have ultimate responsibility for repaying these bonds, and if not the city, then who?

    As ET notes above, the bonds are secured by the full taxing authority of the public entity that issues them — so should we assume that the state takes on this open-ended liability? This is just not credible.

    You also stated that redevelopment bonds have never been defaulted on, implying that redevelopment always succeeds. In reality, there’s no default because the bonds have to be paid by whatever means, whether redevelopment succeeds or not.

    I posted the reference to the Pico Rivera analysis after noting the rference to a similiar bill re: Victor Valley that passed — and after much reading on the topic. I will post instead a reference to the final analysis on the Victor Valley bill, AB 1089, before it was adopted:

    This bill indicates that Victor Valley’s Redev Agency was allowed to reset the base year to increase its tax increment, that the state would make up any loss to school funding, and that the “governing agency” would then repay the state.

    “1) Allow the redevelopment plan of VVEDA, to use as its base year either the fiscal year (FY) in which the plan was adopted or FY
    1994-95. If the 1994-95 base year is adopted, this could remain in effect only until the county assessor certifies that assessed values for the redevelopment project area equals or exceeds the assessed value in the initial base year.

    ~~When this certification is made by the county assessor, the base year shall revert to the initial base year at the time of plan adoption~~.

    2) Specifies that prior to the expiration of the five years, ~~the
    governing board would be required to remit to the State Controller ~~ the total amount of increased aid to schools that the state will pay as a result of the proposed adjustment of the base year.”

    What happens with Alameda Point has a real impact on the community and should be discussed in an open and honest manner.

    Comment by DL Morrison — November 28, 2008 @ 6:00 pm

  63. ET: Please comment.

    Comment by DL Morrison — November 29, 2008 @ 12:27 pm

  64. Well, I have been reading and reading and reading. I found a document prepared for a grand jury inquiry of Redding, California’s redev agency. The Background section very clearly states the following:

    “Most of the tax increment is diverted from the cities, counties and school districts that would normally receive them.”

    “Once a plan is approved, financing bonds (which do not require voter approval) must be issued. These bonds are the legal obligation of the redevelopment agency alone, not the sponsoring city or county. The debt is generallly repaid from tax increment revenues over a maximum period of 40 years.”

    “Passage of Proposition 13 in 1978 placed severe limitations on increases in property taxes, and curtailed tax revenu increases to the state. The state, in turn, reduced the proportion of tax revenues returned to cities and counties. These factors made tax increment financing a less viable technique for funding RDA’s. However, the number of RDA’s in the state mushroomed in the 1980’S as cities utilized redevelopment to increase the productivity of project areas and thus generated other sources of revenue such as sales and local occupancy taxes.”

    “This Grand Jury’s review of Shasta County RDA’s did not reveal any illegalities. It has, however, made us acutely aware of the large sums of money involved with redevelopment and the potential for abuses to occur without proper scrutiny… we encourage increased public scrutiny and transparency to ensure that abuses do not occur.”

    The document cites the fact that most city councils that sit as the board of these local agencies are woefully unknowlegeable about how redev works and rely heavily on staff in decision making, and recommends reinstatement of public oversight committee.

    The document can be found at this link:

    So, JKW cannot just wave a magic wand and blithely make redev bonding disappear. The implication is that the agency must remain open until the bonds are paid. That means the city is stuck with the redev agency and it cannot foist its bonds elsewhere. Meanwhile, the tax increment continues to take money away from other agencies that would normally get it, for the life of the redevelopment agency or as long as it takes for the bonds to be repaid.

    This Grand Jury firmly states that the public needs to ask questions and not just go along for the ride.

    Comment by E T — December 1, 2008 @ 10:26 am

  65. For info on loans made to a general fund from a redevelopment agency, try googling on:

    California RDA debt repay general fund

    There’s quite a few hits — see for example the city of Vallejo, in a document titled: “Response to Financial Questions at City Council Meeting 12-17-07”:

    2. Does the RDA have loans due to the City and can they be repaid?Yes, the Merged Downtown Projects area of the RDA has a number of outstanding loans from the City. These loans are listed in the RDA financial statements and in Attachment B 7.1(e). This project area has limited resources to repay these loans. It is currently operating at annual deficit, since tax increment revenues are insufficient to cover annual debt service and administration costs. In addition, since property tax revenues are not distributed by the County to the Agency until December each year, a beginning fund balance is necessary to fund the debt service and administration budget during the first half of the fiscal year. Staff will evaluate the ability of the RDA to begin repayment of this debt as it explores budget options for the February 12 mid-year report to the Council.

    In general, it appears that it’s usually the county that attempts to shore up an RDA via indirect loans in the form of delayed payments on taxes owed to the county. As evident here tho, city general funds also make loans to an RDA which sometimes can’t be repaid.

    It’s clear that RDAs do sometimes verge on defaulting and that there’s no automatic means of bailing them out, save that somebody — state, county or city — has to come up with the money for the bondholders.

    Comment by DL Morrison — December 1, 2008 @ 12:42 pm

  66. It’s ok, DL and ET… the state taxpayers have our back.

    oh, wait….

    Schwarzenegger declares fiscal emergency in Calif.: report

    Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Monday declared a fiscal emergency and called for a special session with lawmakers to address California’s $11.2 billion deficit, the Associated Press reported. California’s revenue gap is expected to reach $28 billion over the next 19 months and without immediate action, the state could run out of cash in February, according to the report. The emergency declaration allows the governor and lawmakers to change the existing budget within the next 45 days, the AP reported.

    Comment by Jack B. — December 1, 2008 @ 1:33 pm

  67. Yes, thanks — just another small problem… I don’t know how the city could go ahead with any kind of financial risk with the economy in such a mess.

    Comment by DL Morrison — December 1, 2008 @ 2:18 pm

  68. DL – It is (too) easy for the city to take on more debt. All it takes is the votes of 3 CC members, or the mayor and 2 CC members.

    Comment by David Kirwin — December 1, 2008 @ 3:00 pm

  69. DK,

    What is #61 all about? What are you responding to with the exclamation “WOW – What a turn around!”? In don’t really want to know, but the post is convoluted.

    I’m not interested in what you think seems like a phrase you often heard. I was never under any impression that H was a temporary bridge, unless the state deficit proved temporary. It does sunset in four years, but nobody said we wouldn’t have to readdress the parcel tax issue again.

    I recall that our ADA is hundreds of dollars less than Dublin, but something like $64 less than the state average. At 10,000 kids the average would add $650,000, not $4.5 million. Even I can do that math, so I can’t imagine Luz or any other person trying to say that getting the average from the state would offset the need for H even in the short term.

    You said, “I’ve not said all charters are better than their host districts”. Then you imply that the charter will provide “better, more efficient and cheaper ways to educate our kids”. How’s that, smoke and mirrors?

    Comment by Mark Irons — December 1, 2008 @ 7:42 pm

  70. 69, whoopsie, wrong thread.

    Comment by Mark Irons — December 1, 2008 @ 8:03 pm

  71. Further discussion on bond default issue:

    Comment by dl morrison — December 11, 2008 @ 12:29 pm

  72. Whomever was the “dazed and confused” commenter who posted at JKW’s site asking how the redevelopment agencies can be considered non-city agencies hit the nail right on the head…

    The city IS the REDEVELOPMENT AGENCY; it is a public enterprise using public funds to get private development corporations to com and create a saleable product.

    The agency is set up ostensibly to be have a financial firewall so that city budget and rda money do not mix, but this is completely artificial, as there is “pass through” money that comes out of the agency for public schools and other public services.

    Your elected city officials make decisions based on what your paid city staff, some of whom are members of the California Redevelopment Association (Leslie Little is on the BOD), TELLS THEM.

    The decisions that our elected officials make in these matters do not require voter approval, even though it is the tax payers who will bear the burden.

    The elected city council does not have the knowledge required to have oversight over the interests and intentions of the staff who make the recommendations.

    Those staff, meanwhile, who are members of CRA, might not be free of conflict of interest, wouldn’t you say, given that building is big business?

    Comment by E T — December 11, 2008 @ 12:57 pm

  73. See ANT’s comment under “I could have had a VA”:

    “Alameda needs to learn its limitations. Perhaps the cable debacle was a wake up call. Re-developing the old NAS is not a job for a small city.”

    I think it’s worth repeating here, as it’s really all the same issue — can the city be trusted to manage a project involving hundreds of millions of dollars, with little oversight or control by the voters/taxpayers who will be left holding the bag? The economy is in free fall, the climate is changing, yet the city continues as if it were business as usual. In reality, it may not be business as usual for a long time to come, if ever.

    Comment by dl morrison — December 11, 2008 @ 3:10 pm

  74. #74 – It seems as if the city of Alameda has painted itself into a corner. This is true of other communities as well, with regard to redevelopment. If you drive up and down I-5, you see it: ghost towns of gigantuan developments that have flags and banners waving saying “buy here, move in!” and the reality is that there is no one to move in.

    When you drive to the Napa valley, you see strip malls between and American Canyon and up the corridor to Napa itself that contain all the same brands of businesses, competing within a few miles of one another–and some businesses are closing down because they realize that they CANNOT compete.

    One big problem in Alameda that no one talks about is the million + square feet of retail and/or commercial space that is empty. Why build more just for the sake of having a whole lot more empty buildings to be vandalized?

    But, the redevelopment game is such that in order to have the money in play, you have to KEEP DEVELOPING.

    Yes, of course, it IS completely unrealistic to keep building, but the city wants to anyway because there will be money and jobs flowing into the community–at least until the part of the infrastructure is done (remember San Clemente? Albuquerue?).

    So, then you MUST start looking at the special interests being served. Is the city being served? Is the public being served? Are the developers being served?

    One has to ask: why starting a huge project that will end up being halted due to lack of funding? Isn’t that just creating a kind of bizarre blight of a different flavor?

    Economic turn-around will not magically happen overnight. China is still in it’s econ meltdown. Bush is still in office. The bailouts are not serving us, the people, but the crooks having their last hurrah, and all that will happen that recovery will take longer and be more difficult.

    In our little town, the cable debacle has never been fully disclosed. That it was failing was repeatedly denied. Where did all that money really go?

    The economic meltdown has shown that business as usual cannot ever be usual again. Will the city respond to this, or go broke continuing to play by the only gamebook it has?

    Time will tell.

    Comment by E T — December 12, 2008 @ 11:21 am

  75. I think the cable debacle is pretty telling. I have some familiarity with the regulatory structure for investor-owned utilities, and “whoops” is not an option. Normally any regulatory system should have a built-in disclosure process which forces the utility to make its financial dealings public in some formal manner, on a regular basis, and in this instance, which **insures** that electric customers will be protected from any losses on the unregulated telecom side. I suspect that someone would claim that such a system existed for AP&T, but it doesn’t look like it (!)

    So I wonder: Can the city **design a process** to effectively manage a very complex, very expensive project involving major risks and long timelines and reliably protect local interests?

    I don’t honestly think so. There are too many things changing too fast right now and even without that, the cable disaster is a red flag.

    Comment by dl morrison — December 13, 2008 @ 3:04 pm

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