Every week, it seems, I read an article in the Alameda Journal, the Alameda Sun or The Alamedan about another planned and/or approved development. Each one is presented as a distinct and separate enterprise, and I suppose to the developers each one is. But to the city, the residents, they are not: they are cumulative, with an impact that is logarithmic.
The clearest way to understand the impact is to look at the numbers: Since 1940, with the exception of World War II, Alameda's population has been a constant 64,000 to 74,000 people. The latest census reports 73,812 residents and 32,351 housing units: an average of 2.28 people per housing unit. The Metropolitan Transportation Commission reports an average of 1.93 automobiles per household in 2010, or about 58,137 in Alameda. Note, this is autos, the number may not include trucks and motorcycles. This is what is.
Here's what's coming:
Alameda Point: Over the years, development of the point has changed in size and scope. The official Alameda Point Specific Plan allowed "for a maximum of 4,346 new residential units, plus 186 Collaborative Housing units ... and the reuse of existing residential buildings for up to 309 residential units ..." for a total of 4,841 new residential units. It also allowed for "350,000 square feet of retail uses and 3,182,000 square feet of other commercial and business park uses ..." When SunCal was the developer, it planned to build 5,000 new residential units. The Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce says the plan calls for "1,425 housing units, 5.5 million square feet of commercial space, and over 200 acres of parks and open space." The Jan. 25 Alamedan said there will be "6,603 new residents ... in 2,737 new family homes and townhouses." Every 1,000 housing units adds 2,280 more people and 1,930 more cars to Alameda. Depending on the actual number of housing units built, the Alameda Point development will increase Alameda's population by 3,249 to 11,400 people and 2,750 to 9,650 cars.
Alameda Landing, off Willie Stargell Road, first exit after the Posey tunnel, right before the College of Alameda with its 7,000 students: Off Willie Stargell Road, first exit after the Posey tunnel, right before the College of Alameda with its 7,000 students, the project consists of 400,000 square feet of office space; 300,000 square feet of retail space, including a new Target and a new 45,000-square-foot "lifestyle-size" Safeway; and 276 units of housing, which will add 629 people and 533 cars to Alameda.
Boatworks Residential Project on Clement Street, along the estuary, just east of the Park Street Bridge: on Clement Street, along the estuary, just east of the Park Street Bridge, originally approved for 153 homes and 29 apartments for a total of 182 housing units, it is now seeking to expand to 240 homes which would mean an increase of 547 people and 463 cars.
Northern Waterfront: Marina Cove II, on the site of the Chipman warehouse between Sherman, Buena Vista, Grand, and the estuary. Originally approved for 69 housing units, it's now approved for 89 units, an increase of 203 people and 172 cars.
The Harbor Bay Club and Bay Farm Island: Ron Cowan wants to build 80 new homes at the site of the current Harbor Bay Club, which will add 182 people and 154 cars.
Crab Cove: Next to Robert Crown Memorial Beach, Tim Lewis Communities wants to build 48 new houses for an increase of 109 people and 93 cars.
The grand total increase: Depending on the number of housing units built, a minimum of 4,919 people (a 7 percent population increase) to a maximum of 13,070 people (an 18 percent population increase); a minimum of 4,165 cars (a 7 percent increase) to a maximum of 11,065 (a 19 percent increase).
With the exception of Harbor Bay, all of the planned development occurs between the Park Street Bridge and the Posey and Webster tubes. Several of the new developments required controversial rezoning laws that, according to the Nov. 12 Action Alameda News "ignored long-standing restrictions against high-density housing in Alameda." At least one of the developments is involved in litigation.
The above information is about housing units, and the 7 percent to 18 percent increase in residents and the 7 percent to 19 percent increase in cars to Alameda. Split the difference, and there's still a 12 percent increase in population and a 13 percent increase in cars. A 12 percent increase adds 8,857 people to Alameda and pushes the number of residents to 82,670, a number last -- and only -- seen during World War II.
And that's not all: there are also more than 6 million square feet of commercial and retail space and more than 200 acres of parks and public space -- all of which will attract more workers, shoppers, clients and visitors. There's the new "lifestyle" Safeway, the new Target and, according to the Jan. 25 Alamedan, "more than 17,000 new jobs at Alameda Point."
Even if a third of the jobs and most of the shoppers and visitors are from Alameda, there will still be a huge increase in people and cars in Alameda, increasing the traffic in the West End and in the Posey and Webster tubes.
And now there is this: Brooklyn Basin, near 9th Street Pier, on the Oakland side of the estuary, which calls for 200,000 square feet of retail and commercial space and 3,100 residential units (7,068 more people and 5,983 more cars). The City of Alameda plans to actively pursue the people living in downtown Oakland and along the estuary and encourage them to shop in Alameda, most of whom will use the Posey and Webster Street tubes and the Park Street Bridge for entry and egress.
This My Word is about "normal" traffic and congestion. It does not address disasters like earthquakes and tsunamis and how people will get off the Island if they have to leave, or how first responders will be able to respond. Nor does it address aesthetics (the lack of beauty, individuality, creativity, and art) in the buildings being built. Can anyone really imagine any of these buildings being on an architectural tour in 50 years? Most immediately, it does not address what's going to happen to the roads and the sewers and the multitude of additional services required, like schools, teachers, police, fire, libraries, doctors, hospital beds, 911, gas, electric, postal and tree maintenance -- and everything else the city provides, or doesn't. City leaders argue the new jobs and taxes will provide the needed revenue, but they never do. Either services diminish or taxes go up, or in the worst-case scenarios, like Oakland, both happen.
It's easy to forget Alameda is an island, especially if you like being here so much you leave it as little as possible -- though it is precisely when leaving and returning that you know it's an island for sure. So repeat after me: Alameda is an island, Alameda is an island, Alameda is an island. And ask yourself this: What in the name of Alameda are the people who are making these decisions thinking?
Mark Greenside is a recently retired professor of political science, history and English at Merritt College and the author of the memoir/travel- ogue, "I'll Never Be French (no matter what I do)."