ALAMEDA -- Multifamily housing to revitalize Alameda Point and a guarantee that any toxins will be cleaned up before people live and work there were among the issues that emerged when the Planning Board began considering Monday what a draft Environmental Impact Report for the area should contain.
The process to create the draft EIR will take a year before it eventually goes before the City Council for final certification.
Housing advocates called for the document to include the impact of building up to 4,500 housing units -- the same number that developer Suncal Companies once proposed for the former U.S. Navy base --during Monday's hearing, when the board also heard about proposed zoning changes for the site.
The aim of creating a draft EIR is to help lay the groundwork for Alameda Point's overall redevelopment, according to city officials. What makes the effort especially important is that the Navy will turn over title of the property within the next few months.
"I support a mix of housing," said Katie DeLeon, 28, who recently moved to the city's West End from Oakland. "But what scares me is traffic. It's already bad sometimes on Webster Street in the mornings and evenings, and it could get worse as Alameda Point is developed. It needs to be planned right."
But 31-year-old Gordon Lai said creating a mix of housing and retail will provide a financial boost to the West End, as well as to Oakland's Jack London Square across the Estuary.
"It's prime property with views of San Francisco Bay," Lai said about Alameda Point, which makes up about one-third of the Island. "It can be a real tax generator. But you can't have gentrification and push poor people out, either."
Laura Thomas of Renewed Hope Housing Advocates and other supporters of affordable housing called for the draft EIR to include the impact that multifamily units would have at Alameda Point.
A mix of housing types, they said, would create more of a community and could cause less traffic than just single family homes, especially if many residents work in the area.
Other issues that emerged during the hearing was environmental clean-up and the future of wildlife since the Veterans Administration is planning to build a clinic and columbarium near the California least tern refuge.
A preliminary schedule calls for the release of the draft EIR in July for a 45-day public review.
A draft master infrastructure plan and the possible zoning changes -- which would help clear the way to split the former base into residential and other "sub-districts" -- could come before the City Council in April.
The launch of the process to create a draft EIR comes as the City Council on Tuesday will consider including additional structures to the list of 86 buildings at Alameda Point that were initially named by the Navy as part of a historic district eligible for the National Register of Historic Buildings.
The original list, which includes the Control Tower, the Main Gate and some hangers, emerged in 1996, or just three years after the base closed. But a recent review by the Navy as part of preparing the list for recommendation for the National Register found that other buildings were also eligible, including the boathouses at the Seaplane Lagoon.
People can submit comments on what the draft EIR should contain by e-mailing Acting City Planner Andrew Thomas at firstname.lastname@example.org. Comments can also be mailed to him at 2263 Santa Clara Ave., Room 190, Alameda CA 94501.
Deadline to submit comments is March 1. Call 510-747-6881 for information.