You want to know what led to the the beachfront at South Shore looking the way that it does? Look no further than the City Council meeting from Tuesday night. Essentially we have created the draft for a “vision” for the Town Center portion of Alameda Point. I means it’s really not much of a vision other a few form based codes, very general zoning, some height limits, and open space requirements. That’s it. As long as the developer doesn’t violate anything in the “Precise Plan” then it’s open season.
The agreement from last night’s meeting was to open this Request for Qualifications (RFQ), not proposals, because we don’t want to see what people might do, we just want someone who has the financial ability and the past history to have been able to do something to build anything.
Given the scope of the RFQ and the limitations placed on the developers, it’s HIGHLY unlikely that we’re going to get anything visionary, innovative, or special. And given the constrained time line (six months) it’s even less likely we’re going to get anyone of quality and we’ll just get some cookie cutter developer that has some plan they’ve tried out elsewhere that they think they might be able to shoe horn at Alameda Point.
Here’s the funny thing, last night, according to public comments made by Council member Lena Tam, the City of Alameda wasted six month with Charles Company to just try to figure out if they had the financial wherewithal to develop this same parcel we’re offering up under the RFQ. But now, we’re under some ticking clock to pick someone in the same amount of time that was used to just vet some random developer’s financials.
City Council member Marilyn Ezzy-Ashcraft noted that she disagreed with the part of the RFQ that stated that any developer that submitted renderings would be disqualified. City Manager John Russo responded that he wanted to put that language in there because he felt as though pretty renderings “poisoned” the process and would rather use past projects completed as a judge as to whether the developer can do the job. Not to beat a dead horse, but given how long the City wasted going back and forth with Charles Company, if anyone had even taken a peek at their completed projects, none of those projects would be appropriate for the Alameda Point waterfront. I mean, of the set which would you want for Alameda Point? I’m not sure why the rules that were initially proposed were different for the Charles Company than for these respondents to the RFQ.
Anyway, it was a pretty contentious meeting and honestly if you need a rationale why Stewart Chen shouldn’t be re-elected, his performance on this agenda item is a great example of how he just doesn’t grasp these land use concepts and should disqualify him from sitting on the City Council. I mean when he sits there and pontificates about what portion will be “reserved” for residential and which for commercial in the same breath that he says it will be “mixed use” it’s clear he doesn’t get what “mixed use” is supposed to be. Also when he calls a projected 25 ac/unit “high density” he clearly doesn’t understand what high density is either. Let me put it this way: One Rincon Tower — that’s the huge new residential tower in San Francisco off the freeway — is built on 1.3 acres.
And has 709 units. That is dense. 800 units scattered on a 68 acre site is not high density. By the way sales prices for those units ranged from a low of $500,000 and a high of $2.5 million. But that’s San Francisco.
So what ended up happening after this super frustrating discussion, there were some modifications (bigger deposit, no immediate disqualification if the developer chooses to send an inspirational rendering in, 800 unit cap on “free units” but developer will have to pay for the overage) but in the end, we’ll need to really pray that an innovative developer decides to take a chance on Alameda and gets through the vetting process. I’m not very optimistic, but given Alameda’s track record, this whole thing will probably fall through and we’ll be back to where we started again in another 12-24 months.
As an aside, City Manager John Russo need to dial it back like 10 notches. When he gets overly defensive — and then goes on the offensive — he starts getting loud and aggressive and make it seem as though there might be something there. No one on this particular Council is trying to deliberately malign the honor of City Staff, so when he makes a big f-ing deal about it he simply draws more attention to and makes it seem like it’s a bigger issue than it actually is.