Plans for the Point
Friday, November 02 2012
Last month, City Council approved – with my wholehearted support – moving forward with a basewide environmental impact report and a master infrastructure plan for Alameda Point. The work product should reach Council sometime next year. Around the same time, the results of two other less well known but equally important planning efforts may also come before Council: proposed zoning amendments governing the entire Point as well as a specific plan for a “Waterfront Town Center.”
Amending a zoning ordinance may sound like just cleaning up the books. And the draft ordinance prepared by City staff performs that function. But the zoning amendments proposed by staff for the Point are more far-reaching than mere clean-up: they lay out a framework for defining which land uses are permitted or prohibited in what areas. Any future reuse and redevelopment must take place within that framework.
Let me give everyone a heads-up:
The draft ordinance prepared by City staff for presentation to the Planning Board on May 24 proposed dividing the Point into six sub-districts: AP Town Center, AP Residential, AP Adaptive Reuse Employment, AP Employment, AP Maritime and Visitor-Serving, and AP Open Space.
Job-creating uses are concentrated in the Adaptive Reuse Employment sub-district – which encompasses the area in the Historic District where existing commercial buildings are located – and the Employment sub-district – which includes the southeast area where the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab was supposed to go. The draft provides for Open Space along the Estuary and the Bay as well as a Maritime Visitor-Serving Center surrounding the Seaplane Lagoon and running through the middle of the Historic District.
According to the staff report, the proposed ordinance “focuses residential development” in the Residential and Town Center sub-districts, but it does not specify the total number of housing units allowed at the Point. According to the March 12 staff report, staff intended to incorporate into the ordinance the 1,425-unit cap imposed by the no-cost conveyance agreement with the Navy (See “The cost of ‘no cost’” on this blog). The meeting minutes reflect that two Planning Board members objected to including a housing cap in the ordinance, and it was omitted from the draft prepared for the May 24 meeting.
The “Residential” sub-district is located across from the Bayport development. The draft ordinance allows a “variety of housing types” in this area. The “Town Center” sub‑district runs along Atlantic Avenue westward from Main Street and around the Seaplane Lagoon. The staff report describes it as “the retail center and the ‘gateway’” to the Point. Multi-family housing is permitted in this area; single-family housing is not.
Planning for the Town Center actually has gone even further. In April, the City applied for a grant from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission to prepare a “precise plan” for a 125-acre “Waterfront Town Center” that will “include a variety of multi-family residential housing types, recreation and visitor serving uses, retail/commercial space, and maritime commercial uses concentrated within close proximity of” a transit station. Specifically, the plan provides for 400-500 housing units centered in a 25-acre area, including “significant” affordable housing, with an approximate density range of 25-60 dwelling units/acre. According to the grant application, a “critical component” of the plan will be the “development of a master Density Bonus plan that enables the development of multi-family housing in this Area, despite the limitations of Alameda Charter Amendment 21 (Measure A).”
The MTC approved a $200,000 grant for the Waterfront Town Center “precise plan” in June, but the City has not yet issued a Request for Proposals. Nor has the draft zoning ordinance been presented formally to the Planning Board. The item was placed on the Planning Board’s May 24 agenda, but then taken off, and it has not been rescheduled.
My conversations with voters during the campaign have confirmed that the issue of how much housing of what type should be allowed at the Point remains a contentious one. All interested parties should be prepared to make their views known when the draft zoning ordinance and Waterfront Town Center plan are presented to the Planning Board and Council next year. In the meantime, I hope the planning process will not detract the City from aggressively seeking job-creating businesses for the areas to be zoned for commercial use, which I continue to regard as a top priority.