Public Comment

City of Alameda Voters Should Vote ‘No’ on Measure B

By Eugenie P. Thomson
Thursday January 14, 2010 - 09:30:00 AM

On Feb. 2, 2010, I’m voting against Measure B, and I urge you to join me.   

First, Measure B violates California state law. The reports and plans offered as the basis for Measure B aren’t signed by an engineer of any kind, licensed or unlicensed. We simply don’t know who performed the conceptual engineering nor who wrote the measure. Sun Cal’s Pat Kehiler claims the law requires an engineer to sign only the final engineering plans for construction bid documents, but that’s plain wrong. Mr. Kehiler should go back and read Section 6735 of the California Business and Professions Code, which clearly states: “All civil…engineering plans, calculations, specifications, and reports…shall be prepared by, or under the responsible charge of, a registered civil engineer and shall include his or her name and license number.”   

This may seem unimportant, but it’s not. Measure B includes engineering concepts and plans for sewer systems, roadways and other infrastructure features. These plans delineate very specific widths and locations for pipes, and pumping stations concepts; road and ferry system concepts; right-of-way widths; and street widths. These types of specifications are crucial to environmentally sound sewage processing and safe efficient traffic flow.   

Getting the details of these types of designs wrong could have catastrophic consequences for Alamedans. If the infrastructure for Measure B is not designed by an experienced, licensed civil engineer, nightmarish traffic congestion, increased roadway hazards, sewage overflows and the like could result. So when SunCal’s representatives try to tell you it’s “no big deal,” don’t believe them.   

The Legislature’s original intent in passing the above Business and Professions statute was to ensure that all parties investing in an engineering and construction project—banks, for instance—have solid, dependable data by which to base a realistic risk assessment. Alameda taxpayers, whose money could ultimately fund Measure B, deserve no less.   

What we do know about Measure B is the engineering reports and other exhibits of almost 300 pages are voluminous and incomprehensible to a layperson. Even I, with 33 years’ experience as a licensed civil engineer, had difficulty deciphering them and am not an attorney to understand all the legalese components of the one-sided nonnegotiable Development Agreement. Clearly, the measure contains major flaws. Just a quick check reveals designs that a licensed civil engineer would never propose, such as key roadways that don’t meet city design standards and are too narrow so that trucks do not fit; and no civil engineer would propose a ferry terminal without including the costs for cleaning and preparing the Seaplane lagoon for ferry service.   

The major omissions in Measure B result in its unrealistic financial projections. Independent analysis by city staff indicates the cost estimates for the eight public benefit projects are grossly understated. The cost is likely $375 million, not the $200 million stated in the measure. Where will the shortfall come from?   

Furthermore, the cost of the public benefit projects, including roads, ferry terminal, transit and off-site roadway improvements, plus library, etc., in Measure B is capped at $200 million, and that’s 2009 dollars, with no consideration of inflation. Because Measure B allows the developer to build the projects until the year 2025 or even later, the purchasing power of that $200 million will decline over the next 15 years to an estimated $138 million.   

There is simply too much we don’t know about Measure B for voters to make an educated decision. It would be foolhardy to approve a vast, multi-million-dollar development with the potential to greatly impact the traffic and quality of life on Alameda Island without knowing its design is sound and its cost projections realistic. Alamedans should vote “no” on Measure B.  


Eugenie Thomson is a former board member of the state of California’s Board of Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors.