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File #: 2014-606   
Type: Regular Agenda Item
Body: Planning Board
On agenda: 6/9/2014
Title: Recommendation to Approve the Draft Alameda Point Waterfront Town Center Precise Plan. The Planning Board will hold a public hearing and make a recommendation to the City Council on a draft specific plan for the area generally located around the Seaplane Lagoon and Main Street entry at Alameda Point.
Attachments: 1. Exhibit 1 Public Review Alameda Point Town Center and Waterfront Precise Plan April 2014, 2. Exhibit 2 Summary of Proposed Modifications, 3. Exhibit 3 - Written Comments, 4. *Updated* Public Review Alameda Point Town Center and Waterfront Precise Plan June 2014
Title
 
Recommendation to Approve the Draft Alameda Point Waterfront Town Center Precise Plan. The Planning Board will hold a public hearing and make a recommendation to the City Council on a draft specific plan for the area generally located around the Seaplane Lagoon and Main Street entry at Alameda Point.  
 
Body
 
CITY OF ALAMEDA
      Memorandum
 
 
To:            Honorable President and
            Members of the Planning Board
 
From:         Andrew Thomas,
                          City Planner
      
Date:            June 9, 2014
 
Re:      Recommendation to Approve the Draft Alameda Point Waterfront Town Center Precise Plan                  
 
BACKGROUND
 
Over the course of the last two years, City of Alameda staff and Skidmore Owings and Merrill (SOM), with funding from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), have been working on a Waterfront Town Center Plan (WTC Plan) for Alameda Point. Alameda Point is a designated Priority Development Area (PDA) in the Bay Area's sustainable communities strategy (Plan Bay Area), which makes Alameda Point eligible for regional funds to prepare and implement transit-oriented land use plans.
 
The WTC Plan (Exhibit 1) is a specific plan for transit-oriented development of the waterfront lands that surround the Seaplane Lagoon and the property at the entrance of Alameda Point between Main Street and Seaplane Lagoon.  
 
The WTC Plan is informed by:
 
·      The previous four years of public workshops and Planning Board hearings at which the Alameda Point Master Infrastructure Plan (MIP), comprehensive zoning amendment (ZA), and General Plan amendment (GPA) were discussed, analyzed and approved;
 
·      The Planning Board's Planning Guide for Alameda Point, which was endorsed by the City Council in 2013;
 
·      Five (5) Planning Board WTC Plan workshops (two in 2013 and three in 2014); and public hearings before the Historical Advisory Board and the Recreation and Parks Commission; and
 
·      Extensive contributions and input from the Planning Board's Waterfront Town Center subcommittee.  
 
The draft WTC Plan represents another major milestone in the public planning process that the Alameda community has undertaken to redevelop and reuse the former Alameda Naval Air Station. The proceeding major planning milestones include:
1993 - U.S. Department of Defense announces departure of US Navy personnel and their families and 18,000 jobs from western Alameda.
 
1996 - City completes NAS Alameda Community Reuse Plan, which establishes the Alameda community's vision for civilian reuse and redevelopment of NAS Alameda into a transit-oriented, mixed use community and job center.
 
1999 - City completes GPA, ZA, and Master Plan for the Bayport and Alameda Landing areas of the former NAS Alameda/Fleet Industrial Supply Center (FISC).
 
2001 - City approves site-specific development plans and design review applications for Bayport neighborhood. Construction begins on Bayport neighborhood in 2002.
 
2003 - City approves GPA for Alameda Point (lands west of Main Street).
 
2011 - City commences work on Alameda Point EIR, ZA, MIP and WTC Plan.  
 
2012 - City approves development plans and design review for Alameda Landing. Target store opens in 2013.
 
2014 - City approves Alameda Point EIR, GPA, ZA, and MIP.
 
On April 10, 2014, staff released the draft WTC Plan for public review and discussion. The Planning Board then held three public workshops on April 28th, May 12th, and May 27th, to take public comment on the draft Plan and met weekly with the Planning Board subcommittee to review recommended changes and revisions. A summary of the proposed modifications to the WTC Plan recommended by staff and the subcommittee is provided in Exhibit 2.   A revised draft WTC Plan that incorporates the changes outlined in Exhibit 2 will be provided to the Planning Board and public before the June 9th hearing.
 
ANALYSIS
 
The WTC Plan implements the General Plan policy objectives for a transit- and pedestrian-oriented, mixed use transit village at Alameda Point and the WTC Sub-district Master Plan requirement contained in the recently approved zoning amendment for Alameda Point. The WTC Plan implements this vision through a wide variety of regulations, standards, and guidelines for both public improvements and private investment. The four major characteristics of the WTC Plan are:   
 
I.      Form Based Regulations: The WTC Plan provides specific regulations, standards, and design guidelines to shape the form of the public and private physical environment and the use of land to create a waterfront-oriented transit village that is pedestrian, bicycle and transit friendly and supported by unique regional recreational and open space opportunities.  
 
II.      Seaplane Lagoon: The WTC Plan establishes the Seaplane Lagoon as the center of the WTC Plan area and Alameda Point, with water- and land-based transit services (ferries and buses), recreational opportunities (kayaking, sailing, bicycling, walking), visitor services (waterfront restaurants, commercial services, museums, and hotels), and parks and habitat conservation areas (promenades, public plazas, wetlands and open space).
 
III.      NAS Alameda Historic District Guidelines: The WTC Plan provides guidelines for in-fill new construction within those areas of the WTC Plan area that overlap with the boundaries of the NAS Alameda Historic District (e.g., taxiways between the Seaplane Lagoon and Hangar Row).
 
IV.      Criteria for Future Decision Making: The WTC Plan provides guidance and standards for evaluating future development and construction plans for the area.  The WTC Plan is designed to ensure that the area can develop incrementally over time without sacrificing the overall vision for a transit-oriented, waterfront district.  The WTC Plan development standards provide certainty and predictability for both the Alameda community and future private investors and developers.  
 
I. Form Based Regulations
 
The WTC Plan's major recommendations for shaping the form of the public and private physical environment and the use of land to create a waterfront-oriented transit village that is pedestrian, bicycle and transit friendly and supported by unique regional recreational and open space opportunities include:   
 
·      Consistent with the recently approved MIP, the WTC Plan recommends re-aligning Ralph Appezzato Memorial Parkway (RAMP) west of its intersection with Main Street to create a direct, straight connection and view corridor from Alameda Point's Main Street entrance to the water at the Seaplane Lagoon. The re-constructed and re-aligned RAMP roadway would include: a protected bikeway for two lanes of bicyclists, transit lanes for buses and shuttles through Orion Street, wide sidewalks for pedestrians, and two lanes for automobiles.  New intersections along RAMP within Alameda Point are to be spaced to reflect standard, traditional Alameda-sized blocks (generally 200 to 250 feet in width, 350 to 450 feet in length) with wide sidewalks with trees.  An Alameda-style grid pattern of streets and blocks is proposed to extend north and south from the new east-west aligned RAMP extension.  Proposed cross-sections for all the new and existing streets in the WTC Plan area are included in the WTC Plan.
 
·      To support a pedestrian-oriented environment, the WTC Plan recommends that all buildings along the extension of RAMP within Alameda Point should face RAMP.  Buildings on Main Street will front on Main Street.  Buildings at the corner of Main and RAMP will have an attractive "face" on both streets; the location of the front door is to be determined during design review.  Parking associated with buildings along RAMP must be placed behind or within buildings.  Access to parking will be from side streets to prevent curb cuts across RAMP's pedestrian sidewalks and protected bikeway. The WTC Plan includes specific requirements and standards for how buildings front onto the public realm (e.g., public sidewalks, plazas, and streets).  
 
·      The WTC Plan includes minimum and maximum height limits and permissible uses for every block in the WTC Plan area. The regulations are designed to:
 
a)      Support a transit-oriented and supportive waterfront mixed-use community and a successful, pedestrian-scaled retail center;
 
b)      Use building form and height to create seamless transitions from the two-story residential buildings (approximately 25 to 30 feet in height) in the existing Bayport and Main Street neighborhoods on the east side of Main Street and 50- to 60-foot high 120,000-square-foot  Seaplane Hangars on the west side of Ferry Point Road at the edge of the Seaplane Lagoon and NAS Alameda Historic District to a higher density mixed-use transit-oriented and -supportive "town center" at the core of the WTC Sub-district and Alameda Point;
 
c)      Use land use regulations to create a seamless transition from the single use low density residential neighborhoods east of Main Street to a higher density, mixed-use transit village centered at the terminus of the extension of RAMP at the Seaplane lagoon. The WTC Plan recommends that on blocks facing Main Street, ground floor non-residential uses be permitted at the corner of Main Street and RAMP, but not required. Blocks near to, and at the corner of, the Seaplane Lagoon with the RAMP extension, within the retail core of the transit village, are required to provide ground floor commercial uses. Uses that help concentrate residents, employees and visitors, such as multi-family housing, office, retail, restaurants, and hotels, are highly encouraged in the WTC Plan to create a vibrant center of activity and to support frequent and convenient transit service. Lower intensity and non-compatible uses are excluded, such as single-family homes and industrial uses.
 
II. Seaplane Lagoon and Public Spaces
 
The WTC Plan establishes the Seaplane Lagoon as the center of the WTC plan area and of Alameda Point, with water and land based transit services (ferries and buses), recreational opportunities (kayaking, sailing, bicycling, walking), visitor services (waterfront restaurants, commercial services, museums, and hotels), and parks and habitat conservation areas (promenades, public plazas, wetlands and open space).
 
RAMP terminates at a public plaza at the corner of the Seaplane Lagoon, recommended to be called the Seaplane Plaza in the WTC Plan. The Seaplane Plaza will be the center of a retail and visitor-serving transit-oriented waterfront "town center."  The space might be accented by a landmark building at the foot of RAMP.
 
Ferry service, marina, and recreational boating uses will be concentrated along the northern and eastern edges of the Seaplane Lagoon within walking distance of the Seaplane Plaza. Other visitor serving and commercial recreational uses are permitted along the eastern edge of the Seaplane Lagoon promenade. A new ferry terminal is located along the eastern edge of the Seaplane Lagoon near the terminus of Pacific Avenue, where it can serve the residents and businesses of the WTC plan area and the businesses within the Enterprise sub-districts.  The Pacific Avenue location is also designed to limit the travel time for ferry vessels within the Seaplane Lagoon and separate the ferry service from the public's use of the northeastern edge of the Seaplane lagoon for kayaking, sailing schools, and small boat landings and marinas.  
 
The northern edge of the Seaplane lagoon is planned for a large public open space that is designed to adapt to sea-level rise and provide passive and active recreational opportunities. (The Plan provides sea-level adaptation strategies for all three sides of the Seaplane Lagoon). Water uses become less intense and more passive as one moves toward the western edge of the Seaplane Lagoon and the Least Tern colony on the federal property to the west of the plan area.
 
The western edge of the Seaplane lagoon is planned as a passive open space that complements the adjacent Nature Reserve area and endangered Least Tern colony that is located to the immediate west of the WTC Plan area on federal property. Low intensity, environmentally sensitive non-residential uses and passive open space opportunities, such as trails and camping, are provided in this area, including an expansion of wetlands to support the Nature Reserve and provide additional wildlife habitat.   
 
Sierra Club and Other Comments: The WTC Plan's proposal for the parks and open spaces surrounding the Seaplane Lagoon has been well received by the Alameda community and the City of Alameda Recreation and Parks Commission.  Opposition to the open space proposal is limited to a letter from Norman LaForce, representing the Sierra Club, and from Leora Feeney, a resident. Mr. LaForce and Ms. Feeney believe that the public's access and use of this area should be significantly reduced.  He would prefer that use of the existing buildings along the western edge by local artists and craftsmen be terminated as soon as possible, and that pedestrian access and trails be reduced or eliminated on these public lands.    They describe a vision in which the west side of the Lagoon includes very limited public access and essentially becomes part of the adjacent 500-acre Nature Reserve, which is closed to the public to protect the endangered Least Tern seasonal nesting sites.  
 
The WTC Plan has a different vision for the western area of the Seaplane Lagoon.  The WTC Plan envisions a passive recreation area for people and wildlife that is complementary to the Nature Reserve, but not an extension of it.  The western side of the Seaplane Lagoon is now comprised of a man-made rip-rap seawall, concrete aprons, and a small collection of one story buildings.  The WTC Plan proposes removal of the rip rap edge and concrete aprons and the construction of a natural wetlands edge and open fields, interwoven with pedestrian trails, viewing platforms, and "urban camping" opportunities.  Over time, with sea-level rise, the area will regularly inundate with high tides and storm events.  The existing buildings are proposed to remain in their current use by low impact users, such as the existing artists and craftsmen, or be transitioned over in time to other similar low impact uses, until such time that the buildings become un-usable due to sea level rise.   In the meantime, the City is able to collect interim revenues from these buildings, which provide crucial support for maintenance and operations of the Alameda Point property.
 
Additionally, these letters mention how Building 25, directly north of the park spaces along the western edge, was removed from the green park areas shown in earlier drawings.  Building 25 is highly coveted for revenue-generating visitor-serving and employment uses consistent with the overall vision for Alameda Point.  Overall, the vision for Alameda Point includes 300 acres of parks and open space, excluding the 7.5-acre area around Building 25.  Staff believes it is important to keep Building 25 outside of the green park areas to provide the City with flexibility in how this area is reused.
 
III. NAS Alameda Historic District Guidelines
 
To achieve the Reuse Plan, General Plan, Planning Guide and zoning vision for a transit-oriented, mixed-use community adjacent to an active waterfront environment and compatible with the NAS Alameda Historic District, the WTC Plan includes guidelines for the placement and height of new construction within the NAS Alameda Historic District. Examples of the recommended guidelines include:
 
·      Building placement must preserve axial alignment of existing hangars;
 
·      Streets and spaces between buildings must extend existing street alignments and view corridors;
 
·      Building heights shall be limited by the height of the existing Hangar buildings; and
 
·      Building design should include simple clean forms that respect the industrial character of the existing buildings which comprise the NAS Alameda Historic District.
 
Alameda Architectural Preservation Society (AAPS) Comments: The infill guidelines for new construction within the NAS Alameda Historic District have also been well received, with one exception.  Mr. Chris Buckley of AAPS, is concerned about the permitted building heights on the taxiways between the existing Hangars and the Seaplane Lagoon.  Generally, Mr. Buckley would like the height of any new building on the taxiway to be less than the 50-foot height of the Hangar buildings.  The purpose of lowering the heights would be to preserve the unique view of the five (5) hangar buildings from Ferry Point Road.  
 
The WTC Plan recommends a maximum 50-foot height limit for new buildings directly south of the hangars and a 35-foot height limit for buildings directly south of the spaces between the hangars along the taxiways for the following reasons:
 
·      The potential uses of the buildings include a range of uses, including maritime employment, film, beverage and food manufacturing, research and development, and offices uses.  These uses often require large buildings of three or four stories.
 
·      The infill guidelines for new construction require wide view corridors through and across the taxiway area that will ensure that multiple views of the five hangar buildings will be preserved  from a variety of locations and angles along view corridors.
 
·      Creation of the waterfront parks and facilities, as well as infrastructure improvements to fund the maintenance and improvement of the NAS Alameda Historic District, require private capital and investment. Reducing all future buildings in this area to 35 feet or less will significantly impact the ability to attract investment and to make improvements in, and preserve, the NAS Alameda Historic District.    
 
IV. Criteria for Future Decision Making
 
The WTC Plan does not represent the last step in the planning process. The public and the Planning Board must review and approve site-specific Development Plans and design review applications prior to issuance of building permits to ensure that the final details and designs are consistent with the WTC Plan, Citywide Design Review Manual and community expectations.
 
The WTC Plan helps ensure that Development Plans are consistent with the community vision in terms of building and street placement, building height, massing and scale, and building use.  Decisions about individual building designs, conditionally permitted uses, public improvement plans for streets, pedestrian areas, ferry and bus transit, parking areas, parks and open spaces and other site-specific issues will be determined through the City's standard Development Plan and design review process and is described in Chapter 8 of the WTC Plan.
 
Final Staff and Subcommittee Recommendations:  On May 29, 2014, the Subcommittee held its final meeting to finalize its recommendations on two important issues related to transit and pedestrian oriented development:
 
1.      Ralph Appazzatto Memorial Parkway Transit Lanes:  AC Transit raised concerns about the proposal in the WTC Plan to place the dedicated transit lanes in a counter flow configuration. (The counter flow configuration allows passenger to disembark from the bus in the center median, but it requires that the bus lane  run down the opposite side of the median facing the oncoming traffic.)  With input from AC Transit and Bike/Walk Alameda, the revised sections keep the transit lane on the same side of the street as the travel lane, and adds passenger islands between the transit lane and the vehicle for passenger loading and unloading.  The revised sections also move the buses into a mixed flow configuration for the final blocks between Orion and the water to create a more pedestrian, retail oriented environment.  
 
2.      Transit Oriented Development Standards and Height Limits: To ensure that the development that occurs in the WTC Plan area accurately reflects the General Plan policies that call for a transit supportive built form that "seamlessly integrates" the property into the rest of Alameda, the subcommittee and staff recommended some additional revisions to create more definition and certainty.  Specifically, the recommended changes include refinements to the minimum and maximum height limits on a number of blocks to ensure that each block includes the sufficient density to support transit. The changes in the height limits do not change the overall development capacity for Alameda Point, which is set by the General Plan.  The height limits in the WTC Plan are designed to ensure that the development that is allowed by the General Plan is configured to be transit supportive.   In addition, the subcommittee is recommending that the WTC Plan include the following additional recommended finding for all future development plans to  ensure that each future development is well designed to support transit:  "Development Plans shall be evaluated to ensure that they achieve residential and commercial densities that support convenient and frequent transit service."
 
ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEW
 
On February 4, 2014, the City Council adopted the Alameda Point EIR, which evaluated the potential environmental impacts of the draft WTC Plan.  The EIR analysis helped shape the WTC Plan to minimize potential environmental impacts and support a sustainable development. All development within the WTC Plan area is required to comply with the mitigation measures adopted by the City Council for Alameda Point.
 
PUBLIC NOTICE AND COMMENTS
 
Public notice has been provided through newspaper advertisements, notices to property owners within 300 feet of Alameda Point and all tenants at Alameda Point.  The Alameda Point email blast reaches hundreds of addresses.  Letters and emails received in response to the notices and advertisements are attached as Exhibit 3.
 
RECOMMENDATION
 
Hold a public hearing and approve by motion a recommendation that the City of Alameda City Council approve the Alameda Point Waterfront Town Center Plan by ordinance.  
 
 
Respectfully submitted,
 
 
 
 
Andrew Thomas
City Planner
 
Exhibits:
1.      June 2014 Public Review Alameda Point Town Center and Waterfront Precise Plan
2.      Recommended Modifications to the WTC Plan
3.      Written Public Comments