On Feb. 2, voters will be asked to take the unusual step of approving a convoluted redevelopment process when they cast their ballot for Measure B, the Alameda Point Revitalization Initiative.
This is because the measure contains a development agreement, something that would normally be negotiated between the city and the developer. SunCal has sidestepped the normal process and the give-and-take negotiations that go with it, and has privately drafted a contract and placed it in the ballot initiative.
Now voters are faced with an unprecedented decision whether to vote up or down a 25-year business agreement drafted by only one of the interested parties — the developer.
Further complicating this process is the fact that if passed, the development agreement will be a voter-approved law whose undesirable provisions potentially cannot be overridden by subsequent contract negotiations with the city. We would be creating an unusual tension between election law and contract law. No one knows how this would play out if it ended up in court.
Then there is the Environmental Impact Report, which will not be completed until long after voters will have approved entitlement rights in the ballot measure.
With entitlement rights guaranteed by Measure B, the power of the EIR would be constrained. Attempts to curtail the scope of development or levy stringent mitigation requirements would be undermined by the prior enactment of a voter-approved development initiative, also known as "overriding considerations."
Even SunCal's project manager, Pat Keliher, admitted at the recent Realtors' Association forum on Measure B that the process is backward. SunCal's justification for it: They are testing the waters to see if voters even want this plan before spending more time and money. But instead of a simple vote of confidence on an overall vision, we are voting on a business deal that leaves the developer holding all the cards. We would be approving their development agreement and then crossing our fingers hoping that everything works out OK.
The only item in the entire initiative that requires a vote of the electorate is the amending of Measure A to allow multifamily housing at Alameda Point. Instead, we are being asked to pass into law a sweeping 25-year business deal that is opposed by our mayor, vice-mayor, a councilmember, the Chamber of Commerce, Renewed Hope Housing Advocates, Alameda Architectural Preservation Society and the Central Labor Council.
Impatience over lack of visible progress at Alameda Point should not lead us to throw up our hands and endorse a convoluted process and a risky business deal. Vote No on Measure B, and in doing so, give our elected leaders and our city manager the backing they need to secure the protections and favorable terms we need to realize the potential at Alameda Point.
Richard Bangert is an Alameda resident.