Critics of SunCal’s Alameda Point Revitalization Initiative have often been pejoratively, and mistakenly, labeled “anti-development” and needlessly distrustful of the “big bad developer.” But it’s coming to light, as SunCal tries to slink away from Alameda back to SoCal, that they duped even their most ardent sympathizers within Alameda. Perhaps now some of those who hurl these insults understand why Alameda residents deserve to be skeptical about developer promises.
First up comes various Alameda City Council members, who thought that SunCal was a white knight who was going to put Measure A on the ballot so they wouldn’t have to. They were duped when SunCal delivered a 288 page initiative in which Measure A played only a bit part and the focus was on stealing control over the future of Alameda Point from local residents.
From a 2006 election campaign article in the Alameda Sun:
Frank Matarrese: Measure A serves existing Alameda neighborhoods well and should remain in place for existing neighborhoods. For planning at Alameda Point, I support presenting options for the voters of Alameda to consider.
Lena Tam: [...]It is possible that in order to meet community goals such as minimizing traffic and maintaining the character of Alameda Point consistent with the rest of the Island, modifications would have to be made to Measure A as it would apply to Alameda Point, which currently restricts all new housing to one type.
Beverly Johnson: No, I do not believe that modification of Measure A is in the best interest of Alameda.
Mayor Beverly Johnson, of course, cynically reversed course and endorsed SunCal’s Measure A non-compliant ballot initiative with a series of automated telephone calls to Alameda residents, and by lending her endorsement, name and face to a local SunCal mailer. It turns out now that the City may try to jiggle with SunCal’s initiative or introduce their own to try to force this project through.
Next comes City of Alameda Planning and Building Department and Redevelopment Services staffers, who were hoping for a plain and simple yes-or-no initiative from SunCal on changing Measure A for Alameda Point. We hear that these silly-servants were distraught and felt “sandbagged” when they saw the breadth of SunCal’s kitchen-sink initiative beyond Measure A and how ugly the whole thing was and how unlikely it was to gain support and how it weighted their dream of over-turning Measure A like a bucket of lead in a hot-air balloon. It’s hard to go on to a bigger and better career in urban planning with large, high-density, cities when legislation like Measure A restricts one from building high-density transit-oriented-developments. (Even though the state-mandated density bonus would sidestep Measure A where low-income housing is provided.)
But SunCal surely has dealt with planning department staffers in dozens, if not hundreds, of communities across California and the country. One can imagine that, to SunCal, the local-yokel planning staff in Alameda look no different than the local-yokel planning staff in any of the other towns they’ve worked in. In other words, SunCal ain’t workin’ to satisfy the local plannin’ ‘n’ buildin’ department.
Then, of course, there’s HOMES, who fought a defensive retreat from a position of up-ending Measure A for all of Alameda to simply changing it for Alameda Point. They too hoped for a simple up or down vote no changing Measure A at Alameda Point, and were deeply disappointed. HOMES has some defectors who aren’t falling in line behind the plan because of the enormous control it gives to SunCal, and the potential environmental impacts.
All-in-all, it’s nice to see the folks in Alameda who sidled up to SunCal feel a sting of betrayal, of sorts, much like the residents of communities with failed projects all up and down California.