AlamedaPatch - October 3, 2011, By Dixie Jordan
Alameda's Reuse and Redevelopment Authority expected to approve terms on Oct. 5.
What's bad for America's unemployed — the lack of jobs — was a boon for Alameda last week as the U.S. Navy agreed to transfer the entire 918 acres of Alameda Point to the city for free.
The current national focus on job creation was a major reason for the Navy's offer, said Jennifer Ott, the city's chief operating officer for Alameda Point.
She estimates the Point's development has the potential to create 6,000 to 9,000 permanent jobs and countless more temporary construction jobs, as well as millions of dollars in local and state tax revenues.
The next official step in the process comes Wednesday, Oct. 5, when the Alameda Reuse and Redevelopment Authority (ARRA), the city’s governing body in charge of overseeing Alameda Point, is expected to approve the term sheet for the transfer. (The ARRA is, in essence, the Alameda City Council wearing a different hat.) It meets at 7 p.m. in the City Hall council chambers, 2263 Santa Clara Ave.
"It's a really exciting opportunity," Ott said in a phone interview after the agreement was announced at a news conference Sept. 29. "It allow us to get Alameda Point on the tax rolls much more quickly."
The Navy is expected to transfer a small chunk of the property — including 50 acres that the city hopes will become a second campus for the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory — by June 2012 and the remainder by the end of 2012.
The Navy's surprise offer came 14 years after the closure of Naval Air Station Alameda (NAS Alameda), which occupied the land now known as Alameda Point. The closure eliminated some 14,000 military and civilian jobs.
The intervening years have seen negotiations between the Navy and city seesaw between a no-cost transfer and a price tag of $108 million.
The new agreement does come with a catch: if the city allows development of more than 1,400 market-rate residential units on the land, it must pay the Navy $50,000 for each excess unit.
Ott offered a capsule history of talks between the Navy and the city over the past several years:
Initial discussions focused on a no-cost transfer, but when ARRA's reuse plan for the property included more market-rate housing than the Navy wanted to see on the site, the price went up to $108 million.
Then came the possibility of enticing the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to Alameda Point with free land for a second campus, which would include expanded research facilities and the consolidation of several existing satellite sites scattered about the East Bay.
The lab issued a request for second-campus site proposals in January of 2011 and announced a "short list" of six potential sites — including Alameda Point — in May. A decision is expected in November.
ARRA recently asked the Navy to consider a no-cost conveyance of the portion of Alameda Point under consideration by the lab. The Navy's unexpected response, she said, was to offer the entire 918 acres for free — with the caveat that excess residential development would have to be paid for.
To date the Navy has borne the cost of environmental cleanup for areas of contaminated soil and groundwater on Alameda Point, but the Term Sheet for the transfer states that "While the liabilities and responsibilities for environmental remediation of the EDC [Economic Development Conveyance] Property remain as required under Federal law and the EDC Agreement, the Parties agree to collaborate to resolve any environmental remediation issues ad concerns in an expeditious and cooperative manner and to seek cooperatively to address environmental regulator requirements, issues and concerns relating to the EDC Property."
At the Sept. 29 news conference, Mayor Marie Gilmore said, "This is a momentous occasion" and "is truly a watershed day for the city." She said city officials hope much of the site will be used by environmentally-oriented companies but she added, "We're open to any business."
If the Alameda site is chosen by the Berkeley Lab, "it would jump-start" development at the former Naval base because there would be up to 800 employees at the new campus and the swift addition of ancillary companies in the area, she said.
William Carsillo, the Navy's real estate coordinator, said the Navy will save money by not having to maintain the site any more, although it will continue to clean up environmental problems there. Hesaid the Navy hopes the city primarily uses the land to create jobs.
Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., issued a statement praising the agreement.
She said, "This is exactly what our regional and state economy needs right now — the expeditious conveyance of the former Naval Air Station property will allow the city and state to generate much-needed tax revenues and jobs during a tenuous period of economic recovery."
Bay City News Service contributed to this report.
Related Topics: Alameda Point
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