Column: The Public Eye: Alameda Holds Open House at Alameda Point

By David Howard
Friday January 26, 2007

On Tuesday night, Jan. 23, the City of Alameda held an open house for citizens to meet the developers vying for status with the city as official “replacement master developer” for Alameda Point, the former naval air station. 

The city has been soliciting proposals for a new master development since Alameda Point Community Partners, a consortium that included Shea Homes and Centex Homes, backed away from the project in September, citing the Navy’s $108 million price tag juxtaposed against a softening real estate market and the high cost of cleaning up the contamination from decades of Navy use. 

The City’s redevelopment effort for the former base suffered another blow last week when a fifth developer, Corky McMillin, of San Diego, widely considered a strong contender backed out of the competition, citing the financial and environmental challenges.  

The remaining four developers—Catellus, Lennar Urban, SunCal and United World Infrastructure—played to a packed house at the Mastick Senior Center on Santa Clara avenue in Alameda. Debbie Potter, of the City of Alameda Development Services department, opened the proceedings and then promptly turned it over to the developers, who each had ten minutes to present. 

The order of presenters was drawn by straws, and Catellus went first. All developers stressed their financial backing, experience with “brownfield” developments, and the importance of community input in the planning process. After the presentations, attendees were invited to visit tables and presentations staffed by the developers and ask questions and collect brochures.  

Both Catellus and Lenar Urban employ former City of Alameda employees, respectivelyBruce Knopf and Stephen Proud. Near the close of his presentation, Proud even joked that, as a former city staffer, he didn’t want to give Debbie Potter the satisfaction of cutting off his presentation for running out of time.  

Knopf is widely credited with securing the city’s approval of Catellus’ “Alameda Landing” mixed-use development, on the former U.S. Navy Fleet Industrial Supply Center in Alameda, which includes up to 300,000 square feet of new retail, 400,000 square feet of office space, and 300 single-family homes. Alameda City Council formally green-lighted the project at the Tuesday, Jan. 16 City Council meeting.  

SunCal, as a relative newcomer to the redevelopment, presented few specifics on their plans for Alameda Point but promised to learn with the community what would best suit the project site. Perhaps the most innovative and broad-ranging proposal was from Dubai-based United World International (UWI) whose proposal for an “Alameda Green Island Village” incorporates an ultra-light rail transit line from CyberTran International and for which the Coalition for a New California Infrastructure (CNCI) is a partner. CNCI counts UC Berkeley, UC Davis and UC Merced as partners. CNCI is led by Dr. George Cluff, Ph.D. of the Haas Graduate School of Business at UC Berkeley.  

The UWI proposal promises to work with UC to bring to Alameda Point a research institute devoted to the study of environmental improvement, sustainability and global warming issues. 

When asked if UC Berkeley might find a way out of the current controversy over the planned student athletic facility for Memorial Stadium by building at Alameda Point instead, and running shuttle buses or shuttle ferries to connect to the campus, Cluff responded: “That’s an A+ idea!”  

Cluff also responded favorably to the suggestion of approaching the Lester Center for Entrepreneurship of the Haas School of Business to see if the center would be interested in extending its Berkeley Entrepreneurship Laboratory to Alameda Point, possibly in conjunction with the College of Alameda and private enterprise, such as Bay Area venture capitalists, thereby creating a “Sand Hill Road North” with views of San Francisco. While Cluff responded positively to both suggestions, nobody on the UWI team admitted to having approached either Cal Athletics or the Lester Center for Entrepreneurship to date.  

The next step in the selection process is for the remaining developers to present to the Alameda City Council, sitting as the Alameda Reuse and Redevelopment Authority, on Feb. 7, at City Hall in Alameda. 


David Howard is an Alameda resident and a member of Action Alameda.