Blogging Bayport Alameda

January 20, 2010

It’s tricky

So, in an apparent about-face from last Friday when I was told that the SunCal submission was a public document, apparently both the City and SunCal have gone to Def con stall and I’m getting the runaround.   According to SunCal spokesman, Joe Aguirre, they are not releasing the documents because of the “confidentiality agreement” between the City and SunCal.

The unspoken is that it appears that the blockage is coming from the City side (surprise surprise)  So, in the public (namely, my own) interest, I’ve submitted a public records request and if the City wants to justify how precisely it is not in the public’s interest given the election, I can’t wait to get the answer.   For a City that is interested in “transparency” and and “informed populace”, it will be interesting to see how they justify that these documents are not public.   So far, I have not received a response yet from the City Attorney’s office, but it’s only been a day.

And given what this post topic is about, it’s not surprising that SunCal is playing along with what the City wants if they want to use the density bonus to achieve the type of development they want, as SunCal’s spokesfolks have stated:

The development plan submitted on Thursday is the same plan that will be on the ballot on February 2, 2010. The scope of the development is identical, as are the residential components, public benefits and amenities, and other facilities and elements. Our goal is to develop Alameda Point with a vibrant, transit-oriented, mixed-use community that provides great public benefits to the City of Alameda and its residents.

So that leaves the question of how it can be done.   Of course, there is always the ballot measure, but I wouldn’t hold my breath that this Council would consider placing a Measure A exemption the ballot themselves.    The other method is the density bonus ordinance.   But as the title of this post would suggest, it’s tricky.


January 19, 2010

Back to basics

So as I mentioned on Friday, SunCal has submitted to the City another plan (which happens to be the same plan) with a new Development Agreement containing modifications to certain terms the City found objectionable.   This submission has now placed the next move firmly in the hands of the City to decide what they want to do next.

The complaints, to recap, with Measure B, in large part was in large part due to the appearance finality of the Development Agreement, the lack of ability of the City to negotiate terms, and the need for affirmative steps being taken by the developer only to amend portions of the Development Agreement.    This move now gives the City all the negotiating room it wants in order to scale the terms to its liking, so everyone should be behind the plan now?  Right?

After all, this is the plan that the Mayor, Councilmember Frank Matarrese, the Chamber of Commerce, etc and so forth have said that they like.   Now, they can negotiate the bejeezus out of this thing.


January 15, 2010

Your move

As part of the Exclusive Negotiating Agreement (ENA,) there is a provision for SunCal to submit an alternative plan to the City.   And by City, I mean the Planning and Building Department Community Development Department.    This submission is akin to any submission to the Planning and Building Department.

The milestone date for submission is today and SunCal turned in a plan yesterday.

I talked very briefly to Andrew Thomas, Planning Services Manager, who briefly reviewed the document yesterday.   He mentions that the land/development plan is essentially the same.   They have also submitted a draft Development Agreement as well which has two key provisions changed that were of concern to the City and have been  mainstays in arguments against Measure B.

  1. $200 million public benefits cap has been lifted
  2. 2% property tax cap has been lifted as well


DDA? What DDA?

So I’ve only gotten through a small portion of the Joint School Board and City Council meeting but from what I have watched, it appears that most staff were given the direction to try to not talk about the existence of the Disposition and Development Agreement in detail and gloss over it as much as possible.

Because as I’ve mentioned previously, the DDA is where everything happens.  While folks have surmised that if the Development Agreement is adopted as is, SunCal has the ability to transfer its vested rights to whomever it sees fit, the unspoken detail that is missing is that those vested rights come with nothing.

That’s right no land.


January 14, 2010

The perfect is the enemy of the good

Adding to the discussion regarding Development Agreement and Disposition and Development Agreements and whether the City will be at a complete disadvantage when if Measure B is approved by voters.   John Knox White over at Stop, Drop and Roll contacted a source that, hopefully, folks will view as knowledgeable on the subject of DAs, DDAs, and how the City of Alameda has fared at the negotiating table over the years.

Former Assistant City Manager, David Brandt, now a City Manager in his own right in Oregon after an extensive search performed by Redmond, OR’s Interim City Manager clarified some issues that have proved to be confusing regarding this whole process.   Highlights:

…I checked in with an expert on redevelopment law, former Assistant City Manager David Brandt, who re-confirmed to me that it’s the DDA that controls what happens to the development and not the DA.


January 13, 2010

Draw down

Because most folks are too lazy to click through to attachments, here is the City budget which lays out the prospective budget until 2017 for Alameda Point.   From what I understand, some folks think that it’s meaningful to add up the “Total Revenue” line and say, “hey the City is going to be taking in x millions of dollars in revenue from Alameda Point in the next x number of years” without any sort of context at all.


January 12, 2010

Assumption junction, what’s your function?

Over the weekend my husband ran into a neighbor and they got to talking about Measure B.   Now, as an aside, I generally try to avoid the conversation of Measure B with my neighbors if I can at all help it because I don’t want folks to think I am pushing my political beliefs on them, particularly if it’s a casual chance encounter.   Anyway, the neighbor remarked to my husband that he wasn’t quite sure — even after reading my blog — of my position on Measure B.  Apparently I am doing a better job than even I thought, because I thought I was pretty clear that I was pro-Measure B, of being not so shrill about my support.

But just to declare the obvious, I am voting, or rather I have voted (absentee) for Measure B.   Digression over

Isn’t it nice how far we have come from: “the Development Agreement is set in STONE, there is no way that it can be amended” to the now oft quoted City Attorney’s letter which says:

After the election (and assuming voter-approval), SunCal may amend the Development Agreement if it chooses to do so;  however, SunCal will control whether and when it would seek such a amendment and it should not be assumed that any developer would voluntarily relinquish fiscal and other benefits gained from a voter-approved Initiative;


January 11, 2010

Gentlemen’s agreement

I found this post by Eve Pearlman on The Island to be very thought-provoking, but it was this comment that sparked the need for more clarification.   The commenter writes:

I think there are four questions underlying this whole confusing issue:
1. What kind of development do we want to have on Alameda Point?
2. Does SunCal’s plan meet those standards?
3. Is SunCal the right company to implement the plan?
4. Is a ballot initiative the right way to answer these questions?

So far, most of the debate has been about questions 1 to 3, with compelling arguments on both sides. However, I’ve recently concluded that question 4 is the essential one. I agree with Eve that this is no way to create a development agreement. These kinds of agreements need to be carefully negotiated by professionals on city staff and vetted by our elected officials to whom we’ve given this responsibility. Putting it on the ballot has created more heat than light, generating more self-serving and emotional opinions than logical arguments. I’m inclined to vote “no” and force city government and SunCal to either come to some kind of agreement or find a new master developer. This has dragged on a long time, but that’s not a reason to compromise.

I think the whole “Development Agreement” issue has been made more complex than it actually is and been monopolized by opponents to Measure B to raise doubts for folks who haven’t necessarily been following the conversation too closely.


January 8, 2010

Golf analogy

On Wednesday night, the City Council voted to give Mif Albright a reprieve and keep it open until the responses to the RFP are reviewed and the private operator selected makes a decision on how they would run the Chuck Corica complex as a whole.

But that wasn’t the most interesting part of the discussion which was this mini rant that the Interim City Manager Ann Marie Gallant went on after clearly being frustrated by the direction the vote was heading.


January 7, 2010

The negotiator

As I posted on In Alameda yesterday,  the Yes on Measure B side got a surprise endorsement in AUSD School Boardmember Mike McMahon.  (Cue requisite accusations of taking money from the developer or being in the developer’s pocket)  Because — according to Alameda logic — if you are an elected official and you support a development proposal then clearly someone has lined your pockets.   However, if you are an elected official and you oppose a development proposal then you have done your due diligence and made the smart decision.  Classic!

Putting aside the ridiculousness that are these types of accusations, what makes this endorsement surprising is that Mike McMahon generally sways toward the conservative side of most issues.   And when I mean “conservative side” I mean in that he will tend to not make strong political statements.  For example in the last election (2008) he made no endorsements of any candidates, which is not at all typical for most elected officials who use their name as currency to collect at a future date for future elections.   Plus he’s big into the fiscal side of any issue he weighs into.


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