Blogging Bayport Alameda

October 1, 2019

Fast and loose

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:01 am

There is a call for action out there for the Alameda community to come and support the Carnegie Innovation Hall project.  There’s a small closed session agenda item about the project so it’s not like this is some big regular agenda item where it would be appropriate to ask for people to turn out to either support or oppose a project.

Now, I’ll admit, I haven’t been that pumped about this project because (1) it’s Alameda and most interesting projects really never exit the glossy rendering stage and (2) it’s just not high on my radar.  But there are a lot of people pumped about the project to be enthusiastic enough for the rest of us.

Here’s the problem with the most recent call for action.  It’s playing awfully fast and loose with some of the facts in order to drum up support for the project.  Since this is all in closed agenda items we don’t really know much about the terms and how the project is penciling out or anything.  But if supporters are looking to galvanize support before they really need the public to speak in favor of the project it feels like the project might already be on shaky ground.

Anyway, as I said, call for action and this is the part that folks have really sort of  run with:

After months of community outreach, planning and due diligence by a volunteer team, we are ready to begin the arduous task of funding and renovation. But the City recently indicated a desire to cut the agreed upon lease term in half, making long-term viability of the project impossible.

Now, the RFQ has nothing about a lease term at all.  Seriously, you can do a search for “lease” and the only thing that comes up is:

The final lease must be approved by City Council.


Issuance of the RFQ does not obligate the City to select a preferred user or
award a lease, nor is the City liable for any costs incurred by the Proposer in the preparation and submittal of proposals for the subject work.

Now there is a reference in the clarifying Q & A about lease terms:

The terms of the lease agreement would be negotiable, but we are open to a short or long-term (50-66 years) lease agreement. The City may also offer substantial rent credits in exchange for restoration of the building and the provision of community benefits.

But this is also not evidence that there is some mutually agreed upon lease terms that has been “cut in half.”  As the City Council has final approval on the lease, nothing is agreed upon until that vote.

Now if that vote was taken and then the City Council said, “You know what, I think we should vote to cut the lease term after granting this 66 year lease” then there argument could be made, but at this point it’s just staff discussion and negotiation.

Also, is a 66 year lease typical for municipal governments?  And for the financially inclined out there would a 66 year lease make much of a difference to a lender then say a 33 year lease?


  1. I am very much in favor of this project, as the Carnegie is a gem that could be turned into a wonderful performance and education space. These people seem to have the design and vision resources to do so. I wrote the letter in favor of the project because of that. That said, I want the City and the tenant to negotiate lease terms they both can live with.

    Comment by Kevis Brownson — October 1, 2019 @ 7:53 am

  2. I’m hopeful that the City and the tenant can work things out. The development of an arts and entertainment venue like the Carnegie in the heart of the Park Street District will serve as a catalyst for more improvements, much like what the restoration of the Alameda Theater did for Park Street several years ago.

    Comment by Karen Bey — October 1, 2019 @ 8:23 am

  3. The only thing that is “Fast and Lose” here are your uninformed judgments Lauren. Starting with your statement that its “Alameda”. Maybe nothing gets past the rendering stage here because it takes years to get anything past city council. Most developer projects have to wait 2-4 years to get through all the bureaucracy and petty politics of this city.

    The Carnegie Innovation Hall team has been trying to work with the city for almost 2 years and after being selected through the RFQ process had negotiated a 66 year lease with City staff 6 months ago. That lease was supposed to go to a city council vote in June, then pushed to July, then Sept, and finally instead of going to a vote, it went into closed session and the council wanted to cut the lease term in half, add a PLA (Project Labor Agreement, which was also not specified in the RFQ) that would increase building costs by 25% and they also want to reduce the amount of rent credits for putting in $6.5 into the city’s building. While it is up to the city council to finalize the lease, there has been a major disconnect on the vision of this lease and a complete lack of communication between city staff and the mayor, city manager and the council members.

    Carnegie Innovation Hall is a newly formed 501C3 non profit that is completely volunteer run that is being dragged through the city’s slow motion disfunction and will not be able to endure the changes to the lease that the city council is adding now. They are treating this community benefit organization like it is a real-estate developer that is about to strike it rich by asking donors to give millions to restore a city owned building that has been sitting vacant for 20+ years. The truth is no one else is willing to take on this building and the city is trying to get a better deal for themselves instead of helping Carnegie Innovation Hall make this nearly impossible task happen.

    Posts like yours only further the disfunction of this city. Just take a look at and see for yourself what this team is trying to do for Alameda.

    Comment by HP Nielsen — October 1, 2019 @ 9:43 am

    • Yeah, if this is the sort of attitude that is indicative of the leadership of the Innovation Hall then the Innovation Hall is going to have a lot more problems than a random blogger with opinions on the questionable strategy of its community outreach campaign.

      If the Innovation Hall doesn’t want to do a PLA that might be a larger hill to climb than even the complaints about the reduction in the lease terms. If anyone on the Innovation Hall team had paid attention to the last few approved developments and projects (which have gone through years of back and forth and approvals) you’d know that there are Councilmembers on this particular Council who are committed to fair, prevailing wages and typically insist on PLAs.

      There are other projects that the City could use the Carnegie for. It may not be as sexy and exciting as the Innovation Hall, but would provide a much needed benefit to Alameda residents. Personally I expect the City Council (City Staff by extension) to negotiate in the best interests of the City and therefore its residents.

      Comment by Lauren Do — October 1, 2019 @ 10:35 am

    • Although the push to include PLAs in city-related projects has been present for more than a couple of years, and its inclusion perhaps a bit late in this process, wouldn’t a PLA only ensure that a living wage be paid to project workers? I think they had one on the golf course project.

      Comment by MP — October 1, 2019 @ 10:43 am

      • Not City of Alameda related but sort of a government in the city of Alameda in general related but all AUSD projects had a PLA as well too. But yes, Greenway (private operator for a public resource) had a PLA.

        Comment by Lauren Do — October 1, 2019 @ 11:00 am

        • That’s what I meant, but you made it a bit more precise. I believe city ordinances and/or policies have, however, gone one step beyond that in one area. I believe there is such a City requirement (which may mirror some authority in state law) in connection with cannabis licenses, even if unconnected with City property.

          Comment by MP — October 1, 2019 @ 11:34 am

        • Lauren, this non-profit organization did a lot of community outreach. I went to several of their meetings, and they were pretty awesome. Hopefully, everyone can just take a deep breath and focus on the big picture. This venue would be great for the Park Street District and for Alameda!

          Also, in regards to the ‘big picture” — this is the second investor trying to invest in the Park Street District that feels like they are being shut down. The last investor was the owner of Spinning Bones. Remember his post? What message are we sending?

          Comment by Karen Bey — October 1, 2019 @ 11:45 am

        • Unlike Spinning Bones — who had a lease signed and proper zoning — this project is still in development stages. You know that there are a lot of projects that enter development stages and move no farther than that. For the Carnegie alone we know of at least two prospective tenants who couldn’t move any further than the planning process. Neither of them attempted to negotiate in public and expect the community to nod and agree that they should be allowed whatever they wanted. If staff is pushing back it might be because that’s the only way that the lease will get four votes. And that’s what this lease will need. Calling the City “greedy” and “foolish” perhaps is not the best way to make friends and influence people.

          Comment by Lauren Do — October 1, 2019 @ 12:00 pm

      • The lease already has a prevailing wage requirement agreed to months ago, a PLA requires Union labor which is 25% more expensive and is not required by the city but is being added by council members who are in the pockets of the unions. This is a restoration project not new construction, Innovation Hall team has told staff from the beginning that they plan to hire Alameda artists to restore the building, not a job for unions.

        Also your comment: ” If anyone on the Innovation Hall team had paid attention to the last few approved developments and projects…” shows how much you are just a shill for the city. They are supposed to know that over follow the RFQ process or listen to what city staff have been telling them for months? Really just proves my point about dysfunction further.

        Lastly, your other comment; ” There are other projects that the City could use the Carnegie for.” Really? Please provide some details? It has been sitting for 20 years and there was only one other proposal for the RFQ that did not even make the minimum requirements. This is the city’s only shot to get someone else to pay to restore that building for them and they are acting greedy and foolish instead of helping.

        Comment by HP Nielsen — October 1, 2019 @ 11:12 am

        • Alameda Museum has always been interested in the space. Pacific Pinball Museum was in active negotiations as well.

          Can someone from the Innovation Hall leadership come and collect their wo/man? This type of “community outreach” is really a bad overall look.

          Comment by Lauren Do — October 1, 2019 @ 11:41 am

        • I am sorry If I offended you Lauren, but I feel you are deliberately spreading untruths against this project for what reason?

          I am passionate about this project’s potential and I have gone to their outreach meetings and talked to them at length, have you? I can see all the good it could do for Alameda.

          While Alameda Museum has always been interested in the space, they have no financial means to restore the building or draw the crowd needed, nor did they apply for the RFQ. The Pacific Pinball Museum tried to make a go and gave up after experiencing similar bait and switch tactics from the city, just ask them to explain their experience. It is sad to see a city not realizing the amazing potential of what this sort of project could do for the city and its community. Just look at what the Crucible has done for Oakland.

          Comment by HP Nielsen — October 1, 2019 @ 11:57 am

        • Nothing I wrote is untruthful. The RFQ has nothing about a lease term, that is to be negotiated. Rather than get defensive and weird about where the project is now in the process perhaps understand that staff is negotiating in good faith and (from everything I have seen in nearly 13 years of paying pretty close attention to this whole Alameda politics thing) if they are pushing back it’s because they know that the vote to approve a lease needs to be nearly unanimous: four votes and this is the way to get the Innovation Hall its four votes. If you don’t have those four votes then all this posturing and aggression will be for naught.

          Comment by Lauren Do — October 1, 2019 @ 1:53 pm

        • Lauren, the name you chose for this Blog is slanted and not accuaracte to this group’s effort. Any your statements about the PLA were untrue and were corrected by another commenter. I am not going to continue to try to point out every statement that is not ture. It seems clear that you have not talked to the people who are trying to make this happen. The RFQ was the framework and city staff built the lease terms around that framework, but council choose add and change things outside of that framework in the 11th hour. This sort of projects take trust and collaboration.

          Comment by HP Nielsen — October 1, 2019 @ 2:12 pm

        • What statements about the PLA issue were untrue?

          Comment by MP — October 1, 2019 @ 2:34 pm

        • Innovation Hall team has told staff from the beginning that they plan to hire Alameda artists to restore the building, not a job for unions.

          Oh really? The Innovation Hall team is going to use artists to install a new elevator, electrical work, and HVAC systems? Please tell us more about these artisans.

          Comment by Lauren Do — October 1, 2019 @ 3:15 pm

        • No, that is not restoration. Artists could restore the stain glass windows, repaint the details of the ceiling, re-make the missing urns on the rooftop, build the custom woodwork for the bars and cast the bronze doors. As a non profit they have relationships with contractors that can give in kind discounted bids to do things like the electrical and sprinkler systems work and save costs while still having licensed contractors do the work and still pay their workers a prevailing wage, The company makes less on the job but can get a tax write off for the discount. This is done all the time for non profits. Suddenly requiring all union work (PLA) negates this form of in kind donation and increases costs significantly. I get that you are Pro Union, but it is not a one size fits all solution and it will most likely kill this project.

          Comment by HP Nielsen — October 1, 2019 @ 3:45 pm

        • I am neither pro nor anti union. But I, unlike you, recognize that the City Council has required PLAs for other projects in the past. The Innovation Hall lease needs four votes. There are five members on the City Council. Good luck swaying the opinion of those members if you keep up with this sort of rhetoric.

          Comment by Lauren Do — October 1, 2019 @ 3:58 pm

  4. After reading both the post and the above comments, I want to point out that the Carnegie Library has sat vacant for decades because the city apparently has no ability to do anything on it on their own. I followed the RFQ process pretty closely because as an Alameda resident, I too want to see something good happen to this building. A nonprofit doesn’t put in massive effort into renovating a historic landmark to use for its programs unless it’s sure it can fundraise the money to do it. And if I were a funder looking at this behavior from the city (offering a 50-66 year lease in the Q&A and a 66-year lease to the selected nonprofit 6 months ago per HP Nielsen’s comment, and then turning around and offering half that at the last minute, *below their own terms*, AND effectively increasing costs by 25% with a PLA without offering to pay the difference for the nonprofit or secure funding for the nonprofit to cover the difference), I’d say that’s a bait-and-switch that doesn’t instill any confidence in the city, and I would pull my funding support from the nonprofit — and I’m saying this as a former grantmaker to nonprofits.

    The city council has the chance to stick to what they offered and to help make sure the nonprofit they selected can cover the costs of a PLA (and the time differential, for that matter, if it leads to delays – that’s operational costs for the nonprofit that were not part of the original offer), they’d be the heroes. Let’s hope they choose that route. I, for one, will be at the meeting to voice my support for what I think this building can become.

    Comment by Alameda Citizen — October 1, 2019 @ 10:56 am

  5. Councilmembers on this particular Council who are committed to fair, prevailing wages and typically insist on PLAs.

    I expect the City Council (City Staff by extension) to negotiate in the best interests of the City and therefore its residents.

    Prevailing wages are set by markets, no “agreement” forced by the city is needed. A PLA exists to pay above prevailing wages, and has to be secured by council directive because it’s uneconomic.

    A council that negotiates in the best interests of residents would avoid a PLA and instead operate at prevailing market based wages & costs. A PLA is just one more in a long line of council giving taxpayer funds away to union interests. An especially egregious example of this is on the council agenda for tonight…

    Comment by dave — October 1, 2019 @ 11:17 am

    • Yes, we know it is on the agenda tonight. That is the whole point of the post. (??)

      Comment by MP — October 1, 2019 @ 11:37 am

  6. Hello Everyone, Thank you all for this lively debate, it is clear that people care about this city and the fate of Carnegie library. The Carnegie Innovation Hall team has been hard at work on trying to make this project a reality for the benefit of everyone in Alameda. We have been working closely with the city staff and meeting with the city officials for a long time now. We have been patient with the delays of getting our lease to the city council for approval. The City staff we have been working with were surprised by the council’s requested changes as were we. We are all working together to find a way to move forward on this, but as a volunteer run nonprofit we have finite resources as we are not able to secure start up funding without an approved lease. We have a great plan, but quick timing and a clear path through the lease process are what we are all focused on at this moment. Please show your support and share comments with positivity and optimism. Thank you!

    Comment by Michael Sturtz — October 1, 2019 @ 1:46 pm

  7. I really wanted to stay out of this thread. I like the project. I think today’s kerfuffle on social media is a noisy, unforced error on the part of the project team. These things happen.

    First, prevailing wage is actually set by government not the market. It’s in practice synonymous with union wage. I learned this in my relatively few years working with young adults learning trades and hoping to eventually join unions. Our program, as a training program, had to get a waiver to be able to pay less than prevailing wage.

    Second, if you’ve been in the Bay Area for a minute and you’re trying to do a building project with a government partner *literally everything* that is making some folks salty is the norm. A project labor agreement is something the project team should have foreseen coming in negotiations. A city council flexing to make sure people get a decent wage and the benefits all workers deserve — should have been foreseen. It’s entirely predictable, so what happened that it wasn’t predicted? Not for me to say, but if I were on the project team I’d be doing an after action review to figure that out.

    Finally, I don’t know who is served by artists and craftspeople getting pitted against unions, but I know it’s not workers or the city. It’s kind of AWFUL to see anti-union sentiment from people who create things for a living. I implore you guys to take a breath, and get back to negotiations. Good luck.

    Comment by gaylon — October 1, 2019 @ 2:47 pm

    • Gaylon, on Page 1 of the RFQ Questions and Answers, a question was asked:

      Is a PLA required?

      The answer to the question was: No, but prevailing wages are required.

      Comment by Karen Bey — October 1, 2019 @ 3:35 pm

      • Outdated, surely, that thing must be!

        Comment by MP — October 1, 2019 @ 3:44 pm

      • If you see the keywords “prevailing wage” and don’t think a PLA will be coming down the pike then I don’t know what to say. For folks not familiar, an RFQ process is not a proposal process; it’s a Request for Qualifications, not a Request for Proposal. So….again, negotiations are to be expected when you move to proposal phase.

        Let me say again: I like this project. It seems worthwhile. Unions are good and they should be used. Why any of that is controversial is beyond me.

        Comment by Gaylon — October 1, 2019 @ 3:59 pm

        • Paying “prevailing wage” is required by law for public works projects, with or without a PLA. PLAs go beyond what’s required by the prevailing wage laws. The big advantage for the local agency is that they extract a pledge not to strike from the unionized workforce. They can also include benign-to-good things like preferences for local workers, etc. The downside is that they also require non-union workers to pay into union benefit plans that the non-union workers might not be able to access down the road. That tends to increase cost by discouraging non-union contractors from bidding. So there are reasonable arguments either way.

          But I don’t think it’s reasonable to wait until staff have already negotiated a draft agreement to drop in the idea of a PLA. That’s a recipe for blowing up the deal. And I also don’t think it’s fair to tell bidders that they should just expect a PLA, largely because I can’t imagine how anybody could have successfully read the minds of the successive councils down the years.

          Comment by Anon — October 2, 2019 @ 10:38 am

  8. I do believe “HP Nielsen” is a pseudonym. At least Michael Sturtz was willing to comment under his own name. (From Wikipedia: “Hans Peter Nielsen [May 21, 1859 – September 11, 1945] was a Danish-born American machinist, mechanic, engineer, fireman, and inventor who lived most of his life in Alameda, California. In 1910 Nielsen built the first biplane in Alameda, commissioned by Adrian J Merle. An early adopter of automobile technology, he also believed in the potential represented by aviation.”)

    Comment by trow125 — October 1, 2019 @ 4:58 pm

  9. I like the Carnegie Innovation Hall plan. I didn’t like the pinball museum idea and don’t like the city museum plan. They have a museum on the base which I never been and I have no desire to go to it. I have one antique dresser but everything else in our house is 2005 or newer. You go to a museum once and you never go again. The Innovation Hall I may go to more than once. I don’t really want to see old dishes or furniture. There was a store on Park Street Paulines Antiques which was packed full of that stuff. I went in there once which was enough. Some people like antiques but the up and coming generations not so much in my opinion.

    Comment by joelsf — October 3, 2019 @ 10:44 am

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