Alameda Point Explained: You had questions, we've got answers

Alameda Point Explained: You had questions, we've got answers

Michele Ellson

A vintage Alameda Point tour map.

Updated at 12:56 p.m. Wednesday, May 8 with additional information about how Alameda Point got its name.

Back in March, we announced a fresh effort to bring a little more clarity to the subject of Alameda Point, and with that, opened up the floor for your questions on the former Naval Air Station Alameda. Today we've got the first batch of answers, with more to come. If you're looking for documents or more information on the Point, we've got two places where you can find those: the Alameda Point documents page on the city's new website and the newly redesigned Alameda Point Info, which contains a veritable trove of information on the Point. And if it's just the broad brush you want, read on.

What is Alameda Point?
Alameda Point is the name given to the former Naval Air Station Alameda when it shut down in 1997 as part of a national military base closure program. Diane Lichtenstein, who served on the Base Reuse Advisory Group, said the group ran a contest to select the former Naval Air Station's new name:

When the base was closing, we ran a contest asking people to write in names they suggest for our new neighborhood. Several sent in Alameda Point, which the BRAG committee thought was perfectly descriptive. Then we went round and round re "should it be Point or Pointe?" That only took a few meetings!!

What are the official boundaries of where it starts and ends?
Alameda Point comprises roughly the western third of the Island – 1,560 acres of land and 1,115 acres of water, according to the Point's Base Realignment and Closure web page – and it’s bounded by the San Francisco Bay on the south and west, the Oakland/Alameda Estuary on the north and Main Street on the east.

View Alameda Naval Complex in a larger map

What does the city own, and what do the feds own?
As of today, the federal government still owns the vast majority of Alameda Point – less than 12 percent has been handed off, according to the base closure website – though they could transfer much of it to the city and to the Department of Veterans Affairs by the end of 2013. The Navy gave the city the 73-acre East Housing site in 2000; that was developed into the Bayport housing project. It gave the former Marina Village housing area to the U.S. Coast Guard in 2008, and in 2009 it gave the U.S. Department of Interior another 44 acres the city is ultimately supposed to get for development of a sports complex. The city also has an agreement with the Navy that permits the city to lease out space at the Point while the land handover is being processed; in exchange, the city is responsible for upkeep. The city is ultimately slated to receive another 1,825 acres of land and water from the Navy, and city staffers are hoping to get much of that – 511 acres of land and 870 of water – by the summer of 2013, with the rest expected to be handed over in 2014, 2015 and 2019. The VA is seeking 624 acres of land that they’re hoping to get by the end of the year. Another 42 acres in the North Housing parcel is to be handed off to service providers who will provide housing for homeless people; another portion of the North Housing parcel is expected to be auctioned off by the Navy for market-rate housing.

What jurisdiction does the city have over the Point? What can the city do to influence what the Feds do with the property?
The city’s jurisdiction over what happens at Alameda Point is limited, because the Navy still owns most of it. In anticipation of a land transfer, the city and Navy signed a deal in 2000 that allows the city to lease much of the property on the base; that property, which the Navy is eventually slated to give to the city, is subject to Alameda’s land use controls and permitting unless the federal government makes a dramatic change of plans and decides to do something else with the land. But the city has “very little control” over the property that’s not subject to the lease, like the land the Navy plans to give to the Department of Veterans Affairs for a clinic, cemetery and open space, said Jennifer Ott, the city’s chief operating officer for Alameda Point. City leaders recently inked a nonbinding term sheet with the VA that will allow access to their property for utilities and other infrastructure, but Ott said the federal entity won’t be subject to Alameda’s building codes or zoning rules. One other wrinkle: Much of the Point is part of the state’s Tidelands Trust, which restricts what can be built on it to water-oriented uses.

What are the current plans for the Point, and how did they come to be determined?
The city’s planning process is being informed by the Community Reuse Plan developed in 1996. The current plan calls for 1,425 homes on Alameda Point (including 260 Big Whites and Alameda Point Collaborative units already there), a quarter of which must be affordable to lower-income residents; 5.5 million square feet of commercial space; and 258 acres of parks and open space, with the possibility of a marina, college campus or other uses. The Point is being divided up into subdistricts that include residential and employment areas, a town center, historic reuse, park and maritime areas.

During a public outreach process that followed the City Council’s decision to vote SunCal off the Island, in July 2010, city staff determined that residents still favor the mixed-use, transit-oriented development concept and open space network outlined in the reuse plan though the question about how many houses should be built there remains open. When presented with a fresh opportunity to obtain much of the Point at no cost and to finalize the long-delayed land transfer, the city opted to begin with the numbers contained in the reuse plan (which includes housing already built at Bayport and planned homes at Alameda Landing, along with the Marina Village housing the Coast Guard got). Ott has said that over time, the development plans for the Point could change, though the deal the city inked with the Navy requires a $50,000 payment for every home built over the number set in the reuse plan.

What ideas have been developed for the Point in the past?
The 1996 Community Reuse Plan being used as the basis for current Point planning envisioned 2,737 homes, 5.5 million square feet of commercial space, parks, a wildlife refuge, a marina, a college campus, and a golf course. The city later determined a planned golf course and hotel at the Point wouldn’t pencil out financially; city leaders also determined that Pan Pacific University, which had hoped to set up a campus at the Point, lacked an adequate business plan.

The Point’s original master developers, Alameda Point Community Partners, offered a Preliminary Development Concept in 2006 that included 1,800 homes and 3.4 million square feet of commercial space, 336,000 square feet of waterfront retail, 149 acres of parks and a marina with up to 800 slips. But they bowed out as the economy tanked. SunCal Companies, the second developer the city brought in to redevelop the base, ultimately sought to construct up to 4,845 homes, 4.57 million square feet of commercial space and 146 acres of parks. But voters resoundingly rejected that plan at the polls.

In 2011, the city sought to attract a new Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory campus, though the lab’s leaders decided to build it on property the University at California, Berkeley already owns in Richmond.

What ever happened with the SunCal lawsuit? Is that resolved? Did Alameda win?
The city settled SunCal’s lawsuits in December 2012; the Southern California developer had alleged the city breached its agreement to negotiate a Point development deal exclusively with them by seeking to develop the Point on its own and that city staffers destroyed documents that could have served as evidence of the alleged misdeeds. Under the settlement, the city agreed to pay SunCal $4.25 million, less than the $17 million the company’s reps said they spent on plans to develop the former Navy base. More on the settlement agreement here:

How much open space will be left in the current development plans?
The city’s plans include 258 acres of parks and open space, including a Bay Trail, a waterfront promenade, historic open spaces and parade grounds, neighborhood parks and recreation facilities and bike and walking trails. Separately, the Department of Veterans Affairs has said it would leave 512 acres of the 624 acres it’s seeking undeveloped.

How will the Bay Trail be incorporated into Alameda Point?
At this point, city staffers are talking about a path that rings the Point and connects to a hoped-for Cross Alameda Trail, though the southern portion of the path will be off-limits during nesting season for the endangered California least tern.

What will happen to the nonprofits that are currently there once revitalization gets underway?
Plans are for the Alameda Point Collaborative to consolidate, with new facilities on less acreage. The Collaborative's Doug Biggs had this to add regarding the fate of additional nonprofits on the base:

The warehouse that houses The Food Bank, Red Cross, Changing Gears and a few other entities are part of Alameda Point Collaborative and are thus included under the Legally Binding Agreement that APC has with the City.

The city is working on an EIR. What is an EIR, and what impact does it have on how the Point will be shaped?
An environmental impact report, or EIR, analyzes a wealth of environmental and other impacts a proposed development could have on the community. The list includes 17 different areas of study, including impacts to air quality and wildlife, noise, traffic and more. The report must describe methods for addressing significant impacts – watering down excessive construction dust, for example, or requiring a developer to fund transit passes to blunt traffic. It must also examine alternatives to the proposed development; these typically include a no-build and an environmentally superior alternative. If the development would cause a significant impact that can’t be addressed, the developer or government agency compiling the report can issue a statement detailing why the impact is justified – or consider changes to their plan.

To what extent will the city’s current EIR restrict what can be done at the Point?
The role of an environmental impact report isn’t to set parameters for a proposed development, but to detail its impacts and seek out ways to address them. The existing Community Reuse Plan and other planning documents that are now being drafted – new zoning rules for the Point and a specific plan for a proposed Town Center – will spell out what can be built, and where, though changes to those rules may well be sought over the course of Point redevelopment.

What is the time-scale for development at the Point?
City staffers anticipate development will take place in phases between 2014 and 2035, though they have also said redeveloping the Point could take up to 30 years.

Where can one submit ideas for the Point, if there is such a central place.
The city is establishing Facebook and Twitter accounts specific to Alameda Point; while those are in process, Ott says anyone with ideas for Alameda Point can e-mail her at

Anyone giving formal or informal tours of the area on a more or less regular basis.
The Navy also gives an annual tour to highlight toxic cleanup efforts.

Who has rental info?
The city’s Alameda Point leasing agent is PM Realty; information about available space is available here:


Submitted by dbiggs on Thu, May 2, 2013

Great first set of answers, Michele! A couple of clarifications. The warehouse that houses The Food Bank, Red Cross, Changing Gears and a few other entities are part of Alameda Point Collaborative and are thus included under the Legally Binding Agreement that APC has with the City.

Submitted by Michele Ellson on Thu, May 2, 2013

Thanks for that, Doug. This is going to be an iterative process and anything people have to add or fix is welcomed!

Submitted by Robert T. Sullwold on Thu, May 2, 2013

I’ll take up the invitation and offer another point of clarification.

There’s nothing wrong with saying the City “opted to begin” with 1,425 housing units, but the public ought to be aware that moving beyond that “beginning” comes at a price.
Amendment No. 2 to the Memorandum of Agreement between the Navy and ARRA (now the City) recites that,

[T]o ensure the Property is developed in accordance with the 1996 NAS Alameda Community Reuse Plan ("Reuse Plan"), the Parties agree to include in the Agreement an enforcement mechanism to deter development different from that contemplated by the Reuse Plan.

The “enforcement mechanism” consists of a penalty owed by the City of $50,000 per unit for every “market-rate residential unit” occupied in excess of the “Residential Base-Line Amount” – i.e., the 1,425 units contemplated by the Reuse Plan. So if plans for the Point change to include more than 1,425 homes, either the City or a developer will be on the hook for a $50,000 per unit penalty.

Submitted by Michele Ellson on Thu, May 2, 2013

Thanks for adding that, Bob.

Submitted by Janet Ellis (not verified) on Fri, Sep 27, 2013

The portion for the Nature Preserve for the California Least Terns, what organization will be owning and/or controlling it.

Richard Bangert's picture
Submitted by Richard Bangert on Mon, Sep 30, 2013

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.