A plan to develop 4,500 apartments, condos and single-family homes, along with offices, parks, and a ferry terminal on the former East Bay Navy base at Alameda Point was thwarted in 2010 when 85 percent of voters voted against Measure B, which would have allowed a one-time exemption to Measure A, a 1973 ordinance that bans anything larger than a duplex to be built on the island.

With the city of Alameda now directing potential developers to apply for a density bonus, a state exemption to local land-use laws which is available for projects which include a high percentage of affordable units for low-income households, plans to develop Alameda Point have been dusted-off, but also downsized.

The first slice slated for development includes “Site A,” a 68-acre portion of the island adjacent to the Seaplane Lagoon, upon which a minimum of 800 residential units, along with Alameda Point’s retail core and a commercial corridor, would be built (click site plan to enlarge):

Adjacent to Site A, the 82-acre “Site B” is slated for the development of a commercial enterprise zone, “with a focus on a major sales tax generator or corporate “build-to-suit” user(s) that generates significant jobs or other catalytic economic benefits.”


The City’s vision is for Alameda Point to be developed as “a transit-oriented, sustainable mixed-use waterfront community,” with a total of 1,425 housing units, 5.5 million square feet of commercial development, and over 250 acres of parks and open space, including over 10 miles of waterfront trails. Interested developers have until June 16 to submit their qualifications.

Other plans for Alameda Point that the City is actively pursuing include a new ferry terminal at
the heart of the Seaplane Lagoon; shuttles from Alameda Point to the 12th Street BART Station; and waterfront parks and active promenades directly adjacent to Site A.


32 thoughts on “Big Plans For Alameda Point Development, But Not As Big As Before”
  1. jwb: Looking at the map and what little knowledge I have about Alameda: Webster St tunnel, Park St, Tilden way, High St. There is also a ferry terminal.
    There are significantly more people living in Alameda now and they seem to manage okay.

  2. Unless we get state or regional legislation that prevents communities from deflecting density like this, NIMBYs will continue to drive sprawl and degrade the quality of life in the Bay Area. Which now spreads all the way from Sonoma to Discovery Bay to Tracy to Hollister. At some point communities need to be held responsible to support their share of growth.

  3. ^This guy. What happened to bold visions and city planners? Why the hell is everything here put to the vote of people who have little understanding of this? we don’t put other jobs up to a vote.

  4. “A plan to develop 4,500 apartments, condos and single-family homes, along with offices, parks, and a new ferry terminal on the former Navy base at Alameda Point was thwarted in 2010 when 85 percent of voters voted against Measure B, which would have allowed a one-time exemption to Measure A, a 1973 ordinance that bans anything larger than a duplex to be built on the island.”
    NIMBYs. The reason why nothing ever gets built on the necessary scale. The reason why there’s not enough housing and prices are through the roof, and the reason why public transit sucks and it’s hard to get around.

  5. perhaps the only way to sway public opinion for big development is to combine it with big public investment in transit infrastructure.
    Otherwise I don’t totally blame current resident for being against big projects. It is very rational.

  6. Ah, the ruination of Alameda continues apace; no doubt Catellus will weigh in with more Orange-County-appropriate plaster crap. This is the VERY BEST piece of real estate on the West Coast and an amazing opportunity; we need this to be developed, but developed well. To fill it in with this third-grade suburbanite 1980’s thinking crap is criminal

  7. zig – That’s the normal approach: a big development must fund changes to the transport system to offset the additional trips generated. I’m sure that the developer here is paying for the new trips as well. The problem is that most of the time the only transport system that gets expanded is roads (intersection expansion, street widening, freeway interchange expansion) which are at their limit in the inner Bay Area.
    Rail based transit is a lot more efficient but also has a lower bound on the size and extent of the network that would attract riders. Usually that lower bound is far far above what a single development could afford.
    I don’t have a good answer to resolve this impasse. We could require developers to pay into a transit fund and once a dozen or so developments have anted up there’s enough cash for a build out. Unfortunately that would take many years and there’s too much temptation for politicians to stick their hands into that cookie jar before it fills up.

  8. the MoD
    To my knowledge in DC there has been upzoning and value capture agreements coupled with heavy rail extensions. I think something like this is the best solution to the problem and somehow it needs to be binding
    There is no excuse for the San Mateo BART extension and the adjacent land-uses. As long as you see stuff like that I don’t blame Alameda for saying to the region to go F itself. Alameda is not the best place for high density housing anyway without a BART extension there.

  9. Perhaps you could justify more development in Alameda with the investment in the ferry terminal. I just noticed that part

  10. I guess we should try to learn from DC then. I see that Invented beat me to it on the BART extension idea. Still the price tag on that extension would be very high and might not pencil out unless it was part of a 2nd bay crossing.
    As for an example of politicians raiding the cookie jar, check out what happened with Santa Clara county’s sales tax increase that was supposed to fund the BART to SJ extension.

  11. If we want real housing growth on a scale that will bring prices down, we simply have to find ourselves a benevolent dictator that completely ignores the NIMBYs. There was an article in the New York Times about this a few days ago:
    For those pointing out that prices haven’t fallen, the population of Singapore has increased by 25% in the last decade (That’s over a million people.) Yes, the government designed housing complexes are ugly, but they have centralized transit stops and busses all night. Each complex has a market and a number of small shops and restaurants. It’s not a bad urban lifestyle. But this is the scale of construction we need in the bay area to make public transit projects work and to bring prices down. Everything else is wishful thinking. The real question is if this is what we want, or are we happy being expensive suburbia with a few even more expensive urban cores and a car focused lifestyle.
    8 Washington or a thousand units on a disconnected island aren’t going to do much for overall supply.

  12. “unless it was part of a 2nd bay crossing”
    Note the Warriors stop.
    I admit don’t know much what’s involved but watching NY’s extension of some lines (the number 7 to Hudson Yards), and another LIRR stop on the East Side…
    The fractured Bay Area of course needs to step up the connections and involve pvt developers for financing.

  13. frog
    Japan does this with no dictators and what I think is very little land-use planning and other interesting ideas like allows private rail providers/real estate developers to access public rail lines when they enter the cities.
    Don’t know much more about this but it seems there are models out there.
    I have a friend who lives in a condo in Japan outside of Tokyo and like you said his whole town development is around the rail station with shops and restaurants. Then he can take the train into central Tokyo to the dense areas closest to his town or further into business districts.
    I think it is OK but not a very America way of life

  14. For all this talk of bringing prices down, people who already own homes and landlords who own investment properties have little incentive to get behind changes that would result in lower housing prices. Speaking for myself, the housing prices here are indeed brutal, but we were able to buy our first house last summer – for nearly a million dollars, which blows the mind of just about anyone we know who doesn’t live here, LA or NY. I know that lower housing prices are probably good for the area overall, but I don’t want to see any of our equity eroded. Our house is probably “worth” a good 10% more than it was when we bought it, which seems crazy, but it makes me happy. It seems to me that some stabilizing of housing costs would be better than an actual decline, which would be a very bad economic turn for many households.

  15. What exactly is the America “way of life” then? Auto-focused expansive suburbs? Sorry, that’s a recent phenomenon.
    @invented: as much as I adore the NY subway even NY doesn’t seem to get it right. The 7 line extension is only 1 stop and does very little to connect 10th Ave and points west to the rest of the subway network. Several logical ideas were considered and dismissed. One had the line continue south to connect with the L train at 14th St. with additional stations along the way (the 7 and L lines track gauge are not compatible so an additional platform would have been required). Another had the 7 line cross into NJ. Even the 10th Ave. station that was part of the original extension was dropped because of “costs”, not lack of ridership potential.

  16. It seems to me that some stabilizing of housing costs would be better than an actual decline, which would be a very bad economic turn for many households.
    That’s really what we’re talking about when those of us wanting more supply say “build more”. It’s not expected that building more will actually decrease prices, only temper additional price increases. It’s up to the fed to create some actual inflation to lower prices in an invisible way over time.

  17. All I can say to frogs comment about the Singapore housing is this:
    Goddess help us all if we looked like that. Are you actually SERIOUS that we need this kind of housing?
    I guess in your mind if it’s not a “bad lifestyle” then it’s acceptable. wow. high standards.
    What you are proposing or supporting is the LAST kind of construction and development we need anywhere in California.

  18. Futurist,
    I genuinely like architecture and think most of the high density buildings that populate places like Singapore, HK, Rio, etc are godawful. The problem is that if there’s a housing crisis (and I’m using the “if” intentionally, because I may agree with you more than you think regarding city character) we are completely failing to address it. To really move the needle on prices requires that we can’t be negotiating 200 units here or there.
    If you look at how a lot of Asian cities are structured, there’s a dense urban core with modern high-rises and maybe even expensive suburbs with condos or single family homes. And then beyond that you start finding these generic planned communities based on insanely boring high rises. The trick is that each one is somewhat self contained and it has great transit because it is above the critical density. We have more space than Singapore and Hong Kong, so we just sprawl out into Pleasanton and people have 90 minute commutes.
    I’m not sure I’m arguing that this would be better, but it’s not an option we’ve considered. Would anyone miss the current iteration of Emeryville if it changed to something far more dense?

  19. Frog:
    1. There is not a housing “crisis”. There is a sociological/intellectual crisis in believing that ANYONE and EVERYONE can live in SF and the Bay Area, just because they want to. that’s the problem. Too many people.
    2. San Francisco has no moral or other obligation to accommodate everyone and anyone who wants to be here. Land, space, density, transit, quality of life ALL must be a factor in how we grow.
    3. The current urban plan of Emeryville, as your example, is a great example of urban renewal/infill: walkable, green, lots of mixed housing, retail, restaurants, manufacturing, tech, artists, craftspeople ALL living in a great community. Not to mention interesting architecture.

  20. Wait… Emeryville is the gold standard of new walkable development now? Well, I guess that helps explain why the price of old walkable development is through the roof.
    And too many people? I guess that’s the classic architect’s response. The ideas would work great if it weren’t for all the darn people.

  21. Agree with futurist and not the arm chair planning amateur “experts “. You cannot build enough housing to reduce costs in the city, so instead the question is what kind of San Francisco do you want to live in? Everyone in the city does not share the Shanghai / Hong Kong fantasy. The growth cities in America still use cars and are hardly walkable. San Francisco ‘s unique character is that it is walkable, but without being in a shadow canyon of Manhattan.

  22. Thanks for the link to the Cato Institute funded site. Not everyone wants to live in Houston/Atlanta/Phoenix either.
    Those are the epitome of the “free market” planned communities.

  23. Ok, Alai: I’ll bite.
    I didn’t say that Emeryville is any “gold standard”. You did. I didn’t say Emeryville was Paris or London or Amsterdam, etc. I mentioned why I think it works.
    But why do you NOT like Emeryville? I gave you an over-view of why I think it works. tell us why you disagree.

  24. Ok, you didn’t say “gold standard”. You said “great example”. My exaggeration.
    Anyway, it could be a lot worse. I’ll give you that.
    Let’s start with an anecdote: a family member went to an industry conference in Emeryville. Easy enough, right? Right across the bridge, just take the F-line from the transbay terminal. Well, it’s infrequent. Miss it and you’re waiting a half hour. Then, once you’re there, you’re dropped off in a fairly hostile environment. You have a bit of the old comedy where the bus goes right by where you’d like to get off, and then makes you walk back the same way, and then some. Could be worse, of course, but it’s a thoroughly unpleasant walk, nestled between high-speed streets and parking lots. Needless to say, she was probably the only attendee who dared to avoid driving their own car.
    Ok, but maybe that’s the bad part of Emeryville.
    There’s Bay St! Totally walkable, with apartments above retail, right out of the modern urban designer’s playbook. Only, it’s hemmed in on all sides by wide, fast moving streets, impassable barriers like the railroad tracks and freeways, and a general lack of anything you’d want to actually walk to. In other words, it’s your same old mall in fashionable new clothes (and extra-expensive to boot).
    There may be a place for big box stores, with a focus on moving large numbers of cars at the expense of pedestrians. But don’t tell me it’s a “great example of urban renewal/infill”.
    To the extent that there’s a part of Emeryville that could be described as walkable and pedestrian-friendly, it’s the eastern-most part– in other words, the part that hasn’t been touched by modern planners and developers. Funny how that works.

  25. Emeryville for the most part is a hell-hole. I have a friend who lives there and he can’t wait to move out. Anyone who thinks it’s a great example of urban renewal needs their head examined.

  26. The Alameda Point plan is actually fairly progressive. It’s designed to be a transit oriented, walkable addition the city. The new ferry terminal will be located right in the heart of the development in the sea plane lagoon. New work locations are integrated into the development (so folks could actually walk to work). The residential housing focus is multifamily (but there will be some single family housing choices). It’s very easy to achieve quite a bit of density with 4-7 story buildings.
    The rejection of Sun Cal ballot measure had more to do with rejecting the terms of the development deal than with the idea that nothing larger than a duplex can be built on the island (per measure A). Keep in mind that measure A was sort of knee jerk reaction to multifamily dwellings that were incredibly ugly and largely failures from a planning perspective. Of course the answer to this problem is good planning via form-based codes. But, like the rest of America, Alameda had been in planning coma since the end of WWII and was couldn’t imagine a solution to… junk.
    But Alameda is slowly waking up. No one is clamoring to keep Alameda Point measure A compliant. In fact that’s simply not economically possible. Alameda Point is designed to be dense enough to (try) provide enough money to build and sustain its own infrastructure (sewage, power lines, sea level rise protection etc.). The new business and residents will also have to contribute money directly to their own public transit connections. And, as a side note, there are even a little bit of form based codes sneaking into developments on other parts of the island.
    Alameda Point will be fine from a transit point of view. People from other parts of the island can easily bike there. The ferry terminal will be awesome. Shuttles to BART are cheap to implement. There’s plenty of room for a street car down the main corridor leading to the development (along with some nice corridors that run across the island). A pedestrian bridge to Oakland would be relatively cheap to build. Water taxis to Oakland are easy to implement. Some residents will simply walk to work. And of course now with West Oakland, Brooklyn Basin and Jack London Square sitting on the density launch pad with engines ignited perhaps we can justify the second Bart transbay tube with an Alameda station.

  27. Ok Alai: so you don’t like Emeryville. I do.
    You think of it as suburban/mall-like. I think it’s a good example of new urban infill. The big box stores seem to be popular and I don’t see them going out of business.
    The apartments are all rented. Condos are selling.
    What’s the problem? Except that many San Franciscans, once again, impose their ONLY vision of how a city/development should be. The narrow mindedness of people truly baffles me, in a city supposedly of new ideas and openness.

  28. I like Emeryville.It seems like they are begining to embrace the idea of walkable community. I can leave work and walk to some nice resturaunts or shops during lunch. There are to nice little parks with in walking distance of work. It’s a short bike ride to Bart. Or I can take the free shuttle to Bart. They are doing a good job with adapatave reuse of the old warehouse buildings. I’ve seen something that I’ve rarely seen in another US city: a double row of trees sheltering the pedestrian, benches along the sidewalk, and pedestrian lighting (sometimes street lighting is omitted in favor of only pedestrian lighting). Nice public art work on the utility boxes.

  29. Emeryville is a nice place to visit, but I’m not sure I would want to live there. While Emeryville, without a doubt, caters to automobiles, it also has a nice network for bike riders. Riding through there always leaves me with a big grin on my face as I get to bypass a lot of the backed up traffic queues. They’ve welcomed big boxes and use the additional revenue for civic improvements.

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