Voters to decide on Alameda Naval Air Station project

January 30, 2010 3:54:15 PM PST
Alameda voters will go to the polls Tuesday to decide the fate of a contentious proposal to build a huge development on the site of the former Alameda Naval Air Station that has been closed for more than 12 years.

Measure B would create a one-time exemption to the city's 1972 ban on multi-unit housing and allow apartments and condominiums at the former Navy base on the island city's western end, which is known as Alameda Point.

Approval would allow Irvine-based developer SunCal to go ahead with plans to build 4,500 units of housing, 3,500 square feet of retail space, two schools, a library, 145 acres of open space, a 58-acre sports field complex, 15 miles of bike paths, a ferry terminal and other amenities.

At least 15 percent of the housing units must be affordable to people with low and moderate incomes.

Four other developers have tried but failed to transform the 1,500-acre site, which is contaminated by its many years as a naval base.

Measure B proponents, such as East Bay Regional Park District President Doug Siden, say the project should go forward because the costs of maintaining the crumbling infrastructure and decaying buildings at Alameda Point continue to grow, making it a burden on the city and its taxpayers.

Siden and other supporters say in their ballot argument that "this plan will not cost existing taxpayers" and the city requires that the plan must pay for itself.

But opponents, including Mayor Beverly Johnson and most members of the City Council, say Measure B "is one sided," circumvents city planning processes and gives SunCal "complete control of Alameda Point."

They also allege that the measure creates traffic from a potential 11,000 new residents without sufficient funding for managing traffic.

In addition, they claim SunCal is making "false promises" and there's no guarantee that the agreements in the measure will be legally enforceable and protect the city.

Measure B needs a simple majority of voters for approval.