San Francisco Chronicle: Ex-Navy bases in Bay Area remain stuck in limbo, April 18, 2011


When developers imploded the old Oak Knoll Naval Hospital last week, crowds cheered and veterans wept.

After all, the demolition appeared to be a major milestone in the grueling, exasperating, mind-numbingly complex transformation of the Bay Area's former military outposts.

It wasn't.

Oak Knoll is nearly in as much limbo today as it was when the Navy left it in 1996. So are the Alameda Naval Air Station, Point Molate Navy Fuel Depot and Mare Island Naval Shipyard. Shuttered military sites in Concord, Treasure Island and Hunters Point and the Oakland Army Base are moving forward, but so slowly that the Navy might decide to come back before the bulldozers start rolling.

"I can't think of one base reuse project in California that's gone well, in all honesty," said Pat Keliher, vice president of SunCal, an Orange County developer that's been involved in numerous reuse projects, including Alameda. "The issue is that when the bases closed, everyone came up with reuse plans and set all these expectations, but then no one sat down and said, 'Can we really build this?' "