Blogging Bayport Alameda

November 23, 2009

Southern California comfort

Remember the Alameda Point  “contingency plan” that has been kicked around by both the Interim City Manager and Councilmember Frank Matarrese, well this small news item in the Alameda Journal is a possible hint toward the direction in which some folks in the City and on the Council may want to head.    The Alameda Journal reports that both Frank Matarrese, Mayor Beverly Johnson, and someone from the City Manager’s office would be meeting with representatives from the City of Irvine to talk about Irvine’s plans to redevelop El Toro which was a Marine Air Station.

So brief background on the El Toro base, initial plans were to convert that air station into an airport.   Made sense because it essentially was the same type of use.  But some folks didn’t want that and passed a measure that essentially forbid the construction of an airport.  Then a few years later another measure was passed that would earmark a substantial portion of the land as a municipal park of a scope that was supposed to rival Central Park in New York and Balboa Park in San Diego.

In order to get this done, the entire base was auctioned off by the Navy and bought by Lennar, who then gave the land for the park to the City to develop and promised to pay $200 million toward design and construction and in return the City would allow Lennar to construct residential and commercial developments around the park.

Fast forward to today, Lennar still has control over the surrounding land (with requisite Development Agreement with the City of Irvine) but here is what — I am assuming — our City leaders are heading down to Irvine to take a look see at, because according to most reports, the “Great Park” is not much other than a balloon ride and a preview park constructed to allow folks to see what they could be getting.   Our City Council is probably more interested in seeing how the “Great Park Corporation” works.

You may be asking, “hey, what’s this Great Park Corp.” well Great Park Corp is a non profit whose board just happens to be comprised of members of the Irvine City Council and other folks.   (Alameda Development Corporation Inc is starting to not sound too tin-foil hat-y, eh?)

Recently, according to the LA Times, the Irvine City Council voted 3-2 to allocate $65 million to start construction on a scaled down, but more expensive first phase of the Great Park.   The total size of the Great Park is supposed to be about 1300 acres.  This new direction started in April was

…crafted to address what has become a common criticism: that despite spending tens of millions of dollars on a much-lauded design, the city has yet to deliver on its promise to build a showcase park in the heart of Orange County.

But since April until the most recent vote has triggered changes in what will be built

…there will be less parkland, fewer amenities and fewer sports fields than detailed in plans earlier this year.

Since April, the number of soccer fields promised has been cut in half, from six to three, and land to be developed in the short term has been reduced from 500 acres to 225 acres. Of that, 90 acres will be set aside as a farm with limited public access.

Plans to carve out an artificial lake and to build a 50-acre botanical garden have been scrapped, at least in the initial round of construction. The cost, however, has increased from $61 million to $65.5 million.

It is unclear where the $65 million is coming from to start at least this first phase, but the article mentions that $104 million has been spent by the City of Irvine on just design alone and the building of the before mentioned balloon ride and preview park.   Probably from the $200 million payment from Lennar which appears to be almost fully tapped out.   And I’m not even going to get into the weirdness that is the no-bid contracts that are the standard and not the exception for the Great Park project.

And speaking of money, I find it highly amusing that one of the reasons that Frank Matarrese has for needing to visit Irvine is because

“We are hoping to get a little background on what they have been doing,” said City Councilman Frank Matarrese, who is traveling south for the one-day visit. “They have been dealing with the Navy and that’s something we also must do.”

Except for the fact that the way that the land swap was handled was a straight auction with the price tag for the land coming in at $650 million.    To compare, our current deal with the Navy is $108 million.   Unless we are trying to figure out another way to pay the Navy more for land that we think isn’t worth even the $108 million, perhaps that Irvine way might not be the best model.

I have to say I’m a little nervous with these overtures by the City to see how others are doing the their base redevelopment before the ENA has even expired with SunCal.   And…shouldn’t this have been done before we entered into an ENA with SunCal?   And…why is it that the two City Council members whose terms are expiring would be the choice to go on a fact finding mission?   It’s all very strange.


  1. This measure to allow SunCal to build out the Point should not be allowed to pass. SunCal does not have a good reputation for giving you all the facts. The city of Alameda will be hurt and BAPORT will definitely feel its negative impact. SunCal will show you beautiful picture and say “you cannot lose with us”. But the true facts are hidden and they will run all the way to the bank with them. Well I guess some of the better points in having them develop would be the immense added traffic, more uninvited characters and certainly more CRIME. To allow SunCal to do this is like giving them YOUR blank check with only a signature on it.
    HEY, they are not dummies, but then, neither are WE. Many comments here, but only a few in favor of the measure who keep repeating themselves so as to seem many. For those opposed e-mail me,

    Comment by David — November 23, 2009 @ 1:29 pm

  2. Also interesting that Beverly, Frank and a city manager’s staff member traveled all the way to Irvine on a fact-finding trip to learn more about the development of a former military base (El Toro Marine Corps Airfield ). This is a project that seems largely stalled.

    One wonders why they didn’t take a look at Amerige Heights in nearby Fullerton while they were there. Amerige Heights is a former defense faciltiy that has been successfully transformed into a multi-use development. Community input went into the design by Peter Calthorpe and the project was developed by SunCal perhaps giving it some relevance to Alameda Point.

    Amerige Heights was named “Project of the Year” by the Orange County Branch of the American Society of Civil Engineers. However, in the awards ceremony, the City of Fulleerton was also cited as being “bold and forward thinking.” So maybe not similar?


    Comment by helen sause — November 24, 2009 @ 3:57 pm

  3. Helen,

    Hind sight is always 20/20, but I’m thinking such field trips would have been even more helpful back when the master developer was being re-selected, or even when we hooked up with “APCP” in round one.

    I have thought about taking a drive to visit Mare Island many times, as well as other model renewal sights such as Suisun City, and even at this late date I would love to take a bus full of bloggers on such a tour.

    I’ve been on the bus tour of the Alameda Power geothermal plant and it was really great. For me it would be a challenge to be in such close quarters with folks like AD for six hours but it might be the kind of exercise which would really help build a sense of common purpose and sort out some the important stuff from petty differences. ( Referring back to my guest blog here at B.B., there is nothing better than “face time” when it comes to “keeping it real”.)

    On another thread where I congratulated us collectively for our efforts, even in opposition to one another, I derailed my higher purpose when I punctuating those remarks with broad remarks about a conservatism at large with comments about a Fox News pundit being a “little prick” (a generous description).

    Let me take another stab. The votes have not been cast, but rather than focus on the next weeks I am looking beyond February and wondering what an active community can do in terms of forging common ground and determining what is possible, feasible, practical and then fighting for it.

    This process has been nearly as complex and divisive as the health care debate in congress. A crude analogy might be that we have made it past obstructionists like Joe Lieberman, which I would broadly identify as people who want to protect the status quo under Measure A to the exclusion of other “progressive” considerations. We will get a floor debate and a vote which will likely fall short of a comprehensive solution, but in the process we may be able to educate ourselves about what is really required to bring about meaningful “reform” and before all is said and done maybe we can set new precedent.

    Comment by M.I. — November 24, 2009 @ 6:42 pm

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