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Alameda Voters Reject Navy Base Reuse Plan

City of Alameda voters have overwhelmingly rejected a plan to redevelop Alameda Naval Air Station. In a February 2 special election, 85.4% of voters said "no" to Measure B, which would have permitted developer SunCal Companies to move forward with a housing and industrial project on about 1,000 acres of Navy real estate.

The vote was only the latest of many setbacks for reuse of what is known as Alameda Point, the western end of the Alameda island that juts into the bay only a few miles east of downtown San Francisco. The Navy closed the 1,700-acre base in 1997. Since then, Catellus has mostly finished redevelopment of two smaller portions of the base with about 900 housing units, an industrial park and some retail space. However, the approximately 1,000 acres where the Navy's runways are located remains untouched. SunCal, which signed a master development agreement with the city in 2007 (see CP&DR Places, February 2008), is at least the fourth developer to take a run at the site.

SunCal advanced a plan calling for about 4,800 housing units, 3 million square feet of industrial and office space, 145 acres of parks and open space, and public facilities ranging from a 58-acre sports field complex to a new ferry terminal to a library and schools. To implement the plan, SunCal needed an exception to 1973 and 1991 ballot measures that, respectively, prohibit residential units other than single-family homes and duplexes, and limit residential density to 21 units an acre. The developer qualified an initiative for the ballot that would have lifted the housing restrictions only for Alameda Point, and which would have ratified provisions in a development agreement, including a $200 million cap on SunCal's contributions to public facilities.

Opponents argued that the project would overwhelm the city with traffic, especially in and near the Posey Tube, a tunnel that connects Alameda to Oakland. They also questioned the $200 million cap, a decrease in required affordable housing units from 25% to 15%, and what opponents saw as a lack of guarantees that SunCal would see the project through to completion. Opponents insisted that job growth, not housing, should be the focus on base reuse. Only one of five Alameda councilmembers endorsed the SunCal plan. The developer spent more than $1 million campaigning for Measure B, but the vote was 13,419 opposed and 2,300 in support.

After the election, SunCal representatives said the company would continue to press ahead at the site. A few weeks before the election, the company submitted a greatly revised plan to the city that would reportedly comply with the 1973 and 1991 ballot measures.

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