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But Wait! There’s More!! Know the Deal Before You Buy SunCal’s Plan

Commentary by DL Morrison

It’s a safe bet that most people in Alameda know what a sales pitch is. The more costly the item and the more extravagant the promises, the more skeptical we become. SunCal and its supporters have been touting a grab bag of amenities in support of SunCal’s plan for a massive development at Alameda Point. “World class sports facilities! Acres of parks and trails!” No doubt the developer and its myriad PR consultants did their research and discovered, not surprisingly, that anything family-friendly would go over big in Alameda.

There’s only one problem: The sales pitch isn’t true. The pretty pictures you get in the mail promoting SunCal’s plan are not in fact guaranteed by the Initiative.

In reality, SunCal would be obligated to spend only up to a fixed amount of money on a broad list of public improvements referred to in the Initiative as “public benefits”. Some of these public benefits are the popular selling points such as the sports complex. Others are far more mundane, far less publicized, and easily as costly. The wording in the Initiative reads: “Developer shall fund, or advance the funding for, in an amount not to exceed $200 million” to cover the construction of this lengthy laundry list of public improvements.

The wise consumer would want to know what “advance the funding” means. Does this mean spend money or lend money? What happens when the “not to exceed” figure is reached? The details of exactly what gets built with the $200 million — and when — won’t be determined until after the vote on the Initiative. Right now we have only a promise to possibly spend, or lend, a “not to exceed” amount of money to fund these numerous projects.

The city’s summary of the Initiative in its Election Report (Part I) states that the “amount and timing of public benefits” will not be finalized until after the vote.

What’s more, these so-called public benefits include both public amenities and what might be termed “developer amenities” such as traffic improvements necessitated by the development itself which could eat up nearly half the $200 million. That may be why the City Manager’s Office and other city officials have requested that SunCal commit to spending more than $200 million, because evidently they don’t believe that it’s enough. SunCal hasn’t agreed.

We know for certain that we would be getting over 4,800 new homes, thousands of new residents, far more traffic, plus heavily increased demands on city services. What we don’t know is the exact amount to be spent on public amenities, precisely which amenities would be covered, or how those decisions would be made.

SunCal can promise anything in their much-touted plan for Alameda Point. Voters must scrutinize the real terms contained in the Initiative and recognize that it’s a bad deal for Alameda.

2 comments to But Wait! There’s More!! Know the Deal Before You Buy SunCal’s Plan

  • Did SunCal promise Ginzu knives too?

  • barb

    Is it legal for a developer to make promises of providing facilities that will serve the entire “region”, such as the Sports Facility and Transit Hub, and then make only the new residents at Alameda Point pay for them? Sounds like an end run around Prop 13 that has been tried, litigated and failed in the courts.

    Then what happens to the develoipers promised facilities? Can the remainder of the island’s residents and taxpayers be forced to pay for those facilities?

    There is no such thing as a free lunch. There may be NO CHARGE at this time (except for traffic congestion, gas costs, decline in air quality etc – the unavoidable intangible losses). But wait until we get the bill, with interest later if the developer follows its long entrenched and established pattern of declaring bankruptcy and leaving the cities it has dealt with holding the bag!

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