Blogging Bayport Alameda

March 10, 2010

AMG: “It’s a lot closer than ya’ll think”

Both John Knox White and Michele Ellson touched on the issue of the Civic Center Vision plan that was unveiled last Wednesday at the CIC meeting.

According to Interim City Manager, Ann Marie Gallant, this all came about because of the Council Referral item to analyze what could be done with the Carnegie Library given that the previous plan to turn it into a Planning and Building permit center was no longer feasible.   When she came back to the Council she talked about how they would need to figure out a way to “bundle” the Carnegie Library with other projects to make it financially feasible to redevelop.

So from the starting point which was trying to figure out what to do with the Carnegie Library till last Wednesday we went from Carnegie redevelopment to a whole “vision” for the Civic Center area which expands pretty much all the way to Park Street.

But this isn’t just a vision folks, according to Ann Marie Gallant, they’ll have a financing and implementation plan all within the next 30-45 days.


Which is amazing since this is literally the first look that the majority of people in Alameda have had of the “vision” for the Civic Center area.   While the consultants and the Interim City Manager make much ado about the “stakeholders” that were involved in this process, the stakeholders were pretty much limited to:

  • City staff
  • Park Street Business Association
  • Alameda Architectural Preservation Society
  • Private property owners for which they had made plans to implement their “vision” on.

Brief digression, as a part of the “first look” video of comments by  Frank Matarrese check out his sliding in the anecdote about talking to someone that thought the garage wasn’t big enough.

So about how they will try to finance it.   What it sounded like since Ann Marie Gallant has tied this into the “asset management” of city resources (aka land) that parcels of land owned by the City may be sold off in order to raise capital for this project.    We will know more in 30 – 45 days according to the discussion on Wednesday night, but I’m really curious as to which parcels are nearly “transaction” ready.

Of course to caveat all this, what I have seen so far, I like.   I like the “shared space” planned for the Central side of Parking Lot C.  (although personally, I think the whole of Parking Lot C should be reclaimed for a public plaza and nix all the parking) I like the idea of having bulb outs.  I like the redevelopment of the old gas station across the street from City Hall and Towata flowers next door.  I like re-jiggering Times Way and other small streets into more pedestrian friendly crossings.    I like activating the space where CVS Pharmacy is.    I’m not jumping up and down about the idea of more movie screens for Alameda Theatre.  But in general, I like it.

I just don’t like the removal of the public from the process of forming a “vision” for a new and improved Civic Center area.   I’m not in love with the idea that this was presented at a CIC meeting under the agenda title: “Civic Center Vision Plan” without any description or link to the power point that would allow the public more information about it and that it was only after the meeting was complete that the “public” was allowed a copy of the powerpoint presentation, or rather any information about the vision itself.  What I’m not in love with is that the first look was unveiled, not at a community meeting to get feedback from a populace that tends to be pretty interested in land use issues, but rather under Executive Director (aka City Manager) Communications.

And, what I don’t like is that, from what I understand, the only public meetings moving forward to discuss this plan/vision will be the usual Alameda boards and commissions: Planning Board, Transportation Commission, Economic Development Commission, etc…

After all as Ann Marie Gallant explained, the implementation of this vision is “a lot closer than ya’ll think.”


  1. Community process? The community spent a year developing the “Park Street Streetscape and Town Center Project” study. Yet at just one “public scoping meeting” (two days after the elections of 2004)—where there was not a single public speaker—the Oak Street pedestrian corridor “vision” was scrapped in order to place the garage on Oak Street. The “stakeholders” were pretty much the same back then.

    Comment by Irene — March 10, 2010 @ 9:21 am

  2. Wow! A topic where I can go back and read my own comments from 2 years ago and not cringe… You made my day!

    My question – is there some reason the overhang at the Chun gas station needs to be retained as a design element? Two years into Prop 99’s victory over Prop 98, can’t the city just take that lot and do something positive with it (awesome itinerant gourmet food truck notwithstanding)?

    Comment by Matt Reid — March 10, 2010 @ 10:57 am

  3. Lauren, I agree that it’s a bit surprising to see this sprung on Alamedan’s this way without any (apparent) significant community input.

    I think more intense development of the area around City Hall is entirely appopriate, but I can’t wait to hear the howl’s of protest about the “Manhattanization” of downtown. I can’t tell from the pictures (with no explanatory text) but it sure looks to me like the scheme for the Long’s parking lot involves (horrors!!) multi-family housing above the ground floor.

    The disappointing thing about the presentation (aside from the lack of community meetings/input) is that all of the buildings proposed look like cheesy suburban office buildings with lots of “foam-itecture”. Why not pick up on the deco forms/details of the gas station and Towato’s Flowers and do something more streamlined and fresh. Can’t we be a bit more adventerous here in Alameda?

    Comment by david burton — March 10, 2010 @ 11:32 am

  4. Just do a google search (images) and put in the words, downtown Walnut Creek Ca….Looks just like the vision for Alameda….Ugh….

    Comment by J.E.A. — March 10, 2010 @ 11:52 am

  5. Wait, what’s all that stuff in the CVS lot? More screens? Did I miss that somewhere?

    Comment by Cash — March 10, 2010 @ 12:53 pm

  6. Matt: According to the consultant, the overhang is part of the “Park Street Historic District” and part of the “Alameda Story.” So it stays.

    David: Above the Towata/Gas Station there are plans for residential above as well. And you were right about the CVS lot, the idea is to either place residences above or a hotel.

    Cash: One of the alternatives for the CVS lot is to attach additional movie screens for the Alameda Theatre because that site could connect to the existing Cineplex portion.

    Comment by Lauren Do — March 10, 2010 @ 1:07 pm

  7. I love what they are proposing! I’d rather see a boutique hotel on the CVS lot instead of more theater screens and I’m jazzed about more housing downtown.

    I’m excited we no longer have to wait for Alameda Towne Center or Alameda Landing to develop something upscale. This is where all the action will be!

    Comment by Karen Bey — March 10, 2010 @ 1:25 pm

  8. “Y’all”


    Did I miss Talk Like Granny Clampett Day?

    Comment by Neal_J — March 10, 2010 @ 1:31 pm

  9. Perhaps because I am a member of AAPS, I have heard of the Civic Center Vision for a while longer than other folks. I don’t actually have the time to look up all the agendas for Planning Board, HAB, Economic Development Commission, but if it is at the City Council level now it most likely has been discussed several times at these boards. These are all public meetings and if you are interested in development issues, getting the agendas of any or all of these sent to you is easy to do by requesting the city clerk to put you on the list.

    I know that most people on this blog are not the least bit interested in architectural preservation. However, the reason that AAPS gets consulted on a lot of these things is because we stay involved with what is going on in development in the city, and ask questions when things turn up. We have an active Preservation Action Committee that discusses development issues in relation to historic preservation– most development in Alameda, by nature, impacts historic preservation. I am not sure why you don’t have a link to our Web site, Lauren– you have so many– but for those of you who would like to visit and see what we do here it is: .

    Comment by Kevis Brownson — March 10, 2010 @ 5:59 pm

  10. Kevis- if this came before HAB I was asleep.

    AMG reminds me of Meg Whitman.

    Comment by M.I. — March 10, 2010 @ 8:50 pm

  11. Kevis, haven’t seen you around, hope all is well.

    I think it’s great that AAPS was involved, but they were one of only two groups (the other was PSBA, who also should be involved) that were brought to the conversation. The presentation to the City Council (CIC) was the first unveiling (as mentioned multiple times by staff and council members) that it had been made public. No board meetings, no commissions, no workshops.

    The CIC presentation was not even publicly available until two days after the meeting (Mr. Buckley made the comment about non-availability at the meeting).

    So now that the plans more or less complete, it will travel to the Planning Board, EDC and TC for comment, some of which might, if it’s not too “drastic,” might get put in the vision.

    The process you mention would be exactly the process the public should expect, it’s just not the one we got.

    Comment by John Knox White — March 10, 2010 @ 10:06 pm

  12. 11. Well, it is a surprise that “plans are more or less complete” as just a few months ago it was still under discussion what areas should even constitute the civic center area — I think the high school has been added lately. Not having been at the presentation, I don’t know exactly what is meant by a “financing and implementation plan all within the next 30-45 days”. Does this mean another “vision” or a report of the consultants on financing? Although consultants can present a vision of what things could look like or how it could be financed, it doesn’t come close to actual implementation.

    But I also think that AMG, if quoted correctly, is wrong about when this became a topic of discussion. From what I remember, discussion restarted about the “Civic Center Specific Plan” around the time of the theater project. It actually was called for in the 1991 General Plan and should have been completed some time ago. What to do with the Carnegie Library certainly impacts it, but it definitely was not first thought up having to do with the change in the Planning Dept. plans for the site.

    So, they hired some consultants to come up with pictures and they are consulting to come up with financing, but that does not mean it is anywhere near an actual shovel in the ground. There is a lot that needs work in this plan– in the pictures they removed some buildings that I for one do care about (not CVS — I can do without that one). So I definitely plan on commenting more at every opportunity.

    And I have been around, maybe you mean on the blog? I haven’t much time for blogging though I do try to read them to find out what is going on.

    And 10. Mark– rethinking my comment, since this is only a plan yet, probably has not been discussed at HAB level, but I am sure that it will be if the city agrees with consultants drawings where some of the historic buildings go missing or are completely covered up in the PowerPoint.

    I guess I was surprised that so many people did not know of the years of planning and replanning involved with the theater project and again I am surprised that people are not aware of this issue because to me it seems as if I have known about it for some time now, and not just through AAPS. It seems as if development issues don’t really exist to many until there is a picture of it.

    So now there is a consultant report, which I think definitely should have been available to the public at the same time if not before the reporting to the city council. But then, what exactly is wrong with “the only public meetings moving forward to discuss this plan/vision will be the usual Alameda boards and commissions: Planning Board, Transportation Commission, Economic Development Commission, etc…”. Isn’t that what these boards and commissions were elected or appointed to do? To hold hearings and get public comment and make recommendations?

    Comment by Kevis Brownson — March 10, 2010 @ 11:33 pm

  13. Maybe we can get SunCal to do the economic end of it.

    Comment by Jack Richard — March 11, 2010 @ 8:16 am

  14. Kevis, HAB got to hour long presentations on the Carnegie about six months apart, both related to making it City permit center.

    Comment by M.I. — March 11, 2010 @ 5:31 pm

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