Council okays lease for ferry maintenance building
Council okays lease for ferry maintenance building
Image courtesy of the City of Alameda.
Ferry boats carrying passengers across San Francisco Bay will be coming to Alameda for fuel and maintenance someday soon, the City Council decided Tuesday night.
Council members approved a lease for the long-planned facility and an agreement charging the Water Emergency Transportation Authority with building a new resting area for harbor seals who in habit a portion of the bay they seek to use despite two no votes by Mayor Trish Herrera Spencer, who said the public did not have a chance to comment on the plan since it was presented to the city more than four years ago.
The council approved a 60-year lease agreement for 0.73 acres along West Hornet and Ferry Point streets in Alameda Point along with 3.4 acres in San Francisco Bay that's needed for the ferry maintenance and operations facility project. Like all Alameda Point leases, the lease for the ferry maintenance and operations center needed the assent of four council members to pass.
The ferry authority, which manages all of the public ferry service on the bay, also agreed to build a “haul out” for harbor seals which have appropriated an abandoned Navy raft in the area as a rest area. The authority agreed to set aside $100,000 to pay for the haul out and to work with the city to find a spot to build it as soon as possible as part of a memorandum of understanding also approved by the council. It will also seek permits allow the construction, which city staffer Nanette Mocanu characterized as rare, to take place.
Officials of the National Marine Fisheries Service have been consulted about the harbor seal issue, and Mocanu said the city is working with a marine biologist to determine where the best spot to put a new haul out would be.
Backers of the lease deal - a list that included representatives of the carpenters' union, the Alameda Chamber of Commerce and the City of Richmond, which said the facility is needed to advance their effort to win their own ferry service - said that approval of the ferry facility would create 100 jobs during the construction phase and 50 workers would be on site permanently once it opened.
While proponents of the haul out - who expressed fears the seals would be driven from the bay once the dock was demolished or fell apart - seemed largely pleased the second agreement had been drafted, some opponents of the facility said they wanted the shoreline to be a park instead; the deal includes some funding for realignment of a segment of the Bay Trail that crosses Alameda Point. One speaker, Travis Wilson, said the decision involving whether to build the facility comes down to whether the citizens of Alameda consider that portion of coastline worth preserving.
“We don’t know but if you make a decision at least make one that could be reversed later,” he said.
The actual location of the structure will be determined by the Water Emergency Transportation Authority officials and city staff but the council won’t have decision making power over that portion of the plan.
Still, council members like Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft supported the plan because it would help the regional water transportation system and preserve some of the maritime heritage of Alameda.
Councilman Jim Oddie said the project would take advantage of Alameda’s position as an Island community, while Vice Mayor Frank Matarrese - who pushed for the haul out agreement - favored the plan and the jobs it would create.
Matarrese wanted the final agreement for the haul out completed in two months and favored a monthly report to the council on the project’s progress.
Outgoing City Manager John Russo said the staff could only provide reports every other month, based on the current level of staffing.
Councilman Tony Daysog said the council had performed its due diligence in considering the plan and mentioned press reports that “castigated,” him, Oddie and Ashcraft as opposing protection for the seals. An editor who performed a cursory scan of local news stories on the topic could not locate a news article in which a council members was brought to task for their position on the plan.
“It was really bad,” he said. “I’ve never seen anything like that.”
Spencer said the plan has not been presented on the Island since that last hearing in 2010, so she was voting no. Before moving forward, the ferry authority needed to get approvals from its board and from the Bay Conservation and Development Commission, which is based in San Francisco. The lease is the first approval it needed to obtain from the city before moving forward; the Planning Board will review the design of the planned facility on Monday.
“We have not heard from the community,” she said. “We have not done our due diligence in reaching out to Alameda.”
Construction of the $50 million project which includes a four-story ferry facility and 12-slip berthing area along with a fuel tank to support operations, is expected to begin in January, and ferry officials hope to open the facility in May of 2017.
Editor Michele Ellson contributed to this report.