East Bay Express: Changing the Rules at Alameda Point


In the three months since the developer SunCal first sought to get its plan for the former Naval Air Station on Alameda's November ballot, this small town with a reputation for big disagreements has certainly lived up to expectations. The signature-gathering process escalated from mailers and mayoral endorsements, to petitioner misrepresentations and a movement to withdraw signatures, to an outright altercation after one signature gatherer shoved an Alameda Sun editor for daring to take her picture. The company that hired the petitioners boasts on its web site of once "Qualifying a measure in Alaska in under three weeks in the midst of minus 40-degree weather and an exploding volcano," but such acts of nature are apparently no preparation for weathering an Alameda development debate.

But SunCal has taken a different route. There is only one way to adopt a development agreement without negotiation, and that is through a voter-sponsored initiative. Essentially, in the process of taking the Measure A issue to voters, the developer is attempting to bypass the usual way of doing business and seeking to set a number of its own terms.

"It's pretty one-sided," said Assistant City Manager David Brandt. "They wrote it and it wasn't negotiated. Typically, if there was no initiative, they might have submitted a draft and we would have sent it up marked-up six ways to Sunday."