In a nail-biter finish, the Alameda City Council approved the revised Encinal Terminals project, including the proposed land exchange. The project promises to turn a blighted industrial site into a mixed-use development with 589 homes, a Bay Trail waterfront promenade and plazas.
Councilmember Trish Herrera Spencer was the deciding vote after she received two concessions from the developer, North Waterfront Cove, LLC, during the meeting. Her vote was conditioned on getting a greater number of units designated as “for sale,” because for-sale units would provide more opportunities for middle-income people to start building housing security, especially when augmented by first-time-homebuyer programs. She also ensured that all residential buildings will be designed to the extent possible with operable windows to facilitate natural air flow and ventilation.
The development agreement now allows 100 more of the units originally slated for rent to become available for sale as condominiums. Thus, rather than 294 units available for sale, there will be 394 units. Because these units are typically smaller than townhomes, they are said to be more affordable by design.
No one from the community publicly voiced opposition to the project. However, there were letters to the council calling for strengthening the development and disposition agreement. Because no land appraisal had been provided to the public showing the value of the land being swapped, environmental groups had proposed a monetary contribution to the city’s Tidelands Fund in exchange for transferring public tidelands to a private developer. Others had asked for better financial protections for the city in terms of sea level rise, shoreline maintenance and liquefaction, while others wanted more affordable units.
The city responded to these concerns by saying that the State Lands Commission staff had recently been provided with a land appraisal of the overall site once it is developed so that they could evaluate whether the land the state would receive is equal to the value being traded. State tidelands are lands near navigable waterways that are held in trust for the people of California and cannot be sold.
Every acre has the same value in a master plan development project, according to the city’s retained legal counsel. Looking at the project as a whole, commission staff deemed the proposed land exchange to be fair, if the project is completely built as proposed in order to achieve the highest and best value. “Completely built” assumes that the city will hire a third-party marina developer to build a new marina on the newly designated state Tidelands in the Alaska Basin, which is an option but not a requirement of the land exchange.
In terms of financial liabilities, City Planner Andrew Thomas reassured the council that there is a fiscal neutrality and municipal services agreement requiring residents who live on site to pay for all ongoing costs associated with maintaining the public shoreline in perpetuity, at no cost to the city.
The final mix of housing types (townhomes, apartments and condos) in the Master Plan is not yet fully defined so the developer has flexibility to “respond to market conditions.” The developer has 15 years to complete the project.
Four votes were needed to approve the project. Councilmember Tony Daysog voted no because he wanted some of those additional for-sale units to be designated as affordable.
The newly approved project will replace the plan previously proposed by the developer and approved in 2018. The exchange of tidelands spelled out in the development agreement will have to be formally approved by the State Lands Commission.
The Encinal Terminals project sits behind the Del Monte Building on Alameda’s northern waterfront. It is next to Marina Village and across the estuary from the Brooklyn Basin.