Wait. We're not done yet -- more homework.
A public hearing in front of the Planning Board is scheduled at 7 p.m. Monday at City Hall. Its purpose is to solicit input for the preparation of an environmental impact report (EIR), which will facilitate selling Alameda Point property more quickly. The community can also submit ideas for alternative scenarios for Alameda Point's future.
You may be wondering why we are doing another EIR, since one was approved in 1999 for our modest base-reuse plan, immediately before we embarked on our master developer odyssey. You might say the 1999 EIR was "EIR light," called a program-level EIR. We are now doing "The Full Monty," called a project-level EIR, for two reasons. First, our agreement with Oakland Chinatown requires that we produce a certified project-level EIR before proceeding. Second, it streamlines the development approval process.
The EIR will evaluate the impacts of the 1,425 residential units and 5.5 million square feet of employment uses outlined in the 1996 Community Reuse Plan, which is considered "The Project." It will also evaluate the impacts of building more units, and the impacts of building less. Choosing to go forward with a project that calls for more housing units, however, would likely jeopardize the pending no-cost conveyance from the Navy. The report will include yet another transportation study. It will also address the impacts of ferry service into the Seaplane Lagoon, although there are no plans on the drawing board. Having the ferry study done now will make it easier if money comes along and we change our minds.
Also occurring alongside the EIR will be planning of the 125-acre Seaplane Lagoon Town Center, and preparation of a master infrastructure plan. While the EIR will evaluate impacts of the project on climate change, the infrastructure plan will evaluate the impacts of climate change on the project, namely sea level rise.
This yearlong process will cost $1.3 million and be paid for out of lease revenue from Alameda Point. This process will pave the way for developers to pay for their own detailed subdivision maps and approvals.
One of the gray areas of the law regarding EIRs is the evaluation of impacts on wildlife. Endangered species must be factored in. But impacts to wildlife that is listed as a "Species of Special Concern" does not have to be covered. One such species is the osprey. A pair of ospreys has been nesting at the Seaplane Lagoon the last two years, and future development could have an impact. It is up to the discretion of the city as to whether the ospreys, and the similarly-listed burrowing owl, will be studied in the report. The northwestern open space area is a typical habitat for the owls.
Comments on the project and various zoning changes can be submitted to the planning department until March 1. Follow-up meetings will present results.
Alameda's Richard Bangert writes the online Alameda Point Environmental Report.