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Re-Cap of SunCal Community Meeting

After an eight-month hiatus, SunCal continued their series of community meetings about their vision for Alameda Point. The last meeting they held was December 13th, 2007 at the Officers Club at Alameda Point.

It’s clear that SunCal has abandoned any pretense of staying within the bounds of Measure A. Whereas at the December 13th meeting, they presented a Measure A compliant plan with 2,000 homes, and a non-compliant plan with 4,000 homes, on Thursday they presented two plans, both of which would not be compliant with Measure A. And, as Action Alameda predicted, the number of homes they are planning for has grown – the two proposals, A and B, now include 4,000 homes and 6,000 homes respectively. At the current average of 2.38 persons per home, Plan B with 6,000 homes would bring roughly 14,000 people to Alameda. And did anyone notice that while Peter Calthorpe had the figure 6,000 homes in fine print on the chart, he never once spoke aloud about 6,000 homes or how many people that might bring to Alameda?

SunCal chart showing 6,000 homes and 14,000 to 15,000 people planned for Alameda Point.
And, sadly, SunCal is still planning for Alameda Point as if it was an isolated parcel in the desert, and not 1/3rd of an island that already has over 30,000 homes and 75,000 residents. They say that the 4,000 home proposal does not support retail at Alameda Point – yet they ignore all of the homes just on the other side of Main Street. They say the 4,000 home proposal doesn’t provide enough people or density for transit – yet they ignore all of the people in Alameda that currently use the existing Main Street ferry terminal. Your correspondent sat at a table with a woman that had recently bought a home just one block north of Encinal High School. She takes the Main Street ferry and was keen to see what would happen to the ferry terminal when and if it’s moved to the Seaplane Lagoon.

Another problem is the solar farm and the proposed grey-water recycling. Again, SunCal ignores the rest of Alameda, and claims that they have to build 6,000 homes to support these two great ideas for Alameda Point. Do they not know that Alameda Power & Telecom is already adept at using renewable energy resources and would make a good partner to develop the solar farm to serve the entire island? Why are they not considering the rest of Alameda when it comes to this sustainable infrastructure? City Council should insist that they take off their blinders and factor in the rest of Alameda when it comes to this infrastructure – it should be built with a view to serve all of us in Alameda, not just the homes at Alameda Point.

There are many other weaknesses with their proposals, specifically regarding public transit. Peter Calthorpe talked enthusiastically about Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) – dedicated bus lanes to whisk people through the tube to BART. But what about coming back? How does Mr. Calthorpe propose to persuade Oakland to create BRT lanes between the Oakland side of the tube and the BART stations? In both directions. The same question applies to his twenty-second century proposal for an elevated railway Personal Rapid Transit system. Neither SunCal, nor the City of Alameda, and not even Peter Calthorpe have it within their power to make Oakland accept and support an elevated PRT railway on their side of the estuary, running through Oakland to BART. And why would they? They owe Alameda nothing. Charles Revson, the founder of Revlon Cosmetics said “In my factory I make cosmetics, in the stores, we sell hopes and dreams.” SunCal secures entitlements, in their public meetings, they sell dreams and fantasy.

Speaking of PRT, your correspondant spoke with a participant at Friday’s EBASE conference, “Base Building: Using Former Military Sites to Achieve Community Benefits and Revitalize Local Economies,” in Oakland. This participant laughed at the PRT idea. He said “Personal Rapid Transit? Isn’t that an oxymoron? I mean, I already have personal rapid transit – it’s called my automobile.” We also received, promptly after Thursday night’s meeting, an email from a resident suggesting the PRT is not as far along as Mr. Calthorpe would have us believe.

Attendees at Thursday’s meeting raised good points – who’s going to pay for the infrastructure, such as the elevated PRT railway? And shouldn’t it be built first, before all the homes are added? Alameda residents need to beware of SunCal’s promises – they wouldn’t be the first builder in Alameda to build homes and walk away without providing promised transportation solutions.

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