ALAMEDA -- After 16 years of push and pull with the federal government and other agencies, city and Navy officials gathered Monday at Alameda Point to sign off on phase one of conveyance of the former Naval Air Station property to the city.
About 200 people, many dodging a light, steady rainfall beneath canopies, applauded the speeches of accomplishment and gratitude for officials and citizens who participated in the years of efforts to make this happen.
"I'm grateful to everyone who made this day a reality," said Mayor Marie Gilmore. "When the base closed in 1997, we lost 14,000 jobs. We hope to create an extraordinary new community, not just for the city, but for the region and the state. We expect 9,000 permanent jobs and countless construction jobs and to generate millions of dollars in state and local tax revenues."
This is the first step toward the city's ownership of nearly 1,400 acres of former base property -- about 500 acres of land and nearly 900 acres beneath the bay. The City Council recently unanimously approved the no-cost conveyance, which will eventually mean Alameda's ownership of more than 60 parcels to develop into open space, as well as for residential, business and retail use.
Restrictions on how the parcels will be developed will be based on their previous uses and on the extent of environmental cleanup they need. About 500 acres, however, will have unrestricted use.
One big obstacle that forged the no-cost conveyance agreement came in 2011 when the Navy rescinded the $108 million price tag for the property and offered it for free. Also a federal act passed in 2010, with provisions related to economic development conveyances, helped move the conveyance agreement. The complete property transfer is projected to be done by 2019.
City Manager John Russo said the city is investing millions of dollars to move the process along as quickly as possible to have a certified environmental report and other pertinent documents in place by early next year. He said protecting shoreline habitats is part of the plan as well as housing for all income levels. Zoning amendments, a draft master infrastructure plan and work with a consultant toward creating a "town center" along the waterfront are among the next steps.
U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, whose 13th Congressional District includes Alameda, said the potential impact for the region is enormous in terms of revitalization. She touted Alameda as a city that demonstrates democracy in action, one that has an involved and active citizen base interested in the city's future.
The 2 p.m. event was emceed by former television journalist Sherry Hu, who said she has fond memories of the base, where her father worked when she was a child.
Since it shuttered in 1997, the old base property has had a colorful cast of tenants, including movie sets, race car competitions, bus repair facilities, a monthly antique fair, wineries, boat building and repair facilities and more. Also, subsidized housing for low-income tenants is offered, and the USS Hornet Museum has been docked there for several years.